Tourist at Home: seeing the familiar for the first time again

Have you ever had one of those friends with whom you can always just pick right up wherever you left off no matter how long it’s been? I’m fortunate enough to have a few of those friends and one of them recently came to visit me from the Northwest.

We met and became sister-friends while I was living in Oregon and this trip was her first introduction to Southeast Georgia. I was so excited to get to see her again and to get to be the one to help introduce her to the South that I have come to love.

For me the Southern experience has to include a few key elements: cuisine, culture, architecture and nature. With limited time to spend here (and I was asked to allow her some time to relax), it was important to pack as many of those elements as possible into every site. So, here are the places that made it on to the agenda for my friend’s visit.

The Coleman House Inn was a natural choice. Located in Swainsboro, the Coleman HouseColeman House offers a delicious array of Southern favorites on their lunch buffet and the setting merits a visit all on its own. The Victorian architecture is as much a feast for the eyes as the traditional Southern fare is for the taste buds.

Known as a “painted lady” this early American home is covered in gingerbread trim on the outside and filled with period architectural details on the inside. With friendly service, the requisite sweet tea and fried chicken, the Coleman House offers an authentic Southern experience that is sure to please the pickiest of pallets (the chicken was a big hit!).

IMG_5795Savannah as the quintessential Southern city, full of beauty, charm and grace, of course, made the “must see” list. The colorful historic homes, brick architecture, live oaks, Spanish moss, wrought iron, cobble stone streets, mysterious graveyards and city “squares” come together to create an intriguing and inviting environment to explore.

With its many parks and squares, Savannah offers a significant amount of green space; which along with the urban forest IMG_5794that lines streets throughout the city, brings a balance of serenity to the hustle and bustle of human and automotive traffic.

Though I often do mundane things in historic Savannah, like drive down Victory on my way to do buy some groceries or shop the Farmer’s Market in Forsythe Park – I can’t help but admire the beauty that I find there and I often feel that amidst the blandness of my day, I have had a brief dalliance in a magical place.

IMG_5684It would be unfortunate to visit the South and not take in at least one relic of the Civil War. And Fort Pulaski fits that bill nicely. It’s also just one of my favorite places to visit due to the beauty of its natural setting and the wonderful opportunities for interesting photographs that it provides.

The fort is located on Cockspur Island which offers wonderful views of the Savannah River, estuaries,  salt marshes and Tybee Island. The island proffers a beautiful array of flora and fauna and a variety of landscapes on which they are displayed. One has the opportunity to see everything from container ships making their way up the river to a herd of deer grazing near the fort. Whether its wildlife, landscapes or history that piques your interest, you’ll find it at Fort Pulaski.

Due to its proximity and the varied sites to see, I chose Jekyll Island for our South Georgia beach experience. Jekyll offers a variety of beach access points, each location with its own personality and unique offerings. Driftwood Beach is a photographer’s dream with plenty of nature’s sculptures which provide great photo opportunities. Great Dunes Park and Glory Beach offer long stretches of white sandy beach suitable for sunning, swimming or strolling along the Atlantic shore.  St. Andrews picnic area is a great place for catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.

In addition to its wonderful array of natural landscapes, Jekyll also offers a unique opportunity to take a look back at how the wealthy once vacationed on this island. The historic district fronts the Jekyll River and is home to a collection of late 19th century mansions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jarrell Plantation: beauty and brains

Jarrell Plantation is located in the gently rolling hills just north of Macon. One of Georgia’s historic sites, this antebellum homestead was owned by the same family for more than 140 years before being donated to the State. IMG_4477

Ok, that’s all I know about the history. If you visit, there is much more that you can learn if you choose. I opted to skip the informative video and not be bothered with toting around the notebook full of facts and figures… I was there to take photos!

IMG_4513With a beautiful natural setting, historic buildings, and early industrial machinery, there are lots of things of interest to look at (and photograph). The plantation is beautifully maintained and staged. It’s like the inhabitants and workers have just stepped away and you are the nosy neighbor who gets to poke around and see what’s what.

IMG_4506I love that! The freedom to wander and spend as much or as little time as you’d like, and since I often “see” with my hands, I enjoy that there are plenty of things there that I was able to get up close and personal with.

It’s the kind of place where history takes on physical form providing the opportunity to see, touch, feel and experience things that may have only been seen before as an image in a book or in the mind’s eye. There are lots of teaching/learning opportunities, especially if you have kids.

I love to see how things work, so for me, it was fun to be able to get close to some of the machinery and get a good look at the gears and levers and chains and various accouterments, visualizing how they must have functioned back in the day.

IMG_4624IMG_4676

I also love architecture and it was quite fascinating to look at how these buildings were put together and to marvel at the fact that they are structurally sound and still standing after more than a century.

 

Things to know before you go: this is what I would refer to as an “outdoor museum” so the weather will greatly influence your experience, there is a small admission fee, picnic tables are available on site but there are no restaurants or stores once you turn off the main highway so go prepared, bathroom facilities are available, and there is a calendar of events on the website.

Accessibility is somewhat limited. There are pathways that make all of the buildings relatively accessible from the outside for most. However, those with mobility issues requiring a wheelchair or other type of mobility device will not have access to the inside of the buildings which all require the use of stairs.

http://gastateparks.org/JarrellPlantation

IMG_4569
Check out that saddle notch joinery!
IMG_4580
I think this is my favorite photo of the day. I’m calling it, “Balancing Act”!  🙂

IMG_4537

IMG_4547

IMG_4753

IMG_4541

IMG_4698

IMG_4663

 

 

Amicalola Falls State Park: friendly waters

Due to its size and geographical location on the continent, Georgia has a beautifully diverse landscape. I was reminded of this over the weekend as I drove from my home in a pastoral area of Southeast Georgia to the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Northwest portion of the State.

IMG_4273
I can’t decide if it’s rude or ironic, but either way… I like it!

It was a long drive for a day trip, and only two days after the “Great Georgia Blizzard of 2016”, but my friend and I set out for a much anticipated visit to Amicalola Falls State Park. Neither of us had visited before and we were both suffering a little cabin fever (it had just snowed after all) and we felt the need to get outside and enjoy nature.

We arrived around 1 pm, had a quick snack and decided we would eat lunch when we got back from our hike, which was approximately 2 miles round trip. We gathered our stuff, had cameras on the ready and set out to see the falls!

I realized I had left my water bottle in the car, but decided not to go back and get it because the nice lady in the Visitor’s Center had told us there would be a place to buy water when we got to the top.  Just a mere one mile away from where I stood… no problem… I’d just get some later.

Did I mention this was a hike to the top of a waterfall? And not just any old IMG_4332waterfall…the highest waterfall in the entire Southeast, a 729 foot waterfall, one of the 7 Wonders of Georgia, the hiking of which would include over 600 near-vertical stairs. Oh yeah… that waterfall!

So, halfway up the six-hundred-some-odd stairs, I turned all clammy and started feeling nauseous. I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack and tilted my head back and lifted my camera up for one last photo before I died. At least it was a beautiful place to breathe my last breath.

And then it hit me, I wasn’t dying… it was my vertigo! Once I realized I was going to live, the scenery was much more enjoyable, but it was still hard to make it up the remaining stairs.

I was dehydrated and knew that wasn’t helping matters, so I asked my friend to go on ahead and get some water from the lodge which was supposed to be right at the top of the falls.  I made it up the remaining stairs by counting them off and closing my eyes to keep the nausea at bay.

When I got to the top and the world had stopped spinning some, I realized there was no lodge right there, there were no signs, and I had sent my legally blind friend to find me some water. Yes, I know. My “Friend of the Year” nomination has just been revoked.  I had asked my legally blind friend to head on up the side of the mountain and please go find me some water.

As you can imagine, I was relieved to see her coming toward me, two Good Samaritans in tow. They had a cold bottle of water which instantly revived and also insisted I eat one of their delicious organic bananas. (My friend told me later that she had approached them, handed them her wallet and told them that she was legally blind and needed help finding where she could purchase a bottle of water for her friend.) Thankfully, the couple, aside from being completely adorable, were incredibly kind.

The young woman said that she didn’t believe in accidents and that there was a reason that things had unfolded the way they had in order to bring us together, and I couldn’t agree more. Even if that reason was simply to remind me and those of you reading this story that there are good people in this world and that kindness matters! And kindness to strangers somehow matters even more.

I looked up the meaning of the name, Amicalola, and found that it comes from the Cherokee for “tumbling waters”. But I didn’t sit through four excruciating semesters of Latin for nothing, and I know that “amica” means friend.  So for me Amicalola will always mean “tumbling friend”… or um maybe “friendly waters”… yeah, that’s it, Amicalola means “friendly waters”! How appropriate is that? (And how thankful am I that “tumbling friend” did not turn out to be the appropriate name??!!!)  🙂

Hints, tips, lessons learned….

Here’s the numIMG_4386ber one lesson to take away from this story – always carry water when hiking. No matter the distance. No matter the weather. No matter your physical fitness level (but perhaps especially when your physical fitness level is, um, not fit).

If you have vertigo, you may want to take the ridge trail to the top instead of the stairs… it’s not as scenic, but it also avoids vertical climbs and see-through stairs. If looking at this photo makes you feel queasy – take another route.

Plan for plenty of time to make the full circuit hike from the bottom of the falls, to the top, and back down. If it’s 1:00 when you get there, eat lunch BEFORE you head out. It’s only 2 miles, but it’s a STEEP 2 miles – going up and down.

Enjoy the gorgeous scenery! The falls are beautiful, the views of the mountains from the top of the ridge are spectacular. This park was wonderful and, despite my own little drama, totally worth the drive. I hear the views during peak fall color are amazing and I’d like to go back in the autumn to see it again!

IMG_4459

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise on Tybee

South Georgia Transplant Solitary Sunrise

The ocean, for me, has always inspired solitary introspection. I’ve never been a fan of crowded beaches. I prefer to watch the social interactions of seagulls to those of swimsuit-clad humans. South Georgia Translpant seagulls

 

 

 

So, visiting Tybee Island during tourist season is not really my cup of tea. And if you had asked me 16 years ago when I lived on the West Coast and was enthralled with the craggy coastline of the cold Pacific Ocean if I would ever truly enjoy the flat sandy shores of the Mid Atlantic Coast, I would probably have said, no.

But like so many other things in Georgia, the beaches also won me over.

South Georgia Transplant Tybee sunriseMy favorite visit to Tybee so far, was a solo trip I made. During the winter. To watch the sunrise.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not a morning person. But I got up at around 5:30 AM and headed out to meet the sun. Somethings are just worth the sacrifice.

South Georgia Transplant misty dunesThe beach was shrouded in mist that morning. The air was cold and the breeze was brisk. The solitude was palpable and it was a much-needed tonic to my soul.

It was only as I was leaving that I encountered another living being of the human variety. But I wasn’t lonely.

A small group of seagulls kept me entertained, huddled together like the old-timers who gather every morning in some local establishment in small towns everywhere for an early cup of coffee and all the latest gossip. They shuffled about in the surf in chatty camaraderie, waiting to say their first “hello” of a new day to the sun as it awakened.

The sun took its time rising on that morning. Much like I do on most days. Clinging to its covers until the very last possible moment. Sluggishly making its way through the clouds and in no hurry to shake off the morning fog.

But rise it did. Perhaps not eager, but still ever faithful in going about its business of the day.

south georgia transplant seagulls and sunrise