We left LaGrange and continued our trek up north to Stone Mountain, GA. This is actually a granite mountain in Georgia, not the city with the same name. When we arrived we were surprised to see not just an ordinary mountain, but a huge dome-like mass of granite. As soon as we settled in at the Stone Mountain Park Campground we began learning about activities we could check out there.
From the brochures we learned that the RV Campground is within Stone Mountain Park, one of Georgia’s popular attraction areas. We immediately thought this place would be a madhouse. But we were wrong, for the park is located on 3,200 acres of natural beauty surrounding Stone Mountain. Even though we stayed at a 431-site RV park, it is still miles away from the park attractions. Since we did not care much about their paid attractions, we learned about the history of a huge rock carving and the geology of the mountain itself.
On the north side of the mountain can be seen the largest high-relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving. It depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, president Jefferson Davis, general Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and larger than Mount Rushmore. 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. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain’s surface.
The carving, first envisioned in 1912, was not begun until 1923 and was finally completed in 1972. Three sculptors worked on the creation, the first being Gutzon Borglum, who later carved the Mt. Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota. Augustus Lukeman, the second sculptor, did the bulk of the work of carving the three central figures of the Confederacy on horseback. Lack of funding and other problems caused work on the sculpture to remain idle for 36 years. Then in 1958 the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and the surrounding land. Walker Kirkland Hancock of Gloucester, Massachusetts was chosen to complete the carving and work resumed in 1964. A new technique utilizing thermo-jet torches was used to carve away the granite. Chief carver Roy Faulkner did much of the fine carving, completing the work of art with the detail of a fine painting and the final touches in 1972.
The mountain on which the carving resides is called a monadnock by geologists – a mountain of erosion-resisting rock rising above the surrounding countryside. And that is how Stone Mountain came to be, as 8 to 10 miles of land above the granite rock wore away over a 285-million year period, leaving Stone Mountain standing almost 800 feet high. Granite is called the Rock of Ages and is very resistant to erosion and other forms of rock destruction. As the surrounding strata eroded the former molten blob was uncovered through the process of erosion. We learned a lot about the geology and ecology of the mountain, and the history of the The Battle for Georgia at the Confederate Hall.
After feeding the brain, we exercised the body. The park features miles of hiking and walking trails, and we did all of them. First we hiked up to the top of the mountain, a 1 mile Walk-Up Trail which starts at the Confederate Hall. While on top, 1,686 feet above sea level, we enjoyed amazing views of downtown Atlanta, the North Georgia mountains and the surrounding area. The 5 mile Cherokee Trail loop was an easy to moderate trail that traversed wooded areas around the base of the mountain, the lake shore, a cool covered bridge with another trail, and a grist mill. This trail intersected a meadow with a great view of the Confederate Carving where I took these photos. The Nature Trail was a 1 mile scenic loop through a mature oak-hickory forest. Finally, the Songbird Habitat Meadow Trail was a 1 mile loop which featured a meadow where the songbirds provided music as we walked along, and the attached Songbird Habitat Woods Trail was a 1 mile loop through a forest where we caught a glimpse of some local wildlife.
Neither Steve nor I had been to Atlanta, so we took a day off from doing nothing to play tourist in the city that hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics. Like any other big metropolis there are a bunch of attractions and things to do, but we chose two that tickled our fancy – Inside CNN Studio tour and World of Coca Cola tour. At the CNN Center Tour I had my 5 minutes of fame as a newscaster when I volunteered to read from a teleprompter. Steve and the group thought I did a great job 🙂 This demonstration illustrated how newscasters read from the teleprompter – what they actually see and what the folks at home see.
At the World of Coca Cola we learned that Coca-Cola history began in 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton created a flavored syrup and took it to his neighborhood pharmacy. It was mixed with carbonated water which allowed it to be sold at soda fountains, and the rest is history as Coke is one of the world’s best known brands. The secret recipe is closely guarded, hidden away in a vault within the building. Neither one of us are soda drinkers but we found the tour fairly interesting – kids really love it.
We walked around downtown a bit and enjoyed the legacy of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
Back at our home base, the initial entry into the campground was NOT a “walk in the park”. The access road to the sites was atrocious, the worst we have seen with potholes and tree root incursions aplenty. Our site was not level, but most others were far worse and some were completely unusable for most RV’s. However, our initial negative comments were overridden by the beauty and serenity of this campground. It seems that it is not high season yet, as there were only a handful of campers which made the area quiet and peaceful. The nice weather and chirping of the birds helped, too. Since the RV park was huge we explored the area and noted how bad the upkeep is there. At least there were some premium sites that were fairly level with lake views, and they had wooden decks and gas barbecue grills. Click here for Steve’s detailed review.
And we met some locals at the park.