You can plan a pretty picnic…but you can’t predict the weather

Tallulah_Gorge_group_on_outing-640x509Aw, golden weekends, how precious and few they are. For those who don’t know, ‘golden weekend’ is medical lingo for having both Saturday and Sunday off.

So for this golden weekend we made big plans to finally visit Tallulah Falls. If I remember correctly, I’ve seen a documentary on Tallulah Falls from GPB/PBS. It was a resort town during the turn of the century. In my mind, I have these Victorian/Edwardian-ly dressed characters getting off trains and hanging around waterfalls. Adorable, gentle people.

While there, I learned that the town is actually called Tallulah Falls. The park with the waterfalls is Tallulah Gorge State Park. Is it sad that I didn’t realize this until we were an hour away from the area?

IMG_4632Anyhow, we made a big day of it, with my relatives and my husband’s relatives fulling packing out the Suburban. If our family grows anymore we’re going to have to buy a van, bus, or RV. For lunch, we stopped at one of our favorite vacation spots in GA, Helen. While there, you gotta try Hoofer’s of Helen’s German restaurant. Their potatoes, sausage, and pretzel bread are my husband’s favorite meal ever.

From there, we headed through the Sautee Nacoochee area. Although we’ve been to Helen now half a dozen times, we’ve never really explored Sautee Nacoochee, since we usually go to Cleveland or Blood Mountain. But, lucky for us, we found an awesome fruit and vegetable stand called Fritchey’s Farm Fresh Market. They sell everything from honey with comb, peaches, watermelons, turnip greens, and sunflowers. Very friendly folk. Their bathroom and prices were clean, so we will be back.

IMG_4642By this time, we were well aware that the chance of rain was for certain. We fought it all day, driving in and out of stormy looking areas. Just our luck, the moment we arrived in Tallulah Falls, at Tallulah Gorge State Park, the bottom fell out. We rushed inside the museum and lingered in the gift shop, buying rain ponchos, until it stopped. Then the sun came out and the day started to feel hot. Feeling safe, we put the ponchos and umbrellas back into the car.

Unlike a lot of parks, there’s a lot to see at Tallulah Gorge. There are six waterfalls, many overlooks, a suspension bridge, and miles of trails. As one of the rangers explained the map, I was feeling overwhelmed. Although having the neuroma out of my foot is certainly helping, I wasn’t sure if I was up to 550 steps up and down. I made it clear that I wasn’t going to the very bottom. So, we headed for overlook spots one and two.

IMG_4658The view from overlook one was great. I’m familiar with Cloudland Canyon and I have to say Tallulah Gorge is every bit as lovely. I felt on top of the world, as though, at any moment I could, in my imagination, soar freely into space. There’s something so freeing about being high up. It makes you feel small, but endless at the same time.

For those who don’t know, there’s some general info from the park website about Tallulah Gorge:

  • One of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S., Tallulah Gorge is two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep.
  • Visitors can hike rim trails to several overlooks, or they can obtain a permit to hike to the gorge floor (100 per day, not available during water releases).
  • A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls.
  • Tightrope walkers have twice crossed the gorge, and visitors can still see towers used by Karl Wallenda.

IMG_4660After seeing overlook one, it was only natural that we would take the path to overlook two. It was a brisk walk, down stairs, and then up a hill. Being sheltered under the trees, we really didn’t notice that it was starting to cloud up again. Rounding the curve, we came face to face with part of the structure that was used to hold Karl Wallenda’s tightrope.

It’s amazing to think that in the 1970s 30,000 people gathered to watch the daring event. The area has really grown up since then. Today, I’m not sure it could safely hold 100 people. This summer marks the anniversary of Karl Wallenda’s walk across the gorge. The park is planning a big event July 18th with his grandson Nik Wallenda. There’s rumors that he wanted to walk across the gorge in his grandfather’s footsteps. But then I’ve also read, that at this time, he won’t be reenacting the feat. Guess we’ll see.

IMG_4661Looking down at overlook two, the clouds darkened and we could see rain not far off. We posed for pictures and barely noticed as my brother ducked his camera under his shirt and disappeared in the direction of the gift shop. Then it started. The bottom fell out again and us without our ponchos or umbrellas. We scurried back down the trail to the gift shop. But it was useless. By the time we made the journey back, we were soaked. As we purchased dry t-shirts in the gift shop, the sun came out again. It was a freak happening that we were caught in the rain. Although I wanted to see more of the park, there’s something about being soaked that makes you feel miserable and exhausted.  We enjoyed the little time that we had, but it was clear that it was now time to go.

Next time, I’ve learned, that I am going to take a mini-backpack with ponchos anytime there’s rain in the forecast at a park. Some members of our party didn’t have cell phones. So, I think we’re going to have to find those old walkie-talkies in case we need to find each other in a hurry.

All-in-all, not a bad daytrip, just unpredictable weather. But now I can official cross #7. Visit Tallulah Falls off the 30 before 30 list.

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