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The Journal
Weekly Newspaper covering Marion, Schley, Chattahoochee, Webster, and Stewart Counties.
71 Webb Lane, Buena Vista, GA 31803 • Phone and Fax: 229-649-6397 • Email: tjournal@windstream.net

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Don't put off that adventure
From the June 5, 2013 issue of The Journal
Last weekend my son, Drew, and I embarked on an adventure to hike and camp in Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area.
It was an adventure that was over a year in the making ... and almost did not happen.
We had hiked into the canyon bottom with Rich McWilliams, a retired geology professor, in early February of 2012. That was a quick half-day hike (off the official trails) and was fascinating because in addition to looking up at the beautiful canyon walls, we got expert insight from the professor on how the unique canyon was formed.
It was educational in another way, too. You see, my son and I had stood at the official overlook at the site before, but the view from that location pales in comparison to the view that is reserved for those who get off the beaten path and get a little mud on their feet and a little sweat on their brow. That is a life lesson in so many ways.
After that trip, I told my son that one day we would hike the outer loop, camp, and see the canyons from above (where you are directly above them, not trying to gaze out from afar from the overlook).
Well, a year passed before I finally figured I should make good on the promise, so we made plans. Then the day-to-day of life kept getting in the way and weeks and months rolled by (mostly due to my work schedule). We made tentative plans to go soon and bought a tent, backpack, and various gear.

Still, I postponed the trip again and again, because I was just too busy. Soon, it was impossible to reach the original goal of going before the South Georgia sun made such trips uncomfortable, so I began to consider postponing the trip until after summer.
Two things prompted me to reconsider.
The first was my wife. Guys, trust me on this one: If you buy a backpack, mess kit, waterproof matches, glowsticks, water-purifying tablets, foldable mini-shovel, first aid kit, trail tape, and various other items that you have to have for one night in the wilderness, at some point your wife is going to insist that you venture out of the house.
The second was news of Bubba and Joni Stubbs of Ellaville losing their 10-year-old son Jakob. I do not know the Stubbs family, but my heart was heavy and I could not even imagine their pain. We never know when we may lose loved ones, even if they are young, active, and full of life. We have limited opportunities to share adventures in this life. Period.
So, instead of waiting for cooler weather, we packed up all of our gear, strapped it to our backs, and headed to the backcountry. Not being familiar with the outer loop of the trail, we chose a counterclockwise route, which proved to make the hike much more difficult.
After we had gone up, up, and up some more, my calves were burning and my pack was cutting into my shoulders, and I wondered just how much farther we would go before my son started to complain. But instead of complaining, he surprised me by saying, I can’t believe they let you do this for only $25! (It costs $10 per person to camp plus a $5 parking fee.)
I laughed and said, That is because they would have to pay most folks a lot more than $25 to get em to do it.
After about 1 1/2 miles we turned a bend where the woods thinned a bit and realized we were at the top and able to peer off the side and into the depths of the canyon. It was a magnificent sight and made the hike worthwhile.
We set up camp about a mile deeper into the woods where I taught my son how to cook a tasty supper of new potatoes, onions, and bacon over a fire. A couple of fellow adventurers passed by on the nearby trail as our bacon was sizzling and the looks on their faces were enough to tell us that they were not packing anything that was going to be as tasty. We impressed others with our ingenuity of putting frozen bacon in our backpacks and allowing it to thaw during our hike.
I also taught my son to put the next days food in a bag and hang it up in a tree away from the campsite overnight in case a bear or some other animal you wouldn’t want to meet came roaming by during the night. I wondered if it was really necessary until the next morning when our mess kit, still smelling of butter and onions, had been dragged away from the firepit and licked clean by something (we are guessing a raccoon from the tracks). ... I guess you should also hang up any used cookware.
We shared many other little special moments and lessons (do not trust a hand-drawn map from the government) on the short two-day wilderness journey, but mostly we just enjoyed being on an adventure together.
The day after we got home I heard that yet another Ellaville family had lost a young man, Donnie and Deborah Pooles 21-year-old son Thomas. I saw a YouTube video someone posted of Thomas singing a song he had written. In Im My Own Man, his deep, soulful voice hit me hard with lines like, Im making time for my family and my friends.
Those are simple, but very wise words. If you have an adventure with your child that you have been postponing, whether it is a challenging weekend in the wilderness, a trip to the beach, or simply a little hop over to a local fishing hole, make time for it. You will be glad you did.

Read more personal columns by Richard Harris.