Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stone Mountain Again -Thank you sir, may I have another?

If you're old enough, you may remember this line from the movie Animal House. During a fraternity hazing, Kevin Bacon's character was forced to say "Thank you sir, may I have another" after each whack of a paddle. In a way, I can relate. We continue to camp at Stone Mountain year after year, and continue to be frustrated at the condition of the campground and the seemingly casual way the "Theme Park" area is run. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with day one of our visit.

Springtime at Stone Mountain can be exceptionally beautiful. The park is covered with flowering trees and shrubs, and the landscape is absolutely beautiful. We had friends coming into town, so we decided Stone Mountain would be a great place to meet them. We planned to camp at Stone Mountain for two nights beginning on Friday.

Rather than fighting Atlanta Traffic on Friday Afternoon, we decided to wait till later in the evening to arrive at the park. We arrived at the
gate and paid our $10 fee to enter the park. This, by the way, a per vehicle fee. If you tow a vehicle, don't drop it outside the park, or you'll have to pay two fees. Yes, $20 just to get to the campground. I knew what to expect when we got to the campground. The office was closed so I proceeded to my site. Unfortunately, the condition was even worse than I remembered, so I pulled into an empty site for the evening with plans to move in the morning. I put out the slides and hooked up power. No electricity! Oh well, no big deal. Homer (our RV) is self contained and everything works without outside electricity (except the microwave and coffee pot).
The next morning I took a walk to find a better site. I observed exactly what I'd seen over the past six years of camping here. A campground with so much potential, the largest in the state, slowly falling apart. To be fair, they have made improvements to a portion of the campground, but for the most part, the sites are poorly maintained, the roads are crumbling, and trash is accumulating. I chose a somewhat level site (probably 5" slope to left and back) adjacent my original selection before heading to the campground office to purchase tickets for the park.

When I visited the campground office, I had no problem changing sites (the
campground was almost completely empty). The lady at the office was very nice and apologetic. I felt sorry for her because I'm sure plenty of first-time visitors come in angry about their site. As I said before, I knew what to expect. While at the office, I purchased six tickets for the park, around $150. It's a little easier to swallow the expense here, because when you purchase tickets at the campground, you receive a second day (to be used any time in the calendar year) for no additional charge. We piled into Homer and headed for the RV parking near the attractions. The plan was to ride the shuttle, but were informed the shuttle only runs when enough people are camping. Of course, the water taxi wasn't running either. This information should be very obvious on their website, and it is not.

The amusement park (I really hesitate to call it that) officially opens at 10:30am
(seasonal) and closes at 5pm (yes, even on the weekend). We arrived at 11am, and were surprised to see that very few of the shops were open (most did open later, seemingly random). The train and Summit Skyride were running, and the miniature golf and Skywalk features were open, but that was about it. We decided to play some miniature golf then ride the Skyride to the top of the mountain to meet-up with our friends. We were excited to see so few people in the Skyride line, thinking it would be a very brief wait. Unfortunately, they seem to have reduced the frequency of runs because of the smaller crowd.
The view from the summit of Stone Mountain is pretty amazing. The Atlanta skyline is pretty amazing from here. You can also see the North Georgia Mountains as well as two nearby rock mounds similar to Stone Mountain. One is Arabia Mountain, and the other is Panola Mountain, a state park. We decided to walk down the mountain instead of riding. The kids ran most of the way. The plan was to catch the park's train back around to the attractions. We stood and waited for the train, which slowly passed us without stopping. We waited for it to come back, but it soon became apparent that the train didn't stop here anymore. Fortunately, there is a shuttle bus that stops at that location periodically.
Back at the attractions, the kids first wanted to go see the animals at the "Plantation." We all love farm animals and especially remembered the goats from previous visits. We weren't disappointed. We spent a lot of time petting the sheep, goats, and pigs, and talking with the ladies that take care of the livestock. After touring several of the old homes and other structures at the plantation, we proceeded to park's 4D theater for a Yogi Bear movie. We all loved it! The kids were also eager to try out the new Sky Hike, a sort of obstacle course on stilts. All four of the children and I decided to give it a try. There is a very similar feature at Dollywood with one exception. Dollywood's "Adventure Mountain" always offers a relatively easy route. I witnessed a pretty small child that got really scared on the third obstacle. He had no choice but to proceed through the entire level. Our kids did just fine, but I was ready to get off before I completed the first level. There are three levels. It's a great feature, but I think some alternative exits should be added.

After a full day at the park, we headed back to the campground. We were so
looking forward to a nice relaxed evening by the campfire with a view of the mountain across the lake. This is what keeps bringing us back, the view. Other than having a hard time keeping the firewood I purchased at the office lit, the evening delivered. It was beautiful. In all, our memories of the day were all positive. We had fun, saw some sights, and got a little exercise. We plan to come back in the near future to use the second day of tickets, and perhaps ride bikes at nearby Panola Mountain State Park. Yes, with all my gripes about the campground and the park in general, we keep coming back for more. So I'll say it again: "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

Note: As critical as I am about the Stone Mountain Campground, I still recommend a visit. Just be aware of the condition of many of the RV sites. I cannot give an opinion on the tent sites, and many of the sites near the office have been redone. If you don't expect too much, you might not be disappointed.

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