How to feel really silly? Easy. Just think that you’re the only one walking in the pouring rain.
Continuing south from Dahlonega, GA, my next destination was Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area just north of Atlanta. This morning was a complete washout. They were predicting 100% rain and a good chance of thunderstorms. But I’m on a mission to see all the national park units in the Southeast. I was down this far on a wet Sunday. Nothing else to do but continue with my plans.
I’m still questioning what it means to “visit a national park unit”. It’s somewhere between just getting my passport stamped and hiking all the trails but that’s a wide range. I knew that the visitor center was going to be open at 9 am, rain or shine, but any other visitors?
The park is a 48-mile linear series of lands, on both sides of the Chattahoochee River. It was created in 1978 to protect the river and to give Atlantans another place to get outdoors.
I headed to the park headquarters at Island Ford. As soon as I drove into the park, I knew that I was hardly the only one visiting on this cold, wet day. A woman in serious rain gear was pounding in a “orienteering today” sign. Cars with kayaks on their roofs turned off on side roads. At the visitor center, I was not the only vehicle. Silly me!
The visitor center had been the summer home of Samuel D. Hewlett, a prominent attorney from Atlanta. It was built between 1936 and 1941 and sold to the Buckhead Century Club in 1950.
This was, in part, a gambling club but when Georgia changed its gambling laws, the club couldn’t make a go of it and sold it to the Atlanta Baptist Assembly for a camp. How’s that for a switch in purpose? The building and land was acquired by a conservancy in 1979, which passed it on to the park service.
But that’s only the story of Island Ford section. Each section has its own history of how it became a park.
But I could only spend so much time talking to the ranger and looking around the beautiful building. A man, dressed for rain, invited me to orienteer with their group but I declined since they were starting at 11 am. I didn’t want to wait around.
I walked about 3 to 4 mostly flat miles by the river. Canada geese weren’t bothered by the rain. As I came back, I met orienteers running, walking or ambling with their map and compass.
It was a busy place. I wonder what Chattahoogee is like on a sunny Sunday.