DeKalb County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: December 1, 2006
Author: Lanny Wexler

Finally, a trip report from Lanny!

I flew down to Atlanta from New York on a "quickie trip" as result of a Delta Airlines ticket voucher that enabled me to travel cheaply due to rude service I received from Delta a year and a half ago.

This would be my second visit to Stone Mountain as it so impressed me, on my first visit in June 1993.

My main reason for going to Atlanta was to visit the Georgia Aquarium which opened in November 2005 and is the world's largest aquarium in landlocked Atlanta.

Since, I was in town and without a car I noticed to easy cohps I could do DeKalb Clayton Counties. Both are accessible by public transportation that come close (within two miles in the case of Stone Mountain) to the highpoint.

I left New York and it was 68 degrees under threatening skies with an approaching cold front from the west. The forecast in New York was for strong thunderstorms and high winds later in the day. The front extended up and down the East Coast.

By the time I reached Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 12:45 pm, the skies had cleared and it was a crisp and comfortable 55 degrees and unlimited visibility. All I could think was, Boy what a day for Stone Mountain!

While flying into Atlanta my plane happened to pass over Stone Mountain (see linked photo). Stone Mountain, the world's largest exposed granite monolith was quite a site from 10,000 feet!

I took the hotel courtesy van to the Comfort Inn North at Atlanta Airport. By the time I ate lunch and got my room and then got the courtesy van back to the airport, it was already after 3 pm. I was beginning to wonder if I would have time to reach Stone Mountain before dark. My hotel was 10 miles south of Atlanta and I had to take MARTA north into downtown Atlanta and switch at Five Points for a train east to Avondale and then transfer to the 120 Bus to Stone Mountain Village which is located 16 miles east of Atlanta.

Fortunately, to MARTA's credit the trip went flawlessly and I arrived in Stone Mountain about 4:10 pm.

I was dropped off at the last stop of the 120 Bus on Fourth Avenue in Stone Mountain Village, next to a small park & ride lot. Strangely enough the bus does not go to Stone Mountain Park but only to Stone Mountain Village. I received directions from the bus driver to Stone Mountain. It was a short 10 minute walk. I walked a half block north on Fourth Avenue, turned right (I forget the name of the street), walked up a hill until I could see Stone Mountain looming in front of me. I passed by one house with a cannon. Still seems they're fighting the Civil War down here.

I came to a gate and passed through the West entrance into Stone Mountain Park. This gate does close at dusk and then you have to use another entrance, about a quarter mile to the east.

As I walked into Stone Mountain Park and I glanced up, seeing Stone Mountain bathed in the golden late afternoon sunlight, contrasted with a a sapphire blue sky and full moon rising. Back in New York at 4:25 pm ot would nearly be dark at this time, here at Stone Mountain being as far west as Detroit, there was still an hour of daylight left.

Still, it was a 1.4 mile hike and 825 foot ascent from the parking lot. I wondered if I'd make it back down the mountain before dark as I had no flashlight. There was a tram I could have taken up the mountain for $7 each way but that was a mile walk from the hiking trail and I might not make it in time before the tram goes.

I began to climb the hiking trail passing a bunch of flags, including the Confederate flag. I think, here I am a "good old Yankee boy" in the middle of Dixie. So the trail steadily ascended this granite monolith on its northwest flank. I followed yellow blazes on the smooth rock that was occasionally broken in spots through freeze-and-thaw action.

The trail passed through pine trees and ascended higher and higher and more steeply until some great views could be seen of the Georgia countryside and the Atlanta skyline off to the west.

The final ascent was along two parallel metal railings that might ne needed on the rare occasions that ice forms.

Even though it was late Friday afternoon, I was not alone on the mountain. Many people of all ages heading down passing me and even some hikers and joggers were going up at this late hour.

Stone Mountain is a popular mountain for Atlantans. What Monadnock is to Bostonians and Sandia Peak is to Albuquerque, Stone Mountain is to Atlanta.

Here is a photograph from near the top of Stone Mountain

Arriving on top I found the USGS survey marker and walked among the highest rocky knobs to ensure all high points were covered. The views were 360 and really amazing. I could see Atlanta off to the west, Lake Lanier to the northeast and the Appalachians in North Georgia, off to the north and the long shadow of Stone Mountain cast itself on the land off to the northeast. I was lucky to have such a clear day.

I donned my jacket as it was quite windy and cool on the summit from the recent passage of the cold front. There is a restaurant and tram station on top but after a few photos I elected to head back down into the blinding, setting sun.

The shadows lengthened as I descended and I reached the base of Stone Mountain at 5:30 pm as dusk fell.

I walked an extra mile or more to the Stone Mountain Inn where I enjoyed a southern style buffet dinner of chicken, mashed potaties, corn fritters, vegetables, salad, peaches, cakes and ice cream for $15.95.

After dinner I walked around the lighting displays at the Christmas Village. I saw and heard the Christmas train moving through the chilly Georgia night giving tourists and holiday goers a five mile circular tour around the perimeter of Stone Mountain.

During the day, boat rides are given on Stone Mountain Lake and a plantation can be toured. This is one fun and interesting highpoint to visit!

After finishing dinner, my only concern was getting back safely to my hotel, as Atlanta does have a high crime rate. The walk back to Stone Mountain Village took about 40 minutes. Once again I connected with the 120 Bus right away despite the late hour of 8 pm. The bus took me back to MARTA and I was back to my hotel by 10 pm, all done without a car.