My wife loves adventures, and she has had quite a few. My life is all the more richer because of the adventures we have shared in the eight years we have been married. There have been times when I have “caused” adventures for which we didn’t necessarily make plans, but she has usually faced the challenges with enthusiasm and determination. She is a gracious soul. One such occasion happened about five years ago when I decided to search for a hiking trail that terminated at a waterfall — one of my favorite outdoor experiences. I searched through a trail guide and selected one in north central Georgia in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Little Rock Creek Falls looked beautiful in all the photographs I saw, which perhaps encouraged me to be a bit too dismissive about the descriptions of the trail leading to the falls that described it as being difficult and dangerous with thick underbrush.
For young folks or very athletic, experienced hikers, this trail would not be a problem. My wife and I are casual hikers. We are occasional hikers. We are quite often paved-trail hikers. Little Rock Creek trail has no pavement. The length of the trail from the road to the falls is a little less than a mile, and the elevation is consistent; however, the terrain is quite steep and rocky as the trail makes its way along a sharp embankment following the creek. The understory is beautiful and thick with mountain laurel and rhododendron. At this stage of our hiking careers, we were not yet using sticks of any kind (we each have two now). Under normal conditions, we would have considered this to be a moderately difficult hike, but alas, I had the audacity to take my dear wife on this excursion not too long after she had broken her shoulder, which she guarded carefully along the way. I was nervous the whole time, fearing that she would slip and reinjure her shoulder or break something else trying to protect it as she fell.
Although we should have waited until she was in better shape to make this hike, I can state with certainty that neither of us was disappointed with the terminus of this trail. It was one of the most secluded and enchanting waterfalls I have ever seen in Georgia. We did the obligatory selfie shot with the falls behind us, which became profile pictures for both of us on social media for several months. I apologized to her profusely for selecting such a treacherous trail, especially considering that she was still recovering from an injury. As usual, she simply said, “I’m fine.” She is indeed.
I have written several blog entries about hiking, an activity that my wife and I so enjoy and one that I am missing terribly since I broke my ankle last month. I have also written about some of our favorite places to hike, which are often located in areas that offer distant vistas, most particularly mountains and valleys. Truly one of the most spectacular places we have hiked is in Phoenix, Arizona, the city where my wife lived for nineteen years, before we met. She has told me about how, when she lived in the area, she regularly drove to the Phoenix Mountains Preserve to hike the trails on over 6,000 acres of land owned by the city and managed by the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council. The network of trails in the Preserve winds up through small mountains and hills that reach about 2,000 feet above the desert floor and about 3,000 feet above sea level. These elevations, combined with the mostly treeless landscape, provide hikers with incredible views of the enormous valley below and the vast sprawl of the metropolitan city and suburbs.
I traveled to Arizona for the first time in 2008 with my wife, and while we were there, she took me to the Preserve. We hiked up one of the hills, not to the top but far enough to take some great photos that I have used on occasion as computer wallpaper, like the one above. Somehow the mountains in the distance look so much higher than they are because they soar up from the flat, desert floor. There is a very definite contrast between earth and sky in many portions of the west, and this is one of those places. The diversity of plant life in the desert is far greater than most people who have not seen it can imagine. The terrain is rocky and sandy but not too difficult to maneuver. The Preserve is well used and a wonderful recreational asset for the people of Phoenix.
If you like hiking, or simply taking a walk on a nature trail, the state parks and national forests in north Georgia are some of the best places to enjoy this activity. The state of Georgia does a fine job, with dwindling resources I am quick to add, with the access to natural resources it provides through the state park system. The trails vary in length and difficulty levels to accommodate almost any age and degree of fitness. Most parks have trails that are wheelchair accessible. The diversity of flora and fauna in the southern Appalachia is unmatched anywhere in the U.S. There are very few weeks out of the year where the weather makes outdoor exploration uncomfortable here. I have spent many hours wandering mountain paths through densely wooded countryside and have always come away restored.