Our family is composed of both extremes when it comes to the inside vs. outside debate. I would live in a penthouse in the city if I could make it work with five kids; Sheepdog would live outside in a treehouse were it not called “homeless.” Kid A loves taking pictures of things in nature; Kid B enjoys watching moving pictures on television. Kid C leaps into the pile of leaves before she looks; Kid D wants to learn all of the facts about the tree on the internet first. But both of them are up for almost anything in the out-of-doors, while Kid E complains about every last aspect of it. Yet every once in a while the planets align and we nay-sayers cry uncle and we head out as a family to some remote place where the county flower is poison ivy but the views are spectacular and the air is piney (and DEET-scented) and we are all humbled by the awesomeness of nature.
This weekend we traveled to Tallulah Falls State Park for a picnic and some hiking and to watch the kayakers navigate the gorge. It was perfect fall weather (sunny in the high 50s) and the leaves in northeast Georgia are experiencing extreme chlorophyll-deficiency, so the residual colors left us breathless. An added bonus was that Georgia Power floods the dam every weekend in November so the crazies can ride the rush in their little boats of death (insane to do but extremely cool to watch). The drive took over an hour and most of the kids watched “The Princess Bride” while Sheepdog and I talked uninterrupted like civilized people. Almost before we knew it, we had arrived at a little cliff-side viewing spot/ antique store/ BBQ restaurant.
After a quick stop in the restroom, I was immediately approached by a bearded man holding a deep pot on the end of a five-foot pole.
“Bald penis?” he asked of me and the girls. Sheepdog was still in the bathroom.
I protectively put my arms around the kids and moved them all behind me. Simultaneously, my brain was calculating possible situational outcomes and I quickly realized upon looking into the pot that he was not some local pervert trying to harass the tourists. He was offering us a soggy, cooked, traditional Georgia snack.
I honestly believe I might never figure out the whole deep-southern accent thing. It throws me for a loop every time. P.S. Boiled peanuts are kind of gross.
We checked out the view and decided to get back into the car so we could find the place where we could hike down the trails closer to the raging water. It was conveniently just down the road as bellies were starting to grumble all around us. We paid a minimal five dollars to park and soon set up our picnic lunch in a field next to some rocks. They were perfect for sitting against or upon and also for having Kid E jump off and climb, thus guaranteeing that I would have indigestion for the remainder of the day. Fortunately, no one got hurt during the meal and soon we were off, with nothing but a trail map, five kids, two adults, a backpack/kid carrier, a full water bottle, three pairs of extra sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, some light jackets, a packet of wipes, a couple of iPhones and a 35mm SLR camera. Ah, the simplicity of nature!
First, we walked up from the information center to a place called Inspiration Point. I was hopeful that this was more of a spiritual moniker as opposed to a carnal one. I mean, hadn’t the peanut guy contributed enough depravity for one day? Fortunately there were just a bunch of other people with cameras and dogs and walking sticks up there. While at the point we got to see the remains of one of the towers that Karl (“The Great/ Flying”) Wallenda used to tightrope walk across the quarter-mile-wide gorge in 1970. Crazy. But the views were phenomenal, especially with my family safely behind the protective viewing fence.
After that we hiked down the mountain back past the main parking area and then continued on our downward trek toward the suspension bridge that sits just 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls below. To get there you have to climb down a little more than 300 grated metal stairs. And unless you want to live out the remainder of your days like a troll under the bridge, you also have to climb back up. Easier said than done.
By this point in the day we had hiked quite a way and some of the kids were getting tired. But we didn’t drive all the way out here to hike just the easy part! Kid E had toughed it out with minimal complaining and walked most of the trails so far, but he was definitely ready to ride in the backpack carrier for the remainder of our excursion. Being no dummy, I offered to wear/ carry him down the steps. It was no big deal except that after the first few sections I had to ask him to please stop chanting, “We are going DOWN the steps. WE are going down the steps. We ARE going down the steps. We are going down the STEPS.” He did not.
I then felt zero guilt when I asked Sheepdog to take his turn carrying Kid E on the way back up. Even without a person on my back those steps were hard. I refused to stop on the little resting benches. I was panting like a dog. To add insult to injury, Kid D ran the whole way back up. Show off. At least I beat most of the old people. I considered it a great day all around.
The whole family had a fantastic time. I even look forward to the next time we get back to the woods. Maybe Sheepdog can make a nature lover out of this indoor girl yet!
Wish me luck for tomorrow…