Sunday, March 24, 2013

Garden Grandeur and More

March 20-21, 2013
We are having so much fun with friends there is scarcely enough time to blog it.  Here are the highlights of our past two days in Pine Mountain and Warm Springs.  

Franklin Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia is only about 20 miles from Callaway Gardens.  The road snakes through the woods and along the mountain ridges of Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, named for the man who once owned all 9,049 acres of Georgia’s largest state park.  

Roosevelt first started visiting Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the waters of the thermal spring fed pool there as therapy for his polio.  He enjoyed playing water games with the local kids and getting to know the friendly rural folk, and returned multiple times before deciding to build a modest cottage in the woods there in 1932, the year he first ran for President.   His interactions with his hard scrabble common working class neighbors in Warm Springs helped shape his New Deal policy ideas and priorities.

 We toured the Little White House and the museum next to it which covered the high points of his presidency, with special emphasis on his leg braces, custom designed wheel chairs and a crutch style he invented that is still used today.  There was very little attention paid to Eleanor--apparently she did not visit here often.    

Just down the hill from the Little White House is the pool where Roosevelt swam for therapy.  It is no longer used, but visitors can walk down a ramp to the pool bottom and dip their hands in a fountain of the 88 degree mineral water to get an idea of what it was like.  An iron lung and numerous other polio artifacts on exhibit at the pool house reminded us of the dramatic impact of Jonas Salk’s vaccine in our lifetimes. 

On the way back to Pine Mountain, we stopped at Dowdell’s Knob, an overlook in FDR State Park where Roosevelt liked to picnic on a table covered with fine table linens, using silver serving pieces and utensils.  This story from the historical marker there is at odds with the tale told by the docent back at the Little White House, who claims that Roosevelt’s Warm Springs silverware was all mismatched, and he liked it that way, because he wanted to be casual here.  Of great men are great myths made. . .

There is a fireplace on the overlook which has been cemented over “to preserve it” according to a sign there.  So it was destroyed to preserve it--go figure.

Great Horned Owl
Back at Callaway Gardens we caught the afternoon Raptor Show on Wednesday, and enjoyed it so much that we went to two more Raptor shows on Thursday.   At two of the three shows, a Great Horned Owl, a Barred Owl, a White-Headed Vulture and a Harris Hawk flew over and around us many times while the educator shared amazing facts about these birds.  Example:  A Great Horned Owl’s talons are four times as strong as the jaws of a German Shepherd, and it can fly off carrying prey that is twice his weight.

Harris Hawk

White-headed Vulture
 Dick got lots of practice doing flight shots, and I felt the air beneath the silent wing of the owl, and the feather tickle of the hawk’s wing edge touching my ear.  

At the one indoor raptor show we attended because it was too cold to sit outside there was less flying around, but more close-up views of the birds, we got to feel the wings and heads of taxidermed birds of prey. (Owl feathers are soft for silent night flight when they count on their ears to hear their prey, while hawk feathers are firmer with crisp edges--no need for silence when you can see what you are after.)

Thursday morning the temperatures were in the 40s, so a walk around the garden had little appeal, but the expansive indoor displays of the horticulture center were beautiful--an amazing variety of colorful orchids (is there ever an ugly orchid?), a long stone wall covered in a variety of colorful succulents, lots of whimsical topiary rabbits and chicks cavorting in the gardens, and many more lovely scenes presented in 72 degree comfort.  There was even a geocache hidden inside (one of at least 20 hidden all around the park).

 We came for the azaleas, and found them aplenty along the garden’s Azalea Trail which winds for 1.6 miles through over 100 varieties of native and introduced azaleas in every shade imaginable, from white to endless shades of pink, salmons and peaches, warm reds to deep shades of wine.   There were many different petal and bloom shapes and sizes, as well.  Studying the variations was fascinating, just wandering the paths and getting lost in the beauty was time sublime.


We have found yet another wonderful little piece of Georgia, full of opportunities for adventures, discoveries and quiet contemplation--and it is a really great place to hang out and have fun with friends.

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