Today was definitely one of the most spectacular days I’ve ever had, and definitely the best New Year’s Day ever. And though I’m tired and cold, and my comfy bed beckons me, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep until I get these words out.
Harvin, Ticcoa, Jess, and I planned a mini road trip to Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla today. Walhalla is not quite an hour’s drive away: close enough for a day trip, and far enough to be an adventure. It turned out to be more of an adventure than any of us imagined.
We left around 10 this morning, getting on Highway 11 to head to Walhalla. We tailed this spectacular, red VW bus for awhile, all of us pondering aloud how awesome a vehicle like that would be on a road trip. We listened to great music (supplied by Jess and me, as we attempt to make Ticcoa more music literate). And somewhere along the way, Ticcoa mentioned Toccoa Falls (she’s not named after it, specifically, although her name does mean “falling water”). And the rest of us convinced Ticcoa to be spontaneous and drive into Georgia for a picnic at Toccoa Falls.
The falls were spectacular. Icy cold, of course (we caught some of the mist as we climbed the rocks, even though we were pretty far away). It honestly made me regret marking “see a waterfall” off my List last week, as this one totally trumps the mini waterfall I hiked into the woods in Clinton to see. Jess, our resident photographer, snapped some awesome shots, which I’m really excited about.
After we left Toccoa Falls College, we drove back through the town of Toccoa. We stopped at this parking lot of a mini strip mall, where an awesome old railway car is parked on the side. I climbed on it, Jess climbed under it, and we posed for yet more photos as residents drove past and shot us strange looks. Then, on my insistence, we took a back road following these brown historical signs to something called “Traveler’s Rest Historic Site.” A TR in Georgia? How could we pass that up?!? I know Coa was anxious that we would get lost, although she kept her worry contained very well. And the historic site ended up being on a road that cut back to the highway we needed to be on anyway.
The TR site was closed, but we wandered around the grounds, peered into some windows, made friends with the resident dogs, and discovered that the heat was on in the unlocked bathrooms on the grounds (what a pleasant surprise when it’s around 40 degrees outside!). We’ll definitely be heading back there sometime in the spring when it opens back up. The place was just freakin’ awesome…an old pioneer-style plantation of sorts dating back to pre-Civil War era. I’m looking forward to it already.
In my opinion, the best part of the day came next. As we left Toccoa heading back to Walhalla, we crossed a bridge over the Tugaloo River, and we glanced downstream at the other bridges in the distance. One of them was this fantastic rusty, abandoned bridge, and the middle section was missing. We pulled off on the side of the road once to get a glimpse, and then decided to get closer. We ended up turning down this side road to a fishing site that took us directly to the bridge. Despite the anxiety about some sketchy cars coming and going on what Jess thought had to be drug deals, we had a fantastic time. The river is much, much narrower than it used to be, and the riverbed is cracked and scaly in some parts and overgrown in others. We climbed down the side of the original riverbank and did some exploring. We took pictures on the old, dead trees on the bank and wandered around while we waited for all the sketchy folks to leave. Then we climbed back up to explore the bridge.
Seriously. I love bridges so much, and this one was one of the best I’ve experienced. Rusty. Abandoned. Like something out of a post-apocolyptic movie scence. Desolate and spectacular. The best part, though? We left our mark…sidewalk chalk first. Then, Jess printed out a small picture-sticker of the four of us on the bridge with this little portable photo printer that she has. Then she and I walked back to the bridge, where I stucked the sticker to one of the posts. Someone will probably take it down, but at least we know we left our mark for a little while.
Finally, we left, as Coa reminded us that we didn’t want to get stuck at Stumphouse Tunnel at dark. All this adventure, and we still hadn’t reached our original destination yet! We finally arrived there a little after 3 in the afternoon. Seriously…yet another awesome place. The tunnel was original part of a railway tunnel being built before the Civil War, but they ran out of funding, and the War happened, and it never got finished. Later, it was used to store bleu cheese (yeah, random). Now, it’s a historic site. The tunnel is fantastically creepy. Cold, wet, pitch-black dark. We carried in a flashlight…and Jess’s light saber, which Harvin had way too much fun with, and all the other visitors found amusing. After we exited the tunnel, we walked out to a lookout at the Iseequeena Falls (two waterfalls in one day!), and of course, took more photos.
When we left the tunnel, we still weren’t finished. On the way to Toccoa, Jess and Coa had started talking about the fish hatchery in Walhalla that they’d visited before. They mentioned that it wasn’t too exciting, but maybe we’d like to see it. The best part, though? I only know one thing about Walhalla: that the fish hatchery there was built by the WPA, and my grandfather worked on that project when he worked for the WPA in the 30s. That, of course, sealed the deal: we had to see it. Unfortunately, we arrived at 4:30, and the fish hatchery closed at 4. Still, we loitered around outside the gate, wandered off down the trail a little ways, and decided we’d definitely come back again. Because, well, my grandfather worked there. And I never knew him, as he died in 1964, but he was there. All the massive trees in the woods were there when he worked there. Those roads, he probably traveled. I love connections to my past.
I also love that I started the new year off on this grand adventure. No, it wasn’t Europe or Route 66 or any of the big items on my list, but Stumphouse Tunnel can now be marked of f (and that makes my 10th completed item!). And we were spontaneous, and we convinced Ticcoa to be spontaneous with us, and Jess took almost 400 photographs to commemorate the occasion. And I had a wonderful day with some of my best friends.
How could 2009 not be remarkable after such a great start?