A lot changed in our country between my March 1 and March 19 visits to
Callaway Gardens so on this gorgeous weekday morning at the peak of
azalea bloom, not as many visitor were flocking here as usual.
It became clear in early March that COVID was now becoming an epidemic in
various parts of our country
after it had been raging in other parts of the world for several weeks
and months. The CDC issued guidelines to help prevent the spread of the
highly contagious new disease and states began issuing restrictions,
including shut-downs, of many businesses and industries that were deemed non-essential.
Even in-person classes in schools and colleges were suspended.
For active folks like me, being
able to hike in a place like this was "essential" during the pandemic!
Although Callaway Gardens and other parks are not considered
essential in the same way grocery stores and medical facilities are,
large outdoor spaces have been an important place during the pandemic
for people to get exercise and maintain their sanity.
Despite guidance to
"stay at home" and "avoid groups, especially indoors," the
gardens and other outdoor spaces at Callaway Gardens remained opened
since its trails and roadways were safer than its buildings.
The resort's restaurants and overnight accommodations closed
temporarily in March. Public programs were suspended. Staff and hours of
operation were reduced. Masks and social distancing were required or requested of
visitors in the areas that remained open.
I was happy to learn that the trails were open during the peak of the
azalea bloom so I returned on March 19 with guide-puppy-in-training, Don. More people were
present this time than March 1 because of the gorgeous flower show but
attendance was 'way down from a normal year, even on a weekday.
It was a beautiful sunny day again but much warmer -- low 80s, which
is above average for Middle Georgia in mid-March.
The park didn't open until 10 AM. I got there a few minutes after
that and headed for the Overlook Azalea Gardens first, then the Azalea Bowl,
like I did two weeks earlier. Both areas were stunning with so many flowers in bloom.
map section of the park, with purple dots where I
went this time:
OVERLOOK AZALEA GARDEN
When you enter the main gardens entrance, the first left goes to the Overlook. This is
a large hillside with meandering dirt trails above scenic Mockingbird Lake.
I took dozens of photos in this area, including the ones above.
Here are some more:
Redbud trees were in bloom this
At the end of the Azalea Overlook parking area is a
pavilion with views toward Whipporwill Lake to the west:
Daffodils in bloom
Mountain laurels in bloom
There is a series of steps leading down the hill to a wooden bridge over
a creek that connects Mockingbird and Whipporwill Lakes, which flank the Overlook Garden.
When I visited on March 1 most of the azaleas were not yet in bloom
near the bridge but by the 19th, they were stunning. I included my favorite creekside
photo near the top of this page. Here are a few more:
As I was driving to the next area to hike and take pictures, the Azalea Bowl, I
circled around Mockingbird Lake and passed this same place by the creek
and bridge. The road is just to the right of the creek in the photo above.
No one was driving behind me so I stopped on the roadway a few times
to take some pictures from the driver's seat for a different perspective:
PHOTOS FROM THE AZALEA BOWL
Most of the native and hybrid azaleas and some flowering trees were in
bloom in this area on my second visit. Very few were blooming on March 1.
The paved trail meanders down to Mountain Creek Lake and splits. These
photos are going CCW around a finger of the lake. Because of the heat I
didn't take puppy Don over to the chapel this time, so he still hasn't
been in there.
Don wasn't fazed by walking over this bridge on
either hike at Callaway.
Above and below: Don and I took a water break
in the shade of the little gazebo.
DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BUTTERFLY CENTER
We didn't go to the Discovery Center this time but chose to visit the
Day Butterfly Center instead.
I called the public relations department a few days before going down
to Callaway Gardens to ask if I could take Don into the atrium where the
butterflies are located, explaining that he was a guide/service dog in
training. I was told yes, he'd have access.
When I got there, it was a different story.
I was able to take Don in the lobby, theater, and gift shop but when
I started to go into the "greenhouse" where the butterflies live,
a man stopped me and said it was against USDA regulations. I don't know if the
policy was changed due to the worsening COVID pandemic or if one of the
two employees was simply wrong.
I chose not to press the issue because Don was already tired from the
little bit of walking that we'd done in the heat, and it's quite warm and
humid inside the greenhouse itself. It was too hot to leave him in the car
and go back inside by myself, so I left.
I never did get back down to the gardens again this year and our
annual pass has expired.
The photo of the greenhouse area above is one I took last
year when I was at Callaway Gardens several times in the spring. I
posted a lot more photos of the entire resort in the
2019 web journal in five entries dated March 29 and one dated
April 18. I highly recommend visiting just about any time of year
because something is always in bloom.
Next entry: pup-date on Dapper Don in March, when he was 9
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don
© 2020 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil