Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autumn in the Appalachians Part 3

On Saturday I drove over and ate lunch at the Unicoi State Park lodge near Helen, Georgia, then made the short hike to Anna Ruby Falls.

Does this picture preach, or what?

Anna Ruby Falls

Then I drove over and UP to Brasstown Bald. At 4784 feet, it is the highest point in Georgia, and not too far from my cabin. It is quite a hike straight up the mountain from the parking lot, very steep, but a lovely walk if you take your time.

A view from the top.

I left Brasstown Bald and drove just down the road to my buddy Dan Easton's house, or rather "houses." Dan owns two pre-Civil War cabins. He lives in one and rents the other one. Mountain Man Dan, AKA Mr. Blairsville, is a local realtor and owner of Three Springs Realty. If you are looking for mountain property, Dan is the man! Since I'm giving free advertising, I can't overlook Sarah Davis, the wonderful realtor who helped me find my place in 2003. Sarah works for Cozy Cove Realty, and she is a lot prettier than Dan!

Dan's cabins

Front porch of the rental cabin

Inside the rental cabin.

This shot at Dan's cabin reminded me of Tennyson's poem "Mariana."
from Mariana
WITH blackest moss the flower-pots
Were thickly crusted, one and all;
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable wall.
The broken sheds look'd sad and strange;
Unlifted was the clinking latch:
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange . . . .
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Dan's kitchen

Dan's table

Dan plants a big organic garden every year and lets the deer eat all they want. Believe it or not, even though it was October, there were still a few tomatoes left on the vine, and I got to make a tomato sandwich. Dan also fried up some Nantahala sausage to go with it. Dan makes pinto beans and cornbread at least once a week. His kitchen smelled like my Granny Hinson's kitchen. Can you say heaven? You should stop in if you're ever in the area.

Nothing better!

Autumn in the Appalachians Part 2

It would be safe to say that this time my mountain trip was all about hiking. When I am in the mountains I walk almost every day at Meeks Park in Blairsville. Like most of the parks I have visited in Georgia, it is impeccably maintained. It has a loop trail that takes you up and over the hills, through the forest, and along Butternut Creek to the point where it flows into the Nottely River. Almost every afternoon you will find the squirrel man there feeding the animals. It is amazing how he has tamed the squirrels and birds that come down and sit on his head or perch on his shoulder. The day I took these pictures it reminded me of a scene from Snow White.

Tuesday afternoon I drove over to Tallulah Gorge State Park to participate in the Full Moon Suspension Bridge hike. The weather was cool, the sky was clear, and the gorge was breathtaking. It took a while for the moon to rise during the hike, but it was still nice. I was hoping for one of those big orange harvest moons, but alas that moon came Wednesday night. Check out the Tallulah Gorge web site for a wealth of information about the park to help plan your visit.

Hurricane Falls

The upper rim trail was paved with recycled shredded rubber tires. It was like walking on air.

Bottom of the gorge.

On Thursday I took a loop road trip up to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, across the Cherohala Skyway to Robbinsville, North Carolina, and back to Blairsville, Georgia. It was an amazing day packed with my favorite things . . . fall color, mountains, forests, hiking, and a waterfall to boot.

An abandoned roadside cabin in Tennessee.

When I reached Tellico Plains, I stopped at the visitor center, and then walked through the gift shop and museum next door. It was a small facility, but it contained several fine collections of telephones, radios, currency, firearms, and such. Back on the road, I entered the Cherohala Skyway. A few miles down the highway, I took a side road to Bald River Falls. The winding drive along the river was relaxing, and I enjoyed the many interesting rock formations on the banks. The water level was low, revealing even more craggy black rocks in the river bed. You need to click on these photos to enlarge them and enjoy the staggering beauty.

Bald River Falls

Scenic overlook on the Cherohala Skyway.

Santeetlah Lake

Remember the Rock City advertisements from childhood vacations?

My favorite fall foliage, a sugar maple, in Robbinsville, North Carolina.

The most amazing part of my road trip was hiking the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. So amazing in fact that I decided to give it its own post. When that post is ready, I will include a link here in case I post it to one of my other blogs.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Autumn in the Appalachians Part 1

I'm sure a lot can be said for springtime in the Rockies, but you can't deny there is something special about autumn in the Appalachians. Every October I trek up to my cabin for my favorite time of year, and once again this year my mountains did not disappoint. My original plans were to take a short trip like last year, but by the time I scheduled everything I wanted to do, I realized I would have to take off the whole week. I know . . . it was a sacrifice, but you do what you have to do.

I left on Saturday morning, and everything was great until I got halfway between Gainesville and Lake City. Suddenly, it sounded like all hell broke loose under the hood of my car. I lost power, the temperature gauge rocketed, and my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. I limped to an exit, pulled over, and called AAA. I decided to relax and go with the flow rather than have a breakdown over the breakdown. I remembered in all the years I have been driving to the mountains, I had only had minor car trouble once before, and I was grateful for that. While I waited for the tow truck, I played with my iPhone and enjoyed the cool weather. My situation could have been much worse. An hour later the tow truck arrived and hauled me back to Pep Boys, one of only two garages open on Saturdays in Gainesville. While they worked on my car, I crossed the street and ate at Moe's, then hiked down to Borders, all the while counting my blessings and thinking how much worse my situation could have been. Within five hours from the breakdown I was back on the road. Don't ask me what had to be repaired. All I know is timing bar-something, serpentine-something, thermostat, and radiator cap. God bless Pep Boys!

A few weeks earlier, my longtime friend Sherry Cole had asked if she and her parents, Barbara and Bobby Bethune, could stay at the cabin for the weekend while her daddy attended a small Turkey Creek High School class reunion in the mountains. Although their time would overlap with mine, it was not a problem. It would be great to see them again. Sherry was still awake when I pulled in around 10:00 PM, and we stayed up talking into the night. Sunday morning I got to catch up with Bobby and Barbara before they headed to church and more reunion activities, and I headed to the Apple Festival in Ellijay. While we were getting ready, I played some old Singing Rambos and Lanny Wolfe Trio CDs for Barbara. Just beautiful, bittersweet memories . . . .

Monday morning we went for breakfast at the Sawmill Place in Blairsville. It was everything you would have expected. Crisp autumn air, the aroma of brewing coffee, a table spread with eggs, grits, biscuits, sausage, gravy, pecan pancakes, and stewed apples. It would be safe to say Sherry ordered everything on the menu.

Sherry just getting started on her personal buffet.

That big ole cathead biscuit sandwich is mine!

My longtime friend and me.

Bobby, Sherry & Barbara

When we got back to the cabin, we sat down and watched the Dottie Rambo Homegoing Celebration DVD and worshiped and bawled like babies. Earlier that morning Sherry and Barbara had let me know they wanted to watch the whole thing before they returned home. Only people whose lives have been touched by the Rambos' music for decades like ours have would understand.

While the Bethunes packed, I burned them some music CDs. Then we said our goodbyes, and they headed back to Nashville.