In the spirit of stop-and-smell-the-roses, we’ve been making an extra effort to take cheap field trips this year. Cheap could be free, or just cheap! The best thing…these are fun little outings that get us off our routine and don’t require any preparation or great expenditure of funds.
I will be sharing these experiences in a series called Cheap Field Trips.
Cheap Field Trip # 1: Visit a local Recreation Area
We happen to live near the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on the “beautiful” Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, GA. There is a place called Powers Island which is an access point for folks “putting in” their canoes or rafts to float the river. Mr. Powers was a blacksmith and gunsmith here on the edge of civilization in the 1830’s. He ran a ferry right from this island.
From I-285, I’d seen this parking lot and trail head for decades and never stopped.
“We’re going there today,” I told my youngster, one recent Wednesday in February.
Silence came from the back seat.
“It’s supposed to be in the 60’s today. We are doing something outside,” I snapped, hoping he would catch the fever.
We pulled into the empty parking lot. The grey lot blended with the barren trees. A solitary, work truck could be seen in a space by the restrooms, occupied by a man eating a sandwich from a wrapper. His windows were up. A medium roar could be heard from the interstate a few hundred yards away.
“Hmmm. This does look a bit sketchy,” I thought as we unloaded ourselves from our truck. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it into my camera bag. Then, I looked westward. Through the dormant trees, the sparkling, greenish waters of the Hooch drew us thither.
For these cheapie trips to be memorable, you’ve got to take a slow pace. Don’t go on a cheapie trip thinking you’re going to get some exercise. If you get fresh air, that’s a plus! These excursions are about slowing way, way down to see and observe.
A rust colored bridge formed the entry point of the trail and drew us toward the island. There, on the banks of this mighty waterway, we saw our first point of interest.
“What is flotsam and jetsam?” asked my inquisitive boy after I called out the words.
“It’s floating stuff that has come to rest between these downed trees,” I gestured toward the logs forming the clog.
“Flotsam are things which float up…like things that have washed away from the shoreline and into the river. Jetsam are things which have been flung off boats and float from the river to the shore,” I continued, pulling out my zoom lens.
“I can sure tell people like to play basketball and tennis in this town,” he deducted.
“What about football? See that black one over there?” I pointed. He tip toed lightly across the colorful trash and grabbed it. The treasure secured, he squeezed it, heard the leaky hole and then threw it back into the pile.
This multi hued wedge of trash kept us busy for a good fifteen minutes. There were a bazillion water bottles, every sort of ball, numerous plastic toys, various sized cups, some milk jugs, and a few unidentifiable things. A pungent, earthy smell hovered over the place.
Not far from the trash heap was a rock island that needed exploring. I took a picture and then my guy said, “Mom, you come out here.” I hesitated a minute and then this middle aged mamma hopped the swift current to make it safely to the rock, camera equipment and all.
Then, we saw the trees. They were mammoth! Who would think there would be giant trees on an island like this?
“Must’ve been here when Mr. Powers was working the ferry,” I concluded. We looked up and saw their tips touching the deep blue winter sky.
One had a crevice two feet taller than my child. A quick flash of the cell phone light illuminated a couple of creepy, glowing eyes.
As we walked the trail, each successive tree seemed to be larger and larger. Finally, we reached the granddaddy of all the trees! Easily it was five human wing spans across. Against the blue sky and with sun shining brightly behind, the size and shape of this gargantuan took my breath away.
“What a great way to spend 60 minutes,” I said as we merged back onto the interstate.
“It was pretty good,” was the recap from the back seat.
This trip cost $3, which was paid at the kiosk by the trail head. It was a great day.