Chris and I wanted to go off for my birthday (early, by the way – you still have time to mark October 9 as a Very Important Date on your calendar), but we didn’t know where to go.
We only had a weekend available, so we needed to go somewhere relatively close, and we wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere pretty, and somewhere flat to be able to run.
So we did what any logical person would do: we asked Twitter. And got about four pages of responses. As we weighed your suggestions against our needs, Callaway Gardens, suggested by Katherine, Giann, and Emily, stood out the most.
Located in South Georgia, it appeared to be just what we needed: miles of trails, beautiful scenery, and a good deal of flatness.
So I dumped the children onto my parents, where they didn’t even look up to say goodbye,
(because who would when there was sand to scoop?), and we skipped town.
As soon as we arrived Friday afternoon, we took off for a run. Because I’m an all or nothing person, and since I’ve discovered the power of a run over my Dysautonomia, it’s kinda all I want to do.
We quickly realized why our fancy suite at the fancy hotel on property had been so shockingly cheap: we were clearly between seasons. Post flower season, pre Fall Foliage season. Our first run felt more like running through the most beautiful campground with lovely amenities and beautiful lakes rather than through the world’s biggest flower garden as we’d expected.
However, we quickly adjusted and enjoyed the views as they were.
And we managed to spot a few glimpses of fall along our way, making the backdrop of our runs even more beautiful.
I’m a nature lover of all sorts, so I was also thrilled to spot deer, all kinds of birds of the large variety, and this guy, who obliged me by becoming my pet for approximately 30 seconds.
And, although I would have rather discovered an actual one, finding this former home of a snake was pretty exciting.
Between the three days, we ran over 18 miles in Callaway Gardens (it’s a big place, y’all!) and walked at least five more. We discovered beautiful sites such as this chapel,
And, even though it said “Wedding in Progress” on the sign out front, we took our cues from the silence and risked entry to see the stunning interior.
It nearly made us want to get married all over again. Except for all the trouble.
Instead, we moved onto Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, which was lovingly flanked with all the gorgeous flowers we’d been missing from our visit.
The flowers grew around and atop the vegetables and herbs to distract the bad bugs and, furthermore, entice the good bugs to come eat the bad bugs. Who knew flowers were so smart? And here I thought they were just a pretty face.
Chris discovered the Analemmatic Sun Dial, where you stand on the proper month, lift your arm, and it tells you what time it is.
We moved on again, this time to the Butterfly garden.
My favorite part of all butterfly exhibits is the chrysalis room. They’re so fascinatingly beautiful, with their blazing jewel-like quality.
The paper kite chrysalides were especially fascinating, because they were bright yellow with iridescent qualities and gold highlights – until the butterfly came out, leaving them mysteriously clear, despite the butterfly not being the least bit yellow.
WHERE DID THE YELLOW GO?
The world will never know.
The chrysalis room was also quite creepy because there were butterflies actively hatching. Watch the black chrysalides closely:
The butterflies themselves were housed in a garden in a greenhouse of sorts,
which itself was surrounded by beautiful gardens,
…which might explain this Blue Morpho’s adolescent angst.
But if only he knew that out there in the real world, nobody’s going to hang him sliced fruit.
Nobody’s going to water his leaves continuously.
And nobody’s going to protect him from butterfly-chasing children.
At times, I did realize how very fascinating this trip would have been for my children and how it would have counted for like a week of school.
But then we would have never gotten to run. Or celebrate our runs quietly with identical books and frozen drinks.
Ultimately I felt no guilt. After all, they were too busy to tell me goodbye.
The gardens had their quirks, too. Chris raved about how they had been careful to build their parking lots around trees, making them shady and preserving nature – he thought that was so great. Until he parked in this extraordinarily un-square spot, perfectly lined up on his side and murdering the line on mine.
He got out.
He inspected. He couldn’t rest until he’d proven that it was clearly the parking space’s fault, not his. (And I had to agree, as much fun as it was to see him perplexed.)
And he moved his car to a more deserving spot.
Building your parking lots around trees can also have other undesirable outcomes, such as root damage. This particularly unfriendly handicapped spot may have made us giggle a little too much.
The hotel we stayed at had a spa, and every time we got in the elevator, we had no choice but to stare at this woman.
Which was completely fine until I told Chris “You know, if you look at the picture just right, it looks like holes all the way through her back instead of rocks on top of her back.”
And then he couldn’t look at her ever again without getting an internal shiver.
Of course, we had to find the best views in the area, and there were plenty from which to pick.
This one was at the garden’s adjoining state park, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, and Chris caught me photographing from atop FDR’s favorite place to think.
I’m pretty sure I could end a war now if I had to.
And then there were the sunsets.
As breathtaking and gorgeous as all of the views were in and outside the park, a straight shot at the sunset was surprisingly hard to find. After fighting my way through cobwebs and underbrush and running down an abandoned trail for half a mile, I finally found my spot.
Chris managed to catch my graceful journey out onto my log…
In my defense, I was carrying a camera and an iPhone, the water was pretty murky, and I was uncharacteristically concerned about a snake slithering by – in my mind, if a snake is in the water, it’s probably poisonous.
Fortunately, I didn’t consider the fact that I was much more likely alligator bait than snake bait – we were, after all, in South Georgia.
But the view was worth every fear.
Every time I thought I’d caught the best of the sunset, I’d run back up on shore to escape any creepy crawlies and the family of mosquitoes that were munching my flesh…and then I’d look back and see that it just got better, and I’d splash back out to my log.
Chris was highly amused to watch my ridiculous back-and-forth and asked why I didn’t just stay out on the log until after dark.
I sneered at him. Was HE out on that log? No. He was safe on shore with nothing to fear but the spiders, who seemed, as they should be, more interested in the skies than him.
On my fourth trip out to the log, I captured my final picture,
then told Chris I was done.
We needed to leave.
Before I looked back and it got even better.
But, like Lot’s Wife, I did look back. And through the thick layer of trees, I could see that the skies were pinker than any neon light ever dreamed of being.
The moral of this story is: always stay on your log until it’s completely dark. Even if an alligator has you for a beautiful sunset dinner, the taxidermist will probably be able to recover the camera card.