Speed is not required on the self-guided walking tour of four main thoroughfares, either. “It is not expected that anyone will take the entire downtown walking tour at one time during one visit,” advised the Historic Augusta planners in their online instructions.
I decided to focus on local personalities honored with statues, such as Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, who established the town in 1736 as a British colonial outpost, and James Brown, the Godfather of Soul who crowed and funky-chickened his way to stardom. Woodrow Wilson, who resided here from 1860 to 1870, earned more than a simple rendering: The 28th president’s entire boyhood home is enshrined.
Surprisingly, Henry Harford Cumming appears neither as a sculpture nor a brick house nor a water fountain. I know! Poor Henry. But I finally tracked him down inside the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Interpretive Center, his black-and-white image still dapper after all these years.
Cumming was the idea guy and cheerleader behind the canal, which was built in 1845 and gave Augusta a much-needed shot of B12. Once a thriving trade center, the agriculture-based community needed a jolt of energy to counter the ill effects of a depression, the railroad and rising competition. The canal allowed the city to harness the energy from the river to power mills and factories that produced an array of products, including gunpowder during the Civil War. (The 153-foot-tall Confederate Powder Works chimney still stands as a memorial to wartime industriousness.) In the late 19th century, about a dozen mills lined the banks. Today, only three plants — one textile, two hydroelectric — are in operation.
But there’s still a lot of life along the 13-mile route. On an electric-powered Petersburg boat, a replica of the mule-drawn cargo vessels that once plied these waters, I waved to fishermen sitting half-alert on lawn chairs, their lines awaiting a bite from a catfish or a bass. Turtles sprawled on logs, and a blue heron skimmed the still surface like a giant paper airplane. It was a lazy, lazy afternoon, a nice antidote to a busy, busy morning.
At the same early hour as a halfmarathon that diced up the town, about 60 disc golf players had congregated at Pendleton King Park, a 64-acre bird sanctuary with an 18-hole course. I was caddying for Flynn, one of the more expert competitors, carrying his gear, which resembled a small camera bag full of discs.
We started on the 16th hole, where Flynn grabbed an XCalibur, a fast glider with long-distance legs. He followed with a Pig, a tan putter. “Simmer down, simmer down,” he said to Pig as it veered away from the target. “Now, that’s just wrong.”
It was a rough first hole.
For two hours, I tailed my foursome, the bag bouncing against my back as I hoofed it up hills and along forested paths and around a goose pond. At the 17th hole, I watched with dread as Flynn’s disc rolled toward the parking lot, a one-stroke penalty. On the sixth hole, we paused to search the woods for his red disc. And on the seventh hole, I resigned.
This happens to me with organized sports; I sometimes drift away from the action. But to be honest, I lasted much longer with disc golf than I ever have with golf-golf, including the Masters.