Saturday, August 6, 2016


Our recent visit to Unicoi State Park in north Georgia proved to be an ideal retreat for writing a book while sojourning in a beautiful natural setting. Unicoi State Park is part of the Georgia State Park System, now celebrating its 85th Anniversary. Back in 1931, the State of Georgia recognized that it should establish permanent aesthetic natural areas and set up its park system, often using CCC’s to develop many of Georgia’s State Parks.

Unicoi State Park, the largest of Georgia’s lodge park operations, opened a lodge at this park in 1973, and it has earned a place among my favorites in national and state park lodges. The name Unicoi gets its name from the Unicoi Turnpike, a toll road that brought in the first settlers in this area near Helen, Georgia. The name is defined in several ways: “place of the white man,” “white man’s road,” “the new way” and “new beginning,” and derives from the Cherokee word “unega,” which means “white.”

The Blue Ridge Mountain area is always a favored destination for me, and during our six-month stay at Sewanee, Tennessee, we make at least three trips into the area. This month, Unicoi State Park, set in the Chattahoochee National Forest, became a “first,” and ‘though we used the time there to work on a book, we enjoyed observing the stunning natural setting. Notice the word “observing,” as a short hike was the only physical activity we attempted.

We stood in the parking lot and watched a group of stalwart adventurers zip down the Quick Trekker, a zipline that extended from 75 to 400 foot lengths on a Level 1 course and longer on a Level 2 course. The zipline was referred to as “the safari in the trees” because trekkers get a bird’s eye view of the forest beneath and often glimpse indigenous birds and animals below.

When we went into the lodge gift shop, two young men at a desk looked at my friend Vickie and me, both of us among the league of white-haired women, and one of the guys asked if we had come in to register for the zipline. He failed to hide a smile that bordered on a smirk.

“I did that already,” I told him. “Back when I was 57 years old. It’s a lot of fun, but once is enough.” I didn’t tell him that there was no way I could traverse the catwalk from one platform to another, let alone climb the steps to the platform, and the zipline was at a much higher elevation than the one I had swung from in upper state New York.”

“A woman, 82, zipped down the other day,” the smirker said.

A female assistant at the cash register smiled at us and said, “Notice, it was a woman who did this feat.”

“Well, I guess I’m too young to try to beat that record as I’m 81, but maybe I’ll come back next year and tie with her for the oldest quick trekker.” I left him chewing on this remark, but I have no intention of entering such a competition.

The exchange brought back memories of the “Six Day,” a physical challenge course in upper state New York that caused me to vow I’d never engage in a physical challenge program again. However, the zipline was the easiest challenge activity in the course. I remember being almost frozen with fright when we were brought to a cliff where a small platform had been set up, a long wire extending from the platform down to the bottom of a large pasture. We were strapped to the wire at the waist and were told to put our hands on the handle of the zipline and to “just step right off.”

Those words still inspire fear in me, but once we started zipping down, fear vanished, and about midway, the feeling of excitement that equals a first roller coaster ride, overcame me. Rather than keep my legs together, as advised and which the people on the Unicoi zipline obediently did, I performed a swimmer’s frog kick and whooped for joy. It was an exhilarating experience. As I watched the Unicoi Park zipliners, I was amazed at their serious demeanor. Maybe they were traveling faster; maybe they remained frightened during the entire trip down, or maybe they were just serious about performing this feat as if it were another notch on their belts, but they didn’t seem to enjoy the experience as I had.

I probably should have shocked myself by registering for the ride, but those stairs and catwalk looked a bit daunting. And, really, at 81, why do I have to prove that I’m a Quick Trekker following a “new way” in the Georgia woods?

 Photos by Victoria I. Sullivan

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