Roughing It
Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Roughing It

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

We watched as the colorful kayaks came around a bend in the Chattahoochee River and slid effortlessly into a muddied concrete boat ramp. The attractive, uniformed park ranger had been patiently waiting for at least 30 minutes to receive a group, who after a five-mile guided hike, had hit the river, parked their boats halfway along their journey, then ate lunch and, back in the boats, finished the day-long trip. Erin, the ranger, told us that this was a very popular monthly park program; there was even a waiting list in order to get a place.
Sunday after church, Bill and I stopped in at the Senoia Big Chic and picked up two big ole pieces of fried chicken, stopped by the house to change clothes and pick up some pimento and cheese sandwiches, potato chips and  ice cold cokes, and … Voila! We were ready for a picnic and more importantly, we were ready to check out the facilities at The Chattahoochee Bend State Park. You see, Bill and I had rented one of the new two-bedroom cabins where we would be staying for three nights with our daughters and families over the Labor Day weekend.
Sight Unseen. My Big Idea.
About a week before we were to check in with families “in tow,” I started getting nervous. What did this place offer? What kind of activities would we find available at this park an hour down the road from Senoia, 20 minutes from the outskirts of Newnan and out in the middle of nowhere? Swimming and tubing in the river? A nice sandy volleyball court? Canoes and kayaks to rent?
One would think I would have checked all this out carefully before plunking down over $400, Right? Well, I got so caught up with the idea of spending a weekend away from the normal routine, doing “camping stuff” that I sort of forgot. What an Idiot, right?
What we discovered was an isolated parkland, still in the process of “filling in;” mostly made up of lots of scrubby little pines that will one day provide beautiful shaded trails already marked out by the rangers. There was a very nice boat launch, lots of parking, and an area perfect for large group reunions, where we also discovered a shady river overlook complete with picnic table and an individual grill. What we did not find was a volleyball court. You can rent boats but they don’t haul them upriver except once a month for the arduous hike and paddle affair we saw last weekend. What we did find was that the River south of Atlanta is not suitable for much. . . except boating. . .IF you have your own boat. Fishing is not good either. You certainly would not want to eat anything you pulled out of the polluted river, if you could even find a place to toss your line in. Mostly the banks of the river make it way too steep to drop a worm over. And no big surprise . . . swimming is not allowed. Sad.
However, the visitor’s center was a refreshing 72 degrees and the young ladies were super friendly. New, clean “restroom” facilities were everywhere! Do you know how rare that is anywhere in this day and time? And there were plenty of RV lots with all the necessary hookups and for the more adventurous, walk-in wilderness tent camping areas that also have available water faucets. Now that is a luxury.
Take it from an old Girl Scout leader who spent days with 16 Junior level scouts in the sandy Piedmont Region of South Carolina with no toilet facilities except what we cleverly contrived ourselves, and no electricity. It gets really, really dark out in those piney woods. Really Dark. Just imagine trying to find your homemade latrine in pitch blackness with only the help of a flashlight without waking up 16 girls who did not stop giggling until after 2 a.m. no matter how much you hissed at them to “Be Quiet!” Those were the days before cell phones or Internet. Thank goodness. We would never have gotten any sleep if those young teens had Instagram or Snapchat to play with.
Oh, and one more thing that is unavailable at Chattahoochee Bend State Park. There is NO Wi-Fi. I dreaded telling my son-in-law Joe from South Carolina who often disappears into the mysteries of the Internet World for hours, days, entire weekends! But my daughter reassured me that she was bringing cards; she would also download several books, and a couple of movies onto her laptop for Joe so that he would likely survive the weekend!
I doubt that any of the grandchildren will grace us with their presence once they learn that we will be “roughing it,” living a pioneer lifestyle with only the basics of running water and electric lights. But, there will be S’mores cooked over the wonderful outdoor fire pit and hotdogs and hamburgers cooked over charcoal. I hope we remember how to use the like-new grill built into the patio next to the gorgeous screened porch along the back of the cabin which looks out into deep, dark woods. I am going to bring a couple of extra hiking sticks along—just in case. ‘Cause one thing this fledging State Park will have is plenty of Fresh Air. Plenty of Outdoors. And my sweet family.
I will let you know how it all turns out.