In 2009, my sister visited me in Arizona, and we went to the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. I used to have a lot more photos at higher resolution, but many of my photos from the early 2000s were victims of a transitional period where I made some mistakes with photo storage. So, here are the seven survivors from that amazing exhibit of glassworks in a desert environment that was in full bloom for spring. The glasswork was gorgeous during the day but also impressive when it was lit up after sunset.
Smith-Gilbert Gardens features a network of walking trails that wind their way through all kinds of plants and various sculptures — some abstract, some representational, and some a bit of both. It’s an easy walk, and if you have a couple of free hours, you can see just about everything. If the weather’s nice, you could sit on one of many benches and just enjoy the serenity of this lovely place in Cobb County.
Mom and I didn’t do a lot of sitting on the day we went, because after several weeks of glorious mid-seventies temperatures for my recent nature walks, we had to brave chilly winds at barely fifty degrees. Still, the day was sunny and pleasant, and I swear we were the only two people in the park who weren’t employees. Although the gardens were not yet in the full bloom of spring and summer, we enjoyed many splashes of color and greenery, the gentle sound of water splashing over rocks, and being serenaded by a cardinal.
And what better song for gardens and flowers than the live version of Gardenia by Kyuss?
The Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins are the remains of an industrial complex that was large enough to be a military target in the American Civil War. The mill produced, among other things, paper for the Confederacy’s currency, and Union troops pretty well destroyed it. The walls that stand today are a historic feature in a maze of walking and biking trails of various difficulty that offer scenic views of the creek and plunge you into the forest despite never being far from civilization.
I say “maze” because although the trails have many markers and maps posted, it can be challenging to get a sense of scale and direction if you haven’t been there before, and many trails intersect at weird angles. There is an easy way to get from the Sope Creek Parking Lot to the ruins, but there is also an easy way to miss it and make the journey much longer than it needs to be.
Plus, although Google Maps shows exactly where the ruins are, my portable Garmin GPS unit for driving had no clue. But hey, I don’t mind a little wandering and getting lost on the way to something scenic, or musical, or fun. It’s part of the adventure, and I was driving to random places all across the States for years before we had global digital mapping conveniences. I used to get so damn lost in states I’d never been to before that I’d have to stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and buy a paper map, and maybe ask some locals for help. Taking a wrong turn in the forest when I can still hear cars in the distance is nothing.
Anyway, I would rate this mini-hike as moderate, not easy, due to the fact that it requires some moderately steep uphill walking, and portions of the path are rocky or muddy (or both). Traipsing around the ruins and the surrounding creek rocks could be dangerous for the less sure-footed. I was here in the fall about eighteen years ago, and this time was the cusp of spring. I’d like to return someday when all the greenery is in full bloom.
Today’s tune from the psychedelic woodlands is Ruins by Wooden Shijps, performed live in the studios of Seattle’s KEXP.
For an hour-long, paper-themed musical adventure, crank this up:
PBN 118: Paper and Fire. January 2023. Listen or Download the MP3. 56 minutes. 128 Kbps. View or Download the playlist.
Getting to Toonigh Creek Falls involves taking trails in the opposite direction of the ones I took the previous time I visited Olde Rope Mill Park. But the specific trails to the waterfall aren’t marked at all, and it’s easy to take a wrong turn, get spooked by No Trespassing signs, or just walk right past the correct path entirely. Unlike some other nature walks I’ve taken recently, this was a fairly strenuous trek where the path was often covered with rocks, or roots, or mud, and it involved climbing over fallen trees and jumping over small streams with muddy banks. The trail also resembles the proverbial path my grandfather took to school during the Great Depression: It’s uphill both ways.
You need to walk under the bridge that supports highway 575, then through a mining area that is ugly and stinky. But just past the mine, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous forest path alongside the Little River. You might, like me, see some fish in the muddy water, a crane or heron, and a couple of deer. One of my wrong turns took me to a mud flat where I found mollusc shells, flowers, and deer tracks. Eventually, exhausted, I found the Falls, and though they are not the most spectacular falls in Georgia — an honor that belongs to Amicalola Falls — they were well worth the journey. I could have laid back on a rock and just listened to them for an hour, but I’d started out late, and both the temperature and the sun were dropping quickly. I’d like to visit again when I can spend more time with this lovely little waterfall.
Today’s musical waterfall appears in a gorgeous interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s May This be Love by Emmylou Harris, with guitar layers by Daniel Lanois, and U2’s Larry Mullen Jr. on drums.
The weather forecast for the afternoon said “100 percent chance of rain”, but I wasn’t about to sit at home feeling bad that I missed a chance to see some scenery. Etowah River Park turned out to be a lovely place to walk for a couple miles despite the moderate rain that made good on the forecasted promise about 1/3 of the way through my excursion. The park has a pretty awesome playground for kids and also a built in ping-pong table and chess table near a wide expanse of grass encircled by a paved path. Take the path to a wooden bridge to cross the Etowah River and enjoy the view, and keep an eye out for little unpaved side paths that get you down to the riverbank. The paved path ends eventually at another lot which, if I read the map correctly, is called Heritage Park. It’s a mellow, level path suitable for a leisurely afternoon jaunt, and though you are never far from civilization, it’s quite scenic with an abundance of greenery. It also features a place to launch a canoe, complete with life jackets you can borrow.
It was a pleasant but overcast day at Blankets Creek Mountain-Bike Trails, and the forest is not yet in full bloom. Still, it was a nice place to take a 1.375-mile stroll along the Mosquito Flats trail. It’s a mellow, level, unpaved path alongside the creek and through the forest. Cyclists have the right-of-way, but respectful pedestrians are welcome — even if, like me, they brought a cheeseburger and a large basket of french fries to fuel the journey. Mosquito Flats starts at the parking lot and is a beginner-level trail for cyclists. At several points along the way, you can access much longer trails and presumably more challenging terrain.
For today’s woodsy soundtrack, enjoy the retro-psychedelic Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest by the Babe Rainbow.