Chronicles of a Georgia State Park Journey

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My family and I are on a mission to visit every state park in Georgia, one a month, until we have explored the ins-and-outs of each one. Each quarter over the next year, we’ll share with you a sample from our diaries on this journey. May you be encouraged to explore the hundreds of thousands of acres that make Georgia beautiful.

January 27 – Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, Georgia

doncarterThey are calling for snow tomorrow, but today I am thankful for the 60-degree weather and the opportunity to dip my toes into Lake Lanier.  The beach is deserted now, but the sand is warm and the sun is glistening off the water.  I’m sitting on a bench, rocking, as I watch the boys play at the playground.  I wonder how difficult it will be to persuade them to go hiking with me. There is a 1.5-mile paved trail, and a 1-mile natural hiking trail.  I spoke to the ranger earlier, and he indicated they are already making headway on additional trails, as well.  With the playgrounds, the beach and bathhouse, trails, campsites, and boat docks, there is evidence of significant progress at this newest state park.

We’re staying in a cottage tonight; the vast back-porch faces the lake, and I can already hear the rocking chairs calling my name.  The kitchen and dining room are expansive, and with two bedrooms, sleeping up to eight people, I’m wishing we had invited friends to come with us.  The boys will want to build a fire off the deck tonight, but I am looking forward to the warmth of the cast iron stove that sits in the living room.  This cottage will make a great place to hold out if the predicted “snowpocalypse” comes to fruition.

 

February 17 – Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Georgia

smithgallwoodsSpeechless. That is how I feel right now. I’m sitting on the deck of our gorgeous three-bedroom cottage, which butts against Dukes Creek. I can hear the water racing over large moss-covered boulders. The trees tower hundreds of feet above my head and create a canopy that holds the temperature at a good five to ten degrees colder than it is outside the park.  The dense shade creates a special home for ferns, unique wildflowers, and enormous river trout. Rhododendrons, larger than my truck, dot the riverbank, and I can glimpse their buds beginning to form.  The sun is setting, the temperature is dropping, and the fireplace roars inside the cottage, but I cannot move. The beauty of this park captivates me. I want to take in every leaf, every boulder, and every sound.

The boys are asleep now. The excitement of the day made this task more difficult than usual.  Tucked into their warm beds, we reminisced about our earlier hike to Duke’s Creek Falls.  It was warm enough to hike without a jacket, but we met snow at the top of the trail. It blanketed the mountain like a thin veil. The falls reached over 200-feet tall, and dropped with such force that we had to yell in order to hear each other speak.  But mostly, we were quiet. Together.

March 3 – Richard B Russell State Park in Elberton, Georgia

richardbrussell“Frisbee Golf!!!” the wee ones exclaimed as we drove in this evening.  I’m delighted at how much there is to do at this park. There is a beautiful disc golf course, bike rentals, boat rentals (pontoon, canoe, and paddle,) playgrounds, hiking, and an 18-hole golf course.  The beach was closed today, but we longingly gazed at it from the playground, wishing spring would hurry herself along. The highlight of our day was visiting the Rowing Center, which served as a training facility during the Olympics.  We watched as several men hoisted their racing shell into the water and skimmed the lake like an oversized heron. It was our first experience with rowing, and we were mesmerized by the size and grace.

Tonight we are staying in a cottage in the park, on Lake Richard Russell. It’s too cold for the beach, but too warm to light a fire in the fireplace.  I’m sitting on the screened-in porch, admiring the orange sky’s reflection in the water.  The sun will rise over this cove in the morning, and I will be back in this rocking chair, coffee in hand. Now, I’ll join the boys by the outdoor firepit and roast up the last marshmallow of winter.

lesliLesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way. 

Easter Events in Georgia

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Color some eggs, read the tale of Peter Cottontail and remember to don your favorite bonnet for Georgia’s Easter celebrations! Enjoy eggs hunts and parades as we welcome the beautiful flowers and robins of spring!

4/11/14: Night Eggstravaganza in Pine Mountain

4/12/14: Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Tallapoosa

4/12/14: Easter “Eggstravaganza” in The Rock

4/12/14: Magical Easter Eggstravaganza in Cleveland

4/12/14: Slpashy’s Egg Dive in Statesboro

4/12/14: 10K CottonTrail Rabbit Run in Pine Mountain

4/12/14: Glow-In-The-Dark Easter Egg Hunt in Chatsworth

4/12/14: 15th Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Jefferson Davis Historic Site in Fitzgerald

4/13/14: Easter Egg Hunt at Midtown Greenway in Gainesville

4/17/14: Fitzgerald Downtown Easter Egg Hunt

4/17/14 – 4/19/14: Easter Treats including Uncorked Art Class in Blairsville

4/18/14: Easter Egg Hunt – Ages 0-5 in St. Marys

4/18/14: Flashlight Egg Hunt – Family Hunt in St. Marys

4/18/14: Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt in Monroe

4/19/14: Easter Egg Hunt in Ashburn

4/19/14 – 4/20/14: Easter Egg Hunts, Sunrise Service and Brunch at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain

4/19/14: Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Baxley

4/19/14: Annual Kingsland Easter Egg Hunt

4/19/14: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Easter Egg-spress

4/19/14: Royston Easter Egg Hunt

4/19/14: Easter Egg Hunt in Winder

4/19/14: Easter Egg Hunt in Crawfordville

4/19/14: Baskets, Eggs and Rabbits in Appling

4/19/14: Easter Blast! in Savannah

4/19/14: Easter Egg Hunt at Florence Marina in Omaha

4/19/14 – 4/20/14: Celebrate Easter Weekend at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville

4/19/14: Georgia Veterans Easter Egg-Stravaganza in Cordele

4/19/14: Easter At The Park in Adel

4/19/14: Glow-In-The-Dark Easter Egg Hunt in Jackson

4/19/14: Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Lavonia

4/19/14: Suwannee River Visitor Center’s Eggstraordinary Easter in Fargo

4/19/14: Easter Egg Hunt at Kolomoki in Blakely

4/19/14: Easter Eggstravaganza in Helena

4/19/14: Eggciting Hike Hunt in Stockbridge

4/19/14: 2nd Annual Easter Fun Fest and Egg Hunt in Helen

4/19/14: Eggstravaganza: Callanwolde’s 14th Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Atlanta

4/19/14 – 4/20/14: Spring Opening & Easter Festival in Cleveland

4/20/14: Easter Sunrise Service in Stone Mountain

4/20/14: Easter Brunch & Egg Hunt in Buford

Civil War Events in Marietta

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With a history dating back to 1834, Marietta, Georgia, a present-day big city with small town charm located  minutes north of Atlanta and just south of the North Georgia Mountains, was the stage on which many significant events during the Civil War unfolded. Marietta was also once a proposed Capital of the Confederacy and is still home to the Marietta National Cemetery. This year marks the sesquicentennial of the fourth year of battle between the North and the South and Marietta commemorates important happenings with year-round special events – many of which are taking place this summer.

Gather the whole family or embark on your own personal historical pursuits and remember this historic occasion with events like the Juneteenth annual celebration, a reenactment of the March from Marietta Square to Kennesaw Mountain, Civil War: The Musical at the Strand Theatre, a re-dedication recognizing the 100th anniversary of dedication of the Illinois monument and more. The Bleeding Gray and Blue Walking Tour, every Saturday in June, joins visitors with noted historian Brad Quinlin as he tours the Historic Marietta Square, highlighting the events and the places that served as hospitals during the Civil War.

cannonHead to Marietta during the last weekend in June when a series of events hosted by the National Park Service will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain with various activities beginning with an opening ceremony on Thursday, June 26, and concluding on June 29. Each day will consist of different proceedings including cannon demonstrations, guided hikes, and a Civil War fashion show, along with Civil War medical tents, activities for children and various speakers and presentations. Check out the website for a full list of events.  www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

Download Marietta’s free Cannonball Trail app (iTunes or Android) and take a self-guided driving tour around Marietta and through Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield where you’re treated to historically-significant sights such as the fields where men fought and died, the cemeteries where those brave men rest eternally, the houses that commanders used as their headquarters and the city where it all took place.

Round out a visit with stops at area attractions, many of which are of historical note. Located on the second floor of the historic Kennesaw House, the Marietta Museum of History tells a rich account of the area. Also nearby, the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square was established in April of 2003 and currently houses Dr. Christopher Sullivan’s privately owned collection of GWTW book and movie memorabilia.  Two blocks from the square, the Root House is one of the oldest surviving frame houses in Marietta. The home offers visitors an opportunity to experience how a middle class merchant and his family lived in the 1850s. Climb aboard the Historic Marietta Trolley Company for a one-hour, fully-narrated exploration of the city. Visit Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park where so many important events in the Civil War transpired and then come full-circle with a trip to the modern-day Marietta Square Farmers Market.

For a side of culture, take time to appreciate metropolitan Atlanta’s only museum dedicated to American art, the Marietta /Cobb Museum of Art, housed in Marietta’s first U.S. Post Office, and home to a full schedule of exhibitions and boasting a permanent collection of 19th and 20th century American art, from Warhol to Wyeth. And, don’t miss the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, an Art Deco theatre that served as a movie house on the Marietta Square from 1935-76 where you can catch a performance of “Civil War: The Musical” this summer.

Event listings

June 7

Bleeding Gray & Blue Walking Tours

Join noted historian Brad Quinlin as he tours the Historic Marietta Square. These fascinating tours will highlight events and the places that served as hospitals during the Civil War.  Every Saturday in June.

11:30 a.m.

Tours begin at the Marietta Museum of History, 1 Depot Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-794-5710

www.MariettaHistory.org

June 8

Spirituals

Dr. Moses performs spirituals at Zion Baptist Church.

4 p.m.

Zion Baptist Church, 165 Lemon Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-427-8749

www.ZionBaptistChurchMarietta.org

June 13-14

Juneteenth Concert and Celebration

Join the Cobb NAACP for the annual Juneteenth celebration and concert including arts and crafts, food, entertainment, and historical recreation and reading of Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth is the oldest national celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

6-11 p.m., Friday, June 13; 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, June 14; Gospel Concert 3-6 p.m., Sunday, June 15

Historic Marietta Square

770-425-5757

www.CobbNAACP.org

June 14

Bleeding Gray & Blue Walking Tours

Join noted historian Brad Quinlin as he tours the Historic Marietta Square. These fascinating tours will highlight events and the places that served as hospitals during the Civil War.  Every Saturday in June.

11:30 a.m.

Tours begin at the Marietta Museum of History, 1 Depot Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-794-5710

www.MariettaHistory.org

Contact: Jan Galt, Jgalt@MariettaGa.gov

June 20-21

The Civil War, A Musical Experience Weekend

Friday and Saturday, June 20-21

Earl Smith Strand Theatre, 117 North Park Square, Marietta, GA 30060

770-293-0080

www.EarlSmithStrand.org 

June 20-22

Battle Re-enactors and Encampments on Marietta Square

Battle re-enactors and encampments will take place in and around the Historic Marietta Square.

All day

Historic Marietta Square

770-429-1115

www.MariettaCivilWar.com

June 21

Bleeding Gray & Blue Walking Tours

Join noted historian Brad Quinlin as he tours the Historic Marietta Square. These fascinating tours will highlight events and the places that served as hospitals during the Civil War.  Every Saturday in June.

11:30 a.m.

Tours begin at the Marietta Museum of History, 1 Depot Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-794-5710

www.MariettaHistory.org

June 22

Confederate Cemetery Tour by Friends of Brown Park

Living history tours at the Marietta Confederate Cemetery and City Cemetery.

1-4:30 p.m.

Marietta Confederate Cemetery, 395 Powder Springs Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-794-5606

www.MariettaCivilWar.com

June 26-29

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain Anniversary Events

The National Park Service commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain with various events beginning with an opening ceremony on Thursday, June 26, and concluding on June 29. Each day will consist of different events including cannon demonstrations, guided hikes, and a Civil War fashion show, along with Civil War medical tents, activities for children and various speakers and presentations. Check out the website for a full list of events.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, 9900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw, GA 30152. Off-site parking required – check website for updated parking map.

770-427-4686.

www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

June 26

Kennesaw Mountain Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremony is the official start to a weekend filled with events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

7 p.m.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, 900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw, GA 30152.  Off-site parking will be required – check website for updated parking map.

770-427-4686

www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

 

June 27

Claire Lynch Band and Bobby Horton Concert

Claire Lynch is the reigning 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year.  Bobby Horton is a multi-instrumentalist, seasoned performer and music historian.

7 p.m.

770-427-4686

www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

June 28

Rededication recognizing 100th anniversary of dedication of Illinois monument

The magnificent Illinois Monument, which stands at the crest of Cheatham Hill, was erected by the State of Illinois to honor the 480 men from that state who died on this slope.  The marble monument is thirty-four feet square at the base and the shaft rises twenty-five feet.  Atop the monument is a seven-foot high bronze soldier clutching a rifle and two women in classic Greek garb.

8:30 p.m.

770-427-4686

www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

 

June 28

Bleeding Gray & Blue Walking Tours

Join noted historian Brad Quinlin as he tours the Historic Marietta Square. These fascinating tours will highlight events and the places that served as hospitals during the Civil War.  Every Saturday in June.

11:30 a.m.

Tours begin at the Marietta Museum of History, 1 Depot Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-794-5710

www.MariettaHistory.org

           

June 29

Kennesaw Mountain Closing Ceremonies

The closing ceremony is the official end to a weekend filled with events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

5 p.m.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, 900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw, GA 30152.  Off-site parking will be required – check website for updated parking map.

770-427-4686

www.BattleofKennesawMountain150.com

 

If you go

Bring the family and experience these local Civil War attractions open year-round.

Marietta National Cemetery

The Marietta National Cemetery is the site of over 10,000 Union graves. Henry Green Cole donated the land as a joint Confederate & Union cemetery, hoping to heal ill feelings between the north and south. However, Marietta officials did not want Confederate dead buried near Yankee dead, so they formed a separate Confederate Cemetery.

Marietta Confederate Cemetery & Brown Park

The Marietta Confederate Cemetery is the final resting place for 3,000 Confederate soldiers from nearby hospitals and military operations including the Battle of Kolb’s Farm and The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

Kennesaw House & the Marietta Museum of History

Located on the second floor of the historic Kennesaw House, the Marietta Museum of History tells a rich account of the area. It houses the city’s extensive historical collections of photographs, artifacts and documentary information of Marietta in particular, and North Georgia in general.

Gone With the Wind Museum

The Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square was established in April of 2003 and currently houses Dr. Christopher Sullivan’s privately owned collection of GWTW book and movie memorabilia.

The Root House Museum

Two blocks from the square, the Root House is one of the oldest surviving frame houses in Marietta. The home offers visitors an opportunity to experience how a middle class merchant and his family lived in the 1850s.

The Historic Marietta Trolley Co.

A one-hour, fully-narrated exploration of our historic city. Experience Marietta’s rich heritage, from the vibrant Downtown Square, past grand Antebellum homes, to the battlefields at Kennesaw Mountain.           

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

On June 27, 1864, Kennesaw Mountain is the site of a major battle between the North and South. General Sherman’s troops battled those of Confederate General Johnston in one of many clashes that led to the fall of Atlanta. The park now encompasses more than 2,800 acres and features a visitor’s center, gift shop, museum and 16 miles of hiking trails.

Marietta Square Farmers Market

The Marietta Square Farmers Market is located on the Historic Marietta Square.  Hours are 9 a.m. to 12 noon every Saturday and 12 noon to 3 p.m. every Sunday, April through November, rain or shine. 60 plus vendors on Saturday and 30 plus vendors on Sunday will feature Georgia grown, made or produced vegetables, cheese, bread, eggs, fresh flowers, local honey, baked goods and milk every weekend.

Marietta / Cobb Museum of Art

The Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art is metropolitan Atlanta’s only museum dedicated to American art. Housed in Marietta’s first U.S. Post Office, the museum hosts a full schedule of exhibitions and boasts a permanent collection of 19th and 20th century American art, from Warhol to Wyeth. Besides their exhibitions the museum offers lectures, workshops, classes, and art festivals. Other social and cultural opportunities are also offered.

           

Earl Smith Strand Theatre

This Art Deco theatre served as a movie house on the Marietta Square from 1935-76. Recently restored and returned to its original glory, it now hosts classic films, concerts and stage productions.

 Expand your experience with the Bleeding Gray and Blue walking tours every Saturday in June with historian Brad Quinlin.

Women Learn Kayaking at Sweetwater Creek State Park

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Am I going to tip over? Will I get stuck underwater? What if I fall off into the water? These are some of the concerns that we have about learning to kayak. Well, I have news for you! You can put away your worries and join Kelly Fellows at Sweetwater Creek State Park for a safe adventure learning how to kayak! You won’t tip over! You won’t fall in and you won’t get stuck underwater. These misconceptions about learning how to kayak are brought to us by the grand images of thrill-seekers driving their kayaks through dangerous rapids. This isn’t the case at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Did you know there are different varieties of kayaks? Me either. The kayaks at Sweetwater are flat-bottom. They are designed to provide you with more initial stability. The waters you will be kayaking are calm and there is little chance of tipping over. As a precaution, you’re provided with a life jacket. So, if you do happen to fall into the calm waters, you have your flotation device and the support of your instructors to help you.

candycook_sweetwaterkatakToday, I joined a group of adventurous women learning how to kayak at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Let me tell you, not one of us beginners tipped our kayak or fell in the water! With the help of our instructors and the support of the other women, even the most fearful of the group was able to enter & exit her kayak with ease. The worst part, for some, was simply getting over their fear of tipping the kayak and falling in the water.

Led by our instructor, Kelly Fellows, we learned the basics of paddling in a comfortable and supportive environment.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, despite the challenge of a constant wind threatening to blow us off course! Kelly was informative and direct in her guidance. It was definitely a hands-on learning experience that left me feeling empowered and much more confident in my skills. There was no pressure to rush and everyone was allowed to learn at her own pace.

Once Kelly had all of her students in the water, she taught us how to hold the paddle and began instructions on proper technique before leading us on a short paddle. It was the perfect distance for a beginner. We were fighting a stiff wind, today. What I’m assuming is usually a leisurely trip gave us a little workout. I enjoyed the challenge and not one of the ladies gave up and turned back. Once we reached our destination, we took a short break while Kelly answered questions about issues and concerns.  We resumed our exercise by practicing different methods of turning the kayaks. Kelly informed me, at this point, that she would normally have her students hop off of the kayaks and teach them how to get back on without assistance in shallow water. However, this being the first session of the season, the water was on the cold side and we skipped that part of the lesson.

I am extremely pleased with the experience.  I am a regular visitor to Sweetwater Creek. After this class, I feel like I can enjoy this park in a fun new way. If you’re looking for a fun, safe adventure to have with your friends this spring, I highly suggest registering for the upcoming classes. After you conquer your fears or address your concerns in the initial introduction class, you can join some of the other paddling sessions the park offers. What a great way to explore this beautiful park just a short drive from Atlanta in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

Upcoming Classes – For Women by Women: Introduction to Kayaking

Sunday, April 13 & Saturday, April 19 4pm-5pm

Join us for an intro to kayaking on beautiful Sparks Reservoir. This program is for girls & women 16 years or older who are able to swim and are new to kayaking. Includes kayak rental, personal flotation device, and paddle. Reservations are necessary at 770-732-5871. Meet at bait shop in Sweetwater Creek State Park. $15 plus parking.

Contact Sweetwater Creek State Park:

Sweetwater_Creek_Park@dnr.state.ga.us

(770) 732-5871

www.GaStateParks.org/SweetwaterCreek

Candy Cook is a professional writer & photographer who enjoys adventuring outdoors with her two sons. She draws inspiration from the natural world releasing it through written word and award-winning photography on her blog LongLiveLearning.com, as well as digital & print publications.

33 Places to Pick Strawberries in Georgia

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Springtime in Georgia means warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, Braves baseball and…strawberry season! The official strawberry season can stretch from late April to July 4th in Georgia, with the best picking from May to mid June. Due to climate differences, some farms will be open before others. We highly encourage you to call a farm to confirm that they’re open before visiting.

South Georgia

Atlanta Metro

West Georgia

North Georgia

Middle Georgia

Coastal Georgia