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Weird landscape lures travelers to Georgia
Davidson Arabia Nature Preserve is north of Atlanta
Pools filled with unique wildlife pepper the granite landscape at Davidson Arabia Nature Preserve. - photo by ALISON MARCHMAN

If you go...

This trail is considered easy to moderate in difficulty and is 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

There are many trails throughout the park, including a bike path, which are as short as 1 mile and as long as 8 miles.

Read all signage before entering the park.

Bring sunscreen, bug repellent and a small first-aid kit.

Bring a cellphone on the hike with a full charge. If an emergency occurs, you can call for help. Or if you get lost, your cell can assist you to find your way out.

Wear appropriate clothing and especially consider wearing long pants.

Bring enough water for everyone to have at least two or three breaks.

Stay on the trail and with your party. Due to sensitive nature and slow growth of lichens, deviating from the path can have a huge impact on the ecosystem.

Do not leave trash behind.

Remember, it gets dark in the forest faster. So leave at least one hour before sunset.

Check out for directions and more tips.

Traveling to Mars is unnecessary for an out-of-this-world experience. Just drive south to Arabia Mountain like I did.

The Davidson Arabia Nature Preserve in Lithonia is partially in a former granite quarry and 30 minutes away from downtown Atlanta.

Best of all, unlike most of Atlanta, parking is free.

The preserve has 8 miles of trails for biking or hiking, two lakes and a dense valley forest, which can be viewed from the peak or from within. It hosts a vast array of unique wildlife.

I saw two herd of deer and many birds during my hike.

Additionally, a horsefly of unusual size and color attached itself to my poor hiking companion and dog, Star. Eventually through much coaxing, namely trying to kill it by swatting it like a mad woman, it left.

Pools of water dotting the landscape boast rare species of lichen as well as flora and fauna. The valley forest below explodes with plant life.

What I deemed fairy towers, also known as cairns, made from cemented rock mark the trail.

Due to the fragile, slow-growing nature of some of the plants, especially the lichens, it is best not to stray too far from the path.

Beauty is not a word I would use to describe this place. It’s just so different, strange and large that one must visit it to understand the scope of weird.

However, one beautiful thing I saw time and again was life surviving where it ought not. A Japanese maple unable to root itself in the rock sprouted in a small trickle of water with no soil and was particularly noteworthy.

I only made it to one lake, but up from its depths came a plant looking like four-leaf clovers. It was so odd, I took several pictures attempting to convey the lake was filled with this plant.

The skeleton of a rusted bridge and some old work equipment also rises from this eerie lake.

I see why Georgia is a favorite place for film directors. The locations are so ripe for storytelling. I could imagine this lake being used in the stillness of a scene either of contemplation or perhaps an entrance to another world.

The first and only peach tree I have seen in Georgia was found in a hollowed-out stone building with iron bars. It looked like the peaches were in jail.

I think this place could also work for NASA if it were not for all the rare species. This place would surely lend itself to a rover like the ones on Mars.