One of the best views of Cloudland Canyon. (Photos by Nicolas Samuel Horne/University of Georgia)
Reflections | My day in Cloudland Canyon
It was early. Ungodly early. So early that it was still late. The sky was hovering between near-black and deep blue. My neighborhood was quiet, save for a few idling cars. In heaven’s name, where could people be headed right now?
I, on the other hand, had a plan. Well, to be more precise, I had yearning. For getting away, for getting into nature. I was going to the canyon. No, not that canyon. Something closer to home. Cloudland Canyon, in the northwest corner of Georgia, bordering Alabama and Tennessee.
However, I would have to leave soon if I were to make it in time for sunrise — it was just after 2:00 a.m. and I had a three hour drive ahead of me. I racked my brain and gathered everything I thought I may need, shoved them into my car, and got on the road— I would not sleep that night.
My drive was long, quiet, and peaceful — and then I was there. I got out of the car, took a deep breath of green, and began walking to the first overlook on the edge of a cliff. I had the place mostly to myself. Distant waves of fading green and amber. Singing birds gliding about. I then realized that the main trail of the canyon was the other way, so off I went.
Sitting at the head of the trail was a set of wooden Adirondack chairs set up to take in the view.
The wood was soft, chilled, smooth, and inviting, so I plopped down and gazed at the landscape. These chairs sure had a good thing going for them. They faced a tree-spotted cliff with a wooden fence to corral guests from going off the edge. Beyond it were grassy hills rolling into the nothingness of the horizon.
I sat a long time. I was in no rush. Finally, my stomach growled, as I had not eaten all night. So, it was time to head back and find that restaurant I had seen a few miles away.
With some fuel in my stomach, it was time to hike the trails. There was green everywhere — I would have to come back in autumn to see fall colors. As I went on, I noticed how the opposing side of the valley had another tree covered rock outcrop—like a mirror. I found a large stone ledge I could stand on, unguarded by a fence, that would allow me to witness it all, undisturbed.
I continued, eventually reaching a large natural pool. I waded my legs into the translucent water, flinching at the cold.
I heard a low rumble and looked up to see that the pool was being filled by a small waterfall surging over the cliff. As I grew closer to the fall, the rumble took on specific notes. On some rocks, the water fell in tones of a low rumbling bass, on others, a jolting treble. People were standing on these rocks, using the fall as a makeshift shower of sorts. I joined in, clothes and all. They would dry.
I started back, but when I reached the entrance of the pool, I noticed another trail going in the opposite direction. This trail was littered with debris — rocks and large tree limbs. I ducked under the limbs, most of which were fallen trees that had gotten stuck between the sides of the cliffs. I crawled, climbed, and maneuvered around the rocks, trying not to fall into the pools of water trapped in their floors. Finally, I reached the end. It opened up to water flowing off the edge of a rock. It was beautiful. There was a small snake squirming around. I found a dry spot on the rock to sit — it was cool to the touch — and hung my legs over the edge. When I looked down, I saw the same people who were just in the pool with me. I realized I had gone around the back to the source of the waterfall. I sat and took in this view for a while, before deciding it was probably time to head back to my car. Back to the suburbs. Back home.