Georgia Gems – State parks as perfect as a peach
“Georgia, Georgia… the whole day through. Just an old sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind”…. is humming in my head as we cross the state line from Florida into the land of peaches and southern charm. We’ve been in the Empire State of the south a time or two before, but this is our first time in our full-time RV lifestyle to just meander slowly and let Georgia find us.
State parks and the small towns that surround them are our favorite way to unwrap the gift of the place we are now lucky enough to call home. It is here, nestled in a thoughtfully preserved section of America that we can slowly discover the land, uncover the history it belongs to and unveil its unique charm, textures and contours. We can walk through the woods and inhale the fragrance of the day and try to let our nose decipher what is growing and what is different from the last place we called home. We slip our kayaks into a stream and let the current quietly take us through the belly of the land and its path of least resistance. It’s in these tender valleys that we can watch the slow transformation of the seasons and get to meet the birds, fish and animals that live here too. We stroll along the easy going sidewalks of the rural towns and discover conversation, information and genuine kindness in the locals that are so proud of their community.
Our first Georgia home was in Reed Bingham State Park. This 1613 acre park with a lovely 375 acre lake welcomed us with open arms. Really, that is what it felt like. The rangers and staff at the office were filled with magnetic grins, had us laughing with humor and jokes and who can ever get tired of hearing that warm southern accent? One of the things that Georgia does that is different from most other state parks, is how they handle reservations. Most all their reservations are not site specific. They hold a campsite for you based on your RV size and you actually pick it when you arrive. Weekend campers have mixed feelings about it, as it can make things a little crazy over a holiday weekend, but for those arriving on a Sunday or during the midweek like we did, we had the pick of the litter. It wasn’t long and we were stretched out in the most perfect site, lighting a fire in our outside living room, under the stars and inhaling the sweet smell of a Georgia pine.
Over the course of our week at Reed Bingham we indulged in their great hiking trails. All their trails are multipurpose, so we took the mountain bikes and explored a bit too. The lake called to us many times but the gusting spring winds kept us away this time. The park is also home to hundreds of gopher tortoises, which the park protects. They dig deep burrows for shelter and since they share these homes with more than 350 other species, these slow moving turtle giants are referred to as a keystone species. The day finally came and we said goodbye to this great Georgia park and to the Mockingbird that had been singing his collection of tunes to us every morning…. I think I even heard him try a verse or two of Ray Charles’s “Georgia”.
We trucked up I-75 for another 200 miles to the next Georgia gem called Indian Springs State Park. We love finding parks like this that are filled with not only trails, lakes and everything an outdoor lover longs for, but also a park steeped in history. Anytime we arrive in a park built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) , we instantly know it is going to be oozing with charm and most likely we’ll find stone and old log structures dotting everywhere as we pull in. Wow! were we ever enamored as we rolled up to the office to check in. This wasn’t any state park office. No log building, but an early 1900’s white, two story home on the top of the hill draped in blooming dogwoods and known as Idlewilde, graciously welcomed us in. The staff had fresh spring water for us to sip as we checked in and gazed at all the history and photographs covering the walls. They filled our cup with even more ideas and information and we left so excited about our week in this Georgia treasure.
The bubbling spring that the park is named for has been sought after for centuries. First by the Creek Indians who called it home and years later a resort town built up around the spring to support the people that would come for miles to sip the magical, healing waters. Even today we watched several locals arrive with their gallon jugs, kneel at the place where it streams from the earth so they could fill up. Of course I had to fill my water bottle too. We walked through the village outside the park and talked with the owners of the dozen or so cozy shops. We enjoyed hand dipped ice cream cones and let our minds drift to visions of how the area must of looked back in its heyday. In the park there is a beautiful 3 mile trail along the lake that leads to another amazing surprise. Dauset Trails Nature Center! It isn’t actually a part of the park but is a 1400 acre non-profit preserve that is free to the public. We spent the afternoon there saying hello to the animals they had on display, all of which were rescued or had some form of disability. The gardens were breathtaking and if we had more time and had brought our bikes, how I would have loved to experience some of the 20 miles of trails they had to explore. The sun was going down and we still had to hike the three miles back.
That evening while we were eating dinner I saw something out the camper window that made me do a double take. Was that a house rolling by? I go outside to investigate and sure enough a tiny home on wheels, equipped with vaulted roof, barnwood siding, cool windows and a set of tires just moved into the neighborhood. We had to say hello and I’m so glad we did. This amazing couple with infectious smiles recently began an epic adventure of traveling in their Eco-friendly tiny home to visit 50 cities across America in the next two years. Along the way they are creating video journals to showcase wildlife and people who are making the world a better place. They stop and speak at schools, universities, businesses, and festivals and are quickly being discovered and supported one heartfelt conversation at a time. Check out their Creative Animal Tour. We meet some of the most amazing people traveling in our RV!
We hugged our new friends goodbye and headed further north into the mountains of Georgia. We added a few more great state parks to our passport – High Falls State Park, Red Top Mountain, Amicola… oh yes I did say passport. Another thing Georgia does right is they reward their visitors. They have a camper loyalty program where when you collect nine nights at any state park the tenth is free. You can also join their Friends of the park program and you get one free night of camping, free daily access to all Georgia parks as well as discounts on campground fees and retail shops. This state truly does camping right!
Fellow campers, may the path you are traveling on one day lead you to the mountains of Georgia, or to its low country by the sea, or really anywhere in this great state where you can find a state park, a tall pine tree and you can kick your legs back, inhale the pines and let the perfect ripe peach drip from your chin.
“I said Georgia, Georgia, a song of you … comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines”. – Ray Charles
Campendium Reviews of Indian Springs State Park – Two Lanes of Freedom RV/Campground Review of Indian Springs State Park
Indian Springs State Park – Official website
The Village of Indian Springs – Local information
Dauset Trails – Natural Center, hiking/biking trails
Reed Bingham State Park – Official Website
Campendium Reviews of Reed Bingham State Park – Two Lanes of Freedom campground review