Dan and Hannah Pickle in Athens, Georgia and Visit the Carter Center in Atlanta

Waking at the Sleep Inn and Suites motel (unfortunately sans suite for D&H) not far from the campus of the University of Georgia on our last day in the American South, we drive to another primo pickleball venue at Southeast Clarke Park in Athens.  Welcomed by Santa Claus (aka Ken Calkin, the local ambassador), we have advanced play with a variety of Southerners and transplants from the Northeast.  We do our best not to embarrass our Maine fellow picklers.

Carter 1 PB in Athens H

Hannah serves teaming up with Ken in Athens, Georgia

Carter 1A D, H, and Ken

Hannah, Ken (he does in fact play Santa Claus at Christmas time), and Dan at the six dedicated courts in Athens.  Getting Fitbit steps wherever we go!

Warmed up by the high quality play on the last Tuesday of October, I can see the future – come with me!  I am spending three weeks next fall in Athens with Hannah before the long, dark pall of winter descends on Maine.

Carter map of athens to carter center

Driving 75 miles west to Atlanta via I-20, Hannah and I have the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in our sights.  Located in downtown of Atlanta, the Carter Center is easy to find with ample parking.  Admission is $10 for seniors and the complex of buildings has an understated feel compared to the expansive Reagan Library.  That presidential library is large enough to include Air Force One at its Simi Valley, California location.

Check out this picture from the recent fall California wildfires lapping at the doorstep of the library.  Click here for my blog on the Reagan Library.

Carter Reagan library fires

October 2019 wildfires threatening the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

From out of nowhere, Jimmy Carter campaigned through 1975 with his family doing the heavy lifting of meeting voters and organizing events in Iowa and New Hampshire.  His roots as a dark horse candidate give hope for those supporting Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson (Dan and Hannah) during the current campaign for the 2020 election.  (Sadly in January 2020 Marianne suspended her campaign.)

Carter 2B Jimmy Who

Jimmy Carter is Hannah’s favorite president.  Sure Washington, Lincoln, and Obama have their many fans, but Jimmy was president when Hannah and I were young marrieds in Arizona looking to find our way in the late 1970s.  A good and decent man of faith, he is most often remembered for the 445 day Iran Hostage crisis that didn’t end til the day after he left office in 1981.

I remember the last three days that I was president, I never went to bed at all. I never went to bed until we had negotiated the final release of the hostages. – Jimmy Carter


Carter 2C inaguraul

Inauguration 1977

Fighting the rampant racial segregation in the South, Jimmy Carter stood out for the freedom and dignity for all God’s children.  On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders.

Carter 2E prez seal

His desire to create the Carter Center as a venue for negotiations and peace keeping was the foundation for his winning the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.  Traveling widely to conduct peace negotiations, monitor elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations, JC is a man for our times.

Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.  – Jimmy Carter

Carter 2D oval office

The recreated Oval Office at the Carter Center

When people are intimidated about having their own opinions,                                           oppression is at hand.  ― Jimmy Carter

His commitment to Habitat for Humanity inspires our friends, George and Pat.  Habitat brings volunteers together to build homes, communities, and hope.  It has helped more than four million folks construct or rehabilitate more than 800,000 homes since its founding in 1976.

Carter nobel prize

Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize for Peace winner

Maybe there’s a “Jimmy Carter” in the current pool of presidential candidates.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia

Talu map of Talu in GA

Who’d have thought Hannah and I would find a home away from home in north Georgia!  Two Yankees – a New York Girl and a Jersey Boy!  First drawn to the Peach State to hike our 14th of 14 Appalachian Trail states, we stumbled on the good folks of the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club, 80 miles northeast of Atlanta.

Talu 3 warning sign


From our association with them we learned of stem cell treatments that have been a godsend for our once balky knees.  Friendships grew with Clarissa, Pat, Laurie, and Linda and here we are returning to the Peach Tree State one more time this mid-October.

After overnights with our sister-in-law Becky and her guy Derek in North Carolina, we travel southwest towards Yonah Mountain by way of Tallulah Gorge State Park with its daunting 1000 steps into the gorge.

Talu 2 falls themselves

The descent brings to mind the the 729’ of elevation gain overly similar metal stairs at the nearby Amicalola Falls State Park, which just happens to be the starting point for the Appalachian Trail.  Click here for that blog.

Talu 1A rubber pavement

For a simple $5 American we enter the Tallulah Falls and soon have the park ranger explain the trails into the gorge as well as on the North and South Rims.

Talu 1 H by rubber sign

The trail actually begins here in the Interpretative Center building as we head down towards the 80’ suspension bridge spanning the gorge.  Immediately, our feet are caressed by the rubberized trail made from old tires.  Bouncing for joy just comes naturally.

Talu 3A stairway down

After viewing the falls themselves from the North Rim, we turn towards the first 260 steps that will take us down to the suspension bridge.  With fall colors still four weeks away on this mid-October Tuesday, we hike among retired couples of all shapes and sizes and moms and dads with their preschoolers.

Talu 5A more gorge valley

Descending the stairs to the suspension bridge across the gorge is like skipping in the park, an easy peezy descent with a miniscule cardio-vascular workout.  The afternoon rain has yet to arrive, so the footing is reliable and solid on the metal see-through steps.  With ten overlooks into the Tallulah Falls Gorge, we feast on north Georgia at its finest.

Talu 3E H at bridge suspension

Crossing the swaying suspension bridge, we take the lower trail of the South Rim further into the gorge.  The walk in the park ends at the turnaround and we have 261 steps and more to head back up to the South Rim.

Talu 4A D and H on South Rim of Talu

Our assault is relentless but manageable.  Sure, Dan, the Older, is  breathing heavily; fact is, he is in his eighth decade.  Returning to the Interpretative Center by way of the North Rim, we take to the trail which eventually leads to our final 220 steps to Inspiration Point.  And that completes three miles of hiking and high stepping in under two hours.

I return to Outlook #2 to record this video of Tallulah Falls for your enjoyment.


Additional images from Tallulah Falls

Talu map of park


Talu 3C H on stairs


Talu 4 more gorge falls


Talu 4B WArning and steps on south rim



Dan and Hannah Hike to the Raven Cliff Falls in Georgia

It is was all because of an email.  Let me explain.

Hannah and I had come to Georgia in the fall of 2016 to hike our 14th and final Appalachian Trail state.  As newly minted pickleball players, we also checked out the pickleball sites in the area and contacted local ambassadors about play.  Only one responded, and she with details and a heart-felt welcome to come play with her Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.

Raven pickleball group

Yonah Mountain Pickleball

We did.  Taken in like family, we played, we breakfasted together at the local Huddle House (similar to a Waffle House) and we have returned time and again staying overnight with our new compadres.  Hannah and I have Laurie Lee to thank for starting our enduring connection to north Georgia.

Raven 1B wooden walkway across stream

Today prior to outdoor afternoon pickleball at Yonah Mountain, we have the hope that the waterfalls at Raven Cliff Falls State Park will be thundering.  You see, we’ve been here before during the drought of 2016 and saw but a trickle come down from within the mountain.  With hurricanes and heavy rains of late, we have our fingers crossed for a deluge.

Raven 6A H by steam

The five-mile round-trip hike is one of my favorites as the trail is always in sight of the mountain stream tumbling over boulders, into pools, and rushing with nature’s sweet melody.

Raven 4 H at lower falls

Hannah beside a trail-side mini-falls

With overnight rain, our trail is moist, but not muddy.  But that will be of little concern over the 2.5 miles to the falls as the trail, though rocky and rooted, is very level with a hardly noticeable 700’ rise in elevation from trailhead to falls.

Raven 5C climbing down rocky steps

Rocky climb to the falls (top center)

Often wide enough for the two of us to talk, the tree-covered trail beside the watery turbulence has us heading deep into the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Cascades and mini-falls prime us for the upcoming tumbling water from the heights of Raven Cliff.

The final climb to the opening in the cliff is steep but not so wet as to be hazardous.  The falls deliver watery wonder just over an hour after we began our morning hike.

Raven 5A closer view of interior falls

The tucked in the mountain Raven Cliff Falls

Returning to the trailhead after just over two hours of hiking has warmed us up for afternoon pickleball on the outdoor courts at the White County Community Center with our Georgia kin.


More pictures from the trail

Raven map 2

Raven 1 Han at sign

Raven 1A trail begins

Raven 2A more cascades

Raven 2B quiet stream

Raven 3 H on trail

Raven 3A D on trail

Raven 4A D at lower falls

Raven 6 H on trail back

Raven 6B flowing stream

Dan and Hannah, Stem Cells and Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia

KM map of atlanta

Nine days ago, in late October 2017, Hannah and I flew to Atlanta from Boston (900 miles) for an experimental procedure of stem cell injections for Hannah, a long shot attempt to make her voice stronger after 15 years of spasmodic dysphonia.  After landing in the Peach State, she called Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior Healthcare, to let her know that we were on our way to the clinic at Sandy Springs, GA for Hannah’s 1P appointment.

Uber-apologetic, Julie told Hannah that her stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida, had not arrived as promised that day.  Alas, we had no appointment.  But we had Julie.

She set up another appointment for today (a Thursday) and had the stem cell bank cover our flight, lodging, car rental, and gas expenses for our return trip.  With a free afternoon that Tuesday past, we hiked up and around Stone Mountain to the east of Atlanta.   Click here for the link to last week’s blog about that hike.

KM Superior Healthcare sign

Fast forward nine days.  Driving in the predawn dark from home on the coast of Maine, we have few others on the road down I-95, then route 1 to Boston.  Soon, we are in the air on our non-stop 620A Jet Blue flight to Atlanta.

Upon arrival, Hannah’s text to Julie confirms that Hannah’s stem cells are indeed ready and waiting for her at another Superior Healthcare clinic in Canton, GA, 50 miles north of the airport in Atlanta.

Arriving 25 minutes early for Hannah’s 1130A appointment, we see Julie in scrubs coming out of another procedure; she spots us, flashes her light-up-the-room smile, and says with joy, It’s déjà vu.  Do you feel like you’ve just been here?  We are home.

KM 1B Hannah's x-rays

X-rays of Hannah’s knees

Over the next hour and a half, Hannah has the intrathecal injection of stem cells into her spine, and later two more in her knees.  On a computer screen, we see x-rays of both of Hannah’s knees (to the right); the top picture is from her first (May 2017) stem cell injection and the bottom x-ray was taken today (November 2017).  The increased space between her knee and tibia shows the growth of cartilage due to the stem cells.  Do note the titanium screws still doing their job below her knee; these were inserted after a water skiing accident five years ago.

KM 1A Dan's x-rays 2

X-rays of Dan’s knees (bottom x-ray from May and the top in November)

Since I had had stem cell injections in both knees as well that May day, Julie x-rays my knees to check the growth of cartilage.  Since my cartilage wasn’t as far gone as Hannah’s, my growth hasn’t been as great.  Even so, I am feeling nimbler on the pickleball court five months later.  Julie notes the improved tracking of my right patella (knee cap).

KM 1C Han and Julie

Hannah and Julie

For relationship-focused individuals like Hannah and me, the personal touch by medical professionals matters greatly.  Eighteen months ago, Hannah had voice rehabilitation training in Tampa with a woman with whom Hannah just didn’t connect, and ultimately didn’t believe in.  Julie connects.  We know there are no guarantees that stem cells will strengthen Hannah’s voice, but we believe in Julie and the possibilities.

KM 2 H at start of trail

With an entire 75F afternoon to ourselves, we opt to hike at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, just north of Atlanta.  Two years ago, we hiked here in the rain when we came to Georgia to hike our 14th and final Appalachian Trail state.  Click here for the blog to our first climb of Kennesaw Mountain in the rain as well as some background of the Civil War battle that took place here.

KM 4B H atop little KM

Finding the last parking spot at 2P on a Thursday, we talk to the ranger about the six-mile Kennesaw Mountain Loop Trail.  With 600’ of elevation to Big Kennesaw Mountain, we climb it, descend, and then climb Little Kennesaw Mountain.  From there, it’s some four miles of mostly downhill back to the Visitor Center.

KM 4B D and H at little KM cannon

It’s déjà vu for us as we remember the rocky climbs, the views south to Atlanta, and the Civil War cannons still in place.  By the way, it took 100 men to drag these cannons up the rocky slopes.

As we hike, we step on, over, and around sharp angled rocks on the up and down mountain trail.  Surprised by the many fellow hikers on a midweek afternoon, we can see the appeal of this forest oasis in the midst of suburban Atlanta that stretches as far as the eye can see.

KM 5 D on rocky trail

Approaching the half-way point, we have a country fire road of soft dirt beneath the forest canopy for our return to the trailhead.  Passing hikers making the nearly six-mile loop in the other direction, we see young women and men running the hilly, undulating trail.  Dan and Hannah, circa 1992!

KM 5A H on fire road home

Two and a quarter hours after leaving the trailhead, we complete the 5.8 miles of the Kennesaw Mountain Loop Trail.  Pleased with this bonus afternoon of hiking thanks to the snafu of nine days ago, we are not surprised that our 30-mile late afternoon drive to our Quality Inn through Atlanta is congested; it’s not Washington, DC commuter crazy, but we do slow drive between 20 to 30 mph.

Toasting our overnight adventure to the South, we treat ourselves to a fine merlot, but… Hannah can’t finish her glass of wine as the Lidocaine painkiller from the afternoon injection is wearing off and the Tylenol has yet to kick in.  Overnight, sleep for Hannah comes but mostly goes.

KM quality inn

After a mostly sleepless night for Hannah, we leave the Quality Inn in our rental car at 520A for our 7A Jet Blue flight back to Boston; we have no idea that we have forgotten one of our carry-ons.   And now I have, a what would you do question.

KM enterprise

Dropping off our Nissan Sentra at the Enterprise location about 530A, we get checked out, and then realize that we’d left our cooler bag of food back at the Quality Inn three miles away.

Mentioning this to the attendant, he asks when our flight is, and concludes that we can make it back to our Quality Inn in ten minutes, and be back for our early morning flight.  At the Quality Inn, I jump out, get the bag, and Paul (Hannah learns his name through her engaging front seat conversation with him) takes us directly to the Jet Blue Terminal; we save time by not taking the Sky Train from the Rental Car Center.  We easily make our flight.

You tell me, what do we tip him?  $5? (a muffin and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts)  $10?  (enough to take a friend to Dunkin’ Donuts)  $100 (just blow him out of the water and give him a story to tell forever).  What do you think?   Decide and then scroll down for our decision.

KM 2A D on trail

Trail up Kennesaw Mountain


KM KM map

We hiked the trail marked in red from the Visitor Center.  The elevation of the trail is represented across the bottom of the map.


The right tip for us is $20.  (Though the blow-him-out-of-the-water tip is gaining traction for future such events).

We thank Paul for something he didn’t have to do but smilingly did.  Southern hospitality in action!  Once home, I see is an additional $7 charge on our Enterprise bill.  Considering the gas and Paul’s time, it seems like a bargain.

A few days later that charge is wiped from our credit card statement.  We love us some Enterprise!

KM tipping

Dan and Hannah Are Thrown a Curve, Rebound to Hike Stone Mountain, Georgia

St map of sandy

Up at 4A on this Tuesday in late October 2017, Hannah and I are flying 900 miles southwest from Boston to Atlanta for Hannah’s stem cell injections; it’s an experimental procedure to see if stem cells will improve the quality of Hannah’s voice, diminished for the last 15 years with spasmodic dysphonia.  Hannah has a 1P appointment at Superior Healthcare in Sandy Springs, 25 miles north of Atlanta.

Our Delta flight from Logan Airport is delayed by federal regulations that require the flight attendants to have enough downtime between flights.  Our attendants arrived late last night, so our flight leaves 30 minutes late this morning.

Landing in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Georgia’s capital later than we expect, Hannah calls Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior, to let her know that we are on our way.  Hearing their conversation in the next seat, I gather that Houston, we have a problem.

St superior healthcare

It seems that earlier in the morning the UPS truck arrived at Superior Healthcare without Hannah’s own stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida.  Though ordered by Julie for today’s procedure, they are nowhere to be found.   The long and short of it is that Hannah will not be getting her stem cell injection today.  Julie apologizes and does her best to make things right.

Having already paid for a flight for each of us, our hotel room, and our rental car, Hannah and I have an angel looking out for us.  It’s Julie to the rescue as she reschedules Hannah’s appointment for next Thursday; the stem cell bank will pick up all our expenses for our return to Atlanta.

Even so, how is a guy and a gal to feel about this snafu 900 miles from home?  Clearly, it was not the outcome we wanted.  St anger

Angry?  What does that get us?  We all know that anger just poisons the angry one.

Disappointed?  Not even.  Life happens.  Punches are thrown.  This is a love tap.  A first world problem.  Today, we’ll rock and roll with this beautiful sunny day in Georgia!

No, the snafu turns out to be one helluva opportunity.  We have sunshine for our hike at Stone Mountain, to the east of Atlanta.  We always have a choice how to deal with the unexpected.

Stone Mountain has a checkered past.  It’s the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, the heinous racist organization that terrorized blacks, Jews, and gays in the South with lynchings and daily fear and dread.

St 4A Generals better

Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Also, upon Stone Mountain is the bas relief of two prominent Confederate Civil War generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.  In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, jr. spoke of the importance to let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.  Clearly a pointed reference for those who passed 8th grade history class.

St 1 h at sign

Stone Mountain Park has its own exit off four lane Route 78.  For $15, we have the run of the park to hike on a gorgeous southern afternoon.  Parking near the trailheads is plentiful as we boot up for the one mile Walk Up Trail to the top of Stone Mountain.  Though three hundred yards of paved road begin the trail, we soon turn 90 degrees left to climb bare stone to the top.

St 1B D on stony slab up

Stepping up and over stone ledges, I have never seen a trail like this one – a rising all-stone path to the top of the mountain.  Even on this mid-week day, the trail is happy with people but not swarming as it must be on spring and fall weekends.

Climbing steadily, we have a workout that most can do; that said, it’s no walk in the park.  Near the top there is a double railing for climbing a particularly steep section of the trail.  Welcoming the assistance, we see twenty-something athletes using the trail for an afternoon workout.

St 2 H near hand rails

The double railing above Hannah on the way to the top of Stone Mountain of Georgia

Atop Stone Mountain, the wind picks up, but the sunshine and joy of the climb warms us up and down.  Spotting the Sky Tram that floats visitors to the summit, we make a pit stop at the lodge’s rest rooms; across the lobby, there’s a snack shop, worthy of any Regal Cinema in America, selling sugar products; and then even more sugar if you like.

St 3A D on Cherokee

The white blaze of the Cherokee Trail

After a half hour of climbing to the top, the descent is easy-peezy.

Arriving back at the trailhead an hour after our start, we turn right for the orange blaze Connecting Trail that soon hooks us up with the Cherokee Trail that circles the mountain.  It’s a delightful dirt trail within hailing distance of an active railroad under the canopy of deciduous trees.

St 4B H with Generals good too

Confederate Memorial carvings, 400′ above the ground and nearly 200′ wide  (A Confederate Mount Rushmore?)

Within twenty minutes, we are at the base of the Confederate Heroes in all their glory on the flat vertical side of Stone Mountain.  What’s a Yankee to make of all this?

I don’t doubt the sincerity of these men, but I can’t but wonder how misguided was their defense of slavery (euphemistically referred to as the Peculiar Institution); it seems so transparently bogus to claim that the South was fighting for states’ rights in the Civil War.

Were the Southernors rebels or traitors?   Inflammatory nouns serve little purpose.  They divide rather than unite in this time when bullying and name-calling are the order of the day from the Oval Office.

So how do we unite?  One possibility is that we start by not seeing the other side as the devil.  We do the Stephen Covey thing (the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

We listen.  We approach them with love in our hearts, not retaliatory invective.   We believe that good will win out.  And we don’t lose faith.

Later, over wine and cheese and crackers at our Comfort Inn and Suites near the Atlanta airport, Hannah and I toast our unexpected glorious day and thank the turn of events for making it so.

Dan and Hannah and the Ways of Our Love

It’s the first week of August, Hannah and I have come to Sandy Springs, Georgia (Atlanta Metro Area) for Hannah’s second experimental stem cell injection; we’ve hopes that stem cells just might hold a key to improving her voice, which has been softened and limited for the past 15 years.

SH 1 Julie and Dr T with H

NP Julie and Dr. Tan prepping Hannah

Injected into her spine (to pass the blood/brain barrier), the stem cells will also be infused into her blood system for improved joint health as well.  We have been encouraged by the positive stem cell results by many pickleballers that we have met from the Yonah Mountain area (north Georgia).

SH 1B J to infuse H

Julie prepping to infuse Hannah with stem cells

Up by 2A in York, Maine for our 6A flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, we arrive in the Peach Tree State before 9A; drive 25 miles north to Sandy Springs for Hannah’s treatments.  Dr. Tan administers the stem cell injection; later Nurse Practitioner Julie Thorne infuses the stem cells into her blood system.

SH 2 Anne Frank


Hannah comes out of the 90-minute procedure smiling, without any pain, but…

…we are both weary beyond belief from our just after midnight wake up call on this 90F afternoon.

Unsuccessful in our attempt to check in the early afternoon at our Comfort Suites motel, we take the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank in the World Center in Sandy Springs!  Who knew that the heart of Dixie would have such a treasure!  Click here for more information about this much-needed telling of her story, especially in light of the August events in Charlottesville and the dangerous equivocating of the President.

Finally checked into the Comfort Suites, we lunch on our Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki subs, sort of nap, later walk to the local grocery store for our dinner, and then, toast the success of Hannah’s stem cell surgery with a fine Cabernet in our suite.

Fried, though Hannah’s feeling no pain, we are in bed by 8P.  That’s when our love kicks in.

Unbeknownst to me in my deep slumber of exhaustion, Hannah soon develops back pain pushing past 12 – on a scale of one to ten.  She can’t sleep.  I mean can’t sleep at all.  She showers; she walks the corridor of the motel’s second floor; she takes a bath; she lies in bed hoping to fall asleep.  Nothing works.  Her back hurts big time.

SH D and NR

Dan and Nancy Rose over brunch at the Summerland Cafe, south of Santa Barbara

And this is where Hannah calls on the wisdom of our Santa Barbara and Unity friend Nancy Rose.   Earlier in the evening, Nancy Rose had emailed Hannah

Dear Hannah,

Just getting around to reading my emails.  I love your friend’s saying- “what soap does for the body, tears do for the soul” -beautiful.  You are good for my soul too, Hannah.  Take good care down there in Georgia.  You are in the best hands, and you know whose they are. 

Later, Hannah emails Nancy Rose.

SH Four of us D H NR Duncan

Dan, Hannah, Nancy, and Duncan earlier this year in Summerland, California

dear Nancy  

            Your latest email helped more than I can say….in the middle of the night last night (after my stem cell injections yesterday) I couldn’t sleep, was feeling aches down to my bones (lower back and back of my thighs), tossed and turned – and thought of your words: “You are in the best hands and you know whose they are.” Because of that sharing from you, I woke Dan up and let him be “God’s hands” in the middle of the night.

      I am so blessed. And I am so grateful for you, dear Nancy. And, for my Danny Boy.  my love – to you and your Duncan.


As often in our 50 years together, I am the regular recipient of Hannah’s love, and tonight was another such case.   Hannah wakes me and we cuddle as she tells me of her incessant back pain and inability to sleep.   For me, I am so damn pleased she woke me; I hold her snugly until she is ready to give sleeping another shot.

A few hours later, she wakes me again, still unable to sleep or get comfortable.   We walk the motel corridors together before dawn while everyone else, except us two, sleeps.

And that, my friends, Hannah waking me in the middle of the night is one way of our love…

PS Oh yeah, we’ll remember the Tylenol next time.

Dan and Hannah Play Pickleball with their North Georgia Kin

When we travel, the trails matter, the weather matters, but it’s the people we meet that add quality and connection to our adventures.  Let me explain our connection to the American South, Yankees that we are.

LL map of cleveland

Cleveland is the county seat of White County

In our quest to hike in all 14 Appalachian Trail states, we had only Georgia to hike to complete our set in the fall of 2015.  In October of that year, after flying to Atlanta, we drove the back-country roads to hike at Springer Mountain, the start of the AT itself.  Later, we threw in a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were hooked on hiking south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  And then it got even better.

LL H and L at her place

Laurie and Hannah

Returning the following October 2016, we again hiked the Great Smoky Mountains as well as the waterfall trails of northern Georgia.  But the added bonus was finding our own version of pickleball heaven at Yonah Mountain, near Cleveland in northern Georgia.   Yonah Mountain pickleball ambassador Laurie Lee welcomed us with open arms and the Yonah Mountain club players greeted us as family.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Then, when Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion III (four grads of the College of Wooster in 1970) was scheduled for late April 2017 in Richmond, Virginia, we saw it as a golden opportunity to avoid driving 600+ miles to Richmond and rather, fly to Atlanta first.  We’d hike in Alabama and then spend three days with amigas and amigos in Georgia hiking and pickleballing before flying to Virginia’s capital city.

LL H and L on court 2

Hannah with Laurie at the White County Parks and Rec pickleball courts

One small monkey wrench.  Not with our hosts or with the hiking, but with the tendinitis in my right elbow this Monday in late April as we arrive in north Georgia.  Hannah and I love us some pickleball as we play three times per week.  But for me…pickleball, my love, had got to the point where it just wasn’t any fun because of the pain in my elbow.  Finally realizing I just needed to rest, which is hell on athletes of all ages, I took nearly 14 full days off knowing that doing that would give me the best chance to play in Georgia.  Still I was grumpy for a fortnight.

LL D and H and Billy and Marcia

Han and Dan with Billy and Marica

Knowing we were coming to Yonah Mountain to play pickleball, I pumped the ibuprofen, iced my right elbow, and, yes, rested; turns out, that’s just what I needed.  Arriving on Tuesday morning at the indoor pickleball courts, we were greeted by Billy and Marcia at the White County Parks and Rec Center.  Whacking the wiffle ball, dinking (hitting short shots just over the net itself), and just enjoying their friendship, I feel like I am back to my old pickleball self (Hallelujah, brother!).

LL new paddles

Looking to upgrade our paddles, Hannah and I borrow ones from Laurie and later Pat to see how they feel.  Trying out Laurie’s Onix and later Pat’s Triton, I find my shots solid and deep with no vibrating to aggravate my elbow.   Of course, when I want a new paddle, I can rationalize “the need” for one with the best of them.  I order a sweet Onix paddle while Hannah goes with the Groove, engineered for women.

LL Treehouse pickleball players with Pat

Pickleballers on the deck at Linda’s Tree House (She is in yellow.)

That Tuesday evening, our friends Laurie and Linda throw us a party of pickleballers to further make us feel a part of the community.  It works.  We are among kindred spirits; feeling special.

LL D and H at Immokaulee Falls

Dan and Han at Immokalee Falls

Each bringing a dish to share, the guests make the evening a community celebration, similar to what Hannah and I try to do when we have potlucks back home in Maine.  To kick off the party, 14 of us hike a half mile down to Linda’s tree house cabin, just below the Immokalee Falls.

LL Superior Health care

The next morning (Wednesday) before afternoon pickleball, Laurie arranges for Hannah to have a consult with a local doctor on her voice condition, spasmodic dysphonia.  Having tried 100 ways to improve her voice over the last 15 years, Hannah (and I) drive with Linda to Canton, GA to have Hannah checked out.  Their experimental voice rehabilitation program has potential; we will explore this option further in the months ahead.

LL Yonah Mt

Yonah Mountain

After the Wednesday morning consult, we return in time for two hours of afternoon pickleball.  My right elbow holds up for the second day as the rest, daily icing, and ibuprofen have made a difference.

With time for drills, Pat gives me some dinking pointers.  Basically, I am reminded of the value of the undercut cross court slice backhand that keeps the ball low and close to the net when dinking.  I feel like I have a new toy and can’t wait to practice.   As a recreational pickleball player, I just love the opportunities to improve my game.

On our third night (Wednesday), we dine with fellow pickleballers the aforementioned Pat and his wife Clarissa at their place in Cleveland.  With salmon on the grill, we have conversation like old friends.

Come Thursday morning, rain wipes out our planned hike up Yonah Mountain with Clarissa and Pat, but… the silver lining is that we are back on the indoor pickleball court by 730A to play for the third day in a row.   Playing mostly with the guys while Hannah crushes it with the women, I get quite the competitive workout.

LL Pat and Clarissa with Han

Hannah with Pat and Clarissa

After our pickleball, but before we head to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta for Richmond, we feast with Pat and Clarissa on the breakfast of champions – oatmeal with all the fixings – nuts, seeds, and fruit.  Though the oatmeal is fantastico, the best part of morning is sitting over coffee, hanging out with new friends.

Thanks to seeking out the AT in Georgia, we have our Georgia family in the sunny South.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Raven Cliffs Trail in Georgia after a Storm

While it’s another morning with rain in the American South, we continue to lead a charmed hiking life.  For the last two days of our late April hiking trip, it rains early, stops midday so we can hike, and then between 4 and 5P the heavens unload while we are safely under cover.

Rav map of north georgia

Raven Cliffs is to the north of Gainesville, Georgia

Hoping to continue our hot streak, we wake at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Dalton, Georgia (just south of Chattanooga) to light rain.  Our plan is to hike the Emery Creek Falls Trail some 20 miles to the east, but there is a major red flag – the trail has 21 stream crossings.  With our hike on the inundated trail at the Walls of Jericho in northern Alabama still fresh in our minds, Hannah and I both want no part of soggy socks, soaked shoes, or wearing our heat-inducing ponchos on this six-mile trail.

Rav 1

Dodds Creek on the Raven Cliffs Trail

Dismissing the Emery Creek Falls Trail, we choose to drive two hours to the east near Cleveland, GA, where we will be staying with friends for the next three nights, to hike the Raven Cliffs Trail.  It’s a trail we hiked just seven months ago during the height of the drought when no water flowed in Dodd’s Creek and barely a trickle fell from the falls.  Today should be spectacularly different.  Click here for the blog of our last hike at Raven Cliffs.

After two hours of driving the country roads of northern Georgia, we cross the Appalachian Trail on route 75 south and pull into the parking lot to stretch our legs.  Seeing a couple our age with full packs, we learn that they were thru-hikers in 2015 (i.e. they hiked the 2180 mile AT from Maine to Georgia).  As they prepare to head out, I catch their attention and ask what’s ahead for them.

Rav AT map

Appalachian Trail

Mango, (trail name) the older gent, says its more of the same.  A trail with trees.  Not in any sort of self-pitying way, just realistic about the tedium that can be the AT.  His wife, trail name Sunrise (she gets up early to capture pictures of the, you guessed it, sunrise) smiles and says,  not bragging at all, we are hiking the 150 miles to Hot Springs, North Carolina.  That’s about 144 more miles than Hannah and I would ever hike on the AT at any one time.  They mention dealing with the nasty storms two nights ago; from the same system that nearly caused us to go into the tornado storm shelter in northern Alabama.  I never did get to ask why they hike the AT.  There are obvious facts: the hiking in rain, the eating of freeze-dried everything, the hard ground, the snoring of other hikers in the shelters, the mice scurrying over sleeping bags.   It’s clear that I just don’t have the “want to” to be a thru-hiker.  And, let’s be real – I’m soft.

Rav 1A H at start of trail

On the Raven Cliffs Trail

Minutes later, we arrive at the Raven Cliffs Trailhead to sunshine peeking through the clouds.  Though we’ll have no rain today as we hike in the mid-60s, heavy rain is in the forecast once we are done hiking.

Rav 2A stream

Dodds Creek with Hannah on the trail (upper right)

Though we learn the trail has 687’ of elevation gain to a trio of waterfalls, it doesn’t have the feel of a climb at all over its two and a half miles.  Due to the days of rain, the trail is still just moist, with minor pooling in places.  Fact is, it’s a delightful, mellow walk in the woods as spring has just begin to leaf out in northern Georgia.

Rav 4 more stream

Hiking the entire way along Dodd’s Creek, we have a good workout as we have the music of the stream’s symphony to our left; something we didn’t have this past October.

Rav 5 lower falls thru trees

Lower falls from the trail

After an hour of easy hiking, we arrive at the end of the trail.  The middle falls is accessible and has the up-close feel of tumbling white water.  The lower falls is difficult to see as we can only peer at it from the distance or stand at its headwaters.  The upper falls has crashing white water, but it is tucked within the mountain and barely visible.

Rav 5A H at middle falls

Hannah at the middle falls

Turning and heading for the trailhead, Hannah and I cover a random selection of topics – friendships, travel, and how fortunate we are.  It’s similar to the scattered thoughts that come into our heads when we meditate.

One conversation is about our friend Brenda planning to write her story in retirement.  I’ve given her my two cents, make that five cents worth (five thoughts) for beginning writers.  And I share them with you now.

Rav keep writing quote

One, focus on quantity over quality in the drafting stage.  Your writing does not need to be perfect right off the bat.  Write and write some more.  Play with words.  Try out different words, phrases, whole paragraphs.  The fine tuning that comes with revising happens later, and is truly one of the great joys for me as a writer.

Two, always keep the pen or computer keys moving.  Don’t let the internal critic overrule what the creative spirit has to explore.

Rav writing as discovery

Three, writing is about discovering what you want to say.  You don’t need a plan nor an outline.  Write and learn what is in your heart.

Four, read your drafts out loud to see how they flow and whether they catch the rhythm you’d like.

Rav writers need encouragement

(diffident means modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence)

Five, as a beginner, find encouraging people to read or listen to your writing.   Have them do two things: one, tell you what they specifically like and two, where they would like to know more.   Many of us have had well-intentioned teachers who thought critiquing our writing was most helpful.  It’s not.  It can kill the spirit of the novice writer.  Many of us can be quick to believe we are not very good writers.  We are fed by encouragement.  Agatha Christie in the panel to the left nails it.

With five miles of hiking in the books, we are off to our friend Laurie Lee’s place near Yonah Mountain.  She is the pickleball ambassador for the local club who last October welcomed us with open arms and a warm heart.   We are back in northern Georgia seven months later, in large part, thanks to her love and attention.

LL H and L at her place

Pickleballers, Laurie and Hannah

Amazingly, we learn over dinner that she was born in the same era and in the same hospital that Hannah was – Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY.  This Georgia girl!  Now we take the leap and wonder could Hannah’s dad, Dr. Kraai have delivered her in the 1950s?  He did deliver 5000 babies as a general practitioner.

Laurie will check her safety deposit box for the paperwork around her birth to see if there is any indication of who delivered her!

Stay tuned.

From Laurie soon after this posting.   Love the writing advice! It is truly wonderful. Love the kind words, but it’s easy to be kind to kind souls 😇. Love the picture of the pickleballers! And thanks for the reminder. My birth certificate did NOT name the doctor who delivered me; but a call to the hospital did give me suggestions on how to find out. Signing out: from Yonah to York!

Dan and Hannah Hike to Raven Cliff Falls in northern Georgia


Hannah on the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Court

Here’s a riddle for you.  What’s the best way to prepare for three hours of hiking in the Georgia woods?  Damn, you’re on to my trick question.  There’s no best way.  Each hiker and hike is different.  But did Hannah and I ever get our prep right today!

First, we warm up with a couple hours of early morning pickleball with our amigos and amigas at the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.   Then, we fuel up with a big breakfast at the Huddle House in Cleveland, Georgia, thanks to an invitation from three of our sister and brother pickleballers.


Yonah Mountain Pickleball Players, Linda, Laurie, and Paul with Hannah and Dan

Today, we have set the bar really low to see actual water coming from the head of the waterfalls at Raven Cliff Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains this first week of October.   You see, four days ago, in Laurel Falls 120 miles to the northwest in eastern Tennessee, we hiked along a mostly dry riverbed to what is usually an 80’ falls; not a trickle fell that day.

The Southeast as well as we in the Northeast and those of you in California and, well, most of the Sahara and Serengeti, are suffering through some serious drought at this time. Click here for the link to the Laurel Falls blog.


Amped after pickleball and breakfast togetherness, we head a mere seven miles out of Bavarian-themed Helen, GA along the small rural road of route 17/75 to an even smaller alternate 75, to finally the curvy mountain road of route 348 to the trailhead.  Easy to find, the trail is one of many in the area for which we get excellent directions and maps at the Helen Welcome/Visitor Center in town.


When we ask the local pickleball/hikers what’s your favorite waterfall hike in the area, the unanimous answer is the five-mile roundtrip to Raven Cliff Falls.

Upon arrival at the Raven Cliff Falls Trail, we enter the forest path that parallels Dodd Creek for the next two miles.  Bubbling and gurgling, and dare I say flowing, Dodd Creek is a welcome lift to our spirits that, maybe, just maybe, waterfalls await.


The trail along Dodd Creek begins

On this riverside trail into the Wildlife Management Area of White County, we gently rise in elevation towards the waterfalls.  Fact is, it feels like we are on level ground most of the way.  As a popular trail,we have many fellow hikers on this Thursday afternoon in the upper 70s.


A couple from Wisconsin snap our trailside picture

With spectacularmini-waterfalls and cascades along much of the waterway, we hike under the forest canopy with blue sky above, while below us, swimming holes dot Dodd Creek.  The sun-dappled trail is a delight for us hikers, but makes it tough getting the lighting right for us modestly-skilled photographers.

After an hour of an easy going trail of dirt with few rocks, we arrive at the fortress wall of Raven Cliffs.  Tucked in a mountain granite fracture, the Raven Falls are so dark that it is nearly impossible to get a clear picture in this cavern-like setting.  Deciding not to climb further to the head of the falls, which is very rocky, very rooted, and quite vertical, we have the glamour and glory of the falls with its tumbling water here at the base.


Dan and Han at the modest middle falls

At the middle of the three destination falls, there are hikers of all abilities loving life and picnicking.  The fact is the drought of 2016 has taken its toll on these falls as well.  Though there’s just enough water to splash over our hiking boots, we find that the tranquility of the forest makes up for the lack of waterfallian drama.


Our best falls along Dodd Creek

Heading back to the trailhead an hour way, it seems Dodd Creek itself is where the action is.  With rivulets coming down the mountain, the main river has more splashing and sparkling water than the falls itself.  Hiking down to the river, we get our best waterfalls picture of the day and, in fact, on our entire weeklong Tennessee/North Carolina/Georgia hiking adventure.


Dodd Creek in the fall.  Can’t wait to see it in the spring!

No doubt, we’ll come back in the spring when Dodd Creek roars and Raven Cliff Falls thunders; for that coincides with our return to the South after a winter in New England to play with our Yonah Mountain pickleball family.

Dan and Hannah Are Taken in as Family by the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club in Georgia


Laurie Lee and Dan, the Pickleball Man

You know, just a simple kindness can mean so much.  A quick word of encouragement.  A thanks that nobody else hears but you.  And in our case a welcoming email inviting us to play at the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.   Because of Laurie Lee, the local pickleball ambassador, we reworked our hiking/pickleball trip to the South to spend three nights in this Pickleball Mecca in northern Georgia.   (By the way, that is Laurie Lee with Hannah and me in front of the Yonah Mountain pickleballers in the preview picture at the top of this blog.)


After four days hiking in eastern Tennessee and in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we are looking forward to hanging out in White County whacking around a wiffleball as part of America’s latest craze: pickleball.

You might wonder how we became ballers of the pickle?  The story is an old one.  Its roots are set in the tennis courts of the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1967 when Hannah and I were first-year students.  If you are doing the math, that is 100 years ago.  Though her women’s tennis team and my men’s team didn’t practice together, we would rally together on the Beall Avenue courts by our dorms.  She took a shine to my backhand and I to her aura as a goddess.


Molly’s husband Tip, Molly, Will, Will’s wife Laurel, and Robyn

Married in 1972 at the tender age of 24, Hannah and I took the next 40+ years off from tennis and never looked back!  It was no sacrifice as road running filled the cardio void while our family grew from two to five with the addition of our three children, who are now 37 (Molly), 35 (Robyn), and 33 (Will).

Though in retirement, Hannah and I go to the Coastal Fitness gym in Kittery, Maine and hike when we travel, unbeknownst to us, there was an inner longing to return to the court; we just didn’t know that it was a court 2/3 the size of a tennis court.   Click here for my recent blog on living the pickleball life.


Having been players for the last ten months, we look for places to pickleball when we travel.  Having previously found games in Tampa and Beaverton, OR, today we are off to the indoor courts of the White County Parks and Rec Center near Cleveland, GA.

Those of you who know us, might think of us as the gregarious sort.  Fact is, we are certifiable introverts.   (Click here for Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.)  As introverts, it’s always easier for us to hang out with each other or another couple.  We love interacting, but in small groups, not larger ones.  It can be easier to stay in the comfort of our home on the coast of Maine rather than make the extra effort.  Easier yes, more fulfilling a big N-O.

The richness and quality of our lives has been in large part due to stepping out of our comfort zone to give things a shot.  Say, ask friends for coffee or ½ priced margaritas at Ruby’s.  And so today, we buck up and drive south on route 75 from Helen to Cleveland, GA to the indoor air-conditioned pickleball courts.


Dan and Paul at the indoor pickleball courts in Cleveland, Georgia

As we enter the gym with three lined courts, Linda immediately comes up to us and says, You must be Dan and Hannah.  Welcome.

Oh, that Laurie Lee is good at setting the stage for us to feel like we belong.  Smiling Georgia faces come our way, among them Clarissa who takes us under her wing right off the bat.  With 20+ pickleballers for three courts of doubles (four to a court), we are welcomed further by Billy and Marcia.  Roberta and Paul step forward.  Apropos since they were the two that responded to Laurie’s email below to her members when I asked her about hiking suggestions in the area.

In part, here’s Laurie’s email.

To the friends I have blind copied, note that this gentleman from Maine says he and his wife are comfortable hiking for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Please send me the names of your favorite hikes with waterfalls and/or any links that might help them.  They will be playing Pickleball with us sometime during the first week of October.


Hannah moving into position at the kitchen

Playing for nearly three hours this first Wednesday in October, Hannah and I have us the workout we love with good folks, upbeat, and skilled.  Smiling at each other, Hannah and I think how lucky we are that our spaceship landed here in northern Georgia.

Many of the players are self-described “bangers.”  That is, rather than play the subtler game of dinking (hitting shots just over the net), shots rip with all their power of a Serena Williams forehand.  Hannah and I dink away and play the softer third shot, which just flutters over the net when hit correctly.  Funny, Pat, their top player, lanky and powerful is a double threat: he plays a masterful short game and is just so damn encouraging and positive.


Near the end of the morning, Laurie has the entire group take a picture for their blog.  She asks us to take the place of honor.  Click here for the link for the Yonah Mountain PC Facebook page. It is an afternoon like none other in northern Georgia.  Away from home, who would think these two Yankee introverts would find such comradery?


Linda, Hannah, Laurie, Dan, and Paul at the Huddle House

By the way, early the following morning, we return to their gym for our second session of pickleball in twenty-four hours.  As the morning ends, Paul and Laurie invite us to join Linda for a Huddle House breakfast just down the road in Cleveland.

Think of the most gracias and accommodating service that you have EVER had.  That is what we had at this southern, down home culinary tradition.


Our MVP special

Check out the MVP special (pictured to the left in front of Hannah) that she and I shared.  Stretching ourselves, we sample grits for the first time!  I have to say  that I’m now a fan.  In retrospect, I think it was the company that made the grits taste so good.

These Yonah County pickleballers just take it to the next level making us feel at home, 1100 miles away from the coast of Maine in the Peach State.