I am not a fan of heights and I am easily disgusted. These two objections came crashing headlong into one another as the summer dwindled to its logical conclusion.
Our friends and neighbors, Judith and Tim Vanderver, are outgoing sorts. Their idea of a perfect day is to go get lost in the North Carolina mountains for five hours discovering never-before-seen places, so it was no surprise that they wanted to take us on an adventure along the Chattahoochee River near our house.
The Chattahoochee and I have had a tenuous relationship going back to my teen years. A group of friends and I were rafting down — “shooting the Hooch” as the kids say — when a friend went under water and unintentionally swallowed a mouthful of river water. Never in my life had I seen color drain from a person’s face so quickly. This immediate reaction was followed by days of bed rest. Whatever it was put the fear of bacteria in me concerning the Chattahoochee.
I told our friends we would go and at least see it. We settled on a weekend that would work for everyone, children included, and made our way to the parking pad off of White Water Creek Road in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in Buckhead. This is an area with which we are familiar. It is in my humble opinion the best place to go for a walk. The trail hugs the river almost to the Interstate 285 overpass, which is the direction we were hiking for those looking at Google maps. Eventually though, the trail comes to an impassible massive exposed rock. The trail loops back around and returns to the parking lot at that point.
Our hosts, when we got to gigantic rock, showed us how to get over and around it. Lo and behold, the trial continued but in a much narrower fashion, more akin to an Indian footpath. There were points where we were on a small ledge a good 20 feet up with nothing between us and the shoreline below. There were some scrambles which required the person in front lend a hand to the person behind. We had Thornton and Virginia with us and they made it just fine. It wasn’t crazy. I just wouldn’t take Grandmother out there. After about a quarter of a mile of scrambling and climbing, we descended onto another rocky ledge. This one, though, jutted out into the river about 25 feet up.
This is Jumping Rock or Diving Rock, depending on who you ask. Not only was I supposed to jump into this foul body of water, but I would, if I were any sort of man, have to do it from a height with which I was not entirely comfortable.It took some time, some hemming and hawing, more than a few rafters and floaters screaming “Jump!” but I did it. As with most things, the leap was not nearly as terrifying as I had built it up to be. I was honestly surprised that I didn’t hit the bottom. For some reason the otherwise shallow river is incredibly deep right at that point, as if Mother Nature knew with this perfect outcropping there needed to be a safe depth below.
Of course I did everything I could to keep the river water out. But it was like swimming in any other river. What I learned is to not go in the river after a hard rain when it is inundated with runoff and has that brown coloring. This day the river was green, which apparently is good or so I was told.
While jumping off the rock was an experience in and of itself, the fact that we continue to have unique experiences in the area in which I grew up (my grandmother’s house looked down on precisely that point in the river from Sentinel Post Road) is truly outstanding. But for the crowds gathering on the opposite bank, there was no way of knowing we were in a city of five million people. It was more like a day in the country.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at email@example.com.