Day 15: STONE MOUNTAIN
I awoke at 6:55am after sleeping through the 6:30am alarm. Julie was already up as I noticed that she was busy drying her hair while also reading her Kindle. I guess she had conked out early last night and she couldn’t go back to sleep once she woke up early.
We took our time leaving Chattanooga because the Residence Inn had perhaps the best breakfast of the trip. They had buffet style stuff like usual, but instead of the usual selection of scrambled eggs and sausage patties, there was also BK-style French Toast, tater tots, oatmeal, muffins, lots of fruits, etc. It really made me wish we stayed here a second night instead of McMinnville, but hindsight’s always 20-20.
At 8:25am, we left the Residence Inn and headed towards Foster Falls. We had missed doing this waterfall yesterday due to the rush to get to Ruby Falls before the crowds really started to show up. Clearly it was the right decision.
The drive was under overcast skies with some slight drizzle and sprinkles. Apparently, the rain that was supposed to come last night and last into this morning didn’t really have the kind of bite we were expecting.
In any case, it was 9:20am (EST) when we arrived at the well-signed Foster Falls Small Wild Area. Once again, we were back in Central Time, but we pretty much treated it like we were still on Eastern Time since we’d be back on Eastern Time once we were done with this excursion.
It was bitterly cold when we got out of the car as the skies looked like they were threatening rain. Also, there were some moderate breezes adding a bit of wind chill. Even with our jackets on, our hands were feeling like they were going to go numb if they didn’t get put into pockets.
The overlook of Foster Falls was only 125 yards from the picnic area adjacent to the car park. So really quickly, we were able to use the railings as the tripod for taking long exposure photos. There were some fall colors in the foliage dominating the lower part of the open gorge view, and fortunately, the foliage parted just enough for the 60ft waterfall to be seen plunging vertically into the large plunge pool below.
At this point, Julie returned to the car where it was nice and warm. It wasn’t clear how long the walk was to get to the base of the falls since neither the trail map nor the signage here explicitly stated it. But I went ahead and ventured down there anyways with tripod in hand.
Following the power lines a short distance, then following the sign indicating where to start the descent, I proceeded carefully down the rather rocky and uneven trail. It was easy to turn and ankle or slip and fall thanks to fallen leaves both hiding rocks beneath them and making the footing slippery when they sit on the ones acting as footsteps.
At the bottom of the descent, there was a swinging bridge over the stream draining the plunge pool. And immediately after the bridge, I was across the plunge pool from the impressive and well-flowing waterfall.
After taking some time taking tripod photos as well as movies, I noticed that it was possible to scramble closer to the overhanging cliffs to perhaps photograph this waterfall at an angle plus possibly getting a view of a taller but thinner second waterfall adjacent to Foster Falls.
I hastily took tripod photos and some movies from this vantage point, but I didn’t want to linger given the everpresent danger of rockfalls as evidenced by the piles of large loose rocks fringing the plunge pool on this side.
Even though the car park was nearly full of cars when we got there, it was very quiet at the waterfall. It was only me and one other person at the falls before he gave me the falls to myself for a good 20 minutes or so. It wasn’t until I started my ascent back up to the car park where I saw a father and four little girls make their way down to the falls. I guess the rest of the folks were either backpacking, camping, or day hiking a longer trail (e.g. Fiery Gizzard Trail).
At 10:25am (EST), I was back at the car park. Thus, we visited the last waterfall of our two-week trip. Now, it was time for the long drive back to the Jackson-Hartfield Airport in Atlanta with a detour through Stone Mountain.
After a fairly smooth drive south on the I-75 (literally “headin’ down the Atlanta Highway” per Love Shack lyrics by the B-52’s), we then took the Stone Mountain Parkway into the main entrance, paid the $10 per vehicle fee, and then after some confusion about parking, finally found an improvised parking spot in the busy Memorial Hall parking lot at 1:35pm.
Our main goal for our brief visit to Stone Mountain was to see the giant carving on the giant domed mountain itself that consisted of Confederate figures – one of them being General Robert E Lee. During our visit, we were busy taking photos while reading the signs here. Unfortunately, we were totally looking against the sun so the photos didn’t really turn out. Moreover, there were some hideous red stages along with some fake snow that dominated the lawn area between the Memorial Hall and the fountain fronting the carving.
All the Civil War readings we were doing got us thinking about the real reasons why there was a Civil War to begin with. While history is usually told by the victors of war, I was certain there was another side to the story. And the connotations of Confederate heroes we noticed in the signs here seemed to reinforce that notion.
While I recalled that my US history literature seemed to suggest that the Civil War was largely over the abolition of slavery, I was a bit skeptical of it because of the amount of blood that was spilled. Surely, there must be more to the determination of both sides of the war than what the history literature led us to believe. Moreover, a lot of casualty records were destroyed at the end of the war so who knows exactly how many more casualties went unreported? And why were the records destroyed?
In any case, Julie and I discussed this amongst ourselves and came to the conclusion that the real motivator for the war must have been economic. We speculated that it probably had something to do with the Union possessing most of the political decision-making and rule-making power while the Confederacy held most of the agricultural production in which slavery provided much of the productivity at minimal cost.
We started to see parallels between the anti-Union sentiment and the current sentiment against the Federal government. We even started to see how it was like the South resented the North telling them how to live their lives, which almost seemed to parallel the Conservaties vs. Liberals stalemate. Indeed, it was no wonder why several Southern states tried to secede from the Union, and that many locals here proudly wave the Confederate flag instead of the US flag.
Abolish slavery and undermine the profit margins gained by the economic structure of the South? That seemed like a much more likely motivation for the South to go to war and defend their way of life while the North tried to offset that path to power (than it being simply about human rights; especially when you consider that some of the influential figures of the North even owned slaves). Meanwhile, we could see how the economic engine of the South posed a threat to the politics of the North, and perhaps the notion of human rights was a way to rally people to fight against the threat of the stability of the young Nation being undermined.
Well, whatever the case, this was what travel opened our eyes to. We got to see how people more or less live in this part of the country, we saw through the stereotypes, and we could appreciate the opposing point of view even though it may not be consistent with our core values. Without even visiting this part of the country, all that we would know about the South would be through a very biased media and a bunch of stereotypes born out of ignorance and oversimplification of the truth.
And so that was pretty much our takeaway of our visit to Stone Mountain besides the impressive domed mountain with the giant almost Mt-Rushmore-like carving.
We left Stone Mountain at 2:35pm and headed towards our accommodation near the Jackson-Hartfield Airport. But our GPS oddly-enough took us through downtown Atlanta so instead of taking the interstates to get to our destination quickly, we ended up doing a much more time-consuming detour complete with traffic, traffic lights, and speed zones. The traffic was almost like LA traffic, and it was enough to prevent us from wanting to do bit of touring the downtown Atlanta area with possibly a last nice dinner in town.
We finally got to our accommodation at 3:30pm. The Hotel Indigo was definitely noisy as we could hear planes and trains loudly announcing their presence. But I guess there had to be a reason why this place was only $80/night and we could totally understand why.
And so we wound down for the day as we cleared out the rental car and organized our belongings in our room.
At about 6:30pm, we ate at the hotel restaurant called the Blue Goose. Shocking both of us, the appetizers we got (crab cakes and some kind of bruschetta along with freshly-made hummus and pita chips) were surprisingly good. We were glad we didn’t have to do any driving this night. In a way, it was fitting that our fooding experience ended like this because we were pleasantly surprised many times over. Either Southern fooding was that good or it exceeded our low expectations or maybe the fooding scene we were used to in LA might be a bit overpriced and overrated.
Who knows? We just savored this last bit of our trip to the South, and now it’s back to life, back to reality again. Tomorrow we would be flying out, and we were so looking forward to cuddling with our daughter once again…