Reflections | My day in Cloudland Canyon

A view of the canyon partially obscured by trees.

One of the best views of Cloudland Canyon. (Photos by Nicolas Samuel Horne/University of Georgia)

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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.

Two large wooden chairs sit side-by-side in a forest clearing.
A perfect spot to sit and take in the view. (Photos by Nicolas Samuel Horne/University of Georgia)

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.

The green valley of Cloudland Canyon.
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.

Families play in a natural pool at the base of a cliff.
Families frolicking in the natural pool.

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.

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Canyon, creativity, Georgia, nature, reflections

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