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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Perspective: Getting off the beaten path

Some+of+the+heads+come+with+messages%2C+this+one+paying+homage+to+Dead+Poets+Society.
Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal

Some of the heads come with messages, this one paying homage to Dead Poets Society.

When visiting Atlanta, most tourists flock to the city’s main attractions — the refreshing World of Coca-Cola, the serene Georgia Aquarium, the historic Centennial Olympic Park or the Fox Theater. For first-timers like me, the peach state’s capital piques the interests of history buffs, shopaholics and night owls alike. Still, upon visiting Atlanta, I decided to stray off the traditional tour guide route.
The result was a particularly unique adventure.
Ditching TripAdvisor.com, I did more research on Atlanta’s most unique and immersive hidden gems. Upon scavenging the web, I came across the “Doll’s Head Trail,” a 2.5-mile trail-turned-art exhibit tucked away in the Constitution Lakes Park. Just a few miles outside downtown, I walked the Doll’s Head Trail — a path filled with odd art installations consisting of creepy, discarded doll parts.
As someone who shares a deep, relentless love for anything supernatural or unsettling, I was instantly drawn in.
The Doll’s Head Trail was the vision of a carpenter named Joel Slaton, who created this art project using discarded doll parts and other trash he commonly found strewn throughout the site. A stroll into Constitution Lakes Park is like slipping into an “Alice in Wonderland” feverish swamp — a glimpse into a completely different world. The park is impressive for its natural beauty, but its incredible folk art displays made of found objects are what really make it a memorable experience.
“I discovered the park and soon started finding the interesting trash that had been dumped there years before,” Slaton said. “I just had the urge to build. My goal was to add something to an unused section of [an] underused park.”
Since then, visitors have contributed their own found art, most of which was once trash from Constitution Lakes Park, to the collection. In addition to doll heads, the exhibit features collages, bottles, bricks and pieces created from the littering of others.
“I wanted to bring attention to the ubiquitous junk that is dumped in our environment,” Slaton said.
Joe Eppery, a volunteer of the Constitution Lakes Park and friend of Slaton, was generous enough to give a personal tour of the site. The friendship between Slaton and Eppery was rooted in a desire to preserve a cleaner environment.
“Trash is constantly pulled through the area because the park is prone to mass flooding,” Eppery said.
A frequent hiker of the area, Eppery first spotted Slaton carrying a plastic bag to dispose of the array of trash lying around the park. However, for every trash item found, there seemed to be five more hanging in the trees or sprawled in the dirt.
“Joel [Slaton] started creating these weird little sculptures for his own amusement,” Eppery said. “One of the weird things that he was finding is lots of doll heads, arms and legs, just this weird kind of [stuff].”
In spite of my clumsiness and tripping over several strange objects, I found the artistic displays along the narrow trail to be somewhat offbeat and charming. These “art pieces” managed to be creepy and amusing all at once.
“[Doll parts] just kept showing up, like everywhere. [Slaton] didn’t really know where they came from, but he just started making weird little sculptures out of them and writing things on them.”
After reaching the end of the boardwalk, we neared the Doll’s Head entrance, which had a little obscure doll arm pointing us in the right direction. The trail was filled with art installations using black Sharpie marker ink and an eclectic, peculiar collection of found objects, from vintage toys to antique bricks to railroad artifacts to toilet seats.
The best part of the trail were the many puns written and shown on objects.
A defining feature of the collection is the idea that everything must be “found” inside the park itself. The Doll Head Trail is repurposing at its best — it cleans up the nature preserve while producing an “artform” you would not usually find.
Visiting Doll Head Trail is an unusual choice for an attraction and definitely not something many people, even Atlanta locals, have heard of. So, why did I go? Despite knowing friends and family might be left scratching their heads at me for not visiting the more notable sites in Atlanta, I still went.
Truth be told, when it comes to traveling, I am a creature of habit. The familiar appeals to me more than anything else — a comfortable hotel trumps camping in unfamiliar wilderness, the warmth of the sun always beats the cold of the snow. I now realize that I have been too close-minded about traveling habits — there is a whole world of adventure and walks of life out there. Instead of being a simpleton traveler, I wanted to be a contrarian explorer unafraid to stray off the beaten path. The Doll Head Trail represented just one step along this trail.
Slaton understood why I and others like me were also interested in seeing the attraction.
“Curiosity, I suppose,” Slaton said. “Some people really dig it, some not. Some find it whimsical, some spooky. It’s all a matter of your expectations. I suggest folks bring an open mind.”
People love to travel, but forget what makes it special: experiencing the unknown. Even though sampling different Coca-Colas from around the world is exciting, embarking on a unique experience that resonates with you as a traveler is even better. I say this summer, skip Venice’s crowds and Paris’ queues. Build an adventure and go your own way.
Neha Gopal is a journalism senior and opinion writer for The Battalion

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  • Milk cartons with drawn on Sharpie eyes.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A volleyball head in a football helmet 

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A rubber duck on a fish bobber that reads “Suckers!”

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • Washed up toy guns found in the Constitution Lakes.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A “Trendy Outdoor Kitchen” set featuring found frying pans and yellow discarded containers.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A doll with a mustache in a baby stroller paying tribute to the movie “Baby Driver”.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A clever message, ‘DO YOU SEE THE WORLD THRU SOCIAL MEDIA OR DO YOU SEE THRU SOCIAL MEDIA?,’ on a transparent phone case

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A “Breaking the 4th Wall” pun with a toy doll popping out of a smashed TV. 

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A display featuring a toy bone taped to a blue toy guitar with the message, ‘A Washed Up Rocker with a Bone to Pick’.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • “A Reptile Dysfunction” toy T-Rex eating another dinosaur. 

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
  • A doll head wearing aviators and a yellow lamp hat.

    Photo by Photo by Neha Gopal
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