A Monadnock and an Olympic Host – More fun in Georgia!

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. Continue reading A Monadnock and an Olympic Host – More fun in Georgia!

Gardens and estates – how it all began in LaGrange, GA

After lingering in the life and times of FDR, we shifted our attention to estates, glorious gardens and butterflies.  Two famous attractions in Georgia are the Hills & Dales Estates and Callaway Gardens, which have strong ties to LaGrange, GA.  In 1911, textile magnate Fuller E. Callaway Sr., who was born in LaGrange, bought the Ferrel Gardens, built his home and renamed it the Hills and Dales Estate.  He had two sons, Fuller Jr. and Carson J. Callaway.  When he and his wife died, Fuller Jr. took over the care of the estate and continued to preserve the historic house and gardens.  Carson Callaway moved to Pine Mountain, GA and started what would become Callaway Gardens. Below are just a few of the many pictures I took of the lush garden.

Hills and Dales Estates
Hills and Dales Estates

The 35-acre Hills & Dales Estates sits on the crest of gently rolling hills.  The centerpiece is the beautiful Italian villa which was completed in 1916, and as I strolled across the lush grounds it looked like a walk through a European garden with closeted green places to sit and just enjoy the view.  The 150 year old garden predates the house and Visitor Center, where the story of the Callaway family traces the development of the textile industry in Georgia.

Callaway Gardens is a man-made landscape in a unique natural setting nestled in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Created by Carson J. Callaway and his wife Virginia Hand, this place is huge at 14,000 acres.  In addition to the gardens, it offers golfing, boating, cycling, and other leisure activities.  There are several attractions to enjoy, and we wished we had brought our bikes to enjoy the 10-mile Discovery Bicycle Trail.  Instead we followed a few of the nine walking trails where we enjoyed the gardens and saw the Azaleas in full bloom.  With or without bikes, you need a full day to really enjoy this place, especially since the entry fee is $22 per person – ouch!

Overlook Azalea Garden
Overlooking the Azalea garden
Mr Cason's Vegetable Garden
Mr. Cason’s vegetable garden – that’s Steve in the chair, not Mr. Cason

At the Day Butterfly Center we were met by hundreds of beautiful exotic butterflies fluttering freely in a glass-enclosed tropical butterfly conservation.  We really enjoyed this attraction.

Day Butterfly Center
Day Butterfly Center

While at LaGrange we enjoyed some good old-fashioned southern home-style cooking (read “fried”).  We had a great meal at a restaurant called A Taste of Lemon that used to be a church.  But Steve would not be satisfied until he got some fried chicken, which we took care of aplenty at Fried Tomatoes Buffet.  The food was delicious and very reasonably priced at both places.  Steve isn’t sure why they call it “comfort food” though, since he wasn’t very comfortable for a while after stuffing himself.  That will take care of our fried food craving for a very long time!

Our home base while here at LaGrange was another US Army COE campground called Holiday Campground.  It is one of several campgrounds on the shoreline of West Point Lake, which is one of the largest man-made lakes anywhere at 26,000 acres.  It is obviously a favorite spot for fishing, with several boat ramps in the park.  Unlike Gunter Hill COE, this park did not have a sewer hookup but the location was secluded and sites were decently spaced apart.  We stayed in #111, which was fairly level with a lakefront view.  The over 100 sites are spread out into enclaves in groups of about 10, and the distance between our site and the entrance is almost 2 miles.  There were a couple of walking trails that we explored, but we mostly used the roads for our walking and biking.  Click here for Steve’s detailed review, if you’re interested.

Update on our Tornado watch: we hunkered down and retracted our leak-prown slide as torential rains, high winds, thunder and lightning gave us a spectacular show on Thursday night.  Fortunately, we awoke safe and sound to a beautiful sunny day.

Lastly, a gorgeous Georgia sunset the day after the storm.

Sunset at West Point Lake




The Little White House – Warm Springs, GA

On this day 68 years ago in 1945, 32nd president Franklin D Roosevelt suffered a massive stroke and died just 83 days after taking office for his 4th term.  It happened while he was posing for a portrait being painted by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, at his cottage home known as Little White House located at Warm Springs, GA.  The unfinished portrait can be seen exactly as it was abandoned in mid-brush stroke, as shown below.

FDRs Unfinished portrait
The “Unfinished Portrait” sketched by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff

We seem to be keen on history lately, and were excited to spend a day at nearby Warm Springs to learn about the longest-serving president of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We began our tour at the FDR Memorial Museum by watching an introductory film that includes some historical footage of his life and achievements during those tumultuous years.  The museum has a great collection of Roosevelt mementos and a storyboard of the many accomplishments befitting a great world leader.  On the wall was a family tree and we learned that FDR and the 26th president Theodore Roosevelt were fifth cousins.  Eleanor Roosevelt, who was of course the first lady, was Theodore’s niece.

During FDR’s time, only a few people knew he was unable to walk for he had contracted partial paralysis from polio in 1921 at age 39 and was paralyzed from the waist down.  With the help of his car’s hand controls, which he helped to design, he often drove while visiting Warm Springs.  The president’s 1938 Ford convertible is on display inside the museum.

1938 Ford Convertible

Roosevelts 1938 Ford Convertible
Inside the car – hand controlled

Completed in 1932, the Little White House is a modest six room one-story cottage.  Also on the grounds are a guest house, servant’s quarters and four Secret Service sentry posts standing much as they did in 1945.

Roosevelts Little White House
The Little White House

As a tribute to President Roosevelt, the 50 states (updated in 1959 to include Alaska and Hawaii) contributed a specimen of their state’s native stones for a memorial.

State Stones along walk
State stones along walk

We continued our tour at the Historic Pools Museum, where FDR searched for relief from polio when he came to Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the naturally-heated water.  The pools are now drained to avoid damage to the historic structure, but we were able to touch the warm water bubbling from a basin.

Even before FDR knew about the warm springs, local legends tell of a time when the springs at the base of Pine Mountain were the site of a safe haven for warring tribes of Native Americans.  They took advantage of the 88 degree water (900 gallons per minute) and were supposedly all afforded safe passage.  The warm springs are no longer available to the general public to swim in, but to this day the springs feed the modern therapeutic pools at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute , a rehabilitation center founded by President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Although he was never again able to use his legs fully, by 1928 Roosevelt regained enough physical and emotional strength to return to politics and build the simple vacation cottage.  With the resort becoming popular and attracting other polio survivors, he purchased the resort and turned it into what became a world-famous polio treatment center – the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.  During his presidency FDR returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year (except 1942) until his death in 1945.

This was really an excellent tour, and we recommend it to anyone while in the area.  Although we are not ardent history buffs, seeing so many artifacts from another time and learning so much is always inspirational.

On another front, people have to eat.  Steve somehow got the hankering for a Cobb salad and gave it a try.  He didn’t do too bad! As you may have noticed by now Steve is the chef in this house.

Cobb Salad
Steve’s Cobb Salad, yum yum

As I write this blog we are on a Tornado watch until 11PM.  As we are from the West, this would be our first tornado experience as we journey on to the east coast.  More to come on how we and Betsy make out!