Georgia State Parks “Leaf Watch” Tracks Fall Color

ATL_RedTopMtnStatePark_Hiking472 (3)

Georgia State Parks “Leaf Watch” Website Tracks Best Fall Color

Travel Tips for Leaf Peepers

Every October, Georgia’s mountains turn to a vibrant blanket of red and gold as the leaves begin to change. To help “leaf peepers” find the best spots for fall color, Georgia’s State Parks will offer an online Leaf Watch travel planner in October and November, found at

Leaf Watch is filled with top trails and overlooks, mountain cabins and campsites, fall events and hiking tips.  Shutterbugs are encouraged to share their favorite shots on the Georgia State Parks Facebook page and Instagram, tagging #GaLeafWatch and #GaStateParks. Rangers will post updates on how fall color is progressing in their parks.

Some of Georgia’s top state parks for leaf watching include those in the mountains, such as Amicalola Falls, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Smithgall Woods, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi and Vogel. While F.D. Roosevelt is south of Atlanta, its higher elevation means autumn colors are often vibrant. For late-season getaways, visitors may want to explore parks further south, such as George L. Smith. The southern Georgia parks can offer pretty color after the last mountain leaves have fallen.

Georgia State Parks offer a variety of accommodations where leaf peepers can stay in the heart of autumn scenery. Guests can choose from cabins, campsites and yurts – a “glamping” option that is like a combination tent-cabin.  Accommodations may be reserved 13 months in advance, and many fill up on October weekends. Guests are encouraged to make plans as early as possible or visit during weekdays.  Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-864-7275 or at

Park rangers have planned numerous events throughout October, including guided hikes and paddles, fall festivals, and Halloween hayrides and campground trick-or-treating. A list of events can be found at


Ten Top Georgia State Parks for Fall Color

Amicalola Falls State Park – Dawsonville

Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall.  A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views.  There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top.  For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase.

Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton

At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park.  (Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest peak.) Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike.  For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail.

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Near Chattanooga

One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging trails.  A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls.  (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.)  The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain

Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta.  The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail.  For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and views of the forested valley.  Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth

This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s green lake.  For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail.  Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore.  Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping to see.

Moccasin Creek State Park – Lake Burton

Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake.  Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower.  Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.

Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen

Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color.  Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls.  A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees.  Smithgall Woods has some of the park system’s most sought-after cabins and is near wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Near Clayton

Tallulah is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails.  Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom.  During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.”  Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Karl Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.

Unicoi State Park – Helen

New ziplines take you high above the forest canopy for a unique view of leaves. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. Unicoi offers a lodge and restaurant.

Vogel State Park – Blairsville

The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake.  For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall.  The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.

Blog: The Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression

New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Post-Partum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend's Plea

New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea

Written by Julie Anne Waterfield for Her View From Home

Allison was a beautiful ray of sunshine in my life.  The life of an Army wife can get lonely at times – moving around so much, searching for new friends, and trying to make a strange house and new town feel like home.  A mil-spouse herself, Allison knew the struggle, and reached out to my husband the very first weekend we moved a few houses down from her in Montgomery, Alabama.  She invited us on a blind friend date with her and her husband, Justin.  It wasn’t long into our first dinner together that I knew we hit the friend and neighbor jackpot.  It was easy to be drawn to Allison.  She was incredibly witty and had an amazing ability to make everyone around her feel welcome, included, and loved.  I knew we would be lifelong friends.

With both of us expecting our first child, Allison due a few months before me, we had a lot of similar experiences that year in Montgomery.  We shared pregnancy together, eating cupcakes regularly, waddling around the neighborhood, and alternating as the designated driver so our husbands could enjoy drinking for two on the weekends.  Allison’s career as an early childhood educator, coupled with adoration for her niece and nephews, portrayed her love and experience with little ones.  I trusted her baby sense, and copied everything she did.  I chose the same OB group, the same stroller and car seat, even the same nursing tanks and nipple shields.  I wanted to be just like her.  She was adorable, healthy, smart, funny, loyal, supportive, and oh so sweet.  Every time she greeted me with my giant belly, she said, “You look beautiful!”  Of course I didn’t think so when I looked in the mirror, but she made me feel so good.  Allison was a great friend.  She handled pregnancy and motherhood beautifully…on the outside.

On the inside, less than 200 feet away from me every day, Allison was silently struggling with Postpartum Depression.  I had NO idea.  I inquired about her postpartum hormones after baby Ainslee was born.  I bluntly asked her, “Do you feel crazy? Do you cry a lot?”  I wanted to know for myself and prepare for what I would soon be experiencing with the birth of our baby.  She responded that she cries some, but mostly happy tears about Ainslee gaining weight and the appearance of little chunky baby rolls, about how precious she is to her, and what a good father Justin is.  Why didn’t I dig further?  I regret every day that I accepted her answer.

My beautiful would-be life-long friend lost her hidden battle with Postpartum depression on June 28th, 2016.  She left behind a loving husband, a precious 4.5 month-old baby girl, and countless family and friends who adored her.  I miss her every day, and I’m not even her family.  The depth of their pain…I cannot fathom.  Her family’s hope, as well as mine, is that PPD is de-stigmatized, and that other struggling mothers may hear her story and seek help.  The truth can be so hard to speak, especially when you feel your truth is shameful.  There is nothing shameful about PPD.  The adjustment to a new way of life as a mother, added to the raging hormones, can be a brutal weight to bear.  It is a weight that never should be carried alone.

Not every new mother’s journey is happy and bright.  Sometimes it is dark, lonely, scary, miserable, and uncertain.  And the guilt!  The guilt that we self-impose and that society imposes on us is overwhelming.  If our journey as a mother isn’t daisies and butterflies, we feel alienated and ashamed.  There is a rainbow at the end of the PPD storm that is raging for these struggling mamas.  Help is out there in many forms if we just seek it: loving friends, supportive husbands, counselors, support groups, and medication.

To all those mothers out there experiencing some of these same feelings: you are not alone, and you are not a bad mother!  PPD is lying to you.  It is twisting your memories, feelings, and beliefs and reshaping them into an overwhelming falsehood.  You will not be judged, only loved, as you seek help.  To those breast-feeding mothers taking Reglan (metoclopramide) to increase milk supply: stop and do research. Reglan has detrimental side effects such as new or worsening depression, suicidal ideation and suicide.  Supplement with formula if needed.  Your baby will be just as perfect and healthy with or without the breast milk.  Having more breast milk is not worth sacrificing your mental health or possibly your life.

Please share Allison’s message with everyone you know, and reach out to those new mamas. Love them through their struggles. Pray for them.  Open up about your own tough experiences as a new mother to make them feel more comfortable and less alienated.  Ask them tough questions over and over again.  I wish I had.

*Editor’s Note – We want to thank Julie for sharing her brave, heartbreaking story.  It is our hope and prayer that this message will save another life.  Thank you for your support.  For more stories from the heart, visit us on Facebook.

Resources and information for PPD:

Twenty-four hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Home Alone: Is Your Preteen Ready?

preteen home alone

By Charlotte Bowman

Is nine OK to run a quick errand? Maybe 10? Does a 14-year old need a babysitter? Can a 12-year old be trusted to look after younger siblings? This summer my husband and I faced the dilemma of whether our preteen boys were ready to stay home alone. They are no longer babies but not yet full-fledged teenagers.

According to a new report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Poll on Children’s Health, we’re not the only family struggling with this decision. Only 43 percent of parents say they are comfortable leaving their tween home alone for an hour or more.

Only three states currently have laws that specify what age a child can be home alone, and 10 states (including Georgia) offer “guidelines.” For the most part, the decision is left to the parent’s judgement. So, how do you decide?

Questions for Parents:

The preteen years are tricky. Every child reaches maturity at a different age and may not be equipped with enough knowledge to stay home safely. Your child needs to know what to do (and not to do) in an emergency situation.

Here are several questions that can help you make the decision:

  • Does your child know what to do during severe weather or a fire?
  • Does your child know if and when to call 9-1-1?
  • Does your child know not to play with guns?
  • Does your child know to stay away from toxic substances?
  • Does your child know who to call if something goes wrong?

House Rules:

If you answered “yes” to most or all of the previous questions, your tween may be ready to stay home alone. Before you leave her at home for the first time, establish some basic house rules. Make sure she knows the following:

  • What to do if the doorbell rings
  • What to do if the phone rings
  • Whether it’s OK to have friends over, and if so, how many friends can come over
  • What kinds of snacks they can eat
  • Time limits on watching TV or playing computer or video games, and a list of approved programs and games

Home Alone Safety Tips:

Before you trust your tween with your home and all its contents, make sure he knows what to do in case of an emergency. Here are some safety tips from the American Red Cross.

  • Post an emergency phone list that includes 9-1-1, parent cell numbers, numbers for family members who live near by, trusted neighbors, your pediatrician, and poison control.
  • Discuss what to do in case of a emergency, such as a fire, power outage, severe weather or injury.
  • Stock the fridge with enough healthy foods and snacks to hold your tween until you get back.
  • Keep a well stocked first-aid kit, and teach your kids how to use it.
  • Leave flashlights and fire extinguishers in easy-to-fine places
  • Remove or safely store dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, and power tools.
  • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach.
  • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage area.
  • See more safety tips and resources from the American Red Cross, KidsHealth and the National Crime Prevention Council.

Gun Safety Guidelines:

Regardless of whether you keep a firearm in your home, it is absolutely imperative to discuss gun safety with your children. Here are some firearm safety tips:

  • Always keep guns unloaded and locked up.
  • Lock and store bullets in a separate place.
  • Hide the keys to the locked boxes.
  • Talk to your child about guns and gun safety.
  • Find out if there are guns in the homes where your children play. If so, talk to the adults in the house about how and where guns are stored.
  • For talking points, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site ( and the National Rifle Association (NRA) site (

Ultimately, the decision to leave your preteen home alone depends on her maturity and your family situation. Remember that every child is different and so is every parent. So use your best judgement. Also, when you decide the time is right, make sure you’re easily accessible on your cell phone and check in frequently.


(Guideline) From Georgia’s DHS Website: Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time. Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time.”



20 New School Year Resolutions

school year resolutions

New (School) Year, New You
20 School Year Resolutions for Your Family

Forget January 1! Parents know the real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers.

Even if you don’t have kids in school, the end of summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to reassess, realign, hit the restart button and make resolutions that will help carry your family smoothly through until next summer – or at least until the holidays.

Here are 20 new school year resolutions you can make for the coming school year to support the students in your life:

  1. Read to your child every night you can
  2. Learn to love mornings
  3. Stock the freezer and pantry with hearty snacks that your kids can heat up on their own
  4. Show the teachers how much you appreciate them
  5. Make family fun a priority
  6. Plan regular family meals
  7. Fuel up with real food
  8. Ask your kids about their day
  9. Finish homework assignments on time
  10. Cook with real ingredients as often as you can
  11. Eat together as a family 2-3 nights a week.
  12. Limit the number of after school activities
  13. Set a regular time for homework each day
  14. Ban digital devices at the dinner table
  15. Rest enough at night.
  16. Provide protein and real food for afternoon snacks
  17. Visit more museums for learning
  18. Encourage your kids to be kind to others, especially the quirky kids
  19. Help your children with their homework and find tutors, as necessary
  20. Make sure your child is getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity within and outside your home each day

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Discovering Zinio: digital magazines

zinio online magazines

Discovering Zinio – Free Digital Magazines

Kid tested. Mom approved!

By Charlotte Bowman

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, well-fed, well-rested, and well-entertained kids are less likely to squabble on a road trip.

Traveling with little ones aren’t always fun. The trick is to be prepared. Our usual m.o. is to take plenty of entertainment, including books, iPads, favorite toys, and snacks. I’m always on the look-out for ideas and activities that will help my boys pass the time between rest stops.

So you can image my delight when I recently discovered that — amongst its many e-resources — Chattahoochee Valley Libraries (CVS) offers digital magazines via Zinio. I knew the library offered free ebooks, audio books and music downloads, but somehow Zinio passed me by.

What is Zinio for Libraries?

Zinio is a free repository of thousands of digital magazines and publications. If you have a library card, you can access them through your library’s website and download them for viewing on any Internet-enabled device.

Zinio is called the world’s largest online news stand for a reason. The sheer number of available magazines is mind boggling. There are familiar selections like Reader’s Digest, Vogue, US, and National Geographic Interactive. Then there are specialty magazines. Not only can you read the latest issues, but older issues too.

CVLGA Zinio portal page

You can borrow (check out) as many magazines as you like for free and keep them as long as you want – with no overdue fees. Plus, you can opt-in to be notified when the latest issues become available.

We tested the CVL’s Zinio portal and Zinio for Libraries app during a recent family road trip.

Before leaving town, I went online via my laptop to CVL’s Zinio portal. Using my library card, I completed the registration form and created an account.

Note: The initial registration must take place on a computer or laptop browser!

Once logged in, I got completely sucked in and spent nearly an hour browsing the collection. I checked out the latest available issues of Highlights for Kids and National Geographic Interactive for my boys and Vogue for me. 

Downloading the “Zinio for Libraries” app

The free Zinio for Libraries app allows you to read your checked-out magazines on a mobile device instead of a web browser. The app is available for the iPad, iPhone, and Android in the corresponding app stores.

Since we’re a Mac family, I downloaded the app from the iTunes App Store. I followed the prompts to find Chattahoochee Valley Libraries. The app required me to create a separate “Zinio for Libraries” account, which seemed a bit overkill. Fortunately, I was able to use the same email and password I used to create my initial account.

Once logged in, your checked-out magazines should appear in the app, ready for downloading. Mine didn’t, and it took a bit of sleuthing to figure out how to refresh my library.

Note: If you don’t see your magazines, simply click the Settings icon in the top left corner and tap Refresh Your Library!

zinio for libraries app
Zinio for Libraries app

It turns out that you have to manually download your magazines if you want them to display on your device. Frankly, this last bit was a tad irritating. I’m accustomed to iTunes where a purchase kicks off an automatic download and makes my selections immediately available for listening or viewing. To download your magazines, simply tap the Download Cloud icon.  Your magazines are now ready to be viewed anytime — online or offline.

Note: You must have Wi-Fi to download a magazine!

Reading your magazines is a breeze. My kids were tapping the titles of cover stories, swiping left and right to turn pages, pinching the screen to zoom in, and tapping the middle of the page to bring up menu options. Their verdict? Double thumbs up!

Zinio First Time Instructions

The initial registration must take place on a computer or laptop browser. [Printable PDF of Instructions]

  1. Visit via your computer or laptop
  2. Browse the collection. Click the Check Out Now icon to check out a magazine. Click the cover to see more details and back issues.
  3. After checking out a magazine, select Create New Account.
  4. Enter your library card number, email and select a password.
  5. You can read the magazine on a compatible web browser. If you’re on a mobile device or tablet you will need to download the Zinio for Libraries app to read your magazine.

Using the App

The Zinio for Libraries App allows you to read your magazines on a mobile device instead of a web browser. Get a magazine: Tap Checkout Magazines in the bottom corner. This takes you back to the library’s collection of magazines. Download a magazine: In the app, tap the magazine cover or the cloud icon. You must have Wi-Fi to download a magazine. Once downloaded, the magazine can be read offline. Reading a magazine:

  • Swipe left or right to turn pages
  • Pinch the screen to zoom in
  • Tap the middle of the page to bring up menu options.
  • Tap the X to return to your collection

Sorting Magazines: Tap Sort by at the top right of the app Deleting Magazines: Tap Edit at the top of the app. Tap the X on a cover to delete it. There are no due dates on magazines, but they do take up space on your device (500-300MB/magazine) Adobe Flash Error Message: This appears if you are trying to read the magazine in an incompatible web browser instead of the app.

Need the Zinio App?