Deep in the hills of Georgia, tucked away between the charming towns of Carrollton and Newnan, a death-defying adventure awaits you.
This weekend, I stepped way out of my comfort zone.
Actually, I was pushed a little.
Husband artfully presented this trip as a Christmas gift- to me. Me, the giant sissy-pants! Two nights stay in a treehouse, an all-day Guinness Book of World Record’s longest ziplining tour, and a half-day kayaking trip down the Chatahoochee River.
After almost eight and a half hours in the car we finally arrived (a couple of extra thanks to Friday traffic). We checked in at the main lodge then immediately hit the trails. The next few hours we hiked the hilly paths (and wandered a little off path) on and around the historic property. We followed the rushing creek and came upon an abandoned mill- Banning Mills, an old textile mill, and the property’s namesake. We also wandered through some old stone ruins, and sat and admired a small waterfall.
As night fell, we teetered across the suspension bridge high above the creek and made our way back to our tiny treehouse. Inside we had all the modern amenities you’d find in an immaculately kept hotel including a jacuzzi tub, television, and king-sized bed. Our treehouse was one of two that also had a small second level just big enough for bunk beds. Getting used to the swaying took me a few hours. Neither husband nor daughter even noticed the movements. Being lulled to sleep by the rushing creek water some hundred feet below (reminiscent of my Sharper Image sound machine) more than made up for it. There is even a deck for those brave enough to hang out for the view.
Day two began in the Grand Lodge where dozens of tables were set for breakfast. Homemade biscuits, grits, bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, and yogurt were served. I was astonished by the amount of food guests piled in knowing what awaited them. Husband and daughter said breakfast was awesome. I can only speak for the few bites of fresh fruit.
At 9:30am our name was called and we, along with three others were assigned our guides for the day- Christian, Jon, and Fluffy. After a brief lesson, we were geared up and on our way across the first and scariest suspension bridge. My heart was in my throat as I stepped across the foot-wide gaps between the wobbly planks. Over the next few hours, my pulse never slowed as we climbed hundreds of feet and zip lined across miles of wooded hills. Each time, I stalled, waiting for everyone in our group to go. Then I stepped off the edge of the platform, pretty convinced my harness would come loose, or the line would snap on my turn. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so quickly and so often.
At lunchtime, we took a beautiful, welcomed break with our feet on firm ground. I felt like a survivor- accomplished and happy to have made it that far. But we were only beginning- the big lines were yet to come.
The lodge served up a hot lunch of home-made macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, and other meats, and salads. Since I’m vegetarian-ish (still eating the occasional fish), they prepared a special pasta and vegetable dish for me. Everything I tasted was top-notch, but nervous anticipation had my stomach feeling like a blob of concrete. The fearless spawn of my loins and her other parent piled their plates high and shoveled it in, anxious to get back out to the woods.
After lunch it was time to step it up to the advanced zip lines. Great! No problem. I was an expert by now.
Nothing prepared me for the 3,400-foot-long monster line- The Flight of the Falcon. We climbed the 259-foot swaying tower (purposely built that way for safety) and waited an eternity as each thrill-seeker lay face down on a collapsible table while the group of guides attached the straps and connectors to both them and the line. Everyone was both nervous and excited (except me, I was just nervous). The loud clink of the metal meant the table was dropping down and the next victim would be on their way. I changed my mind at least a dozen times while waiting for my turn. Ultimately, I decided spending any more time on the swaying tower was scarier than just going for it.
What a rush it was flying face-down (like Superman) hundreds of feet across the gorge. The views were amazing. I even almost forgot to pray.
When the day was done, we were exhausted and happy. We had climbed more than one-hundred stories and rode almost ten miles of ziplines. The guides were incredibly patient and kind. I was thrilled to have done it, yet not disappointed it was over. I felt accomplished… and hungry.
The lodge offers gourmet dinners for a set price, but we decided to drive into the nearby town of Carroltown for less expensive options. We had sandwiches at Corner Café one night and salmon and burgers at a place called Brown Dog the other night. Both were great.
On Sunday morning, we took a guided kayaking tour of the Chatahoochee. I paddled along the serene river relaxing in my kayak, husband and daughter beside me in theirs. The temperature was in the mid 70s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The adrenaline surges were gone for good… or so I thought.
There’s nothing quite like the sheer terror of hearing rushing white water in the distance.
The guide mentioned rapids on the van ride over, but I honestly thought he was teasing.
None of us had ever paddled in rapids before.
He had us line up and talked us through the first drop. One at a time. We paddled fast, like he told us too. We kept the boats straight and made it through. The first drop was the only really scary one. The few whitewater areas after that were a breeze. We saw dozens of turtles lined up perched on branches along the riverbank. I paddled along, humming Alan Jackson’s “Chatahoochee” in my head. When I shared this with our guide, he told me Alan Jackson’s hometown was Newnan- only a few miles away.
With our adrenaline-filled weekend coming to an end, we packed up the car and headed for home. During the ride, I pondered the whole trip, debating whether or not the sixteen hours in the car was worth the three-day weekend adventure. I looked at husband and daughter with the smiles still plastered on their tired faces and decided.
It was worth it.
For more information on taking a trip to Historic Banning Miles, visit their website: