Tallulah Gorge

Spring is arriving in Atlanta in fits and starts. One day it’s sunny and 72, the next it’s dreary and in the 30s. We’ve had some amazing blooms this year, starting with some early redbuds in February and continuing through cherry blossoms and dogwoods and more redbuds and whatever those extremely tall trees with the sprays of white are. Gibbs Gardens has looked incredible each of the times I’ve gone. So far this year I’ve visited on four different Sundays: March 4, the first weekend they were open for the season, at which point cherry blossoms and daffodils were the main features; March 25, when the trees were mostly still bare, the cherry blossoms were gone, but the daffodils had been joined by colorful tulips and an array of pink-flowering trees, including redbuds; April 1, at which point the gardens were bursting with brightly colored petunias, white balls of viburnum, and pink azaleas; and April 22, when the Japanese maples framed the pools and walkways in sprays of brilliant red.

That last weekend, I’d considered going somewhere else. On Saturday the 21st I woke up thinking that I should go hiking. I liked the idea of going to Gibbs again, but I’d been three times already, and it would be nice to go somewhere new. Plus, there are many places in Georgia I’ve been meaning to see. I started poking around online and decided that Tallulah Gorge would be the perfect place–but I had already spent most of the day at home, and it’s an hour and a half drive to get up there, so I decided to hold off. The next day, it was supposed to rain, so I didn’t want to go that far only to not be able to spend much time. I decided last-minute to go to Gibbs again, banking on the rain not starting until around noon, and it worked out perfectly; the rain came as I was driving home.

The idea of going to Tallulah Gorge stuck with me, though, and when I saw that this weekend’s weather was forecast to be incredible, sunny and 72, I decided that Saturday, yesterday, would be the day.

The drive up was extremely easy. I didn’t need to leave Google Maps running; I simply read the directions and went: I-285 to I-85 to I-985, which turns into US-23. The turn for Tallulah Gorge’s Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center is right off that highway.

My first stop was Tallulah Point Overlook, which I’d read about online. It’s a gift and supply store with an ice cream and candy shop upstairs and a burger and fried peanuts stand off to the side. From the store’s back porch and the upstairs porch beyond the ice cream shop, you can look right into the gorge. There was a lot of foliage, so the view wasn’t amazing, but I did see some charging rapids between the trees. I was really glad I’d come, because I loved the store; it’s filled with homey trinkets and nice souvenirs and feels very charming and welcoming. I got a Tallulah Gorge t-shirt and a handmade pottery Tallulah Falls magnet. If it hadn’t been too early to eat, I would have had some ice cream.

After that I drove to the Interpretive Center. It was around 11 am at this point and the parking lot was packed. I ended up parking in the grass, next to several other cars doing the same. I wanted to get right to hiking, so I skipped the Interpretive Center and headed down past a sign that said “North Rim Trail.” I had a vague idea of what the trails were and which ones I wanted to go on–the rim trails go around the rim of the gorge and offer spectacular views, so definitely those. I was surprised to find the trail blazed with recycled tires, like some of the trails at Amicalola Falls. The overlooks were jam-packed with people. It felt more touristy than I had been expecting, though I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that a popular destination would have friendlier trails.

As soon as I hit the stairs for the Hurricane Falls Trail, I abandoned the North Rim Trail and headed down. I knew there was a suspension bridge and I definitely wanted to cross it. There are 310 steps down to the suspension bridge; I got through these fine and stepped out onto the bridge.

I was sort of expecting the bridge to be scary, or the views to be better, but the slight wobbling wasn’t frightening at all, and the views were obstructed by all the suspension lines. Being on the bridge didn’t give me as much of a thrill as I had hoped, but it was still neat.

After the bridge, there are 221 steps down to the gorge floor. We were allowed to walk down to a pier-like structure there that led out to a nice view of Hurricane Falls. Access to the actual gorge floor was cut off, as this weekend they are doing an “aesthetic flow” and allowing more water through the dam, so that Tallulah River is too high for people to walk near. Of course, this flow means all the waterfalls looked really cool, and Hurricane Falls was no exception.

Back up the 221 steps, I was starting to flag. My legs were shaking and I was starting to get short of breath. I had to stop several times to rest; thankfully there are platforms for this purpose, so I was able to get out of the way.

At that point I could have gone back across the suspension bridge and up the 310 stairs, but I chose to do the 347 steps up to the South Rim Trail, which runs along the opposite side of the gorge from the Interpretive Center. I did not notice at the time that there were more steps up than I had come down, but a guy going the other way mentioned it to me when I got to the top. Of course, this was after a lot of struggling and stopping and drinking water. I’m really happy to have conquered all those stairs: 1099, all told.

The overlooks from the South Rim Trail were great. At one point there were stone stairs leading up to some huge rocks that you could stand on. I climbed up there and someone kindly took my picture standing on one of the rocks, with the gorge in the background. (I took theirs in return.) Then I sat down on one of the other rocks and had lunch. It was great.

After that, it was just a matter of finding my way back to the other side of the gorge. I did not particularly want to try to do the stairs again. I thought I’d read online that it was possible to cross where the highway crosses, so I headed in that direction. Sure enough, it worked out. The signs got confusing, but I finally figured out that I needed to cross the road on the sidewalk and then take a flight of stairs down to the trail.

From on top of the bridge, I got a great shot of the gorge, and some photos of what may have been a peregrine falcon–I’m not sure, but it was big, and there is a family of them nesting in the cliffside, so here’s hoping.

Once back on the trail, I had some pretty cool views of the waterfall pouring out of the dam I had just crossed. Then it wasn’t long before I was back to the Interpretive Center and my car.

All in all, it was a very satisfying hike! I had a really great time. My legs are so sore today, but in that good way that gives you a sense of accomplishment. I’d love to go back in early spring or late fall, when the trees aren’t so leafy, to get less obstructed views of the gorge.

A life update

I stopped blogging for awhile there, huh?

Let me try to let you know what’s happened since I stopped doing the daily recovery posts back in December.

I guess the most important thing is that my heart recovered.

results showing a normal ejection fraction of 55-60%

My echocardiogram results, February 1, 2017

This news came on February 1 with an echocardiogram. I was astonished; I thought my heart might have improved a little, but the result was an ejection fraction of 55-60% (normal). Heart Failure Part Deux was far shorter than the first time around! I credit it to three things: 1) the heart medication, obviously; 2) I changed my diet and started exercising right away; and 3) I started out 120 pounds lighter than I was the last time. I am pretty confident that #3 played a major role, and I am so thankful to have had weight loss surgery.

Other than that, I have been playing Medication Roulette and going to therapy to deal with various things. Sometimes it seemed to be going well and then something would go wrong. Things seem to be looking more promising now. We’ll see, I guess. The latest issue is that a medication I was taking was causing me to be tired all the time. No amount of sleep was ever enough; I was always drowsy and had no energy to do anything. So I switched off it back to a lower dose of one I had been taking before. We had switched off that one because I had an anxiety attack and things got really, really bad, but I think the problem was that the dose had been increased. So back to the original dose. Fingers crossed. (I can’t take extended release medications, and this seems to rule out a lot of options.)

Unfortunately, coming off the medicine that made me drowsy has been very difficult. At first we tried cold turkey, but doing that made me too sick to function. Next we tried to wean me off it, which went better at first, but now, at the end of the weaning period I seem to not have weaned slowly enough. More on this below, but first some fun things.

The winter was pretty mild, with occasional arctic blasts, resulting in Gibbs Gardens’ daffodils blooming early. They moved their opening from March 1 to February 18; I went on Sunday, February 19, because Saturday was rainy. It was a beautiful day and the daffodils were everywhere.

wide shot of daffodils all over a hill

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, February 19, 2017

daffodils in the foreground extending all the way back to the horizon up a hill

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, February 19, 2017

closeup of two daffodils with other daffodils behind them

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, February 19, 2017

There were also cherry blossoms!

detail shot of cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms at Gibbs Gardens, February 19, 2017

It got kind of cold again for awhile, but then on March 11 I went hiking at Vickery Creek in Roswell. It was a fantastic hike and I want to go back soon…especially since I didn’t get to see the mill ruins. (I did see the manmade waterfalls though!)

a broad manmade spillway

Roswell Mill waterfall, Vickery Creek, March 11, 2017

On March 19 I went to Arabia Mountain with Charles and Heidi. We took their dog Ginny with us :) I had been to the area before on my own, but I was on the wrong side of the street and never climbed the actual mountain. We did the Mountain Top Trail. Arabia Mountain is like Stone Mountain, except it’s smaller and it has these amazing little pools of plant life in its “craters”. One of the plants is this strange, almost coral-looking red stuff called diamorpha. It was everywhere and I got lots of pictures.

a wide shot of odd red plants inside a rocky crater

Diamorpha at Arabia Mountain, March 19, 2017

I was unable to hike, or really go anywhere, this past weekend due to withdrawal symptoms from the medication I switched off of. I actually had to leave work early because of it. I would get extraordinarily dizzy, and when I’d move my eyes I’d hear strange echoes in my head. It was very unpleasant. The symptoms lasted until Monday morning, when I gave in and took half a pill. Since then I’ve been all right, but I’m prepared to take another one tomorrow if necessary, because that dizziness is no joke.

I want to try to hike/visit a garden every weekend now that the weather’s nice, because being outside makes me feel so great. I’m considering Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden for this weekend but I heard on the radio that Zoo Atlanta has a new Treetop Trail and it sounds really fun. There’s also Kennesaw Mountain, which I’ve been to before but never in spring, and Smith-Gilbert Gardens, and Sweetwater Creek, and Stone Mountain, as well as plenty of places I haven’t been yet.

Just thinking about being outside has made me feel a lot better than I did when I started writing this post :)

Well, I’m sure I could ramble on about more stuff, but it’s past my bedtime, so I’ll sign off here.

I’m tired of doing daily recovery posts

I do like that I have been keeping a nice record of my life, since I hadn’t been doing that for a long time and I missed it, but remembering to write something every day is getting difficult. Or boring. I don’t know.

Anyway, my weight is staying pretty stable, I’m still eating terribly, my mood is great (I feel normal, I still have regular emotions but I am not controlled by them), I’m still getting sleepy during the day and in the evening but it’s not as bad as it was, I have a new online friend and she is really fun, Sean and I have finalized Christmas plans, I still haven’t put up our tree (and now I’m thinking I may not do it), I need to bake cookies today for the cookie swap I organized at work, and I also need to get back to writing (I’ve been slacking off).

I went to Gibbs Gardens yesterday and it was fantastic. No one else was there; it was 40 degrees out. A lot of the trees still had red leaves, so it looked beautiful and I had it all to myself. It was so great.

No red leaves in this picture, but here I am!

me sitting on a rock at Gibbs Gardens

I also had therapy yesterday, and my therapist was like “Maybe we should start talking about whether or not you need to keep coming here.” :D I told her I would like some help with setting and achieving goals, so we’re going to start working on that.

Heart-wise, today my dose of coreg doubled. My dose of lisinopril doubled two weeks ago. The last time I had CHF, I could not tolerate this dose of coreg; I had weird visual side effects. I guess we’ll see what happens.

CHF Recovery: Day 44

  • Got up at 7:45 (I had set an alarm) and got dressed in workout clothes
  • Checked the weather to see when the optimal time to go to Gibbs Gardens would be
  • Had protein shake and morning meds
  • Spent some time online reading and talking with people
  • Ended up leaving an hour later than planned
  • Went to Gibbs Gardens

I sort of exhausted myself? I was expecting to be able to do some power walking but it was all I could do to just walk normally while stopping for photos. I was so tired by the time I made it up to the Manor House that I had to sit there for a very long time to recover. And that was after I had had lunch, which I had thought would help.

Lunch was chicken salad on cranberry walnut bread with barbecue chips and water, btw, and it was really good.

  • Came home tired and grumpy and went immediately to bed at 4pm
  • Got up from nap at around 7:45pm
  • Made myself some eggs (over medium/hard because I left them in the pan too long) and toast
  • Chatted online and read stuff
  • Went to bed around 1am

Oops

I dropped my camera. My brand-new camera.

I didn’t have the strap attached properly, and when I shifted the camera to the side to get to my wallet, one side slipped out of the holder and the camera went straight down to the tile floor.

The battery flew out and the lens cap came off. I retrieved them and the little fastener thing that holds the strap. A group of people chorused “Ohhhh!” but no one asked if I needed help, which was fine, because I was extremely embarrassed.

I popped the battery back in and took a test picture, and the camera seems to be fine. I then spent an awkward five minutes putting the strap on correctly.

That, plus the somewhat raw throat and achy head that make me wonder if I’m not quite over being sick, plus the heat—the fact that I’ve been at Gibbs Gardens for just ten minutes and am already coated in a sheen of sweat—have put a damper on my excitement for the day. On top of that, there are already so many people here. I kind of want to lie down and take a nap.

But it’s been forever since I’ve been here, and it’s a long drive, and the birds and bugs are singing and it’s a beautiful day, so I am going to make the most of it.