Providence Canyon State Park

Late this summer, I had the opportunity to visit another state park gem…Providence Canyon State Park. It is what we in Georgia refer to as the Little Grand Canyon. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, so I don’t know how close to the truth that description is; however, I did find the canyons here to be quite fascinating.

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The most striking feature about the canyon is how soft the walls are. There were many signs stating that climbing and repelling were prohibited, but I assumed the warnings were in place because the state did not wish to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. It was not until we reached the bottom of the canyon and I actually ran my fingers along one of the walls that I realized just how dangerous attempting to climb or repel on them might be. The walls felt as if they were made of pure sand. The sand glittered in the little rivulets of water flowing in the canyon valley and tumbled down the walls with as little as a butterfly landing.

I couldn’t imagine anyone attempting to climb the walls. It was more than obvious that the canyon was carved out from erosion. What was truly amazing was that the walls were even there…that they did not fall. Not only were they there, but people wandered about at the top along the rim trail. The fact that those massive walls were mostly sand and that we were walking and driving on the land above was astonishing! God’s world is truly amazing!

The day we visited the park was beautiful in that there were little to no clouds. As we gazed up at the canyon walls, we could take in the sight of the white and red colored walls against a beautiful deep blue sky. It was truly breathtaking. Of course, the heat was also breathtaking…quite literally. Within a couple of hours of exploring, we had consumed our water, my fair skin was burning, and we were drenched in sweat. Thankfully, I brought my tripod into the canyon to get some good shots, because my hands were shaking too much from heat and exertion to get any good clear shots hand-held.

The contrast of the blue sky made for some interesting black and white photos as well.

Another spectacular sight we were privileged to see on this particular day was swarms of butterflies everywhere. Not only were there the usual little swarms of sulphers, but there were also Common Buckeyes and Gulf Fritillaries. I had never seen quite so many of the two latter species in such great numbers in one place before, and their colors were bright and shimmering in the sunlight streaming into the canyon. It was like walking through a fairyland. I sat for quite some time trying to get some good photos of those busy little insects flitting from place to place. Out of the many shots I took, only a few came out clear. It was quite relaxing to just sit and watch them flit about, and every one that landed on the sandy walls sent a little stream of sand trickling down. It was a bit unnerving that such a tiny, lightweight creature could disturb the walls so. It made me wonder what happened when a rain storm came through.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore much on this warm day. I will be heading out there when the weather is cooler to do some more exploring soon I hope. But until then, I hope you enjoy the shots I was able to get from this expedition.

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 3)

Savannah, GA

Well, Savannah just happens to be on our way home from Jekyll Island, so it seemed like a perfect place to stop to eat…and take pictures, and visit churches, and see parks, and get chocolate! What can I say? We’re women. We need chocolate.

Now, after the adventures of the previous two days, you would think we would have no energy left for walking. Well, you would be right…but we mustered some up anyway. We thought we might indulge in a carriage ride, but apparently it was necessary to book those in advance if possible, so we had to pass. I did, however, get a couple of nice photos of some carriages and horses…

…and a dog poking his head out of a second story window where some construction was in progress.

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And of course, the squirrels couldn’t let the dogs and horses take all of the camera time, so a couple of those little guys posed for photos too.

The flowers were in bloom, so the parks were dotted with lots of beautiful colors.

And my beautiful daughter…well, we had to purchase a souvenir T-shirt to cover her sunburned shoulders.

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And a fountain seemed to be a great place for two girls to stop and rest their feet (and text I suppose).

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Now this was rather a rushed trip, as it is impossible to see all there is to see in Savannah in an afternoon. I, however, did my best to provide a speed tour. The Lutheran church, the Catholic church, and Forsyth Park made the list for the day to introduce my family to the beauty of Savannah.

We stopped in at the Lutheran Church first. I had visited this one in the past and wanted to show my mother the stained glass windows.

After visiting here for a few minutes, a nice gentleman who was a member of the church told us a little bit about the history of the building. Then he recommended that we take a short walk to the Catholic cathedral to see its beauty. The last time I was in the city, we didn’t make it to the Catholic church before the doors were closed to the public. This day, however, we were lucky enough to get to go inside. And what a sight it was!

It felt a bit irreverent walking around taking photos in the church like that, but there were others there admiring and taking photos as well. I hope we didn’t disturb those who had come there for more spiritual reasons.

Our next stop was Forsyth Park which is the largest of the parks in Savannah. We were greeted on entering by a young barefoot man playing his acoustic guitar and singing.

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I think perhaps he was one of the college students.

Finally, we headed to LuLu’s Chocolate Bar to indulge in a decadent chocolate confection. I, unfortunately, have no photos of that wondrous dessert as we ate it…all.  Now, though this is the end of this adventure, there is still one more to come. About a month later, my daughter and I traveled to the beautiful city of Charleston, so stay tuned for that adventure!

 

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 2)

Jekyll Island, GA: Day 2

Day two of our adventure found us in the historic district of Jekyll Island on the north end of the island. My niece wanted to see the nature center, so it was just me and my daughter for the first part of the morning. Nothing was quite opened yet, so we walked around a bit and took some photos.

There were several beautiful old buildings, and it was nice and quiet beside the water. But eventually the hour neared 10am, so we headed back over to the benches in front of the fudge shop. Yes…we were waiting for the fudge shop to open, because one must have some chocolate to begin one’s adventure. As we waited patiently for that door to open, I spied a squirrel in the tree above busily building a nest. He was quite fun to watch, though not quite that easy to capture in picture.

When lunch time rolled around, the rest of the family joined us. They were coming from the turtle center, so we were trying to meet them near there. I, of course, got out the handy-dandy brochure with a map. Apparently, I am no good at reading handy-dandy brochures with maps, because I took us the long way around to go right next door. But, we did eventually find one another. I got a few good photos on the scenic route to the turtle center as well.

Now the trees in this area were perfect for photo ops, so I, totally to the dismay of the younger of our party, delayed lunch for a bit to take photos.

Though I was met with some complaints, I think in the end she enjoyed monkeying around in the trees. In fact, she even made a friend. And in the end, we did make our way to fill our tummies. After lunch, my daughter and I decided that we wanted to see the Sea Turtle Hospital, so we went and visited the recuperating sea turtles before we left.

After this adventure, I took everyone to my favorite place on the island…the Driftwood Beach. It proved to be the perfect place for portrait photography.

I think my models had a bit of fun doing the shoot, and I might have had a little fun too. The only challenge was that it was a bit windy…

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…just a little bit.

I was amazed by the patterns the water had carved into the driftwood, and there was one stump on the beach with some particularly interesting patterns and a little puddle of water standing beneath it. Of course, we all had to dip our toes in the little puddle of water, but I’ll spare you the feet pictures.

Well…maybe I won’t spare you the feet pictures…

I will, however, spare you the photos of me dancing around on the beach. That’s just not pretty. No one wants to see that…except my daughter, who may blackmail with them later in life.

Later in the evening, we returned to the nature viewing area and fishing pier. I did capture a few photos of some of the fishermen’s catches, but seeing as how the photos made me nauseous later (and were only taken at the request of my niece with the somewhat morbid sense of awe)…I’ll not be including them. I did manage a few shots of some noisy gulls and some lovely shots of a couple of brown pelicans…and one little boat-tailed grackle who managed to get his silhouette in the mix.

And the final joy was watching a dolphin play near the pier. This was the second dolphin I had seen on this trip. The first was playing near the beach on our first morning there. With all of the natural wonders to be seen, this is the perfect vacation destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers. I know it is one of my favorite places!

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But don’t go away yet! There are still two more destinations I have to share with you, so stay tuned!

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 1)

Jekyll Island, GA (Day 1)

Nothing says “Fantastic Spring Break!” like having the privilege of taking your niece on her first trip to the ocean. This year Spring Break was supposed to hold the bittersweet adventure of sending my son off to the Coast Guard, but that adventure was delayed and another began. I called my mother, and by the end of the day, she, my sister, my niece, my daughter and myself were packed and off to the beach. My almost seven year old niece had never been to the ocean before, so her Aunt Athenia was very happy to take her and prepared to take lots and lots of photos. And yes, I do intend to share many of them with you.

Of course, the first photo has to be a child’s first view of the ocean…

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…but she didn’t quite cooperate on the waiting for me part, and she really didn’t want to turn around for a picture either. But as soon as she made her way down to the water, we were in for a solid morning of exploring the beach ecosystem and getting our feet wet in the waves.

It was such a joy searching for sand dollars, crabs, shells, and other beach creatures and watching my niece enjoy the beach with her mother.

We even chased a few birds here and there.

And as for me and my daughter, well we found a few minutes to have a little creative Whovian fun.

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And of course, it is always a joy to watch a teenage girl hang out with her grandmother.

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Later in the day, my beloved family managed to find a furry beach goer to hang out with. Of course, they made friends with the human beach goers as well.

By the time evening rolled around, the youngest two girls of our party needed a Disney fix, so they lounged in the suite while us old folk went for a little walk. And by little walk, I mean something in the range of a 2 to 3 mile hike through the marsh! A certain photographer/blogger forgot that the last time she took the trail she did it by bicycle. That little nature hike was quite a bit longer than memory recalled. It was, however, quite worth the trip.

For the first time ever, I saw a bald eagle in the wild! That alone was worth the hike!

However, many other natural beauties graced our vision along the rest of the hike, and the golden hours of the evening were the perfect time to witness them. As the temperature cool and the sun begins to set, the wildlife either comes out to dine or settles down to sleep (or roost as the case may be). We watched as deer nestled into the marsh grasses or grazed amongst the foliage.

We marveled at snails clinging to the marsh grasses.

And we watched in awe and wonder as the ocean birds flew about the marsh and settled down to roost for the night.

And besides the wildlife, there were beautiful landscapes to behold as well.

And the most amazing scenic landscape of all was the sunset.

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And that beautiful sunset was the end of Day 1 of our adventure. Stay tuned for more!

Sweetwater Creek State Park

I’ve recently discovered another state park gem in my beautiful home state of Georgia. What is this gem? Sweetwater Creek State Park. It is located in Lithia Springs which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Six Flags.

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Now, you may be wondering why this is important. Well, my lovely children had the good fortune (or perhaps small fortune depending on which end of the spending spectrum you may be on) to acquire season passes to this awful…I mean wonderful…roller coaster thrill ride filled land of amusement.

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I myself, in case you haven’t caught on, am not a fan. As far as theme parks go, I would much rather spend my days searching for autographs from my favorite Disney characters or exploring the magical world of Harry Potter. However, since we don’t live in Orlando and since I prefer the natural world to the theme park world any day, I have acquired a season pass (well, really it’s a parking pass with a few benefits) to the Friends of Georgia State Parks. So, voila! Everyone is happy! I drop the kids off at Six Flags, and I head to a state park.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t figure this out at the beginning of theme park season. Well, unfortunately this was the hottest summer EVER (and trust me, because I’ve been a Georgia girl all my life), and I was suffering from an unknown illness all summer (not to worry, the source was discovered and easily treated, and I’m all better and ready for hiking season! Yay!). So, all that to say, it’s October, season of Freight Fest and every weekend trips to Six Flags (thanks to Rat Man and Cheese Boy, the dynamic duo cleverly disguised as my son and his best friend),

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and Mama needed a close-by place to go to find adventure and a bit of peace and quiet (because the “my son, Cheese Boy” part of that duo doesn’t want to take Enderchick, the minecraft warrior cleverly disguised as my daughter).

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Well, that and dear old Dad decided to get a season pass, too…For next year! For everyone! A whole year more of that dreaded theme park!

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So dear old tired Mama gets to drop half the crew off at that place and head to the woods. Good thing is, they all ride home together, so I don’t have to pick them up.

Ok, so back to my hidden gem. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this state park. It is one of the smaller ones and quite close to Atlanta. But like all of the state parks in Georgia, it did not disappoint. So far, I’ve hiked the same trail twice, but the view each time was amazingly different. The trail that I took was the Historic Trail and blazes red. It takes you down to the ruins of the old New Manchester Mill. This mill was built during the Civil War era, and unfortunately, it was not running for long. Soon after it began operation making textiles, Union troops captured the employees, sent them up north as prisoners of war, and burned the mill. The scorch marks from the fire can still be seen on some of the walls.

Now, this mill may have a tragic history, but that history has left some beautiful ruins for photographers like myself to hike out and photograph. The hike out to the ruins is about a half mile, give or take. The first time I went was after a long stretch of rain from Hurricane Joaquin on the coast. (In fact, that hurricane flooded Charleston, but that is a story for another day.) The creek’s water level was very high. Some of the areas where trails went were inaccessible due to the water level. However, it made for some lovely shots of rushing water. The water cascaded over large boulders (which I discovered on my next trip when the water level was back to normal).

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I managed a few good photos of the mill as well, but I couldn’t get very close to it due to the water level. The mill is situated right beside the creek, so the creekside of the mill was actually in the water that day.

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I hiked out past the mill to the end of the trail. After the mill, the trail gets a little more difficult with steep hills,

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slippery rocks,

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and narrow spots on the trail with some steep drops.

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However, it is worth the hike, because the view is gorgeous.

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Unfortunately, I was anticipating an easy hike, so I didn’t wear the right shoes. Needless to say, it made the trail harder to navigate and my feet hurt by the end. Western boots are for riding, not hiking. Hiking boots have a little more play in the sole for climbing those rocks.

When I reached the end of the trail and set up my tripod for some panoramas, the sky suddenly got very, very dark. I was caught in a sudden state of panic, because I was about a mile into the woods and not prepared for a storm. I snapped off some quick shots for a panorama that didn’t turn out at all, but I did get a shot for my monochrome photo challenge of a beautiful stump that had been shaped by the running water.

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When I felt a few rain drops, I hurriedly packed up my things, threw the rain cover over the backpack, and darted out of there…well, as much as one can dart on a wooded trail. By the time I reached the mill again, the ominous clouds had moved on and the rain threat dissipated. So, I slowed down a bit, retrieved my camera from the waterproof safety of its bag, and began the end of that day’s journey.

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I even found some cool fungi,

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a couple of interesting trees,

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and a great rock to relax on for a few minutes.

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The second time I went out to the park was the next weekend. The boys invited another friend along to Freight Fest and headed out early with our Expedition, and my husband and the girls (my daughter and her best friend, Shipwreck Samantha…check out her cool clay creations on Etsy) wanted to go up later, so I drove them out, dropped them off with the boys, and headed out to the park on this super clear, absolutely beautiful, fall day. It was a bit later in the day this time, so I only hiked out to the mill. As soon as I saw the creek, however, I was very much surprised. What was nothing but rushing water before was now a reasonable creek with boulders you could make your way across. So you know what this girl did…walked out on those rocks and got some close-up pictures! I traveled a little lighter this time…no pack, just my camera. I took the 55mm lens, so I wasn’t able to really zoom in. I was, however, able to get some good macro shots, up close and personal shots, and some great landscape views. I had my proper shoes on this time, so I was a bit adventurous with climbing up and down the sides of hills, venturing across the stream, and picking out those less traveled paths. I navigated across an off-shoot of the creek and traveled the path right next to the water on this trip.

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I was able to get right up next to those little waterfalls, and the water was calmer, so the golden hour reflections in the smoother water were magnificent! As I traveled further downstream, I found many amazing waterside views,

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and eventually, I stumbled upon a most spectacular view of the creekside of the mill. So of course this required a little trip out into the creek to get just the right shot. It also meant a short trip down a steep hillside, but there were plenty of rocks to help me down (and back up again when the time came).

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It was well worth the adventure, that is for certain! By the time I made my way back up to the front side of the mill, however, it was starting to get dark, so it was time to head back. Night was fully upon me as I exited the trail, and as I looked back, I saw a line of lanterns heading to where I had just been…a twilight tour to the mill. (I bet they had a blast. I wonder if they got to hear spooky ghost stories about that old place.”

So that was the end of my journey. Expect to hear more about this place in the future. There’s a five-mile trail out there I plan to do the next time.

Independence Day 2015

This past Saturday our little city joined with the rest of the country in celebrating our nation’s 239th birthday. The city square was decorated in red, white and blue, and the streets were closed to automobile traffic so citizens could play and celebrate in safety. Like every outdoor event, however, the weather could not be planned. Mother Nature threatened to ruin our festivities with torrents of rain. Around lunchtime, she finally relented and our day of celebration began. Before long, the historic downtown square was filled with residents, young and old…

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…and even a few furry ones. And our furry residents can attest to the fact that the dog days of summer have truly begun. They trotted around the park, tongues hanging out and panting, eagerly awaiting affection from everyone they met.

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Except for maybe this little lady. She was a bit frightened of all the strangers, but her daddy held her close and introduced her to a few of the girls.

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The celebration officially began with a golf cart parade. Some of our residents entered their patriotic carts in the parade and circled the downtown square showing off their creations, waving at the crowds, and throwing candy out for the kids.

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After the parade, the day was filled with all sorts of festivities. There was…
…dancing

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…a couple of princesses wandering about

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…ice cream

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…snow cones

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…a spider jump

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…a water slide

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…a petting zoo

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…balloons

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…and much, much more!
Fun was to be had by all. Everywhere you went you were surrounded by happy smiling faces

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And there was never a reason to fear with our faithful police officers and explorers out there keeping us safe….

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…and maybe taking a break to color a bit too. 🙂

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To beat the heat many of the townsfolk took a little run through the water. Our local firehouse was kind enough to put a regulator on the corner hydrant and let us play in the water every hour on the hour for a few minutes.

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The utility department brought out the big bucket truck and let people take rides to get a sky view of the town square. I took a little trip up and got a few bird’s eye shots of the festivities.

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I also took a few sky view shots of some city landmarks as well.

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And I was accompanied by this fine gentlemen who drove the bucket and made sure I didn’t fall out. I hope I didn’t scare him too much leaning over the side to get my photos.

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There were so many wonderful people out celebrating, and I just love getting candid shots of all the beautiful people.

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Uncle Sam was even there to say hello.

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And of course, we ended our wonderful birthday celebration with a fireworks extravaganza!

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I am so glad I have the privilege of calling this wonderful little city home.

Central State Hospital (Milledgeville, GA): Part 2

Back for more? Good! Hope you enjoyed that feature image. Did it feel like someone was staring out at you from the door? Well, let’s look closer.

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Hmmm…interesting capture. Is it a play of light, or is there really a giant eye staring out at us from the door? You decide. This wonderfully creepy old building is the Jones building. We drove over to this area around the pecan grove after leaving the Howell Building. This wasn’t the first building we saw, but it was certainly the most imposing. It seems to draw you toward it from across the grove.

Now, I haven’t discovered much about the history of each individual building on the campus, but in general, I have found some interesting history about the hospital. In 1904, there were 121 deaths due to tuberculosis, which ended in a cry from the staff for a facility to be built especially to treat this disease. And that same year, there was contamination in the water supply from Camp Creek resulting in an outbreak of typhoid fever. Also, throughout the years there were several deaths under suspicious circumstances and questionable practices such as electroshock therapy and lobotomies. Then, of course, with overcrowding and under-staffing, many a patient led a miserable existence behind these doors. So is someone hanging around, watching from the door, waiting for someone to return to take them home, waiting to warn others of danger, waiting to exact revenge, waiting to be seen and heard and known? Anything is possible with a history such as this.

But, like I said, this was not where we started, so let’s move back across the pecan grove to the Walker Building.

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The Walker Building is magnificent. It looks like a vine-covered castle. I could only get so close though as there were signs everywhere warning of unstable building and grounds. Alas, I was confined to the sidewalks, and even then only up to a certain distance.

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I did manage some photos of the vines creeping up the walls, some weathered windows, and some broken windows where you can see how the roof of the building has caved in and left the upper floor exposed to the elements.

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The front porch has also become weathered and worn over the years, and I’m sure serves as a wonderful backdrop for a spooky story or two.

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As you can see from this cornerstone, this building was erected in 1884. It served as the facility for white male convalescent patients. It was abandoned in 1974. It had a sister building across the grove that served as the facility for female patients. That facility has since been torn down and replaced with an auditorium. Only the front entrance portion of the building remains due to a cornerstone listing the names of some of the original founders of the institution. (There will be photos of this later.)

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A few photos through the windows give an idea of the rooms inside of this stately structure, as well as a glimpse of the damage of the elements over the years.

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The entrance to this facility, even though worn and overgrown, still maintains a welcoming appearance. This must have been one of the nicer facilities to be admitted to.

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Some of the other entrances, however, are maybe a little less inviting. We’ll leave those to the ghosts.

The building next door to the Walker building is the Green building. It is a large structure with enclosed porches along each side of the building.

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I included a color photograph here to give an idea of how the porches were constructed.

A curious thing I noticed when examining this building was that the glass in the windows at the apex of this building were shattered and gone. I’m not sure if this was due to storm damage or some other phenomena, but it gave the building a rather ominous appearance.

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There was one that remained, however, giving us a taste of the stately beauty of a bygone era.

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Today, however, the vines creep up the walls and within those walls the plaster peals.

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Next to the Green building is the chapel. The chapel is beautiful and appears to still be in use today. Service times are listed on the sign outside of the front of the building.

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After exploring the Walker building, the Green building, and the Chapel, we headed across the grove to the Jones building. Just as we were reaching the road, a security guard was driving by and stopped to chat. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell and offered suggestions of places to photograph. He also told us that this building was used by the crew of “The Originals”. Of course, living in the town where they film “The Vampire Diaries” (the show “The Originals” is a spin-off from), I had to hear about this. Apparently, the crew got permission to use the front entrance of the building for filming. The main entry and just beyond, where the building was more stable, was renovated for filming. The signs outside still remain forbidding entry beyond the sidewalk, however. The building and grounds still aren’t safe enough for the general public to walk around.

After chatting with the security guard for quite a bit, I got a few photos of this magnificent building…

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After visiting this building for a minute, we headed over to what was left of the female facility where there was the promise of a really interesting cornerstone.

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And this was the cornerstone bearing the name of the Georgia Lunatic Asylum. There was an event going on in the auditorium behind this building, so there was a good bit of foot traffic around the building. One man even asked if I thought the place was haunted…proof there are stories! This building, the name of which I cannot remember, had a lovely porch with impressive molding (no, not the fungus type…though I’m sure there was a fair share of that too).

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There was also an interesting spot to the rear of the building where a single brick was dislodged. I wonder why…

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And then around the corner…an eerie vine-covered staircase that led to a door in the basement. I venture a guess that the children that hang out at the auditorium have their imaginations go a little crazy with that one…

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The next building we came to, and we started moving fairly quickly due to losing daylight, was the museum. I only took one picture of this fairly new building.

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Now the next building to greet you around the corner I found to have a rather haunting presence about it. I do believe it rivaled the Jones building in the creep factor. This building is known as the Brantley building.

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I’m not quite sure why, but this particular building was not left open to the elements like many of the others. It’s windows were carefully boarded up. Are they trying to keep people out, or something else in? Hmmm…

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And the spider-like vine cover was hauntingly amazing!

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Fantastic!

And the last building we happened upon was the Powell building. This is a large white building that is still in use, and from what I understand was the first building on the campus.

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After this we headed out to one of the cemeteries. The acreage of the grounds was rather impressive; however, what struck me most was how scattered the few actual headstones were. I suppose the metal stakes we came upon at the head of the cemetery were once marking various graves throughout those grounds. Many of the remaining headstones had fallen into rubble and decay, but they were interesting nonetheless and at least marked the existence of the few who can still be identified.

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And on this All Hallow’s Eve…I leave you with a lovely photo of the moon…