Friday, May 13, 2016

Rocks, claustrophobia, and near-death experiences

Well, I'm at it again! Off on a Buggy Road Trip, this time to Hiawassee, GA and then a quick stop home (ATL - for those that are new to the blog/don't know me - I consider Atlanta home, even though I only lived there 3 1/2 years from ages 6 to 9) before heading back to Memphis.

Since I'm so used to driving to ATL from Memphis, I didn't even think about the fact I wouldn't be going through Birmingham on this trip. Once OnStar started guiding me towards Nashville, I was like "Ohhh yeah, Chattanooga, then through the mountains of North Carolina/GA to Hiawassee."

Once I got on the other side of Nashville, and started seeing the See Rock City signs every half mile - for those that have never made this drive, this is an exaggeration... but not much of one - the wheels started cranking. I have this brand new camera to play with. Surely Rock City would give me opportunity to experiment.

Now, let me pause in our story to tell you a bit about my childhood. Even though we lived in Memphis (and ATL for those 3 1/2 years), I feel like I grew up in East TN. We spent summers on the lake, made trips to Gatlinburg and Chattanooga regularly, and I swear I have more memories at Nana's house in Rockwood than I do at ours in Memphis.

But I don't remember ever going to Rock City.

So I sent my older sister a text, as I knew she and the kids had just gone not too long ago, asking if it was worth it. Factoring in my DEATHLY fear of heights. She assured me it was, and that there were ways to avoid the lookouts on the trails. Cool. Decision made. 

Now, had I know what I was in for, I may have remembered to also ask her to factor in my slight claustrophobia as well. It's not horrible. It's just when I get into spaces something is touching both my front and back that I start to find it hard to breathe. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you "Fat Man Squeeze". The entrance is by far the widest part of the pathway. See the entrance below. See the child almost taking up the full space. I repeat, see the CHILD... you get the idea. Disclaimer: I stole this pic from Google images. I was panicking too much to snap pictures while entering.

Now, I will openly admit I had several small panic attacks while going through the park. That being said, overall I really enjoyed it. I think the fact I was focusing on what would make good pictures, it was a good distraction. Claustrophobia aside, I've always been fascinated with caves. I think it spawns from visiting the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, MO. If you've never visited there: HIGHLY recommend. So weaving through little rock passages was a lot of fun. By far my favorite was the rainbow passage. 

This also happens to be one of the best pictures I got, or at least in my opinion. Maybe because it spoke to me so much, I'm partial to the pictures as well.

The picture I am most proud of is at Lover's Leap. Not because it's a spectacular picture. It's ok. But I had to go out onto a lookout to get it. I was shaking so bad, I'm surprised it came out clear. I had to lean against the rail just to trust myself to lift the camera over my face. But I did it. For art.

If you'd like to flip through some of the other shots I got, visit the Photobucket album below.

Overall review - if you're not scared of heights or claustrophobic: GO NOW. Beautiful. If you are either or both with the heights/close quarters, still consider going. Just mentally prepare yourself first. You can avoid SOME of the heights. You cannot avoid the tight paths. Just keep that in mind before making plans.

Time to wrap up. What's that? You didn't understand the near-death part of my title? Oh, right. There's that.

I was leaving Rock City. Turned on the windy road that takes you back down Lookout Mountain. The very first curve: no trees, no guard rail, nothing in your line of sight other than*:
*this pic was taken while I was in the park, but is pretty accurate to the height I was at for this part of the story

So that's all I see that I'm going towards. I've heard of tunnel vision before, but never experienced it until today. All my brain/eyes saw was that descent. There was no road, other cars, etc. Just me heading towards my biggest fear. And that's when things got REALLY scary. 

I got really lightheaded (normal for me with heights), then my vision started going blurry/dark. 

In a moving vehicle. Towards a cliff.

I did the only thing I could think of. Stopped the car.

In the middle of a road. With multiple cars behind me.

But that's all I could think of to do to save me going over the edge. Literally. I looked down at the floor of the car, my vision came back, and I took that turn at 10 mph. There was a pulloff to the right so slow traffic can let other cars pass. I pulled in there, and just sat for what seemed like 5 minutes, but likely was more like 1-2 at most. Once I couldn't see any cars coming, I pulled back out, and the rest of the drive down the view out was guarded by trees, so I managed to somewhat pull it back together and drive over 20 mph. 

I know parts of Lookout (Rock City) are in GA and parts are in Chattanooga, so I don't know if this near-death occurrence was in GA or TN. If it was in TN... it must be an East TN thing. It was a full-on mud & sticks moment. Only family/close friends will get that reference, but basically I almost drowned in the lake when I was like 2. Regardless, I'm still here and kicking - and have more adventures tomorrow to look forward to!