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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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!