National Park Sites of Georgia

Plains, GA

On a weekend in September, Anthony and I were able to sneak away and spend some time in Georgia. We stayed in Atlanta, but traveled around in order to get to a few National Park Sites we had not yet visited. Our first morning, we got up early to head down to Plains, Georgia to visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.  It was a warm, humid day and we managed to stumble upon the Plains Peanut Festival. We had no idea there was a peanut festival in Plains, but we happened to get there the day it occurred! The visitor center for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is in the old Plains High School. Lots of cool artifacts from his presidency, and his life, including his 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. Some of the classrooms have been restored to show how they would have looked when Carter was a student there. He had an inspirational principal that always told her students, “Any one of you could be president someday.” There were also displays detailing the humanitarian work that Carter has done through the Carter Center in Atlanta. The visitor center also offers information on Jimmy Carter’s continuing work as a Sunday School teacher, as well has his involvement in the Plains community.

President Jimmy Carter

We then wandered downtown, a short walk, in order to take part in the Peanut Festival. We were able to wander through the Plains Train Depot, part of the park service. There are tons of artifacts from his presidential campaign, as well as interesting facts about it. For instance, when he was inaugurated, basically the whole town boarded a train, that they dubbed the Peanut Express, and went to DC to be a part of everything. We ate fries, kettle corn, and sipped homemade lemonade, all while waiting to have Jimmy Carter sign books! We were planning to leave Plains earlier in order to make it to a couple of other park sites, but when we heard that Carter was signing books we decided to hang around and wait. Though we didn’t have a chance to speak to Carter, it was just really neat to have some books signed and to get to be that close to such an influential man. It also helped that he was adorable!

Andersonville National Historic Site

After leaving Plains, we headed to Andersonville National Historic Site.  Andersonville, a Confederate Civil War prison, is not an uplifting place. To think that more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here, and 13,000 of them also died here, is horrifying. The 25+ acre area of the actual prison is no longer surrounded by high wooden barricades or covered in mud, but from the displays in the National Prisoner of War Museum at the visitor center, you can get a pretty clear idea of how terrible is was. The soldiers were forced to create their own housing from whatever materials they could scavenge, and building scraps leftover from the walls. The only water source was a small stream that ran through the center of the camp. Up river were the latrines of the soldiers and workers who ran the camp. The conditions were deplorable. The museum does a great job of exploring not only the situation at Andersonville, but also other POW stories from all over the world.

The next morning, we went to explore Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  We were most impressed by the historic earthworks that still exist in the woods around the area. Since it was a Sunday morning, there were tons of runners, and walkers all climbing the trail to the top of the mountain. We took a driving tour of the area, taking a few quiet walks through the woods. The Civil War battlefield was the site of the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign, and the soldiers battled in the area for almost a month in the summer of 1864.

Our last stop, before heading home, was Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  We didn’t spend much time here, since we had to get home, but it looks like it would be a really fun river on which to canoe or kayak, exploring all the beaches and wildlife. The weekend went by too quickly!

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