Friday, February 25, 2011

Stone Mountain Trek

On Presidents' Day, February 21st I had the opportunity to watch my 6 year old grandson, Jahshua for the entire day while his mother went to work/school.  Jahshua recommended we spend some time at the arcade near his house.  I could not imagine a scenario where I could stand spending several hours at an arcade.  I decided that we should instead take a trip to Stone Mountain Park.  I figured the weather was nice, the trip would get us outside, we'd get some exercise and more importantly, he would use up some the energy that all 6 year old boys are full of. 

If you're not familiar with the park it's located just east of Atlanta, Georgia.  The park's main feature is the huge granite outcrop that climbs 861' above the surrounding landscape to an elevation of 1,686'.

We left the house at about 9:30am headed for Publix to pick up something to drink and some snacks.  He's got a restrictive diet due to allergies but he's a good kid and smart enough to know what he shouldn't eat.  We left Publix with some sliced seedless watermelon...which actually does have seeds but they're soft and smaller than regular watermelon seeds.  We also got some pretzels, water, and apples.  We already had some granola bars from home in the backpack.

It had been about 3 years since I last visited Stone Mountain Park.  That trip was with my wife Susan and our older grandson Cody and was dominated by the park's Crossroads and The Great Barn.  I don't recall that trip favorably, full of screaming kids high on soda and candy.  The park hadn't been the same since 1998 when it was taken over by some Dollywood-esk for-profit corporation during the administration of Governor Roy Barnes.  The Stone Mountain Memorial Association also helps manage the park.

We arrived at the park entrance, paid the $10 entry fee and parked at the Confederate Center.  The center is located at the start of the trail up the mountain.  After a quick use of the facilities we headed up the mountain on the Walk Up Trail.

Confederate Center
The Confederate Center has a video and other exhibits that explains how the mountain was formed.

Taking note of the trail rules
Invasive plants - one of two Bubble Gum trees we saw along the trail
Chief navigator making sure we stay on track
In addition to making sure we stayed on the trail, Jahshua was also in charge of making sure we stopped every 200 yards to eat, drink, rest, pick up sticks and rocks, etc.

Watermelon break
Jahshua was well prepared for the trek.  He even brought along a pair of knee pads.

The tram was not in service on the day of our trek
The view from the top
Geodetic survey marker
After we returned to the bottom of the mountain Jahshua wanted to ride the train so we headed to the depot.
The entrance to Crossroads and other park amusements including the train depot
The carving
There used to be a nice grass lawn in front of the carving.  Visitors would put their blankets on the lawn and watch the nightly laser show.  Now, the grass is still there but it's covered with amusements like Snow Mountain.

Snow Mountain
The train pulls into the depot
A closer view of the train engine
The train ride takes about 30-minutes to go around the mountain.

Chicken Strips
After conquering the mountain we had some Chick-fil-a chicken strips.

As we travelled up the mountain I told Jahshua of my adventure in the late 1990's when I drove a minivan half-way up the mountain for my work.  The next day I told this story to Chip, my IM training partner, who quickly responded that he had in fact driven all the way to the top of the mountain to work on some National Weather Service meteorological equipment.  I guess that explains why he's a full Iroman (Louisville) and I'm only a half Ironman (Augusta).