Providence Canyon (the State Parks tour continues)

A few years ago, I set a goal to visit all the Georgia State Parks in a year. Great goal! Didn’t happen.

Life happens. You know how that goes. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that jazz. But I’d like to get back at it … visiting all the State parks … and it will take as long as it takes.

And I will write about those visits here and share those experiences with you. The writing about things here part also got sidetracked. I started up an online magazine ( – check it out!) and turns out that requires an awful lot of writing and when you’re writing all the time, sometimes writing “for fun” isn’t so much fun. Or that’s what I thought. But truthfully when you’re writing for fun, it IS a lot more fun! And maybe I need more of that.

So… onward!

Recently my friend Jamie and I took a little trip to West Georgia mostly for my aforementioned magazine work, but I firmly believe in mixing business with pleasure so we also planned a detour to Providence Canyon State Park … it had been on both of our must-see lists for quite some time.

Time to check it off the list!

First off, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way.

The whole reason there is a canyon here is due to some seriously bad agricultural practices led to some massive erosion … this is pretty much a man-made “natural” wonder. But, let’s look at it as a great lesson to learn from! Top soil is important, erosion is not good, sustainable agriculture that protects soil is the way to go!

But now that this canyon is here… let’s enjoy it!

When I was a teenager, I had the privilege of visiting the Grand Canyon (it was a quick visit, we were traveling and getting Dad to make stops when traveling … well … we all count ourselves fortunate that we had a few hours to spend marveling in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon (again… erosion, bad – results, kinda cool).

Providence Canyon is referred to as “Georgia’s little Grand Canyon” and I was prepared to be skeptical of this correlation. (I mean, aside from the oxymoronic diminution of GRAND.)

And, honestly, from the top looking down … there is no comparison. It lacks a certain vastness.

BUT … from inside the canyon, I totally had this feeling that I had been transported into a scaled down version of the Grand Canyon. One where I could walk through it and put my hands on it and be completely surrounded by it. I’m sort of a “hand on” kinda person, so that was fun!

And from the bottom, looking up through the canyon was much more impressive and the nickname felt much more appropriate (again, aside from the oxymoronic diminution of grand).

We got there around noonish on a Thursday and there were very few people there. By the time we were leaving around 3:30 or so it was starting to get a bit crowded. We only had a few hours to spend there because of our travel schedule (uh oh – am I my dad now???), but it was plenty of time for walking part way around the rim and hiking down into the canyon and BACK UP (don’t forget that part).

We had GORGEOUS weather for the day. Nothing but blue skies. And sunshine. And a nice breeze. The high that day was somewhere around 60. Perfect, in my opinion. I would not want to go there during summer. But, then again, I don’t want to go anywhere in Georgia in the summer (change my mind on that one, please!).

It was also a great time of year because some of the trees were blooming, but not all the trees had leafed out … which made viewing the canyon more … viewable.

If you have limited time or are limited in your ability to cover a lot of ground with ease, prioritize Canyons 4 and 5. They are very accessible (keeping in mind the trip down and back up) and provide some of the best views. I can’t speak to any of the back-country hiking trails, because as I mentioned we were limited in our time (also, I’m out of shape).

Carry water with you. It’s only a couple miles round trip and it’s doable for anyone who is moderately fit. If you can walk up say … 20 flights of stairs or so … you’ll be fine. Paths on the canyon floor are pretty well marked. The canyon floor is fairly flat to Canyons 4 and 5, access to the other canyons requires traversing more uneven terrain.

For those of us in the Eastern part of the State, finding a place to stay overnight is advisable. We stayed about 40 miles South in Bluffton at White Oak Pastures. They have on-farm lodging available, as well as, a couple houses in town that can be booked. Yep. Agri-tourism at its best. Check out my next blog for more specifics on that!

Tall Ships: a seafaring history

One of the things I love about living in the South is that history is so much a part of the present. As I mentioned in a previous blog about Civil War reenactments, I love to be able to experience (and photograph) history in a way that is up close and personal.

A few years ago, the Tall Ships Challenge® had a scheduled stop in Savannah. I missed most of the festivities held along River Street, but managed to see the parade of ships as they left port heading out to the Atlantic. I had a great seat for the parade of ships, perched on a large boulder on the shore of the Savannah River from Fort Pulaski’s Cockspur Island.

I really enjoyed the experience, and have since made a point of visiting some of the tall ships when they visit the port in Savannah; including the Lynx and tandalucia masthe Andalucia. For a small fee, you can get on board, have a look around and even talk to the crew.

The ships are things of graceful beauty. Elegant in design. Carved of bold woods and draped with thick, rough rope. There is symmetry and purpose in every nook and cranny. A work of art, a piece of history, a feat of engineering and workmanship.

The Tall Ship Challenge® will be returning to the Atlantic Coast (and presumably making a stop in Savannah) next summer. If you missed them last time they came through, plan to see them in 2017 – you’ll be glad you did!


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.

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Civil War Culture: the south will rise again

I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, so Civil War history was practically ingrained in my psyche from birth. It may seem odd to say, but though I can remember studying the Civil War in history class, I cannot remember far enough back into my childhood to remember when I first became aware of its significance.

DSC_1288Having said that, it was not until I moved back to the South and to South Georgia in particular, that I was fully struck by the impact that historical war still has on society today. Racial and political discourse stemming from the war aside, physical reminders of the Civil War abound.

Confederate flags fly proudly, monuments commemorating the lives of Confederate soldiers or the feats of Confederate heroes can be found in towns big and small all across the state.

I have always been a lover of history. And I believe it is important to know and remember where we’ve been so we can set a path to where we are going.  And as Edmund Burke is often quoted, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

And it’s great when history can be brought to life. This brings me to Civil War battle reenactments.

DSC_0044I had heard of an annual battle reenactment that takes place just a few miles from my current home and for many years I would have every intention of going without ever actually following through.

But last year, I was writing for the local newspaper and decided, this was my year!

So, I invited my Dad to come along and we headed out to the Battle of Manassas (right here in South Georgia – Tattnall County, to be exact.).

DSC_0813I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From walking among the tents and watching the soldiers prepare for battle to having (literally) a front row seat to a battle scene, I was fully engaged. Gunfire, canonfire, the thundering of horses’ hooves were more than just heard, but experienced.

DSC_0981As a photographer, I absolutely loved the rich array of photographic opportunities (I think I took around 1,000 photos – thank God for digital photography!). In fact, it’s because I had so many great shots from this experience that I wanted to include the reenactment in this blog. How often do you get the chance to take pictures of history?

So, I hope you enjoy these photos! This annual reenactment takes place near Manassas, Georgia (not to be confused with Manassas, Virginia where this battle originally took place). The event is always scheduled for the 3rd weekend in March and is hosted by the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

This particular battle was not only chosen because of its name, but also because the South which initially loses its fort, comes back victorious in the end!











Robert E. Lee, is that you?



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