This past Veteran’s Day, we spent a long weekend in Atlanta, GA. We had never visited Atlanta as a family before and with such great combo deals on accommodation and tickets to local attractions we could hardly pass up the opportunity. We chose to spend time at two local attractions that interested us most; Stone Mountain and the Atlanta Aquarium. We had a blast at both places and I thought I’d share some of our pictures and video from our first day’s trip to Stone Mountain, GA.
We stayed at a local motel right outside of the Stone Mountain Park and could easily see the mountain from our motel room, which isn’t surprising as it’s the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. We knew that the first full day that we had in Atlanta was going to be a nice sunny one, so we planned to go to the mountain first – and I’m glad we did because the next day it poured down with rain all day!
On one side of Stone Mountain is a large carving that depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain.
We started our visit by taking the scenic Skyride to the top of the mountain so that we could hike back down, figuring that doing it that way would be much easier for Jack and Maggie than hiking up the mountain. Here’s a little video snippet of the Skyride and the view from the top.
The view from the top was fantastic but a little obscured by fog that hadn’t quite burned off at that early in the morning. As we left the Sykride station and headed for the beginning of the hiking trail down the mountain, Jack noticed what he thought was a coin embedded in the ground. It turned out to be a Geodetic Survey Triangulation Station Marker that indicated the summit of the mountain (DG2533) – as you can imagine Jack and Maggie were fascinated by this first encounter and had dozens of questions about what it was for and who put it there.
I’m very proud of the fact that both Jack and Maggie thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the top of the mountain and relished the idea of hiking down it. Maggie usually acts up and wants to be carried once she has determined that she’s walked far enough – which is normally somewhere between 15 – 30 feet. But, to our amazement she walked it by herself. I personally think that she saw lots of other small kids doing the walk/hike and was darned if she was going to look like a baby being carried down, oh the power of 3-year-old peer pressure.
The hiking trail down the mountain was a little hairy in places due to natural erosion creating a very gritty and sandy surface in places. Several times we had to slow down and hold hands so that we didn’t slip on the sandy ground. Then, about two thirds of the way down, we ran into a patch of the mountain that was covered with dozens of pieces of carved graffiti. Apparently graffiti carvers don’t like to go too far up the mountain to do their handy work!
As we starred at them in a combination of surprise and disappointment, Jack pointed out one particular piece of graffiti that was remarkably different from the usual “Johnny loves Mindy” types of chicken scratches. At first I didn’t see why he was so fascinated by it over all of the others pieces, some of which were very explicit and colorful (thank goodness he’s still learning to read). Then it struck me, this was some very old graffiti. How could I tell? Well how many youths do you know who would take their time to scratch their name into a mountain using a beautiful serif typeface? I just had to snap a picture to share this with everyone else – how bizarre.
Overall we had a great time hiking on Stone Mountain. The Skyride didn’t take very long at all to take us to the top and the hike back down probably would have taken us about 40 minutes had we not stopped to look at numerous little things along the way. But then that’s the point of being outdoors and experiencing such things in my mind. We could have blazed back down the mountain like so many others we saw, but we never would have seen so many of the marvelous little oddities that we saw along the trail, like the graffiti, and that would have been a shame. It’s exactly these small details that will stick in Jack and Maggie’s minds and become indelible reminders of their first hike down a mountain.
If you’re ever in the vicinity of Stone Mountain Park, take some time to stop by and go exploring. Besides the mountain, there are a ton of other things to do inside the park. We were able to spend the better part of an entire day there having fun and would highly recommend it to others.