Our next great camp spot was between Atlanta and the Appalachians, at Old Federal Park on Lake Sidney Lanier. It was a good central location in North Georgia. First we visited Atlanta, and the second day we had to attend to getting some tires replaced, so we spent a little time exploring while the rig was in the tire shop. It’s amazing what you can stumble upon. In this small town of Gainesville, we found some interesting art and an empty field with a bunch of statues of presidents (but not all of them!). Still not sure what all that was about.
Then we drove home to our nice spot on the lake, and just chilled the rest of the rainy afternoon.
We have been traveling in heavily populated and very flat land for a while. That’s why we choose to move inland to North Georgia. So this next rainy day we took a drive north to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
On our way was Dawsonville, the birthplace of NASCAR, so we stopped the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. The ticket taker was a grumpy elderly lady (or maybe just confused) but it was an affordable $5 each (plus tax), so in we went. You start in a little theatre room to watch a film. It was charming and we sat in the rear end of a ’57 Chevy – or something like it.
They turned up the volume when we came in (we were the only ones there) but it was still hard to understand a lot of what was said due to the extreme southern drawl. Basically it explained how they started running moonshine from Dawsonville to Atlanta during the depression and they got so good at making fast cars that racing, as a sport, was born. The drivers were called Trippers, although I don’t remember that term being used in Dukes of Hazard!
Former NASCAR racer Bill Elliott was a local boy, so there was quite a bit of history on him and his family and several of his cars were there. Even a wrecked one.
It was interesting to read the bios of the “fathers of racing” that were all Hall of Fame inductees. Tom even got to sit in one of the cars.
Also at this Hall of Fame site, was a Moonshine Distillery Tour (seen below behind the car). Yep, they had moonshine tasting. Tom tasted their three moonshine varieties and two brandy varieties. We had a great time visiting with the overall clad server known as Rocket Man because he worked on the Apollo 11 as an aerospace engineer. Yes, we bought a $30 bottle of 109 proof White Lightening variety as a souvenir. I imagine we’ll have that bottle for quite a while – if you run into us be sure as ask for a sample!
Then on to Blue Ridge, the town. It was historic and charming and artsy. We took cover from the rain and had lunch at the Southern Charm restaurant that looked like it was in an old house (not old just built to look old). They started us out with their famous biscuits and Tom had really delicious Chicken Fried Steak with Fried Okra. They also had a four hour train ride from this town but only two hours were on the train and it was too pricey for us.
So we toured some art galleries before traveling on to Amicalola Falls State Park recommended to us by Rocket Man. He told us we could view the bottom of the falls and then drive up to the lodge at the top.
It was gorgeous. We hiked up the lower end and then up the 175 stairs to see up to the top. You could continue on the 425 steps to actually get to the top, but we chose to go back down and drive up.
We have not been hiking (up and down walking) for quite some time, and we felt it. We weren’t even at 2000’ elevation yet, but my lungs thought it was 7000’ – we have been at sea level for too long!
Tom said over and over how great it was (and I agreed) to be away from the crowds and commercialism and back to affordable and natural sightseeing. Of course those are my words, not his. Mostly, he actually said “I’m so happy to be hiking up a waterfall, in the rain, with just you.”
When we drove up to the lodge, we walked over to the start of the waterfall, that was just a little creek actually. Amazing how it could produce so much water flowing over. We also walked over to the start of the Appalachian Approach Trail – but did not continue the 8.5 miles to the actual start of the AT. Although later in the day we picked up the AT again and marveled at all the boots hanging in the trees.
My guess is that they were from people who started the trail in Maine and finished at this end. Tom was ready to grab a back pack and go – he would love to do the trail. Me, not so much – at least not at this time!
Tom had printed a map of waterfalls in the area, and we continued on to find a couple more, but none of them compared to the Amicalola Falls. Still, it was a lovely drive in the area. The northern Georgia woods remind me of the Redwood forests in Southern Oregon minus the pine trees. Everything was so green and mossy with ferns and wildflowers everywhere.
It really was great to get back into the hills and trees and greenness of nature. This has been one of our favorite areas for sure and I’m sad that we can’t continue up along the Appalachians. But we will be back for sure.
Peace & Love, Joy