backyard1 blades-thumb2 blades3 blades4 flowers5 footer6 fort_selden_wagon7 masthead8 masthead19
slider by v9.0

. icon icon icon iconWe'd love for you to share our stories.

American Roads and Global Highways has so many great articles you may want to search it for your favorite places or new exciting destinations.
search engine by freefind


 Cover of Tenant from Hell
The Tenant from Hell
Book 1 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Casey Clark, property manager, is just trying to evict a bad tenant. Instead she is over her head in murder and mayhem

 Cover of Double Duplicity
Double Duplicity
Book 2 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Trouble  follows Casey like a raging fire.

cover of Missing
Missing-- Gone but not Forgotten

Based on the unsolved abduction of a little girl in a rural  Florida Community.

coverof Under a Bloody Flag

Under a Bloody Flag

Kansas and Missouri were a "no man's land" in the days before the War between the States.

cover of under a black flag

Under a Black Flag
Kansas and Missouri heated to the boiling point during the War between the States. 

cover of For want of a ship
For Want of a Ship
John Roy came to New Orleans looking  for peace instead he found war.

cover of last step
Last Step
Last Step will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you gasping in surprise at the ending

cover of kudzu
Kudzu shows you a different part of the South, past and present. Mystery with a touch of romance and a smidgen of paranormal.

cover of Wild about florida south
Wild about Florida: South FL
The Everglades swarm with wildlife from birds,  to mammals, to reptiles.

cover of Wild about florida central
Wild about Florida: Central FL
Central Florida has the ocean and gulf beaches much like other parts of Florida but in many other ways it is distinct and unique. 

cover of Wild about florida north
Wild About Florida: North FL
Come explore caves, hills, whitewater falls and lots of other fun things you didn't expect to find in Florida.

cover of georgia's ghostly getaways
Georgia's Ghostly Getaways 

Who is not fascinated by mysterious things that go bump in the night? Are there some places where departed souls still linger?

cover of hosts
Hosts With Ghosts
The South has long been famous for its Southern Hospitality. Hotels throughout Dixie vie with one another to offer their guests more service and more amenities. Many have guests that never depart.

cover of finding florida's phantoms
Finding Florida's Phantoms
Florida! The land of sunshine and wide-open beaches. But even the Sunshine State has its dark secrets. Places where centuries old spirits remain tied to earth. Beneath the facade of fun and make believe lurks the real Florida.

cover of color st augustine coloring book
Color Saint Augustine
This is a way to virtually visit Saint Augustine. It's a coloring book for grown ups (but kids will love it too.)  with an actual photo of the attractions in Saint Augustine. The opposite page is the same photo converted into a black and white line image for you to to color. It's 64 pages with 30 photos and 30 pages for you to color. On each photo and each color page there is a little about the story of the image . 


An Extraterrestrial Heritage Area in Georgia

Story and photos by Tom Straka

entrance to forest

Newsweek magazine recently published an article with a catchy title: “The Weirdest, Most Extraterrestrial Spots You Can Visit, Here on Earth,” promising “some of Earth’s most bizarrely surreal natural wonders.” There were eleven locations, ranging from a national forest park in China with bizarre rock formations, a desert in Canada’s Yukon, Easter Island, the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia, the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, to Glowworm Caves in New Zealand. One location caught my eye, as it is only a few hours away. The Arabia Mountain Natural Area, just east of Atlanta, was described as “as close to the experience of walking on the moon’s surface as we have on Earth.” As you begin the hike up Arabia Mountain, shown in the lead photograph, you are on solid rock, and the scant forest soon gives way to the “lunar surface.” You’ll be on a monadnock.

There are three primary monadnocks in the Atlanta area: the Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain, and Stone Mountain. A monadnock is an isolated, rocky mountain. All three can be hiked and all crest with a top that provides an unobstructed view of the surrounding landscape. Arabia Mountain is the one that has the lunar appearance. Arabia Mountain is the lesser known of the Atlanta monadnocks, equating to fewer commercial attractions (no skyride like Stone Mountain), but with the least crowded conditions of the three monadnocks.

So, what is a monadnock? Monadnocks result from erosion. They are composed of rock which is very resistant to erosion, and develop as remnants, as less resistant material erodes around, becoming an isolated hill of bedrock. In the case of Arabia Mountain, it is granite and migmatite that resist erosion better than the surrounding rock, resulting in a bare and exposed rock face. Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is one of the best known monadnocks in the United States.

Arabia Mountain was quarried for its Lithonia granite, called Tidal Grey, as a building material. It has a distinctive swirl pattern and is prized for its high structural density. It has been used across the country, including buildings at the West Point and Annapolis military academies, federal buildings in Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Bridge, and state capitols. The Davidson family had a massive granite quarry operation in the area, which included Arabia Mountain. At one time, the Davidson Quarry was the largest granite quarry in the world. In the early 1970s the quarry closed when the land was donated to become a protected landscape. There is still evidence there on what the quarry industry looked like, including the ruins of quarry buildings and even metal spikes used to split the granite still embedded in the rock.

Arabia Mountain is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, a patchwork of preserved forest, which includes Panola Mountain. It is not just about the rocks, but a seeming barren landscape that includes wetlands, forests, streams, and lakes. The ecology is part of the attraction, rare, native plant species, such as red diamorpha in the winter and yellow daisies in the fall. Seasonal change makes the rock appear to be in constant metamorphosis.

Access is via hiking trails and multiple-use bike paths, with trails open from dawn to dusk. There are even guided tours. Free parking is provided at the nature center and at the base of Arabia Mountain. The preserve brochure is available online. The heritage area is designed for hiking; all the attractions are linked by a well-developed 33 mile trail system, which includes arched granite bridges, a wooden boardwalk, and rock outcroppings throughout.

Up to the Top

The hike to the top can start from several parking areas, including one right at the base of Arabia Mountain that is just over a half mile to the top. Almost from the very start the trail is on solid rock gaining elevation with each step. Unless you look back, it is soon pure rock all the way up. Notice in the lead photograph there is a cairn marking the path to the top. Actually, if you look closely, there is another one in the distance. The are nearly two dozen of them leading to the top, widely spaced, but clearly visible from cairn-to-cairn. You’d think they would not be necessary, as “up” is very easy to figure out. On the middle of the mountain up becomes quite challenging in terms of finding the best path on an irregular mound-shaped surface. Without the cairns, people would be all over the slope, instead of trampling just a single path. 

cairns on mountain

 It is difficult to see in this photograph, but there are three cairns in view, so the path is always also in view.

 As you quickly exit the forest on the hiking path, the trail moves abruptly up. The gain in elevation is only 172 feet and that does not seem great, until you try to walk it. Sixteen stories is another way to see it (or feel it). It is definitely easier going down than going up. There are so many small and unusual things on the mountain surface as you ascend, you’ll take natural breaks to study small rock features or the surprising number of plants that can survive on pure rock.



The trail first begins the trek up and 172 feet of elevation can look a little daunting if it is pure rock.  

The quarries on the heritage area are in multiple places. They are not well marked Heritage Area maps, but that is not necessary. Visitors will likely bump into some opportunities to visit a quarry by chance by just hiking a bit. On the trail to the mountain top there is a quarry very close to the beginning. It is interesting to how the big blocks of stone were chiseled out of the mountain and just how big they were. Scheduled tours of the mountain quarry ruins are available. 

quarry Rock Quarry on the side of mountain trail. In places there are still spikes embedded in the stone.

 One of the most interesting features of the mountain is the pooled water and the dynamic ecosystem which develops in a place you just don’t expect plants. Lichen growth and rock erosion produce solution pits and vernal (or ephemeral) pools. Solution pools are small impressions on the rock face filled with soil. When these occasionally fill with water, a vernal pool is created.  Vernal pools are part of the mountain ecosystem and produce dramatic spring displays. Arabia Mountain is best known for the red budded plants called diamorpha (also called elf orpine). This trip was in July (dormant season) when the pools were nearly dry and still there were a few plants, but nothing as dramatic as the diamorpha which bloom in April. With reluctance, an image from Wikimedia is included, as the diamorpha need to be recognized.  


A vernal or ephemeral pool in July. It is hard to believe plants survive in July on the hot mountain.


tiny pools

A vernal pool in April, with red diamorpha, one of many plants which survive in the harsh conditions. (Credit: Thomson200, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Does the top really look extraterrestrial or lunar-like? I’m not so sure. I recall astronauts leaving footprints on the lunar surface and no one is leaving footprints on Arabia Mountain. Even in July there is enough vegetation to give away you are not on the moon. Even so, while I won’t agree with extraterrestrial in the Newsweek article, I will agree with “bizarrely surreal natural wonders.” The view is wonderous, but I was disappointed in not being able to see the Atlanta skyline. Perhaps, the vernal pools made up for that.


looks like moon surface

Typical mountaintop scene, Georgia countryside in the distance, bare stone and vernal pools.


desolate area

Some areas of the mountaintop are more lunar than others.


 Bare mountainside with cairns in the distance, another lunar-like area. 

The Heritage Area has a huge trail system and the mountain leaves the impression the whole park is rock based. Not so. It is very easy to get on forested trails. In July my impression was the difference in temperature between the mountain and the forest was like someone turned on an air conditioner in the forest. The mountains stand out, but the area is mostly forested. There is a nature center where you can get information and talk to a ranger. It is one of several parking areas and trailheads. The hike up and back on Arabia Mountain can take less than an hour, but that would make no sense. There is too much to see and experience on the hike to not take your time. There are plenty of trails and natural attractions to make a day of hiking an excellent option. Arabia Mountain is very close to Atlanta; big cities have plenty of hidden attractions if you know where to look. 


Author. Tom Straka is an emeritus professor of forestry at Clemson University in South Carolina. He has an interest in history, forestry and natural resources, natural history, and the American West.