They keep sending me emails about how they’re still open, and what all is blooming now, and how they are in compliance with Gov. Kemp’s shelter-in-place order. Right now there is a lot in bloom, and I really want to go.
“Easy to maintain 6ft. of social distance” is an irresponsible thing to say. The virus is airborne. If you walk through a spot where someone just walked, even if there is six feet between you, you’re still breathing in air that they just exhaled. In a garden, all you are doing is walking along trails where a bunch of people have walked ahead of you.
The virus can also live on surfaces for hours all the way up to days, depending on the surface material. “Restrooms available” does not tell me what precautions you are taking. I highly doubt that you are only letting one person in at a time and that you are scouring your facilities after each person.
These constant emails telling me that everything is fine and that I should come see the pretty flowers are basically torture, because ever since this began I have wanted to go there SO BADLY. It is KILLING ME that I am missing all the spring blooms. Apparently right now the cherry trees, azaleas, pansies, Spanish bluebells, and snowball viburnum are at peak, and I AM MISSING IT.
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.
I’ve done some fun things other than hiking too. In September I went to JapanFest 2019, and in mid-October I went to the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay with Heidi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were also cherry blossoms!
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!)
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.
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 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!
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.
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
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.