Publisher’s Note: Moments in Time


Lookout Mountain’s haunting beauty is a sensory wonderland that needs to be experienced firsthand.

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As dawn is breaking, I slip quietly out of the yurt as not to wake my family. My goal is to capture a few photos of the early sunlight striking the western rim of northwest Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon, and maybe catch a deer grazing along my route. What I discover is something else – a few moments of complete contentment and tranquility. It’s not often you can find a time and place – especially one frequented by tourists – where you feel absolutely alone (in a good way).

But this is a rare weekday morning, and I assume it won’t be long before others are mingling about as I am.

There is something hauntingly beautiful and peaceful about Cloudland Canyon. I have had the same feeling come over me a few times in DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve – both less than an hour away,
just across the Alabama line. All three are different in wonderful ways, but share a common characteristic – they all are part of scenic Lookout Mountain.

I take a couple of photos, but it almost seems like a futile task. Even with my best efforts, the scene laid out before me would be impossible to capture in a photo. Some days, with the right lighting and proper composition, you can do
a scene justice. On others, you might produce an image people will rave about, but that you know still pales in comparison to the experience.

Standing with my camera around my neck, I feel small – but it’s not a negative feeling. It’s a sensation that puts things in a proper perspective. In today’s world, with hectic schedules and hundreds of superficial distractions vying for
attention, it’s therapeutic to be reminded we are not the center of the universe.

The canyon, the mountain and the valley below have been here far longer than we have and will be here long after we are gone. I feel privileged to know that at this moment in time, I am a part of it all. As a stray hiker walks briskly by, I remember I have things to do and snap back into the real world. Well, things to do here that are less philosophical, but still pleasurable.

After the family gets up and has breakfast, we venture out for a quick look around before they have to leave and really return to the real world. I still have a few more hours of looking around and interviewing folks for the feature article on this incredible state park.

Together, we check out the park’s country store/gift shop, where we chat with members of the friendly and helpful park staff. We then move on to a couple of the scenic overlooks before visiting the disc-golf course. Even a hurried visit feels more relaxed than we ever do at home.

We return to the yurt village and talk for a few minutes with neighboring campers before my wife and daughter have to leave to fulfill prior obligations.

I finish my day at the park about six hours later and pack up. Even though I still have hundreds of things to do back home, the few minutes at the canyon rim are still working their magic. I feel at ease. I know that will probably change once I rejoin the real world.

The real world? Maybe I have it wrong. Then it hits me. The real world is what I experienced this morning. I’m going back to the artificial world we have created. It’s full of deadlines, demands and stress.

We are often praised for the photography and stories in this magazine, and we are grateful our readers enjoy them. But the  reason I stopped taking pictures earlier in the day is that no photograph – no matter how beautiful or breathtaking – can truly capture certain moments. Some moments need to be experienced.

We hope our pictures and stories inspire you to come experience this region yourself. The real world awaits – and it’s an absolutely amazing place to lose (and find) yourself.


Randy Grider