A day of many firsts at Unicoi State Park.

Wow. Where do I begin? My Saturday began as I groggily stumbled out of bed and hopped on my computer. πŸ™‚ As I began my daily ritual of checking my various e-mail accounts and bank accounts to make sure no overdrafts had miraculously occurred, I heard Matt’s phone ring. Normally, my first instinct is to not answer his phone, but when I saw the caller ID, I knew I had to take the call. It was Julie and she pretty much said, “We are on our way to a quaint little town called Helen. Wanna come?” My response was, “Hell, yes”  because I’m up for seeing Benjy and his parents any time! πŸ™‚ Besides, I like to try new things no matter how dangerous they may seem as you will understand later. lol. Unbeknownst to Julie and Jonathan, I had to do the unthinkable by agreeing to head over to Helen with them: I had to wake Matt up. lol. Thankfully, he was a good sport and as it turned out, his chauffeur services weren’t needed anymore as they (J & J) decided to come pick me up instead.

The ride to Helen was fun as always. Julie, Jonathan and I have a good rapport and similar tastes in humor so there were no awkward silences, etc. It’s always fun to watch them around their little boy. Anyhow, we got to Helen after a few false alarms a la getting lost, etc. Apparently, it’s not just a Banick thing to get lost on the high ways. lol. The Wilsons suffer from that predicament as well. At least, I don’t even claim to know my bearings so I’m pretty much useless in these situations. lmao. Anyhow, we got there and it was all thanks to Matt’s dad, Bill. He’s cool to hang with because he has so much background knowledge. Back to the story, the event that drew us all (yours truly, Julie, Jonathan, Baby Ben, Bill & Bill’s friend) was primarily an outdoor festival (not in the Nigerian sense of festivals). The event was billed as the Outdoor Adventure day at Unicoi State Park in Helen, GA. Helen, the town, was simply breathtaking. It felt as if I was in a fairytale where the houses were made of gingerbread or some other edible substance. I felt like a kid in a candy store and I was really glad I went. The town is actually modeled after a Bavarian town (Munich) in Germany and they were preparing for Oktoberfest in Helen. I definitely intend on seeing more of North Georgia because of the gorgeous vistas (Cloudland Canyon State Park, etc), the general atmosphere and other attractions. Many thanks go out to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), GADNR volunteers and the many other organizations (.PDF) that were present. As I visit more of Georgia’s State Parks, I grow to love Georgia more and I’ve come to understand (hat tip to Bill) that due to the projected budget deficit in Georgia, some state parks will be closing. Cloudland Canyon is apparently on the chopping block along with 12 other state parks. Please take the time to fill out this petition to urge lawmakers to keep at least 6 of the parks that are on this list. Some of the events that were going on included: skeet shooting which is an Olympic sport also, trout fishing, police dog demonstrations, et cetera.

The first event we went to see was the police dog demonstration. I initially thought this would be a display of how the police dogs tackle suspects, etc because they had one of those really thick suits they use for practice. I was actually looking forward to it because Jonathan had dared me to wear the uniform and let the police dog chase me (if they were indeed doing such a demonstration). Sadly, it turned out they were just demonstrating how the dogs sniffed out items such as jerky (or humans), and evidence collection. It was pretty impressive. Then, we went to grab some burgers to eat because the 2 ladies (Julie & I) were about to make a scene. πŸ™‚ I kid. J is the Southern lady and would never do anything so unladylike. Well, except bite a hospital nurse. lol. She’ll totally have my head for that one too. πŸ™‚ I snuck away from the group and took some pictures of 3 hawks that were used for hunting. Hawks are majestic in person and my camera didn’t disappoint me in capturing their grace and disdain for the human who dared to come close to them. πŸ™‚ Jonathan took over the care of Benjamin while Julie & I got ready to shoot some skeets!! For the record, this was the first time I’ve ever held a shot gun (I’ve held a gun before) and used it! It was a surreal experience and the best part of shooting was getting to do the pump action thingie. lol. Just like the movies. I tried to contain my excitement, but I’m afraid I wasn’t able to be so restrained. Still, I don’t think I horribly embarrassed myself. I’ve got the pictures to prove it and after the shooting was done, my shoulder and right arm hurt. One of the first things I noticed right away was that a 12 gauge single barrel shot gun is heavy. My instructor & Bill were both right about one thing: holding the gun firmly against your body is one of the surer ways to prevent too much impact from recoil.

By the time we were done, we (the group) decided to visit some attractions we hadn’t seen like the small collection of snakes that was presented by Snakes of Georgia. The snakes were kept in locked cages and included the cottonmouth, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the copperhead and one other I can’t remember. However, the snake that stuck out for me was the albino Burmese python which was apparently just a baby at 40 lbs and 8 ft long already! I’ve never held a python before and on Saturday, I did just that and more. Thanks to Jonathan’s egging me on, I allowed them to drape this 8ft 40lb python over me and I have the pictures to prove it! That was the best moment and for the record, the albino Burmese python is relatively harmless except at feeding time. πŸ™‚ I would put the pictures of this event up on Facebook already, but my camera had long died on me.

I was spent by the time we actually got around to exploring the town. We visited the candy store where we had some divine samples of candy and we got some funnel cake to end the day. As soon as I returned to the car with J & J, I bid them a good night because I was out for much of the ride home. I got a free shirt for my “pains” and I had a great night’s rest! Thanks to J, J, little B and big B! lol.