On Saturday, my friend T and I walked the entire Atlanta BeltLine. Yes, the whole thing. And yes, we were in some pain the next day.
But man, was it worth it. We went with a small group of great people and walked more than 19 miles around the heart of Atlanta. I’m an intrepid kind of gal, but even this was more than I’m used to.
Still, what an experience to personally see the urban revitalization project that will completely transform the city of Atlanta.
For those that don’t know, the Atlanta BeltLine, when finished, will be a continuous loop of transit, trails, and parks that encircle the city. It was visioned in 1999 by a student at Georgia Tech who, in his Master’s thesis, dreamed up a way to re-purpose the railroad tracks that used to chug non-stop through the city decades ago; these days, most of those tracks are abandoned and unused.
I hope I’m not oversimplifying anything, but to my understanding, Ryan Gravel’s thesis proposed the idea of bringing those tracks to use again, but instead of freight trains, why not use light rail that can transport people around the city? Turns out his question was a good one, and now his thesis has become the foundation of the Atlanta BeltLine project.
The BeltLine will create new parks and restore old ones, connect neighborhoods, install paths and bike trails for active user enjoyment, provide public art, plant trees with Trees Atlanta, and of course provide the light rail.
It is an ambitious project, one that is watched and supported on a national level because of the effect it will have on Atlanta and the whole southeastern United States. Click here to learn more about the project.
OK, so back to our 9.5 hour walk.
It was a curious feeling to be so geographically close to familiar parts of the city, yet practically a world away from them. The BeltLine winds below, beside, around, and across the city, leading us a hairsbreadth past places like the Whole Foods on Ponce de Leon Ave, the old Sam Flax on Northside Dr, both sides of I-20, Grant Park, and more familiar spots. When you jettison streets and instead take the BeltLine to travel, it’s surprising how near all of these things are to each other. “As the birds flies,” right?
Anyway, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. They are in no particular order, but will draw you into our experience better than my words can.
Walking over a variety of bridges in various states of durability.
Lots of street art.
Important: I’ll take this moment to say that we went with people very familiar with the BeltLine and comfortable with this walk. If you undertake this walk on your own, please educate yourself on the train lines. Some trains do still run on these tracks and you do not want to be roadkill.
^^Artist Hadley Breckenridge created this mural, entitled “The Highball Artist” which shows paint dripping off the Lucile Ave bridge. You are supposed to imagine a train dragging the paint through the tunnel…
… and then bursting out on the other side. One of my faves.
This house has definitely seen better days. But honestly, I think it’s T’s dream house. Pre-made skylight, and for a fraction of the cost.
Artist Santiago Menendez created this installation, entitled “Meet Me at the Crayons”.
^^T found herself a solid guy to chat up. Solid as in steel. Artist Jac Coffey created this piece, entitled “Railroad Workers”.
Artist David Landis made this sculpture of a rhino head, entitled “Northern White”.
My dentist, Dr. Alex Rodriguez, made this sculpture, entitled “Whirling Wheels”.
At the 10.25 mile marker on the Eastside Trail. I’m making a muscle face because by this time we’d already walked 18.5 miles #fistpump
What a nice group of people to spend nearly 10 hours with!
We took the road less traveled that day, and it has indeed made all the difference.