When it comes to camping, there are many different styles that have emerged over the years. From the rugged backcountry sites that require multi-mile hikes in, to the more ~luxurious~ fad of glamping, complete with queen-sized beds and space heaters, and everything else in between, camping has evolved to fit the desires of many. As someone who has participated in, and enjoyed, several of those styles, it's hard for me to choose one type of camping that I prefer over all the others. It just depends on the season and what I'm really in the mood for.
On this trip, we choose a nice middle-ground camping experience. We were able to drive our cars up to our sites and take showers in the bath houses, but we also got to pitch a tent, build a campfire, and cook our own food. It was adventurous, yet comfortable- exactly what we were looking for. In fact, it matched what we were looking for so much that dare I say, it was the best campsite I could have asked for.
Located in Tugaloo State Park, we signed up for a certain type of campsite (i.e. basic, waterfront, RV, etc.) and then it was first come, first serve, so the site you ended up with depended on when you arrived and how long it took you to select a site. I choose a waterfront site, and from there, we drove around the park a few times trying to find the perfect spot. It didn't take long however, as one specific site really stood out to us. It was located on a piece of land that jutted out into the water a bit, and the site next to us was empty. While there was a camper on the other side of us, it was far back enough that we still had privacy. Our chosen site was also a quick walk over to the shower-house, meaning we had everything we needed while still feeling removed enough to enjoy the trip.
My absolute favorite part of the camping site however, was that we were surrounded by water on two sides. We saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and nothing beats the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore while you're laying in a hammock, watching the campfire flames crackle and pop.
We spent the nights relaxing by the fire and the days exploring the nearby state parks, written about in previous posts. The best part was that it was Gary's first time ever camping (if you don't count a glamping weekend) and he loved it; he quickly became a campfire omelette expert!
In addition to camping, Tugaloo State Park also offers swimming, water skiing, and boating in the 55,590 acre Lake Hartwell. If tent-camping isn't your style, there is a large rv/camper facility, as well as several yurts and cottages available to rent.
The quiet peacefulness and tranquil-like atmosphere quickly made this my all-time favorite camping destination. Turns out, the middle-ground is a great place to be!
The next stop on our Georgia road trip was one straight out of a fairytale. In fact, it is so gorgeous that it was named for its beauty, receiving the name Toccoa, which is the Cherokee word for "beautiful." And it is indeed that. Toccoa Falls is an unbelievably charming and mesmerizing waterfall in northern Georgia, less than a two hour drive from Atlanta.
One thing I've adopted as a traveler is making lists. Packing lists, shopping lists, "Restaurants to try in _____" lists, etc. I strongly encourage you to create a "Waterfall Hikes in GA" list, or, if you live in Georgia, maybe a "Georgia Day Trip" list and put this on there because you will not regret it. In fact, it is so lovely, that if I had not just gotten married a few days beforehand, I would surely choose this as my wedding venue. The best part is that it is an extremely accessible hike, taking approximately two minutes to reach.
Located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Stephens County, Georgia, this waterfall has a drop of about 186 feet and has been claimed to be the tallest free-falling waterfall in the Eastern United States, although that claim has been disproved by at least four other falls. In fact, it's not even the tallest waterfall in Georgia , as Amicalola Falls features seven cascades totaling 729 feet. Despite its failed claim-to-fame, Toccoa Falls is sure to top your list for one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia.
Starting in the visitor center and gift shop, you will pay a small admission fee ($2/adult, $1/seniors, $6/family of 4+, children six and under are free) and then follow a 100-yard handicap accessible gravel path. You can access the falls from 8:30am-sundown. Following alongside a babbling brook, you will round a small bend, and this amazing scenery will come into view.
Once reaching the base of the falls, you can spend time wading in the shallow water, climbing the boulders for prime photo opportunities, and taking in nature's handiwork. As it so happens, chairs had been arranged for an upcoming wedding the day of our visit, providing visitors with space to relax and reflect.
Despite its renowned beauty, the falls carry a sad history. In November of 1977, after five days of constant rain, the dam at Kelly Barnes Lake, located above the falls, burst, sending 176 million gallons of water down to the campus below, flooding the space in a matter of minutes. 39 college personnel who lived in the flood path were swept to their deaths in the Toccoa Creek, causing it to be the worst natural disaster in Georgia in more than 40 years.
You can learn more about the history, the community, and the college by taking some time to explore the area. The City of Toccoa is cute, friendly, and lively. In fact, after visiting the falls, we decided to grab lunch in town, where we were warmly invited to attend a free music festival later in the evening. Check out this town of beauty and prepare to be enchanted.
Last time I told you guys we stopped for a night in Americus, GA, but I didn't tell you why. The reason we choose tiny little Americus is because of its proximity to our next destination.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but when I think about Georgia I think of coastlines, hot summer sunshine, and of course, peaches. Whether the colonial feel of Savannah or the urban sprawl of Atlanta comes to mind, Georgia has a lot of character.
But it also has something else. Something that I guarantee you would never imagine to exist within the state boundaries. Something so grand it has actually come to be known as Georgia's Little Grand Canyon. Yes, you read that right. A canyon. And it is in fact quite grand.
Formally known as Providence Canyon, this 1,000 acre state park features several campsites, picnic shelters, a museum, and a seasonal visitor center. The canyon is a true example of the impact humans have on the environment, as this great landscape came to be during the 1800s, after years of poor farming techniques that eroded the soil and created gullies up to 150 deep. The exposed soil leaves patterns of pink, orange, and purple stripes running through crevices.
Hikers can trek down to the canyon floor, which is often covered in a thin layer of water, indicating the water table below. This is also a trail along the canyon rim that offers amazing scenic views of the top of the canyon; it is rated easy to moderate. When visiting, you have to be very cautious not to climb the canyon walls, as they are actually composed of sand and soil, and will erode when disturbed. Visitors can also take note of the rare Plumleaf Azalea, an Azalea species that only grows in the region, and blooms in later summer after most Azaleas have lost their coloring. Mixed forest vegetation offers other chances to see plant and wildlife species in this quiet and alluring park.
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!