LOCAL TOURIST: YOU AND ME AND THE RIVER MAKES THREE
Under the bridge, to the right, over the tracks, and into the light.
No, those are not Peter Pan’s directions to Neverland. They are, however, directions—vague, impractical directions, but directions nonetheless—to Amerson River Park. Unlike Neverland, Amerson welcomes people (and pets!) of any age and is open every day from 7:30 AM until 8:00 PM. Pixie dust and happy thoughts are not required to gain entrance, although the latter may happen involuntarily as a result. There are no mythical creatures currently residing at the park, to my knowledge, but there is something undeniably magical about the wooded areas and grassy plains. It is a welcome escape in the middle of the city, though not from aging, but certainly from the loud, chaotic sounds of I-75 traffic and the slamming of S&S Cafeteria trays, both of which are less than a mile away. You will know you are in the right place when you see two large, stone pillars supporting an archway that boasts the park’s name. Every time I drive up to and under this entryway, the Jurassic Park theme song begins to play. This is most likely due to the fact that I have begun humming it to myself softly, but without restraint.
Once you have entered the park, you can either explore the trails or float the river. Personally, I prefer the option that entails sitting in a recliner-like flotation device that enables the river to move my body for me. However, the trails are also nice. Having experienced the leisure of Lady Ocmulgee several times already, I decided to try the walking trails on for size. My sister-in-law takes my nephew there from time to time, and just like an annoying, little sister, I asked if I could tag along.
We walked the Park Loop, which is a little over a mile. This took us about half an hour and was plenty long for me considering the fact that we are in Georgia and it is the middle of summer. The trails are shaded by surrounding trees, a beautiful and necessary feature. There are also maps and park benches and glimpses of the river along the way. But to be completely honest, hearing people laughing and splashing on the river made me Tinker Bell green with envy. Clearly, I belong on the other side of the trees where it’s still warm but also wet and does not feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex is breathing on me.
I would like to try the trails again in the fall when the weather is cooler and the river less enticing. One of my dogs could really use the cardio, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt me terribly.
Now back to the magic. I could wax poetic about the Ocmulgee River well beyond the word limit of this particular piece. Lady Ocmulgee, as I have presently decided to refer to her as from here on out, is a sweet, seductive songstress. There is no Mermaid Lagoon along her banks, as there is in Neverland, but Lady Ocmulgee is a siren in and of herself. She calls to those who wish to both escape from and indulge in the summer heat. Within seconds of skimming her surface, you are under her spell. It is the scene from O Brother, Where Art Thou? made over. Pete, hearing the sirens singing, screams and shoves his fist into his mouth, and then shouts at Everett to pull the car over.
“Guess old Pete’s got the itch,” Everett says before following him into the woods. The same can be said of those who have experienced the river.
The closer they get to the river, to the beautiful women singing and bathing and wringing water from their clothes, the more mesmerized they become. Lady Ocmulgee is all three of those women in one. It takes roughly two hours to float from the Jay Hall North River Access to the Bragg Jam South River Access, but it feels fast, like a trance. Yet at the same time, it is a slow dance with none other than Lady Ocmulgee herself. It is as if she too is singing, “You and me and the devil makes three / Don’t need no other lovin’ babe.” I could spend every warm day on the river and never grow tired of hearing her song.
Unlike Neverland, spending a day at Amerson River Park will not inspire you to never grow old. It might, however, give you a strong desire to never go home. Personally, I think the number of movie references in this article alone prove that I could use more fresh air and sun.