Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

06 July 2010

Matt and Me (and the Fourth of July Hike)

When Matt asked me to come up to Atlanta for the Fourth of July weekend, and I didn't have to work, I eagerly agreed. “Maybe we’ll do...something...go hiking or something…” he suggested vaguely, in that tone of voice that always makes me go, "Oh shit."

Heh. The “something” he had in mind turned out to be hiking the Tallulah Gorge, which is in Tallulah Falls State Park. It is reputed to be the toughest, most strenuous hike in all of Georgia, which I do not doubt. One website describes the gorge floor trail as, "...challenging at best, dangerous at worst." The Park Service does not even allow people on the trail if it's wet from the rain.

It is a beautiful, secluded place. They filmed parts of the movie “Deliverance” there. We’d hiked it before, back when I was younger and lighter and in (much) better shape. It was in early Spring then, when it was too cold to swim. This time, we wanted to partake of the big slippery rock-slide at the bottom of the trail. Saturday was forecast to be nice, so we ditched Alisha and the kids and struck off for the northeastern corner of the state.

We started down around noon after, um, gorging ourselves in preparation on a big meal of bison burgers (or so they said) up in the town of Clayton. Hey, can't hike on an empty stomach! It was a stunningly beautiful day: temps in the 80’s and low, low humidity. Unreal. It is 500+ steep steps down to the bottom of the gorge- the first set of falls. By the time you get to the bottom you’ve already got muscles hurting in your legs you didn’t even know you had. There is a gate when you get down there.

To go past this point you need a permit from the ranger station at the top. Only 100 permits are issued each day, and they go fast on nice weekend days. (We had gotten our permits earlier, before going to lunch, heh-heh.) The permit lets you hike a little over a mile further downstream to Bridal Veil Falls, where you can slide down the falls into a huge natural pool. The things nature can come up with! It is awesome.

The trail is not easy. Lots of climbing over obstacles – fallen trees and granite slabs the size of a small house. And you alternate between boulder-hopping and traversing steeply inclined sections of slick granite. Watch out for snakes! Oh, and big spiders. It’s treacherous and you have to be really careful to keep from getting hurt. The trail was crowded, as we expected on such a nice holiday weekend - but mostly with people coming out. The only really out-of-shape guy we saw that day was me. Everyone else looked like granola-eating nature freaks and I felt like smacking their healthy, little, rosy cheeks.

We did see a lot of bruises and blood. And of course we, the supposedly experienced hikers, did not have Band-Aid one between us. No snake bite kit either. Plenty of Pringles though! Fortunately, this was one of those rare times when neither of us spilled any blood of our own.

By the time Matt and I got to the very end of the trail, it was almost two o’clock. Our supply of Powerade was almost depleted, and of the 98 other people allowed in there, nearly everyone else had already come and gone. Less than a dozen remained. Very quickly even they left and we had the place to ourselves. Odd- we thought for sure that others would stick around until the temperature cooled off a bit, which was our plan for the return hike. Everyone has to be out of the gorge by sunset, which wasn’t going to be until well after eight p.m. so there was no rush. (They don't allow camping down there, unfortunately, or we would have.)

For the couple of hours we did have, we stayed and had a great time hanging out in one of the most beautiful places on earth, sliding down the rock into the water, trying not to get hurt, or snake-bit, or sunburned. We managed to do all but the last.

I was not looking forward to the hike back. In fact I was dreading it. We got to the bottom of the stairs okay, but my legs were already burning by then. Plus I was out of breath, huffing and puffing like an old steam locomotive and whining like a modern turbine engine. But there was no train, no elevator, no cable car or helicopter to come get me. There was only one way to the top: up those 500+ goddamn steep steps.

Gritting my teeth, we started up. On each flight, Matt would run ahead, egging me on, the bastard. “Just tell me if you need to take a break!” he’d say cheerfully, sprinting to the landing at the top of each section. I would finally arrive some time later, gasping for air and Powerade (which was in his pack), cursing him under my breath. Well, not really under. I did get to the top, but it was a chore. It took a level of guts and determination that I am unaccustomed to producing these days when just climbing into my Jeep Cherokee can cause me to break a sweat

Even today, three days later, my legs are still sore. They may be permanently damaged. Matt and I spent Sunday grilling hotdogs, eating my famous crabmeat potato salad, and doing pretty much nothing, just hanging out by his pool, letting the rum punch soothe our aches and pains - mine more than his, of course.

I hope everyone else had a great (if less strenuous) holiday weekend.


Here are the intrepid hikers at Hurricane Falls. Matt had the good grace to hide my considerable girth behind that big rock.

The observation deck at the bottom of the stairs, taken from across the river. See those boulders? Looks like it's pretty easy to cross, eh? Trouble is, many of them are *just* far enough apart that you cannot span them with your legs. So you have to jump. Not easy (for some of us). From that platform you cannot see...

Hurricane Falls

Looking downstream from one of the (many) places I nearly fell in.

Ah, your humble blogger/pretend-outdoorsman. Dear God, are those the beginnings of manboobs?? Who chose this pic?! (Ed. note: It looks that way to me too, Bob.)

Watch your step! One false move could send you sliding to the bottom - and it would hurt, baby. (This one you really have to right-click on and open up to appreciate the relative size of the people - yes, there are people - in the pic.)

Bridal Veil Falls

Matt sliding down the Bridal Veil Falls. It literally was as smooth as glass. Great fun!

The pool at the bottom. It's about a 30 foot drop. Or so.

Matt enjoying nature's own whirlpool bath just upstream from the falls.

About Tallulah Gorge (a little history)

Georgia State Parks Website (Tallulah Gorge)


Anonymous said...

Got to be one of our best hikes ever!

Bob said...

Looking good there, Bob!

Anonymous said...

What are you thinking? Steps, trails, torture? You have access to a helicopter! Bet the water was nice and warm... I have to say I have been to that area and was unaware of this beautiful spot. Maybe one day I will get to visit. Take care and give me a ring.

Bob Barbanes said...

Thank you for the comment, Bob. And yes, I know sarcasm when I hear it!

Cass, believe me, it was close. The only reason I did *not* call for a medevac helicopter ride out was because I was afraid the pilot might recognize me and I could not suffer that indignity.

Sometimes I truly think I am out of my mind for letting Matt talk me into these things. I am no kid anymore (and neither is he). Over the years, we have hiked into places so remote that if anything happened to either of us, the uninjured one might as well just leave the injured one (me, most likely) to die.

Tallulah Gorge is astonishingly beautiful though, and well worth the trip - even if you don't hike all the way in.

Debby said...

Wow. Great pictures, Bob!