Cameron Shook

Georgia you’ve been on my mind

Cameron Shook
Georgia you’ve been on my mind

The devil went down to Georgia; so did Sherman. To some southerners those names are interchangeable, but I’m finally finding reasons to go down to Georgia myself after years of mostly avoiding the place. Even though Georgia is not that far away (Atlanta is a dead 4 hours from my front door), it always seemed as far away as Miami. Last week my dad had to make trip for work in Atlanta, so we decided to take Friday off and make a small road trip out of it, and we ended up clocking in 700 miles over 2 days.

We left Rock Hill around noon on Friday, and our plan was to drive down to the PDGA headquarters in Augusta Georgia, spend the night in Gainesville, make the quick trip to Atlanta Saturday morning and then drive up to the Tallulah Gorge and hike around. Since we were getting a late start, we decided to avoid the interstate traffic around Columbia and cut cross country through Chester, Greenwood, and Edgefield before crossing the Strom Thurmond Dam into Georgia. While on the map I knew that the lake formed by the dam stopping the Savannah River was large, I was still surprised at just how big it was, and how little development there was on it. Hamilton Branch State Park on the SC side of the lake just moved up my list of places to visit, because almost every one of the 150 campsites is right on the lake.

Once over the state line, it was just a few minutes to Wildwood Park where the PDGA headquarters is located; it might make a few people upset there’s a few dollar fee to both park and play, but once you see the facility and how nice it is maintained I think that should take care of any complaints. The HQ itself is nice, with a small museum and a well-stocked pro shop which is one of the reasons we went out of our way to visit.  Back in 2005, we helped setup and run the USDGC’s Pro-Shop at Winthrop and at the time the PDGA president came through and said he was so impressed that he wanted the headquarters pro-shop to look just as good. It was cool to see a project from years ago being emulated at such a place.  

We only had time to play one of the 3 courses that circle the headquarters, and each has alternate pin placements and teepads giving a lot of variety to even a single course. We chose the Headrick Memorial course because it was the shortest of the 3 and we wanted to finish before sunset. It plays like a very long Boyd Hill, except the underbrush is nowhere is as bad so you might hit 200 trees during the round but you at least won’t have to dive into a thorn bush to get your disc back. It also has a few holes around the lake, but the water is clear and the bottom sandy so if you aren’t too far out you should be able to walk out and grab it. I hadn’t played a proper round of disc golf in way too long, but I managed to not embarrass myself too badly only playing a few (few meaning 1 – 20) over par from the long tees.  We then headed towards Gainesville where we crashed for the night, stopping at Blazer’s hotwings on the way which had some of the best wings I’ve ever had in my life. The only complaint I have is that their hottest sauce wasn’t all that unbearable, because if I can eat it and not hate myself for it it’s not really that hot.

After the short trip into Atlanta the next day, we headed north to Tallulah Gorge State Park which has a complicated and interesting history to say the least. It started as a major resort destination in the late 1800s and ever since people have been seeking protection for the gorge to prevent a Niagara Falls tourist trap. It finally happened in 1993 when it was made into a state park, but not after a dam was put in place at the top of the gorge and a lake filled behind it earlier in the century, filling half the gorge and some of the large impressive rapids. The good news though is the Tallulah Gorge still has tremendous views and some of the biggest whitewater in the South East that you can easily hike to. Oceana is the biggest “rapid” in the gorge, meaning it’s a class 5.1 (American Whitewater’s rating, not mine) 50’ waterfall that during release weekends you’re sure to see several kayakers sliding down. If hiking down into the gorge isn’t your thing, you can hike the trails that follow the rim of both sides, and lead to the points where two towers were erected in 1970 for one of the famous Wallenda high wire acrobats to walk across.

After that, we packed the truck and headed home, but I decided to start doing a little more research on some places to visit in the Peach State. For years, I’ve heard of Cumberland Island down on the coast being a great place to go and I think I’ve finally decided it’s time to visit for myself. It’s a National Seashore, complete with an abandoned lighthouse and wild horses. An interesting mix of history is there as well, with the Dungeness Mansion ruins, the Plum Orchard Mansion, and the First African Baptist Church which was established in the 1890s and rebuild in the 1930s.  They are rather strict about the amount of people they allow on the island, no more than 60 at a time, meaning that you rarely will see other people if you’re able to schedule a trip on the ferry, and will see even less people if you decide to stay in one of the backcountry camping sites 3, 5, 7, or 10 miles away from the dock you land at. If you want a less adventurous trip, there is also a campground not far from the dock. There is no store on the island or trash cans, so you need to bring everything you need with you and then pack it all out when you leave.

If for no other reason than experiencing history, the hike from Springer Mountain to Neels Gap is the first 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail and is where 1 in 6 would-be thru-hikers decide to call it quits. It’s a tough hike to be sure, but there’s lots of good scenery, and if you like a more social wilderness experience, during the spring and early summer you’ll meet plenty of people trying to hike all the way to Maine. I’ve been to Springer to drop off a friend who was attempting a thru-hike, and then to Neels Gap to drop off his first supply drop, but finding out what all is in between would be a good thing to find out.

Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts”. I wouldn’t say I hated Georgia, or thought that it was a horrible place to go, but it’s funny how a quick weekend trip can remind you that there’s some pretty awesome things a short drive over our eastern border. Even if a trip isn’t filled with adventure every moment, getting out there can open your eyes and change your mind.

Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.