Georgia Mountain Trip – Part 1

On Saturday October 4th, Georgia and I left home for a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were going to meet up with Georgia’s brother Eddie and his wife Bonnie. We have vacationed with them before and were looking forward to getting together again.

Our first day of driving took us through Indiana and into Kentucky where we spent the night at the Best Western in Shelbyville.

Sunday morning we woke up to find frost on the car. The temperature was 33 degrees. But, as we made our way south through the seemingly endless construction zones, the temperature continued to rise.

Instead of taking the major highways, we detoured to go through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. At the visitors center in Gatlinburg, we stopped to buy a Senior Pass. That pass will give us free access to national parks, forests, monuments, etc. and also let us camp in the parks for discounts of up to 50%. We used it on this trip and saved more than the $10 it cost us.

We exited the park at Cherokee, North Carolina then headed toward Georgia. Eddie and Bonnie met us at the North Carolina/Georgia border and we followed them to Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City. We checked in at the visitors center and got the keys to the cabin that would be home for the next four days.

That evening we went down the mountain to Clayton, Georgia where we had dinner and bought some breakfast foods for the next morning. Then we went back to the cabin to spend a quiet evening just visiting and catching up.

Monday morning Eddie and I collaborated on breakfast before we left for a day of sightseeing. Our goal for the day was a leisurely drive through the mountains with a stop at Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point and then dinner at Unicoi Lodge in Helen, Georgia.

The morning was cool but pleasant on top of Black Rock Mountain but warmed up a lot as we went down. Once down, we turned toward Blairsville, Georgia and Brasstown Bald. As soon as we started the climb up the mountain, the temperature again started to drop. At the parking lot we needed to put on jackets. Our Senior Pass got us into this Forest Service facility for free. We did pay a couple dollars each to take the shuttle to the top. Private cars are not allowed past the first visitors center. There is also a very steep three quarter mile trail for those who want to walk up.

It was very windy at the top and pretty cold. We got our pictures from the observation platform then went into the theater to watch a short video about the mountain. We learned that the climate on Brasstown Bald is more like our home in the Midwest than like the rest of Georgia.

At the visitors center we saw these chairs rocking themselves in the high wind. Makes them look haunted.

The shuttle took us back down to the parking lot. From there we went down the mountain and on to Helen, Georgia. This recreation of an Alpine town was having Oktoberfest so we stopped to have a beer and a break from the driving.Unicoi lodge wouldn’t be open for dinner until 5 PM so we had a little time to look around the town.

A short drive from downtown Helen took us to the Unicoi Lodge. The lodge was undergoing some major remodeling but the dining room was still open. Everyone but me had the fresh trout while I had Carolina shrimp. Both choices were excellent.

After dinner we went back to the cabin for another pleasant evening.

Tuesday we set out to visit the Tallulah Gorge, one of the most spectacular canyons in the southeast. The Gorge is a pretty amazing place to see and we all enjoyed the visit.

After we walked the pathway to the overlooks, we returned to the visitors center and watched a video about the gorge.

Eddie asked one of the guides about Karl Wellenda’s walk over the gorge in 1970. He directed us to some photos displayed in the visitors center. He also told us that Karl’s great-grandson Nik will duplicate the walk in 2015. So now I have a connection to two places Nik plans to do high-wire walks since he will be doing one just down the street from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago in November.

This day was Eddie and Bonnie’s anniversary and they chose the Dillard House for dinner that night.The food there was very good and we had a very nice evening.