Walking down the incomplete, gravelly trail that is the northern Eastside Beltline Trail is nothing short of relaxing. On a summer evening, predictably, the air is incredibly hot and humid. Insects are everywhere, most likely biting your skin. The smells are reminiscent of any typical nature area or woods. Occasionally, a biker or a runner speeds past you, in their own little world. It’s so easy to feel lost in a little pocket of nature and forget you’re in the urban metropolis that is Atlanta.
Decorated with seemingly random pieces of artwork, some interactive, always catch attention. They are usually colorful and abstract: not like a painting on a wall. Whether you stop to observe, or simply admire the art as you walk by, they bring much color to the trail.
For an adventurer, many different paths intertwine and connect on this section of the 22-mile long walking trail. Some go off in their own direction, while others may take you on a winding circle. The hidden trails are overgrown, but not invisible. You see them and immediately want to explore, even if it means receiving a hundred insect bites. There doesn’t seem to be one direction to follow on the Beltline.
Aspects of the city tend to creep into this little world, whether it’s a delta plane or the smell of sewage. As you walk, you may venture close to the interstate, and hear the roar of the traffic rush. Some parts of the trail connect to the backs of businesses. After all, the Beltline was not made to be an escape, but a cushion between nature and the city.
More complete sections of the Beltline are more heavily populated on an average evening than the one I travelled. I will refrain from quoting Robert Frost here, but I greatly enjoyed the nearly solitary adventure. The Beltline will inevitably become a great resource for residents all over Atlanta.
With the smell of sewage, and the sound of running water, I eventually came across “Clear Creek”. While the sight of the inaccessible body of water was nice, the smell was not. The creek provided, for me, a sense of home. Where I live, there are creeks, streams, ponds, and lakes in nearly every corner. The trees, the creek, and the humidity reminded me of home.
The sign that describes how this “Clear” creek is an urban creek that contains sewage, and cannot be swam in, came as a sudden reminder as to where I was located. I was in a city. And this creek, while a beautiful sight, was filled with sewage and “runoff contaminants” that would prevent me from enjoying the water. I suppose there’s only so much you can do to create a sense of nature in the midst of an urban metropolis.
The Eastside Beltline was mostly deserted with the exception of a jogger or biker every 10 minutes or so. As I walked, I could not help but feel isolated in a hideaway inside the city “too busy to hate”. The skies were clear, the wind was calm, and the Beltline was a beautiful site to see. The smells were no different to any park, other than the occasional overpowering scent of sewage. The main trail had several winding, hidden trails, as pictured in the third image. Through following these seemingly secret trails, they usually never led anywhere interesting. The only souvenir I took from taking these hidden paths were several insect bites (whose presence was overwhelming). Overall, the feeling the trail gave was almost an eery, isolated feeling. However, this may be different on weekends.
As you walk the Beltline trail, it’s easy to forget you are in the middle of an urban city such as Atlanta. The sound of the cicadas and the rushing water in the creeks make it easy to feel surrounded by nature. However, occasionally the trail comes too close to interstate 85, or a plane leaves Hartsville-Jackson, and the average passerby is reminded of the city. Another factor that comes into play is the occasional stretches of the Beltline that run next to industrial and other business buildings.
Despite the small hints of the city during my walk, I could not help but feel as though I has successfully escaped from the city landscape. The greenery, the smells, and the sounds made me think of home.
The Eastside Beltline trail can be most easily accessed through the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Piedmont Park. This section of the trail turned out to be very thin, rocky, and generally unnoticeable. Walking around Piedmont Park, the Beltline was virtually invisible. Without looking specifically for the trail, it would have been very difficult for the average park visitor to simply stumble upon the trail. As pictured, the trail has some remnants of its history as one of the main train rails around Atlanta.
On the average weekday evening, the trail seems virtually unused. The occasional jogger or biker may pass by, but there’s nearly no one there. In either direction, there are no big attractions or destinations, just more trail, with the occasional piece of artwork.
Throughout the Eastside Beltline Trail, numerous mysterious works of art and sculpture can be found. “Thad’s Shadow” was an interactive, mechanical sculpture that required someone to sit down on a blue bench and rotate the pedals to allow the sculpture to move. This movement caused the figure to ring the chimes pictured. The figure itself was very strangely shaped and seemingly random. Any specific meaning behind the sculpture is unknown. It was located in an open, gravelly part of the trail with no other nearby landmarks.