Up, up, and away! This park is WAY up in altitude for us. I know it’s nothing like Colorado, but for Georgia it’s getting up there. Sightseeing out the passenger window on the way to the park isn’t exactly relaxing due to the sheer drop-offs along the road’s edge, but the views are spectacular. We had gorgeous weather with cool breezes. Blue skies and white puffy clouds floated along Friday and Saturday.
In this park there are two loops for camping. We took Site #45 on the Lakeside Camping Loop by Fort Mountain Lake. Our camp host came by and told us we had picked a spot that was supposed to be for tent campers only, but he also said he’d probably not enforce it. However, the Rangers might, so he thought we should go back to the office to see if they might be merciful and give us a red name tag to signify we had the ok to remain. Live and learn. There are white and red tags on the site numbers for a reason so don’t make the same newbie mistake we did when you camp. Long story short, I am very happy to say that the staff allowed us to stay. PHEW. No one wants to move after a trailer is removed from their truck, everything has been set up inside, and they are sitting down to lunch they cooked on their newly started campfire.
The lake is around 2,650 feet above sea level. Spring certainly had sprung. There were many different shades of green leaves and delicate pastel-colored flowers sprinkled about. Many hikers were out. The path around the lake was clearly marked and offered perfect fishing areas and benches for resting and taking in the views. We carried our dog over some sharper gravelled areas, but it would not be a huge issue for dogs with tougher pads. There is a lake beach with sand, kayaks and paddle boats for rental, putt-putt up the hill from the pavilion, and playgrounds with potty access. Seems like a nice place to meet with friends or family for a reunion because of all the different things you could do while visiting. Apparently, if you are a first-time camper and let the office know, you can get help setting up a loaner tent and they can help you put it away, too.
Our college kids came by on Saturday. We all drove about 30 minutes away to the Sumac WMA Shooting Range. There was plenty of room to spread the weapons out and shoot at our targets with the other marksmen. It was a great time and worth the drive. We noticed that in the parking lot there weren’t any foreign-made cars…GMC, Chevy, Jeep, and Fords. Is gun ownership and those using ranges THAT tied to people who buy American vehicles? Hmmmmm…
After our kids left for home, we drove up the road and hiked to the mysterious rocky ruins and CCC Stone Tower. It was more strenuous than I thought it would be to get up all of those stone stairs. Once we made it to the ruins we really could not gauge from the “You Are Here” map just how much farther it actually would be to get to the Tower. Fortunately, we continued on and it was not much farther at all.
The history was pretty interesting. There are many theories about who built the short, zig-zagging stone wall along the Cohutta Mountain Range. Some think there were ancient European settlers that couldn’t come out in the daytime because of their pale eyes (“Moon Eyes”) who built the wall to protect themselves from the Cherokees. Some say they were protecting themselves from the Creeks. Some say it was Spanish conquistadors who used it to protect themselves from Indian attacks. Others say Indians were fighting other Indians and it was one of their fortifications. Still others think it could have been a special area for Indian honeymooners. The legends go on and on.
As for the Tower, it was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934-1935 to be used as a way to observe the forest and watch out for forest fires. You can see 40 miles from it on a clear day. It was restored in 2014. There is a sweet story about a stone that was hewn into a heart and placed in the east side of the tower by a 20 year old stone mason who worked on the original structure. He did it because he was sweet on a 16 year old girl and wanted her to know it. They married in 1935 and had a happy and long marriage.
On our way back from the Tower, I looked out into the forest while my hubby was driving, and way down a ravine I saw a black bear! There were signs posted all over the park that stated bears were nearby so all garbage needed to be placed in special “bear proof” bins, but I never thought I’d actually see one. I was so excited…especially because it was not close enough to take a bite out of me. We stopped where we could pull over and ran back to where I saw him. I was able to take a picture. Needless to say, I had to buy the black bear pillow and magnet at the Trading Post on the way out.
The rain came that night. I love the sound of rain on a camper at night when everyone is safely inside and everything is put away nice and tight. Magical. It persisted through Sunday morning so we had a soggy departure, but it was fine. A perfect trip has nothing to do with everything going perfectly. It’s about seeing the perfection in the ordinary and taking your time to be thankful for it all.