Do you like how I’ve been building suspense by making you wait forever and ever for my final Final Four post? You’re welcome. Now prepare to be underwhelmed. But I took enough photos of our final outing, so dammit, you’re going to have to read a blog post about it!
By Monday, we were ready for a change of scenery.
DadJovi woke up early Monday morning and took yet another trip back to the airport, this time to rent a car because we had a day trip planned. And it almost didn’t happen. We didn’t reserve a car because we weren’t sure we’d stick to our idea, so when he went to go get one, almost every place was sold out. Not only was Monday the day of the National Championship game, but it was also the start of The Masters week, so there were a lot of people arriving in town and needing to make the drive to Augusta.
Eventually, he found one, although it cost about twice what we were expecting. This planned day trip of his better be worth it!
We pointed the car north and made the 90-minute drive to the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Our destination was Amicalola Falls State Park. It bills itself as the highest falls east of the Mississippi, which made us laugh. We thought we already visited that place in South Carolina last summer. Apparently the “tallest xx of the Mississippi” folks don’t police those claims very vigorously. And what happens west of the Mississippi? Do places call themselves the tallest, highest, lowest, etc., out there? Or do they just assume everything is bigger and better and they don’t need to qualify it as on either side of the Mississippi? We spent way too much time debating and discussing this point. Can you tell?
Our mocking was short-lived. Those falls were about to show us who was boss.
After consulting with the very friendly and knowledgeable park rangers, we settled upon a 5-mile hiking loop that took us up the west side of the falls and back down the east side. “It’s going to feel more like 8,” the ranger warned us.
We politely nodded our heads and thanked him before setting off for the Creek and Mountain Laurel Loop trails to get us started. We should have paid more attention to his heads up.
For the most part, the first two paths were pretty flat. There were some areas where we had to climb up a bit, but it was a nice warm-up to the main event. And the day could not have been more perfect. It was probably in the mid- to upper 60s at the start but with a nice cool breeze.
Eventually, we made our way to the reflecting pool that marked the start of the climb toward the top. Remember this bright green tree. You’ll see it soon from a whole new view.
I didn’t want to pick these flowers until I saw the sign telling me not to. But I resisted. Stupid nature and its beautiful flowers.
Our first hamstring burn came thanks to a deceptively steep hill.
That hill just kept going and going … and it was just taking us to our climbing starting point.
We could just start to get our first glimpse of the falls through the trees at the top of your screen. The only standing between us and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia was some stairs. A whole lot of them.
The sign didn’t lie.
Thankfully, the falls were spectacular and so worth the pain.
But wait! There’s more!
Here we go again.
Pay no attention to that main hanging over the railing trying to catch his breath. You’re going to have to cut us sea-level dwellers a break. The altitude plus the pollen was having a serious effect on our lungs. And the stairs? Well, to quote Chris Trager, they were LITERALLY kicking our asses.
But once again, we were rewarded with a stunning view at the top. This is what it looks like to look down on 729-foot falls. I was glad for the railing.
See if you can spot that bright green tree way, way down there.
After we caught our breath, we headed toward our next trail — the Fitness Trail. We had no idea the trail’s name would be so descriptive.
I have no idea where he got the energy to do all that after our climb. It took all the energy I could muster just to snap those pics. The coolest part of this trail, though, was when we spotted the biggest woodpecker I’ve ever seen (TWSS). Seriously, this thing was HUGE and looked exactly like Woody Woodpecker. We followed him for a bit. It was really cool.
At the top of the mountain, we decided to check out the Amicalola Falls Lodge. Not a bad view, huh?
We decided to take a break and enjoy lunch in the lodge’s restaurant. With this view above, how could we not? The food was meh (think cafeteria-style buffet) but it was a nice refueling break for the trip down.
After lunch, we started our descent.
I also saw a sign for my kind of place.
Maybe next time.
The hike down the east side was not nearly as scenic as the climb up the west side. A note to future hikers: don’t hike up the east side. It’s just a long, gradually elevating gravel and dirt road. When you come up the west side, you can hear and even see the falls for most of the hike. On the east side, you can’t even hear them. So save that side for the trip down.
All was going well until we came upon a couple stopped to the side using binoculars to stare at a tree. We got excited because we thought maybe they found our woodpecker friend. Dear Lord, if only that’s what it had been.
If you know me, I bet you can guess which way this story is heading. You got it. Look closely at that tree. See if you can spot it.
Still don’t see it? Let’s take a closer look shall we.
Why must it always be snakes? I suddenly felt less safe in those woods. We would have never seen that snake if the couple hadn’t been there watching him. How many others had we narrowly missed.
Thankfully, this HUGE guy was pretty far off the path and was climbing really high up a tree. Here was our actual view.
He was a safe enough distance away that we even hung out for awhile with the couple watching him. See that hole in the tree in the pictures? We watched him keep climbing up the tree and into that hole. If it hadn’t been a snake — my number 1 fear — it would have been pretty cool.
But I was still freaked out.
The rest of the trip down was less enjoyable because I was suddenly very paranoid that a snake was following me (I wish I was lying). The upside was that as I was obsessively watching every step, I kept seeing some really cool moss on the ground.
I’ve always found moss so magical, I guess. It just reminds me of something out of a dream and I always just picture a family of fairies living amongst it. These are the happy thoughts I was thinking as I was trying to not have a major freakout over the snake.
Eventually, we made it to the bottom.
We decided to tell the rangers about the snake we saw to see if they knew what kind it was.
“Oh sure. It’s one of these guys — a black rat snake.”
And before I could say, “You don’t have to go any further,” the very nice — but insistent — park ranger had gotten the snake out of its cage.
Why? Why? Why?
He kept walking toward me with that thing and I kept backing further and further away. To prove his point to me that the snake was harmless, look at what that crazy man did.
Again … why? why? why????
To appease him, I sent DadJovi over to touch the nice man’s snake (I hope that’s not WSS).
For perspective, DadJovi is 6’1″. So yeah, that snake is not small.
Guys, I seriously have the biggest chills writing this story and I’m starting to feel a little nauseous. I know that I should have probably touched the snake and begin the process of healing. But I can’t. I just can’t.
After I was chased out of there by snake man, we hit the road back for Atlanta. Along the way, we stopped at the greatest gas station ever. It was a RaceTrack that had a HUGE iced tea bar with like 15 flavors, a walk-in beer cooler, a full coffee bar and frozen yogurt. This is a pistachio/thin mint swirl. Who knew? Go rural Georgia!
I figured after surviving the bun-burning hike and the trauma of the snake, I was owed this treat. I just wish I’d gotten twice as much. It was soooo good.
We got back to the hotel in the late afternoon and relaxed a couple hours because we knew it was going to be a late night. We settled into our nice hotel bed to watch a romantic movie.
Because nothing says romantic getaway like a movie about terrorism, torture and capturing and killing Bin Laden, right?
I hadn’t seen it yet though and DadJovi had and he was pretty insistent that I “needed” to see it. It was really tough to watch in spots but I’m definitely glad I saw it.
Around 7, we headed out to head to the Georgia Dome for the game. Damn late games. After a lot of back-and-forth with myself, I decided to suit up one last time for the season.
I figured we’d come this far, I might as well support them all the way. And even though we came up one game short, I was still proud of our boys. Besides, it was a lot less lame than some of the shirts I saw there. I saw people in shirts of teams that didn’t even make the tournament. Amateurs.
We got smarter this time and drove to a MARTA station on the east side of town. We were hoping to avoid a repeat performance of the disaster post-game situation from Saturday. And as a bonus, we were treated to gorgeous sunset views of Atlanta during our ride back to the Georgia Dome.
The climb to the tippy top was a lot more painful this time than it was on Saturday thanks to that day’s hike. But there was nothing like the atmosphere in the Dome. It was pretty awesome.
I’ll spare you with all the game details, but I’ll say, it was one of the best national championship games in history. The first half was just spectacular basketball. It was so much fun being there, particularly since I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I couldn’t ever bring myself to cheer for Louisville (I’ve hated Pitino since Kentucky beat us in ’96, even if he is Boeheim’s best frenemy) but I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a Big Ten team winning it all either.
So, despite my anti-Pitino feelings, I suppose I was glad to see a Big East team win it all during our conference’s last big hurrah.
The people in front of us, who kept throwing their Ls up in there air, were obviously happy with the outcome.
Bring on the confetti!
And, as predicted, thanks to our Can’t Fail Parking Plan, getting home was a breeze. Seriously. Within an hour of walking out of the Dome, we were walking into our hotel room. Such a good call. We actually considered driving by the airport to pick some people up because we felt so bad for our past selves and that disaster.
So, that’s it. The saga is FINALLY over. You see, this is why I’ll never be a professional blogger. It only took me, oh, 6 weeks to finish this story? But at least now it’s committed to my blog memory, which will last a lot longer than my actual memory.
Thanks for sticking around.
What’s your biggest fear? Have you ever confronted it? And what’s the best sporting event you’ve ever attended? And finally — be honest. Did you ever think I’d finish this story? It was touch and go there for awhile.