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YEAR #3 - STOP #54

The beginning of today's trip was spent driving down, losing 1000 feet in elevation in just the first ten miles. We then drove sixty miles without gaining or losing but just a few feet in elevation. But the last seven miles we spent driving up, more than 1000 feet in elevation change. When all was said and done we had gained a mere 130 feet in elevation between the two campsites.

It felt more like a terrible roller coaster ride with a long flat piece of track in the middle. That's what you get when the mountain ranges go in an east-west direction and we are traveling mostly north-south. That won't change either when we leave here next week and have to go back down the same mountain we drove to get up here.

It should all be worth it because while we are here this week we have a busy schedule.

There is a nearby National Mounument over in Alabama we plan to visit, along with a trip into Chattanooga, TN for two cave tours and a ride on an incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain.

Inside of the Cloudland Canyon State Park there are a couple of hikes we plan to do. One goes to a pair of waterfalls and the other follows along the rim of the canyon. Both should be very photogenic.

Oh yeah, we also have to pick up our mail at the local Post Office, then locate some inexpensive gasoline and groceries, and oh don't forget, this Thursday is Thanksgiving!

Like I said we have a busy week.

Campsite #4 at Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA

TUESDAY - We got an early start today on our TO DO list. Since we are just about out of everything to eat, we decided to get breakfast from a drive-through somewhere down the mountain.

But first up on our list was picking up our mail at the Post Office. That went off without any problems! We received our new American Express cards (the old ones expired), a pay check for Tricia and a few other not so important pieces of mail. We usually try to recieve mail by General Delivery at least once a month.

After picking up our mail we searched out what our drive-through breakfast options were in the area. In the Post Office I saw a pile of flyers with coupons for the local Huddle House (kinda like a Waffle House) so we headed in that direction. Since they didn't have a drive through I went inside to order take out and was told it would be 30 minutes or more to get my food. I looked around at the near empty restaurant and walked back out. Maybe they had a lot of online pickup orders ahead of me, I'm not sure, but why would it take 30 minutes to cook up breakfast for two?

Tricia remembered seeing a long line of cars at the Hardee's drive-through, always a good sign, so we went there for breakfast. It sure is a PITA trying to eat a meal while sitting in the truck, I can't wait until it's safe to eat in a restaurant again!

Next up was locating gasoline. American Express is running a promotion where if you purchase $25 in gas at a BP or Amoco Station before the end of the month, you'll receive a $10 credit on your account. Now here's some math I can do in my head, $10 off $25 is a 40% savings. That beats the 20% savings Publix offers on Gas Card Week ($10 off of $50) and sure beats my 5% rebate I get when using my Ducks Unlimited VISA Card from FNBO (First National Bank of Omaha). I like 40% off!

But enough with the boring stuff, today we are going to drive over into Alabama to visit the Russell Cave National Monument. For over 10,000 years the Native American Indians in the region would use this cave for shelter during the harsh winter months.

The Visitor Center here was open so we got to watch a short 7 minute documentary film about the site and there was a small museum-like setting which displayed some of the artifacts that were discovered in the cave.

In the 1950s a team began to excavate many archaeological specimens from the site. With the recently developed science of radiocarbon dating they were able to determine the age of these items. After they felt they had learned as much as they could from the site, President Kennedy declared it a National Monument in 1961 to protect it from further explorations.

The lower left hand side of the cave has a stream flowing through it.

The smaller upper right hand side of the cave is where most of the digging occured.

This is only the second National Park Service property we have visited the entire year. The first was Padre Island National Seashore in Texas back in February (before COVID lockdowns). We were able to drive through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but all of the Visitor Centers and other facilities were closed.

We are sure glad we found this one here in Alabama open to visitors!

THURSDAY - Since it rained most of the day yesterday we had to postpone our hiking here at the park until this morning, Thanksgiving Day. I know you're supposed to do all your exercising after the big meal, but we did ours before.

We started by taking a short warm up hike on the West Rim Loop Trail. From this trail we got an unobstructed view of the town of Trenton, GA some 1000 feet below where we are camped. This is the same town where we picked up our mail, ate breakfast and filled up with gasoline two days ago.

After returning to the truck we drove around the canyon and over to the East Rim to do the rest of our hiking.

The East Rim Overlook Trail has great views of Cloudland Canyon and this is where you'll find the trailhead for the two waterfall hikes.

I read somewhere that the Cherokee Falls Trail had over 300 stairs to climb up and down, but the Hemlock Falls Trail had over 600 stairs. Now about 100 of those stairs they share because both trails start down into the canyon from the same location. Guess which trail we took?

That's right! You are looking at a photo of Cherokee Falls.

About midway on the trail they had a spot where they set up a couple of benches where you could stop and take a break. We didn't feel the need on the way down, but on the way back up we couldn't pass up the opportunity to get off our feet, even if for just a few minutes.

All along the trail there are signs reminding you to watch out for falling rocks. With that in mind, guess where they decided to locate the rest stop?

That rock will come down someday, but it was not today!
That is what we are thankful for this Thanksgiving!

This post is getting extremely long and we still have a whole day of sightseeing scheduled in Chattanooga tomorrow. So I'm going to make this stop here in Northwest Georgia a two-part post with the first one ending here. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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