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Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's just a little hill...

The one thing that I wanted to do for sure when I planned this trip to see my brother and his family was to go to Stone Mountain. When I was a little girl, my aunt and uncle lived in Stone Mountain and we made a couple of trips to the park for a walk up the mountain.

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The mountain is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. As if that weren't enough, there is a memorial carving on the side of the mountain that depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. The carving was done over a period of 60 years.

How cool it would be if my kids could come back from Spring Break and tell their friends that they climbed a mountain on their vacation. Once they reached the top, they would get a certificate that said "I climbed Stone Mountain!"

Plus, it would only cost $8/car to get into the park and walk the mountain trail. (Taking in the other attractions -- most of which aren't open for the season yet anyway -- is considerably pricier.)

A trip to Stone Mountain, I reasoned, would be economical, physically active and memorable. Turns out I was right on all three counts.

With my sister-in-law Erin staying behind to work, my brother Jeff and I loaded the five kids in the van and headed for our destination. Most of them were excited at the prospect of climbing the mountain, except Jack who slept the whole way there and Annie who doesn't get excited about the prospect of most anything that can be construed as exercise.

"Oh, Annie, it's just a little hill," I assured her.

Here they are at the base of the mountain walk-up trail:

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Immediately, I was surprised at how the walk-up trail was more level in my memory. I think my brother thought the same thing. Of course the last time he went up, he wasn't carrying a three-year-old in his arms.

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About 100 or so yards up the trail, I was the one asking "are we almost there?" The kids did a great job of stopping to wait for me (and Jack and Jeff) to catch up. Annie kept telling me to "channel my inner Jillian (trainer from the Biggest Loser)."

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Adding to my breathlessness, Jeff and I kept laughing -- at how ridiculously out of shape we are, (though really more me than he), at how the kids were practically taking the mountain at a run, at how much more of the mountain we had to climb.

Thank God I was the one with the camera. It gave me an excuse to stop every so often to "take a picture," which actually translates to "gasp for air." Charlie found his name carved in the granite:

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Then we found a cool caterpillar. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have said "Neat!" and moved on. But I was happy to stop and snap several pictures just long enough for the jello-y feelings in my legs to go away.

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I'm not sure how far into our ascent we were when I took this video. Far enough that the oxygen deprivation of my brain caused me to not realize that I was shooting the video sideways. So turn your head a bit:



Shortly after this video was shot (I think), this was the view:

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By this point, I wasn't even pretending that I was taking this all in stride. I was definitely sucking wind and there was no point in hiding it. I laughed at how in my head I am not nearly as fat and out of shape as I am in real life. I also began mentally blogging the whole experience.

"Look at it this way, Amy, your kids will remember this forever," my brother said.

"Yes," I replied. "They will forever remember the day their mother died on the side of a Georgia mountain!"

Hey, if I was going down, I was going down laughing. A little while later, we were maybe 2/3 of the way up. A couple was coming down the mountain.

"Are we almost there?" I practically begged.

"In distance, yes. But not in effort. The next part is the hardest part of the climb." I considered throwing myself off the side of the granite to end the misery there.

If you look closely in the picture below, you will see two things. The first are the yellow stripes, marking the way to the top. They will be important later. The second is a set of metal handrails (just left of center) to help you climb this VERY steep part of the trail.

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I practically dragged myself up the slope holding on to those handrails. It might have been easier if I could have stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Of course Charlie and Robbie walked right up the center of the handrails, barely holding on at all.

I guessed that this was the toughest part of the climb, seeing as they provided those handrails. Well, I guessed wrong. The next part was almost insurmountable. Annie asked if I wanted to stop there and wait for them to come back. I declined, determined to finish the climb and afraid that I might pass out and roll all the way back down if I stopped.

Charlie was the first to make it up, with the other kids following closely behind.

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Remember those yellow stripes leading the way? By this part of the trail, I was literally willing myself to make it to the next yellow stripe and then resting there for a minute. And crazily, I did begin channeling my inner Jillian. I think it was not so much determination as hallucination.

But I persevered and made it! I wish this picture looked a little more victorious. But I was lucky to be upright at all:

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I was so happy to have reached the top that I went in and promptly plunked down $23.20 to buy tickets to ride the Sky Tram back down, rather than hiking our way back to the base. It was the best money I've spent on this trip!

After we'd left Stone Mountain Park, we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. This was the view from the parking lot up to the entrance located on the front of the building:

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"Why is everything in Georgia so steep?" Charlie asked.

Good question.

7 comments:

Sharon said...

I wanna be there with you!!!
Beautiful pics, and I am so impressed you did that hike. Imagine all those calories you burned!

I was there in 8th grade for our big class field trip. It's been too long, but I remember how gorgeous it was.

Lucky duck.
Bring back some of that southern weather with you to the Midwest!

Momza said...

LOL! I love your lables for this post:
agony, hallucinations...hilarious!
We did the same thing...in reverse, we rode up, and walked down. My knees ached by the time we got to the bottom, but I just thought it was because I was holding a baby.
Still, that park is lovely and now your kids can say they did it!
Hey we're aiming for some 14-ers here this summer...up for it?

skywind said...

Oh, This is a small hill? Too great. LOL
Health information
Humor & Fun World

Jeremy Williams said...

Great story Amy, Stone Mountain is deceptively steep, isn't it? When I lived down there, my wife and I hiked the trail a few times with our parents and I was surprised each time at how much work it was to get to the top, but the view of Atlanta is priceless.

Jacquelyn said...

Congrats on making it to the top!!! I think that Jillian would be proud of you!!! And your kids will remember (and laugh) about this too! Smart moving going for the tram on the way down. -Jackie

Anonymous said...

Amy, Great challenge and you did it with 5 kids and your brother! Your kids will remember it forever - time spent with Mom. This is sunburn on your face, right? Helen

Kim said...

That's awesome !! I love Stone Mountain, but you're right , the SkyTram is the best !!