I did sort of overwhelm myself by making that list in the previous post. However, I’m happy to report that I’ve actually done some of the items.
Sean is now doing the grocery shopping and packing my breakfasts and lunches every workday. This is such a huge load off my mind. Food stresses me out to no end, so to not have to worry about two meals or the shopping for the third one is huge.
I make dinner, and to make them healthier we have decided to stop getting bagged noodles and rice. This cuts down on a lot of salt. We instead have plain rice, potatoes from scratch, or no starch at all alongside our protein and steamed frozen veggies. Eventually I might get back into cooking real pasta, but this is working for now.
I did actually audit the wall art, and I now have a list of all the pieces and their dimensions. I’m still not sure where to hang everything, as I keep thinking I want to rearrange my office again, but I can’t quite figure out the best configuration.
But this next part is the most fun. As I mentioned wanting to do in the first of the three posts I made on May 19, I have gone on a ton of hikes this year, as well as back to Gibbs Gardens and even on vacation.
In late June I went to the new-to-me Long Creek Falls, which was quite an adventure. I had to drive deep into the mountains on forest service roads to get to the trailhead; the trail to the falls is a spur off the Appalachian Trail. My car was covered in gravel dust by the end, but the hike was fantastic and the falls were absolutely beautiful. There were some lovely flowers in bloom in the forest, and the trail crossed streams frequently, necessitating some jumping from rock to rock. Adventure!
In September I went to another new-to-me site, James H. Floyd State Park. It was one of the nicest state parks I’ve been to, really set up well for staying overnight and having fun. I want to go back and spend a weekend in a cabin someday. This visit, I took the Marble Mine Trail to the ruins of (you guessed it) an old marble mine, then hiked up and along and back down Taylor Ridge, which overlooks the park. The ridge hike was kind of intense. At one point on the descent I fell right on my ass! Fortunately my backpack broke my fall, so the only injury was a little scrape on my forearm. When I was done hiking I was utterly drenched in sweat, as if I had jumped into the pond. I felt triumphant. I was so excited about this hike that I actually edited and uploaded pictures soon after I got home.
In late October I headed home to Kentucky to go camping at Cave Run Lake with AJ, Krystal, Connor, Logan, a few of Connor’s friends, and three dogs. It was amazing. There was beautiful fall color everywhere in Daniel Boone National Forest. We made s’mores and played Cards Against Humanity and AJ made us a big camp breakfast with eggs and bacon and hash browns. We hiked around the campground and the lake a little. And we just had a really good time together. After we got back, we had a big party and cookout for Connor’s 20th birthday.
So far in November I have gone to two new-to-me places: Providence Canyon and Red Top Mountain State Park. Providence Canyon is absolutely incredible. It looks like the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale (but it’s still pretty big). The rock formations are amazing; the state parks website explains that they are “unusual geological formations created by erosion of the Coastal Plain after years of poor agricultural practices.” The result is that you get to see spires and ridges formed of layers of different types of rock. I had no idea such a place existed in Georgia. It was amazing to explore. I hiked the canyon floor first, then went up and hiked a complete circuit around it. It ended up being a pretty long hike, but it was totally worth it.
Red Top Mountain State Park, which I went to the following weekend, has lots of nice trails, and there’s also an adorable Trading Post that had served as the visitor’s center until a new building was recently constructed. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been there since 2014. It was lovely to explore the park and to see the fall leaves. The Trading Post has one of the best selections of magnets I’ve seen; I got one that was made to resemble the “US Engineer Department” (now the US Army Corps of Engineers) benchmark that exists somewhere in the park.
The day after I went to Red Top Mountain, I went to Tallulah Gorge, because I remembered the views from going for the first time back in April of 2018, and I figured it ought to look amazing with fall color. I stopped at Tallulah Point Overlook first, then went to the state park proper and hiked all the overlooks around the gorge. On my previous visit, I did the North Rim Trail, took the stairs down into the gorge, crossed the suspension bridge, and took more stairs back up to the South Rim Trail. That hike is extremely strenuous, and I didn’t want to overdo it this time. So instead of going down the stairs, I went all the way around the gorge to get to the South Rim Trail. It was a Sunday, and apparently the kayakers and rafters all come on Sunday. To get back out of the one-way South Rim Trail, I had to literally climb over people’s boats as they waited along the trail for permission to descend to the river. So that was funny. All in all, I had a great time. L’Eau d’Or Falls was absolutely beautiful, and I saw a ton of fall color. It seemed a bit past peak, but it was still gorgeous. The hike was great too, and I got a better view of the dam than I did the last time.
Of course, aside from visiting state and national parks, I’ve also gone to Gibbs many times since May—in June, July, August, and November—and I’ve also taken a few nice long neighborhood walks. The fall color has lingered around here, so I’ve been getting as many pictures as I can of it.
And then, of course, there’s that vacation I mentioned.
This year, when Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told her that I wanted her to go to St. Augustine with me. To my surprise and delight, she said yes. So we spent a few months working out the details, and then at the end of July we actually did it.
Mom drove down to Atlanta on July 22, and then we left together the evening of July 23, stopping in Savannah for the night. We stayed at Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn, which was beautiful and cozy. The next day, we looked around Forsyth Park, walked River Street, and had lunch at The Lady & Sons before heading on to St. Augustine. The drive was rainy most of the way, and we were very glad to arrive. We got settled in at the homey and welcoming Ocean Sands Beach Inn, had dinner at a lovely oceanfront restaurant down the street called The Reef, and then went to Publix to grab some groceries for the week’s breakfasts.
We packed a lot into our first full day in St. Augustine: trolley tour in the morning, lunch at Burger Buckets, strolling St. George Street, exploring Ripley’s Believe It or Not, having dinner at a mom and pop Italian restaurant called Casa Benedetto’s, and then heading to our hotel’s private beach at dusk for a view of the ocean.
Our second day, we went to the Colonial Experience and watched a few demonstrations. Then we had an incredible lunch at The Floridian; we shared a cheese board and we each had a sandwich and everything was absolutely divine. After that we took the trolley to the other side of town for tours of the Old Jail and the Oldest Store Museum. They were both really fun. That evening, we had a huge dinner at Aunt Kate’s Restaurant at the River, then spent some time on the dock out back watching passing boats and birds and enjoying the sunset.
On the third day, we went to the Pirate and Treasure Museum, which is always a good time. Then we took the trolley to Whetstone Chocolate Factory, but we didn’t get there in time for a tour, so we just bought some chocolates to enjoy. We did a little more walking in historic St. Augustine and I got a nice ice cream cookie sandwich before we caught a shuttle bus to St. Augustine Beach. I had never been there before and was interested to see how it was different from the hotel’s beach. The whole area was basically a beach resort, filled with hotels and restaurants and surf shops. We had lunch at the Beachcomber restaurant on A Street, and then Mom had a rest while I walked down to look at the ocean. It was a very hot and sunny day, and I ended up not spending much time there. We also were a little nervous about catching the shuttle back to town! But we made it just fine. For dinner we got cleaned up and went to the Raintree, which I love and had been to before. We shared lobster bisque, Beef Wellington, and crème brûlée, and it was all absolutely amazing.
By the next day, we were both slowing down. We decided to keep getting trolley passes so we wouldn’t have to do too much walking. The first thing we did this day was take a narrated boat tour of the river. It was kind of rainy, so we were happy to be below deck, but we still got great views of the skyline and the Castillo and the lighthouse. We also saw some cool birds. After that we had a late lunch at Harry’s. We had meant to go there the day before, but we had to leave shortly after being seated so we wouldn’t miss the beach bus, so we were happy to come back and actually eat! After that, we were both pretty tired, so we went back to the hotel and relaxed, goofing around on our computers and watching TV. For dinner, we ordered pizza and lay in bed and watched a movie.
For the fifth day, we planned ahead and scheduled a Whetstone tour. It was just as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be; we got to see some cool equipment and taste some incredibly delicious samples and hear some really interesting history. We had fish and chips at the Prince of Wales for lunch, sitting outside and enjoying the cool breeze and the ambiance of historic downtown. Then we did a little browsing for souvenirs along St. George Street, finishing with some Dole Whip (a must). We spent the afternoon at the Fountain of Youth, where I got an inordinate number of pictures of peacocks. And then we did what I’d been hoping to do the whole trip, but which had never worked out until that day for various reasons: we went to Cap’s on the Water, sat right along the front of the deck with an excellent view of the river, and leisurely ordered appetizers while watching the sunset. It’s one of my favorite St. Augustine experiences, and I’m so glad I got to share it with Mom!
That was our last day. The next day, we packed up and headed back to Atlanta, bidding St. Augustine a fond farewell. I had always gone to St. Augustine by myself before, so bringing someone with me was new and fun. I really enjoyed sharing my favorite things with Mom and also discovering new things with her. Hopefully she and I will be taking another vacation together next April.
So while I haven’t fixed my entire life just yet, I have made some good changes and had some great experiences in the latter half of this year. There is more going on with me than just these things, too. But this is a pretty nice update, I’d say.