35 Natural Wonders in Georgia To See Before You Die

Painting of Cumberland Island beach by artist and writer-naturalist Ann Litrel

The wild beaches of Cumberland Island, Georgia

[A list authored by CHARLES SEABROOK
for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
Published on: 02/03/08]

Inspiration for this new series of paintings comes from Author and Naturalist Charles Seabrook. Since beginning my studies with the Georgia Naturalist Program, I’ve been paying more attention to the huge diversity of ecosystems right in our home state. This list by Mr. Seabrook, first published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, inspired my latest art-making trip, to Cumberland Island.

Here’s what Charles Seabrook had to say about Georgia’s Natural Wonders:

“Bookstores are filled now with such titles as “1000 Places You Must See Before You Die” and “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.”
Everywhere you turn, in fact, there are lists suggesting things you should do, see, read, taste or listen to before you die. So, I’ve come up with my own list — 35 Natural Wonders in Georgia You Must See Before You Die. You might have candidates of your own, but here are mine:

1.
Okefenokee Swamp. World-famous wetland.
2.
Marshes of Glynn. Far-as-the-eye-can-see coastal salt marshes that inspired poet Sydney Lanier to write his famous poem.
3. Cumberland Island National Seashore. Former President Jimmy Carter called it one of his most favorite places on Earth.
4. Ossabaw Island. Unspoiled barrier isle; amazing natural beauty.
5. Cabretta Beach, Sapelo Island. One of Atlantic coast’s most beautiful undeveloped beaches.
6. Woody Pond, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (McIntosh County). In spring, thousands of egrets, herons and endangered wood storks form spectacular nesting colonies.
7. Ebenezer Creek (Effingham County). National Natural Landmark; harbors 1,000 year-old bald cypress trees with huge buttresses eight to twelve feet wide.
8. Altamaha River. Lower Altamaha called “Georgia’s Amazon” for the lush, jungle-like growth along its banks; river’s entire 137 miles unfettered by dams.
9. Broxton Rocks Ecological Preserve (Coffee County). Rugged sandstone rock outcrop deep in South Georgia; sculpted over centuries by water into fissures and shallow ravines that are now havens for many rare plants.
10. Ohoopee Dunes State Natural Area (Emanuel County). Sometimes called “Georgia’s Desert” because of its dry, sandy soil and scrubby vegetation. Biologists call it an “enchanting environment.”
11. Wade Tract Preserve (Thomas County). Privately-owned 200-acre swath of old-growth long leaf pine and wire grass; one of few remaining examples of great long leaf forest that once covered Coastal Plains region.
12. Providence Canyon State Park (Stewart County). Eroded land that transformed into a place of great beauty; sometimes called Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon.”
13. Doe Run Pitcher Plant Bog Natural Area (Colquitt County). Lush growths of carnivorous pitcher plants in spring.
14. Pine Mountain (Harris County). Spectacular view from Dowdell’s Knob of valley below; President Franklin D. Roosevelt often came here to picnic and meditate.
15. Warm Springs (Meriwether County). Naturally warm, soothing water bubbling from Earth; FDR came here for treatment of polio.
16. Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area (Houston County). See for yourself why conservationists are intent on saving from development this place of roaming black bears and rare wildflower habitats.
17. George L. Smith State Park (Emanuel County). Bald cypresses growing in pond are magnificent in fall when they take on their orangish-bonze tints.
18. Sprewell Bluff State Park (Upson/Talbot counties). Little known gem on Flint River, which is one of South’s most beautiful and interesting streams; 3-mile trail offers superb views of river and rocky cliffs.
19. Palisades unit, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Spectacular greenspace in midst of sprawling, bustling metro Atlanta.
20. Graves Mountain (Lincoln County). Rockhounds from all over world come here for amazing array of rocks and minerals.
21. Stone Mountain/Arabia-Davidson Mountain/Panola Mountain. Huge geological wonders that sport some of Georgia’s most colorful arrays of wildlflowers in spring and fall.
22. Tallulah Gorge (Rabun County). Hard granite walls fall perpendicular to land above, forming steep cliffs.
23. Amicalola Falls State Park (Dawson County). Falls plunge 729 feet in seven cascades; highest waterfall east of Mississippi River.
24. Richard Russell Scenic Highway. 14-mile-long road is not natural, but it winds through some of the most splendid mountain scenery in the Southeast. Along the way are trailheads to waterfalls and scenic spots.
25. Cloudland Canyon (Dade County). One of Georgia’s most scenic state parks; rugged geology and beautiful vistas.
26. Brasstown Bald (Chattahoochee National Forest). At 4,784 feet above sea level, it’s Georgia’s highest mountain; four states can be seen from top.
27. Rabun Bald (Chattahoochee National Forest). Rivals Brasstown Bald in elevation and spectacular views.
28. The Pocket, Pigeon Mountain. (Walker County). Lush growths of colorful spring and fall wildflowers in a beautiful setting.
29. Rocktown, Pigeon Mountain. Stunning, house-size boulders make it a rival of its famous cousin, Rock City near Chattanooga.
30. McLemore Cove (Walker County). One of Southeast’s most picturesque mountain valleys.
31. Chattooga River (along Georgia-South Carolina border). Untamed and unimpeded; wild and rugged.
32. Sosebee Cove (Chattahoochee National Forest). High elevation, north-facing cove forest; rich diversity of shade tolerant trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
33. Cooper Creek Scenic Area (Chattahoochee National Forest). Harbors large hemlocks and white pines, some with bases as big as four feet in diameter.
34. Raven Cliffs Falls (Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area). Splendid waterfalls; trail to them almost equally stunning.
35. Anna Ruby Falls (Unicoi State Park, White County). A must-see for visitors.”

Seeing Anew

click on painting for enlarged detail and color

click on painting for enlarged detail and color

Seeing Anew: Melissa Casteel – oil on canvas, 11” x 14”

For a custom portrait contact me, or visit my Etsy shop online for details.

Painting Melissa was a pleasure – she has an intense expression and clear features that make for interesting portrait work. For this painting, I couldn’t help but think of Da Vinci’s female portraits. Melissa’s enigmatic expression, the classical draped neckline, and the waves of her hair, all recalled to me DaVinci’s subjects – a modern day Mona Lisa, or his Madonna of the Rocks, with her smooth face and rippling hair.

The color palette, on the other hand, is contemporary with the Impressionists or later. It’s a high key palette that emphasizes the morning light bathing the flowers and plants. The aerial perspective references DaVinci again, but is an urban setting -the kind of community space that Melissa so often designs for.

To read more about Melissa’s story, visit the blog post under “Community: History and Visions.”

Chasing Trail

Suburban Pioneers – oil on canvas, 18” x 14”

(For a custom portrait contact me, or visit my Etsy shop online for details.)

 

Woodstock Couple Help Give Birth to a Community Bike and Pedestrian Trail

Brian and Jennifer Stockton are husband-and-wife advocates for the Greenprints Trail, a 60 mile network of bike and walking trails planned for the city of Woodstock and south Cherokee County. The Greenprints Plan was initiated by Mayor Henriques and the Council, adopted in 2008, and awarded $5 million dollars by the County in 2010 to construct the first 4-5 trail segments. Brian Stockton served as Project Leader for the Steering Committee that developed the plan; Jennifer is volunteer Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Greenprints Alliance, founded to raise public awareness and funding for the trail.

This story is part of a series featuring local leaders, volunteers and visionaries, some behind the scenes, who have had an impact on the community. For more on the Stocktons’ story and the accompanying portrait, visit www.annlitrel.com

___________________

Brian Stockton doesn’t like media attention. It takes several e-mails and a call to his wife Jennifer before he agrees to this interview, with the understanding that it’s to raise awareness for the Greenprints Trail. The three of us meet in downtown Woodstock on the new outdoor stage of the Elm Street Green. Brian wears a shirt that says “Chasing Trail.” His dry manner is flavored with an undercurrent of humor, and forms a counterpoint to Jennifer’s more obvious warmth.

Bordering the Event Green is the new “Town to Creek” trail segment. The official ribbon cutting is in three days, May 3, kicking off the fifth annual Trailfest, an all-day concert and fundraiser for Greenprints. As we speak, a steady stream of people walking by makes it apparent that the new trail has already been discovered.

How did the idea for the Greenprints Trail come about?

Brian explains that the Council and Mayor [Henriques] convened a committee to work on a Master Plan for green space in 2007. “The Steering Committee included staff and some outside consultants, including someone from Atlanta’s PATH Foundation. We met for about nine months. I think it was only the first or second meeting when the committee figured out we didn’t need more ball parks. We needed ‘connectivity’ – how do you get from one place to another without hopping in your car? There was a need for open, unstructured green spaces that could be used for several different purposes.”

Brian states that the Greenprints trail runs mostly through the City or around the city limits, but segments are located at probable connections with other trail networks, like Cobb County or Acworth.

How did you end up taking the lead?

“I was City Planner at the time. The whole process of designing a trail for public use intrigued me. So I asked Richard [then Community Development Director Richard McLeod] if I could be the Project Manager, and he said ‘yes.’”

How did you discover City planning as a career?

“When I was a kid, I really liked building and mapping. ‘Lincoln Logs’ were a big favorite. My mom used to draw a city map for me, and I would spend hours planning and drawing out shopping centers, and roads and parks. I had a hard time finding the right major in college because I didn’t know the name for what I was doing. My undergrad degree was in finance. I went into human resources and hated it. In speaking with architects, they suggested I try public planning. I finally got a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning, concentrated in urban and public space design.”

I turn to Jennifer. So how did you get involved?

“Brian went back to school in 2007. Listening to him talk about city planning had me thinking about things you don’t normally, like streets and tree placement.”  She laughs and points to the three large trees towering over us. “These trees are a good example. The Trail was originally supposed to follow Dupree Road. Elm Street would have turned into a regular grid street, and these trees would have had to come down. So the Trail was moved here to save the trees.

“We bought our house in 2009 – it’s right by the Trail. That’s when it became personal. The whole plan is about the community, and I wanted to help make it happen. Greenprints needed an executive director, so I volunteered.”

As the interview ends, I begin to think about posing Brian and Jenn for their double portrait. We move next to the Trail, where the sun forms a kind of halo through the green kaleidoscope of leaves. The trees tower behind them. It’s the right backdrop for this portrait, which in my mind, is about more than just this husband-wife team. It’s about an effort that embraces a whole community – people and green living spaces.

Street Names and History Books

Juanita Hughes color corrected

The Story Teller – pastel on board, 11” x 14”

(For a custom portrait contact me, or visit my Etsy shop online for details.)

 

Woodstock’s Official Historian Searches the Past For Her Father While She Unearths the Family Tree For an Entire Community

Juanita Hughes is an author of multiple books, columnist with the Cherokee Tribune, and retired Branch Manager of the Woodstock Library, where she worked for twenty years. Named Woodstock’s official historian in 2006, her ongoing influence pervades the town, including the collections of the Woodstock Visitors Center, a dozen new street names, and in collaborations like Elm Street’s recent theater production, “Mizz Edna Drives on Main.”

This story is part of a series featuring local leaders and visionaries, some behind the scenes, who have had an impact on the community. An edited version of this story appeared in the March issue of the AroundAbout magazines.  The setting of Juanita’s portrait shows her among the collections at the Woodstock Visitors Center.

_____

“Can we make the interview Thursday?” she says when I call. “I strongly resemble Albert Einstein until after my Wednesday appointments at the hairdresser.”

Juanita Hughes defies the stereotypes of humorless, gray-haired librarians. Her blue eyes twinkling, she dives into our interview with a question connected to the biggest mystery of her past. “Are you going to ask me things I know the answer to?” I answer yes. “Well, let me tell you a story,” she says. “Years ago I did an interview on a local Canton TV station with Marguerite Cline. I wasn’t too nervous about it – because I knew nobody in Woodstock would be able to watch it. Marguerite promised she wouldn’t ask anything I didn’t know.

“So her first question was, ‘Tell me about your mother and father.’ Well. My father left our family when I was two. Back then when people asked about my father, my pat answer was, ‘We didn’t have no daddy, ‘cause we was too poor.’ But this didn’t seem like the right thing to say for TV, so I stammered and stuttered on my very first interview question. Marguerite was embarrassed. She apologized afterward for asking me a question she thought anybody would be able to answer.”

Juanita relates she’s made three trips to her father’s birthplace in Pennsylvania looking for more information about him, a journey she’s shared with readers in her weekly column. “There were so many things we hadn’t known. He had another wife and a family.  When I was little, he had sent me a few penny postcards with a few stories and drawings. That’s all I had from him growing up. It makes me wonder what will happen to this generation. They only have electronic notes. Those get erased – and then there’s nothing.”

I’m surprised to find out Woodstock’s historian wasn’t born here. “I was born in Denver and grew up in Dalton, my mother’s hometown. Homer [Juanita’s husband] and I moved thirteen times before we settled down here in 1965 for his job. When we came, Woodstock had a population of 750. You knew everyone. You could walk to the grocery store, to the library with your children. It was just a perfect little town – ‘nobody here but us chickens,’” she quips.

Juanita tells the story of one particular night when there was a community sing.

“There was a full moon that night. Back then the moon explorations were going on, and the news said our astronauts were orbiting the back side of the moon. They were up there. We were all gathered outside together singing together in the moonlight. The moon was so bright. I remember we were all looking up, knowing there was someone up there – and it was just spine-tingling. It was magical.”

But Juanita doesn’t linger on the memory. She hastens to say there are plenty of nice new people too, which make Woodstock still a nice place to live, and who have “made Woodstock what it is today.” She comments that she likes the studio space where we are conducting the interview, and that the shop below us, now Outspokin’ Bicycles, was once the town’s grocery store.

“Back then the library was in a storefront – where LKT Sports is now. When I started working there, we were only open 15 hours a week, and people stayed mad with us all the time. Everybody in Woodstock came from somewhere else – where the libraries were perfect,” Juanita says dryly. “That was in the 1980s, when my different interests kind of came together – the history, the library, and also the writing.” She mentions her first newspaper column, and authoring the history of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Set Apart, which she describes as an almost overwhelming task.

“You know, I never had a formal education. I learned to write by reading.

“The project was huge – it was really too big for me. But I strongly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as I worked on it, because things would happen – like, a person would show up at the library with an article about the exact thing I was looking for – a piece I needed about a certain family. It happened again and again.

“Somebody said I lived a ‘charmed life.’ I became known as ‘lucky’ because things seemed to fall into my lap – like when we did programming for the library. One time I had Jeff Foxworthy’s father, who had written a cookbook. I had a lot of good people like that. But there was no charm to it. What I learned at the library was that when you want something, all you have to do is ask.

“In 1995, with the Woodstock Centennial approaching, a group of us thought we should do something about that. I wasn’t in charge, but I was the person they asked to go in front of City Council to make the request – for a big city celebration. Smith Johnston, Jr., was actually the person instrumental in getting us started – he commissioned a book on the City’s history. The city celebration included a Gala, and parade with fireworks. They commissioned the mural, too.”

When did you get connected with the Woodstock Visitors Center?

“I began collecting history files at home when I was working on Set Apart. Later they went to the Visitors Center. The City named me ‘Woodstock’s Official Historian,’ ” she laughs, “because they got tired of not knowing answers to people’s questions. They just sent them to me.”

She waves her hand in the direction of the large new buildings of Woodstock Downtown. “When the new development was going on, I started thinking about those generic street names they use like ‘Oak’ or ‘Magnolia.’ The section they were developing was where the black community used to live, ‘way back when. It seemed a shame for that to be gone and for us to have no memory of what was there before.

“So I just e-mailed the developer, Pam Sessions, and said, can we have some input into what you name the streets?  She came and met with me right away – for two hours.  She was an amazing person. I showed her my list of Woodstock people and why they were important. ‘Evelyn Chambers was the first and only female Mayor. Bailey was the first black Councilman….’”

I nod as she speaks, but she looks at me and utters with the certainty of one who has seen much of life:

“The longer you live, the more interested you will be.”

Whether it’s the history of her father or her adopted hometown, Juanita tells the stories – and keeps asking the questions.