I applied to teach English in South Korea back in February with a recruiter called Adventure Teaching. It has been a long 6 months full of paperwork and emails and money spent on international shipping but finally after getting home from my Wisconsin trip I had a contract and Notice of Appointment waiting for me on the kitchen counter, which meant that the following day I packed the car and headed off on a l drive up I75 to Atlanta to turn in my paperwork and passport so the Korean Consulate could insert my visa.
Florida is too flat! I love this part of the trip; just north of the Fl GA border you start to see elevation change. i have liked the mountains since my first trip to Tennessee when i was 13 or 14 but I didn’t realize how much i need them in my life until I moved to Spain. Even if i don’t go to them, just having theme there to break up that boring horizon is a nice touch.
I covered three states in one day, a ton of driving but by about 11pm my tent was set up in Clear Creek park in the Bankhead National Forrest. I was exhausted, beyond tired and there were these damn frogs. Not one or 10 but what sounded like 10,000 frogs all croaking at max volume. I imagine working in a copy shop with 50 copy machines running at once. Oddly the frogs generally had a rhythm about them, maybe that’s why it was obnoxious it almost didn’t sound natural.
Brisa wouldn’t get in until the following day. tired I laid in my tent sweating profusely in the muggy Alabama back country watching an episode of the Korean TV series Personal Preference and finally fell asleep only to be woken up at about 630 by a cawing crow on a branch above my tent. since I was up I walked down to the lake and saw the fog rolling off under some of the day’s first light.
Brisa and I had lunch when she arrived and then took a hike and then chilled out since she was also tired from her drive from Texas. we took our food down by the lake but i forgot a canopener for teh tomato paste to make our chili. Luckily there was a nice camper that showed me how to open a can with a knife. He talked our ears off for 20 minutes and finally we got to cooking. The chili and pita bread was great as the sun set. originally Brisa wanted to go for a swim. Again I am not a fan of swimming in lakes but I was hot so I figured I would go too. It got dark quick and Brisa kept asking nervously if i thought there were hours or a time when the park closed but we still ended up swimming for a bit. On the way back to our camp site we saw a sign saying that it was closed from Dusk til dawn.
In the morning we went to see Alabama’s Natural Bridge, “the largest stone arch east of the Rockies”, they claim. It is not a public park, but a feature on private property. We finished the trail and then sat and ate lunch while I carved a stamp for a letterbox that I wanted to hide nearby. The Indian family having a picnic near us were interested in the carving and were pretty amazed that i was able to carve a stamp that quickly.
After planting the Letterbox we asked the employees of the natural bridge about nearby waterfalls. The guy behind the counter couldn’t give us any definitive directions or names but he said about 30 minutes away there were some and told us a few vague directions.
A ways down the I pulled over to talk to Brisa who was in her car and noticed a sign that said Kenlock road. This was a name i had heard the day before from a person working at the first place we camped. but it was never confirmed that it was where the waterfalls was. GPS and internet hardly work if at all so it was quite the adventure. After about 5 miles the pavement gave way to a bumpy clay road and we almost turned around but not for a car pulling out the other way that i asked. only one more minute and around the curve and we saw several cars lining the shoulder of the road and a steep valley.
We packed our backpacks with the necessities for camping the night and made the perilous 5 minute hike down to the water, where we found a flat, Sandy spot to camp out. we set up the tent and took a little hike around and checked out our surroundings.
We were both pretty disgusted by the trash and thought of people throwing trash in such a beautiful place. I guess Americans aren’t much different in that regard. we picked up some trash and ate dinner sitting on a boulder as the water passed our feet then called it a night.
The following morning we continued our trash duty. Brisa’s sharp eye caught something shiny in a non functional drainpipe. She moved some rocks along the side of the pipe and found the shiny object accompanied by several of its friends. And reaching further back into the pipe there were more. Almost full 12 pack of unopened , in date Cans. We gave them a nice cold home. In total we filled a trash bag with at least 15-20 pounds of garbage.
Later on we went to a natural pool near our camp site and discovered that there were Crayfish everywhere so we found some of the handy garbage left around and trapped and caught a few of them. We spent the rest of the day trudging gleefully through the river down stream exploring the twists and curves of the river and some huge rock walls along the river that would make for some really cool climbing spots and then we went back to the falls and used a rope attached to a big tree to “rappel” down the falls. there was a 50 year old guy with a rat tail trying to use the rope to go up the falls and kept slipping and falling; Darwinism at work.
In this grassy area we saw a brown and tan water snake of some sort and sketched me out, making me not want to swim anymore . I went closer to our tent and was floating in the water when I saw a Federal Wildlife Ranger. I waved up to him but his face indicated something was wrong. so i got out and walked over to him and Brisa followed behind.
He was looking into Brisa’s vehicle and asked if it was mine. then asked us if we had been drinking, that they had a complaint of people at the falls drinking. He asked if we had beer and i knew I have the right to privacy of what is in my vehicle but I told him I had beer in the cooler in the back of the truck. He then suspected us indirectly of drug trafficking. not wanting problems I hinted to the possibility of camping in the area and he said absolutely not and suggested a different area for us.
When he left we packed our things up, having gotten one really cool night camping by the water, not wanting to take the risk of a fine. We carefully transported our Crayfish too. it took some hunting but eventually we found the primitive campsite that the ranger was referring to and I got a camp fire going with the wood that someone had left. We had some Spanish rice to eat and thought the Crayfish would go perfectly so we boiled them with the flavor packet from some ramen noodles. I showed Brisa how to peel and eat them and ended up not even putting them into the rice.
We enjoyed a few of the beers despite the Ranger indicating that we were in a dry county and just possessing the beers was enough to get us a citation. We watched the fire until it was nothing more than embers and went to sleep.
In the morning we ate breakfast and discussed the possibility of a road trip in the USA next summer, packed up the tent said bye, wishing there had been more time and drove off in different directions.
I hadn’t seen my cousins and aunt in Tennessee for a few years so I figured I was close enough that I could drive a few extra hours and visit them with the time I gained from the unexpected delay at the Korean Consulate. Driving along the interstate, a sign indicated teh next exit was for Triana-Wall Road which rang a bell. I remembered looking at a map and noticing that in Allabama there was a town called Triana, like the neighborhood where I lived during my second year in Spain so for shits and giggles i figured i would drive 30 minutes out of my way simply to take a picture with the sign welcoming people to the town. It looked pretty rural but who knows what actually lie down the road, in town. My suspicion is that it wouldn’t live up to the Sevillan awesomeness.
When I got to my Aunts house I was greeted by my cousin and their dog; my aunt was with my other cousin who was at the dentist having 4 wisdom teeth taken out. She was feeling well enough though that later, when I presented the idea of going to find a nearby letterbox by some waterfalls, she wanted to come with us.
After we found the letterbox and visited the waterfall we went over to a cafe where they do trivia. A few hours before trivia starts they put two clues on the facebook group. For that week the picture was the silhouette of the state of Florida and a picture of some guy shooting pool. i am pretty bad at trivia but it was like this trivia was tailored for me. there were three questions about Europe, and 3 about Florida. I was the only one in the building who knew the answer to the question, “What Spanish explorer has two Florida counties named after him?” I will put the answer at the end of this post. Unfortunately there were many other questions we didn’t know the answers to.
I was talking with my older cousin and she mentioned she had a friend who rock climbs so we found a place to go and picked him up the following morning. When we got to King and Queens Bluff in Clarksville it was just a short steep hike down some stairs and we were at the first of the bolted routes. It wasn’t even necessary to have a guide because every route was marked with a little metal tag that indicated the route name and grade or difficulty and nothing was so high that a 60 meter rope wouldn’t do.
My cousins wouldn’t try climbing but my aunt, who is scared of heights and has bad shoulders did climb several times. It was cool to climb in the US for the first time outdoors but was sad I didn’t have any of my climbing people from Spain with me to motivate me. Some of the routes were deceptively hard or maybe it was that it was a different type of rock and I hadn’t climbed in a long time.
The following morning I set off for Atlanta, it was a good thing I gave myself plenty of time to get to appointment to pick up the visa because I forgot to factor in the one hour I would lose due to changing time zones. The consulate closed at 4 and I made it at 3:30 instead of 2:30. I walked in and walked out and had my Korean visa that quickly.
I don’t like stopping unless I really need to use the restroom or need gas but I was in no hurry on my way back to Tampa so i stopped at the Florida Georgia border to look for a Leterbox and take advantage of the photo-op to promote the name of our states incompetent and heartless governor.
Trivia answer: Hernando Desoto