Cheap Field Trip # 4: The Tugaloo River History Tour

For the past ten years, on the last Saturday in May, Kelly  Vickers, a Stephens County historian, has been leading groups on canoes and in kayaks down the Tugaloo River Corridor for fun and learning.  If you haven’t participated in one of these now famous tours, you’ve been missing out.  The Tugaloo Corridor is that stunning stretch of wilderness and river that forms the border between Stephens County, Georgia and Oconee County, South Carolina.  The Corridor, which begins at the base of Yonah Dam, is the historical meeting ground of Cherokee Indians to the north and Creek Indians to the south.  There is a place just below the dam where the river is completely natural: flat, rocky and rapid.  It is just beyond this spot where the tour begins its meanderings and Mr. Vickers begins his oral narrations of the natives, the hunters, the farmers, and the tradesmen who made their mark on these regions many years ago.  He tells secrets about  the ancient geological formations that mark this area as uniquely beautiful.  Best of all, he tells tales about the waters, the bridges, the homes, and the local pioneers that you will never forget.  All of this, for free, while you get a tan and an upper body workout on the Tugaloo River.

Last year, we embarked upon this 5 hour tour on Memorial Saturday.  We had four in our party, but there were 140 river enthusiasts in our midst on 120 vessels.   It took about 30 minutes of gathering equipment and coolers, then brief instructions were given before the launch.  Mr. Vickers, easily identified with flag and pointed hat, led the charge at 8:45 am.

At first the waters moved swiftly and the paddling was easy.  Then, after about a mile in, the river deepened, the currents slowed and the arms came out to work.  It was a glorious day of bright sunshine.  About every mile, Mr. Vickers would paddle to the shore line and give a story.  We heard stories of natives warriors, run-away war-time officers, bridge burnings, Native rock carvings, and more.

We made it to the Prather’s Bridge area around 11 am to cool in the shade.

And the stories continued all the way down to the Long Nose Creek Falls on the South Carolina side.  Long Nose Creek Falls is only accessible by boat and is quite remote and pristine, a must see if you love the wild and scenic offerings of our upstate area.

After leaving the falls, we made our way across the top most portion of Lake Hartwell, where Toccoa Creek  merges with the river and the Tugaloo Mound is  located.  Here we learned about the great native chiefs that led their people in this valley land, the hidden dripping rock and the old Tugaloo Town before pulling our canoes out at a property on the Georgia side.

Thanks to strong sunscreen and lots of water, we made it down the river happy, hydrated and historically enriched.  It was just a great time.  We had two big kids with us, a 20 year old and a 14 year old and they loved it.  The best part, really, is the history.  Kelly Vickers is such a great storyteller.  He is the Registrar at Toccoa Falls College and a board member of the Stephens County Foundation.  He began these trips 11 years ago with a group of college students who were learning history at TFC.  The initial tour was a big hit and, as Mr. Vickers says, “The rest is history.”

If you want to join us in 2018  for this free and wonderful adventure, you are in luck!  The next Tugaloo River History Tour is May 26 and will depart from Walker Creek Boat ramp at 8:30 am.   A shuttle will be provided to transport you back to Walker Creek after the tour.

For more information on the River History Tour, go to the website:  http://www.tugaloocorridor.org/

Hope to see you there.

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Slice of Life: Day 29

Braking for Cows!

 

On a recent, late winter day we went on a pastoral adventure to find raw milk.  A luxury to us city folk, raw milk is just the anecdote to what ails you right before Lent.  And, with Lent just two days away, we decided an adventure was in order.  Plus, we’d get to see cows!

Down windy roads, soft hills in the distance, trees still bare, we made our way to the dairy.  Grey skies dominated the top half of the horizon, blanketing over any possibility of a sun sighting.  The smell of feed bins and earth permeated the air coming through the sun roof.  Then, somebody saw the sign, “Purple Haze Dairy.. there it is Mom!”

We pulled through the gate and there they were.  Cows!  I eased on the brakes and stopped just a few yards into the farm.

Why do I love cows so much?  Is it because they are gentle in spite of their size?  Is it their often wet noses?  Is it because they are an American icon?  Perhaps all of these reasons and they’re just darn cute.

These happy bovine were happy to see us and came over for a lump of grass and a forehead rub. We petted and visited and laughed as long as the cows were interested.  After about 10 minutes they grew bored with our offerings of day old hay.

Dusk was settling quickly over that country scene so we made our way  to the honor system cooler for a jug of the raw deliciousness.  $6 and worth every dime.

As we walked toward our vehicle, a giant cow pattie reminded us city folk that we are tourists out here.  Farming is hard work!  Then, jug in hand, we climbed into the truck, kicked the mud off our shoes and rode back from whence we came.

Slice of Life: Day 12

Household Conversations and a  Door Prize

Its Monday.

…and when my 11 year old came home from art school, he came right to me with this announcement:  “Mom! Somebody said the D-word up at Masters today!”

“Oh really?  How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, a kid in my class was working at one of the tables and he blurted it out.”

“He just came out and said the D word all by itself?” I asked again.

“No, Mom. This is what the kid said:  ‘These problems are so d**n hard!'”

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“Well, the whole class took a deep breath and just stared at him.  Then everyone started laughing,” my boy told me as he chuckled and curled his lips up in that cute way when he’s tickled about something.  “It was so hilarious,” he added.

“I bet that teacher didn’t think it was hilarious,” I said.

“No she didn’t.  She sent him straight to the office!” he said still laughing.

“You enjoyed that way too much, didn’t you?” I said slapping my leg.

He looked at me and we both laughed.

These are good days.

About that time, I looked at my watch.  It was time to drive  to the Garden Club meeting.

Eight years ago, when all the grass died in my front yard and the deer ate up all my hostas, I decided it was time to join the  Garden Club so that I could learn not to kill stuff.  Mostly, this plan has worked.

I walked in a little late, but wasn’t too late to get in on the door prize drawing.  Quickly, as the president called for all the drawing slips, I scribbled my name onto a small, blue piece of card stock.  I handed the slip to Margaret, and she dropped it into the jar.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Garden Club meetings aren’t the most exciting meetings in the world. Not that I don’t love plants and all.  It’s just that when I sit still in a chair after 6 pm, in a warm, dimly lit room, the possibility of getting drowsy goes way up for me. And, sure enough, I was nodding off right through the talk on Aesculus sylvatica.

Amazingly, I survived the talk without drooling. Then I was startled awake when I heard my name called. I’d won the door prize!  Guess what it was?  A praying mantis nest.  Hands down, the coolest door prize of all time.

These are good days.

 

 

Slice of Life: Day 2

 

 

Day 2:  A Natural Exchange

We have five kids and our youngest is now 11.  I am at a place in life where every day I have with my kids is a gift.  Children grow up and fly away and I want to savor every last minute.  So, when I have a couple of hours on a Friday, I will ask my youngest child, “What do you want to do today?”  I ask it because I know that just around the corner, he will not want to do fun little adventures with me anymore.  I will be too old and he will be too young.  So, carpe diem!

Today, when I asked the question, he asked, “Can we go to the Nature Center?”

Now, our nature center is probably the coolest nature center in the world because it has a Nature Exchange program.  If you haven’t heard of the nature exchange, you are truly missing out on life.  The Nature Exchange allows you to bring in interesting or rare nature finds to receive points. Here’s what you’ll see there:  skulls, dried bugs, sea shells, rare rocks, pine cones, petrified wood, fossils, hornet’s nests, and unique  wood specimens.

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People from around the world have donated or brought in items for the exchange.  Upon receipt, each item is assigned a point value.  For example, a pine cone is worth 25 points, a murex shell is worth 500 points and a dinosaur bone may be worth 50,000 points.   The fun of all this is that you get to trade in the “boring” nature from your yard and get something completely exciting from someone else’s.

Today, my 11 year old had 3 skulls for trade. On a scale of 1 – 10 for boy-factor coolness, skulls get a 10, especially if they have teeth intact.  Brian, at the exchange desk, can literally identify any nature item.  He can tell what animal made it, ate it or lived in it.  In our case, it was determined that we had two raccoon skulls and a hog skull!  Pretty gnarly.

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I think there was a little remorse in parting with the hog skull.  But, when he saw the exotic rocks available for exchange, all was well.

Not long after we made our exchanges, a new family of five came in the door.  Being the nosy observer, I peeked in their cardboard box and saw antlers, a sea creature, pine cones, and more.  Guess what first object  their middle boy “purchased?”  The hog skull!  That skull sat on the shelf for a total of 15 minutes before it went to the next curious boy.

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Right before we left, Brian gave us a special viewing of a gigantic hornet’s nest.

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This was an afternoon I won’t regret taking with my nature boy.  Now, back to grading papers and laundry.

Write, Share, Give

 

Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

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Cheap Field Trips # 3

What’s lush, girded, roaring and peaceful all at the same time?  Well, it’d have to be the Bob Callan Trail, of course.

If you’re up for an interesting twist on nature, take a walk down the Bob Callan.  It’s in the middle of where you are and it’s totally free!  The trail traverses the region at the convergence of Interstate 285, Interstate 75, Cumberland, Akers Mill Road, Rottenwood Creek and the Chattahoochee River.  Remarkably, this diverse trail abounds with natural, architectural, and urban fascination.

I discovered the trail when  I saw a news article featuring a man traversing a newly paved concrete path beneath I-285.  What’s this?  Something natural under the Cumberland Connector?   We’ve got our next cheap trip adventure right here.

 

Thankfully, my youngest is usually game for an adventure, so off we went.

First, literally, the biggest challenge was to find it!  The whole place around there is under construction.  I circled the area for about 20 minutes looking for an access point.  Finally, we gave up,  parked in an office parking lot, and hopped over a silk EPA fence and into the trail.  Hopefully, by the time you read this the trail head parking will have opened.  Here’s what came up on Google Maps:

google map of trail head

Wide and paved, the trail is a fascinating confluence of  highly engineered highways and disordered woodlands. The trail seems to refill dead zones that were inaccessible when the highways came.  As my husband says,” I’ve spent all my time above.  Walking the trail gave me a sense of what’s beneath.”  There’s a hidden treasure down under the concrete canopy.   God’s art meets Man’s Art.  The man-made stuff obstructs; but nature finds its way around.  The trail gives you a glimpse into this battle that rages on beneath the thoroughfare, between the natural and the man-made.  In some places, the man-made is winning the battle; but, as you walk along, you see that nature is winning the war.  Little pockets of handsome purple flowers push up at the trail’s beginning.  A large mill-stone, broken in half by time and wear, is exposed in the creek bed.  A tree busts through a concrete retaining wall.  You know that over time, if left alone, nature would reclaim this strip of land back to its own quiet customs.

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In the meantime, until the apocalypse,  there is a great deal of symmetry and concrete to appreciate.

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We stopped frequently, taking in the splendor of a building’s reflection in the water or the feel of cold, steel  bridge I-beams.  Eventually  we advanced past all the bridges, railings, graffiti, and traffic sounds to the place where Rottenwood Creek deposits itself into the Chattahoochee River.   Even here, the mouth of the creek was buttressed with a concrete hedge.  Yet, the water softened the view and made for a lovely sound as it spilled over into the river.

I looked at my phone while we listened to the water spill into the Hooch! Where had the time gone?  We’d lost an hour here beneath the concrete canopy.   Time to head back.

This place impacted me in a bizarre and wonderful way.  Now I think about that trail and the nature going on there every time we drive over the top.  I can hear the rushing water under the bridges.  The image of my son dwarfed by the massive concrete wall, his colorful clothes contrasting against the grey, stays strong in the back of my mind.

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This trip revealed that there are beautiful, natural places to visit in and around our concrete city.   I’d say “The Bob” is a good destination in and of itself.  But, its also a good stop over place to take a lunch or traffic break and well worth the effort to find.  We’ll be back for sure.

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