Monday, April 23, 2012

Arabia Mountain

A few months ago I took the girls hiking and I think they ended up walking one step too far. From the sound of it, they'd had enough walking around in the woods, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Since then we've mostly been riding bikes but this past weekend I mentioned the idea of taking another walk and they both seemed pretty excited about the idea. Hmmm... Maybe I hadn't quite burned them out entirely.

It would need to be somewhere interesting though, random exploration of the deepest, most-similar-looking recesses of the Chattahoochee National Forest would not do. I thought a bit and a location materialized. Ironically, it was the same place that had done so much to degrade their interest last year - Arabia Mountain. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea or not, so I talked to them about it and since it's not a million degrees outside these days, they were all for it. Yes!

I called up Travis and Michelle too. Travis has been trying to get together to do something for a few weeks now and I've always had some prior commitment, but this time it would work out. They have a new dog too, Emmie, and that was even better because my kids both love and fear dogs and just generally need dog time.

Emmie is still a puppy, and does funny puppy things, like wrap herself up in the leash, then bite the leash, effectively locking the door to her own cell.


Oh man, it was fun to watch and she did it over and over.

We parked at the South Trailhead and started up Arabia Mountain.

I think yesterday was the most perfect day to be there. It was actually cool in the parking lot and a little windy, but out on the rock itself, it was in the '70's and the direct sun felt really good. The last time the girls and I were there was mid-summer and it was HOT. Our friend Madison had joined us and she got pretty dehydrated. There was little chance of that yesterday though.

It was the perfect season too. Arabia Mountain is a lot like Stone Mountain; a huge granite deposit that just hasn't been weathered away yet. It's not as big as Stone Mountain, but the terrain is very similar. One significant difference though, is Arabia Mountain is generally shallower and lots of little pools have formed all over it. The pools collect sediment and eventually stuff grows in that sediment. In the winter it dies off. In the summer, it's too hot and it all dies off again, but this time of year, it's in full growth and full bloom. Every inch of every pool was crowded with growing things.

 Sediment Pool

This one was full of Diamorpha, which is apparently exceedingly rare and there are signs in various places asking you not to step on it.


And, it had rained the day before so the deeper pools, or the ones that don't collect much sediment had become tiny little ponds and Emmie had to drink from and swim in every one of them.

 Lots of Water

Where the water wasn't pooling, it streamed down the face of the rock in wide sheets or got funnelled into little rivers. We got really lucky with the water.

We hiked up and over Bradley Peak, pseudo-nav'ed through the woods until we found the Quarry Trail and took that across the road to the Davidson side of the preserve. The girls and I had walked all over Arabia Mountain the last time but we hadn't yet been to the other side, except on bikes, on the paved trail. Ages ago, Travis had actually driven his Land Rover all over the other side, back before the park existed, when that was something that you could do, but he hadn't been back since either.

Right as you go back into the woods over there, we discovered these weird parallel blocks of granite.

 Parallel Blocks

There were about 8 or 9 of them in a row. I guess at some point something was up on top of them or maybe between them. I love stuff like that. There was, apparently, at some point, some very important reason for them to be there but it has been lost to history. Maybe if I knew more about quarry operations they would make sense.

We were now on the aptly named Forest Trail, which sort-of led around the property, through the woods, rather than out on the granite face. Near the Nature Center, we ended up taking the paved bike trail rather than dirt for a little while and Michelle found a bunch of honeysuckle.

Sophie LOVES honeysuckle. When it's blooming in our front yard, she'll spend 20 minutes each day eating them after she gets off the bus. The two of them had a long discussion about the various ways of getting the nectar out.


Isabel gave Emmie a honeysuckle and she just ate the whole thing.

It took me a while to understand the scale of the property. I had a map but it was really just a photo I'd taken of a map on one of the kiosks and it wasn't all that accurate. Trails that didn't exist were shown on the map, trails that did exist weren't shown, and I'd had a harder time figuring out where we were than I expected. I kept thinking we hadn't gone as far as we had, thus my surprise when we suddenly arrived at Arabia Lake.

 Arabia Lake

For the kids, one of the highlights of any little adventure is getting to eat candy in the woods. I guess it's like having a small picnic, plus they don't get to eat candy all that often, so I think it's kind of a big deal to them. Anyway, I told them: "Ok, when we get to the lake we can have a snack" and then the lake appeared out of nowhere. Lucky ducks.

 Taking a Break

At the lake, we were confronted with even more what-the-heck-is-that-style structures.


This one was especially confusing. Clearly there was a pier of some kind here, but why was it made of metal, and what the heck is that pipe-thing way out in the lake? And why was there a huge slab of concrete at the edge of the pier? Did they back up trucks to the edge? Drive them out on the pier? Maybe water was piped in from the lake and used out on the rock face. Or maybe water was sprayed into the lake through that pipe out in the middle. Man, I wish I knew. We thought hard but no definitive answer came to mind.

 Strange Lake Structure

The signage was amusing too.

 Confusing Signage

Hey kids, watch out for thin ice! Actually, it made me want to come back in the winter to see the lake frozen over.

Eventually we moved on.

The next section led back across the granite and there were all kinds of interesting things to see.

Blooming cactus...

 Cactus Flowers

Big yucca...


The storage building behind the old quarry office.

 Rock Storage Building

I'd actually seen that building before. The girls and I had played around in it when we'd ridden bikes on the paved trail before. It had been full of lizards that day, but this time there were no lizards. I did notice two peach trees growing up through the middle of the building though. I think they were peach trees. You'd think, living in Georgia, that I'd recognize a peach tree, but you really don't see them all that often, especially in the woods.

There was more amusing signage too.

 More Confusing Signage

"Don't ride your bike here."

The sign itself isn't odd, but the placement sure is. It's like a quarter mile back up on the granite. It would make sense to put a sign like that right next to the bike trail, but why a quarter mile away? A curious biker might notice the cairns and get pretty far down the trail before realizing that they aren't supposed to be there. I've seen similarly placed signs at a park in Roswell and on a trail off of the Suwanee Greenway. This kind of sign placement punishes somebody for doing what they didn't know was wrong rather than educating them on what is wrong to begin with. On top of that, it likely took more effort to place that sign way out in the middle than near the trail. So weird.

Almost all of the mountain had seen some quarrying activity. In some places, from the cliff running around the edge, you could see where the entire top of the knob must have been several feet higher than it is today. In one location, there were blocks and blocks of partially finished stone lying about.

Isabel jumped up on this one and started doing all kinds of awesome dance moves.

 Dancing Machine

She's a dancing machine these days. Sophie tried some ballet moves but her camelback threw her way off balance.

There were partially finished blocks all over the place.


Did they both quarry and finish stone there, on site? Were these rejects? Some of them had cracks or big imperfections on the surface. Were they just smooth from having been sawed or were they really finished like that on purpose? Man, I wish I knew.

A little further on, there was another building, way out in the middle of nowhere, and very different from the last one.

 Granite Building of Some Kind

This one was all mortared up on the inside. What was its purpose!?

Somewhere in there we ran across a frog pond. It was really just another pool on the surface of the rock but it was deeper than the rest and full of both water and vegetation. Yesterday it was also full of tadpoles. There were tiny little tadpoles, medium sized tadpoles and tadpoles bigger than I thought existed. Some of them had legs so I think they might have been a couple of different species. There was a sign nearby that mentioned 3 species of frogs that live in that pool but it didn't mention the size of their tadpoles, so who knows. The sign did mention that coachwhip snakes frequent the area but I didn't see any of those.

Eventually we crossed the road back over to the Arabia-side of the park. I had to use the facilities and just happened upon another old ruin.

 Arabia Mountain Office Ruins

Now I want to go back and just look for old buildings. They appear to be everywhere.

Instead of skirting around the far edge, we pretty much just took a direct route back to the car. Emmie's tail was hanging low and for that matter, Sophie's was too.

 Tired Sophie

She kept asking about dehydration. We'd been talking about how Madison got dehydrated before and about how bad it had been in Florida and I think we kind of scared her. She was fine though, just tired.

Back at the trailhead we had another little snack - beef jerky this time, which the girls love for some reason. We usually get one stick and pass it around. This one was only moderately spicy. We'd about killed ourselves a few weeks back with a 3-pepper Habanero stick and none of us were ready for that again.

We tried to eat at Doc Cheys in Decatur but they didn't open until 4. As much as I eat there, you'd think I would have known that but it was news to me. We ended up at Everybody's Pizza which turned out to be really good. I think we probably hung out for two hours. Travis and Michelle are great. Dangit, I have too many cool friends. It's impossible to spend enough time with each of them. I always leave thinking: "Man, that was fun, we should hang out more..." Over and over.

I guess that's a good problem to have.


  1. Did you ever figure out what that structure was for in the lake? We went there for the 1st time this weekend and had the same questions.

  2. I never got any definitive word on it, but I did find this a while back: