Thursday, August 8, 2013

So much natural beauty

When we went to Nashville for Spring Break our plan was to drive through the Shawnee National Forest to see the Garden of the Gods. It rained that day so we drove straight home instead. After spending two days in the area I'm rather glad it rained. There was too much to see to just stop by for a few hours.

We spent the first day at Ferne Clyffe State Park. It was a fun hike through the forest. We made our way down the side of the bluff to a nicely groomed trail. It was flat and quite wide with crushed gravel. The trail led to a waterfall, which was dry as it hadn't rained much lately. The rock formations behind the waterfall were quite beautiful. There was a couple perched in a hammock, which fascinated the girls. First they couldn't figure how they got to that location. Second, they couldn't decided if they would get into the hammock or not considering it was hanging from two trees on the side of a bluff. I am certain I would not have gotten into the hammock.

The second day we went into the Shawnee National Forest. There are hundreds of miles of trails, but we went specifically to see the Garden of the Gods. I couldn't wait to see the rock formations. The pictures were so beautiful. We started off by looking at the map at the end of our parking lot. On the map Camel Rock was clearly marked. We set off confident that we could find it. After all, Camel Rock was in the middle of a loop. How hard could it be to go around in a circle?

It started off fine. We found this incredible formation called Anvil Rock. The colors were breathtaking. You could see where the years of erosion formed clean lines covered by something looked like rust in places. We left Anvil Rock and started hiking towards Camel Rock.

Eventually we came to a cave, which was fascinating, but not where we wanted to be. We hiked back up the side of the bluff back to the parking lot. About two hours after we started we still hadn't seen the Garden of the Gods. I was beginning to wonder if we would see it at all. The girls were starting to whine about more hiking. They are pretty good about hiking, but they do have their limits.

We went back to the map and talked to a couple who had been to the area many, many times. The woman looked up towards a different trail entrance and said the Garden of the Gods was up that way. We trudged up the hill with the girls begging us not to hike anymore. I was close to agreeing if only to get them to be quite. We promised extra pool time if they stopped complaining. It worked.

As soon as we saw the Garden of the Gods trail, Daddy and I sighed that deep, tired sigh you make when you realize you were so close, yet so far. The trail was beautifully paved with limestone. It was clearly marked with railings and benches and platforms. It was so worth waiting to find.

A couple was climbing on the rocks as if it was the most natural thing in the world. We later learned they were from West Virginia. As he pointed out, "I grow up scaling rocks like this in the mountains." We were all impressed with their ability to move around the bluffs with such skill and no fear.

The trail is not even 1/2 mile. It could have been three miles and we wouldn't have complained. Even the girls were amazed as we moved from Camel Rock to the faces to the scenic overlooks. We have several photos of them on top of different rocks.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a chocolate factory for refreshments. We talked about nature's beauty and how much fun it was to hike. We topped the day with a couple of hours in the pool. It was a wonderful two days surrounded by nature's beauty. What a way to end our summer.

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