Day Trips

John C. Campbell Folk School is a good day or half-day trip. The Folk School was founded in 1925, and offers classes on all aspects of mountain arts and crafts, including blacksmithing, woodworking, fiddling, and weaving. The campus is beautiful, and if you check in at the administration building, they will often give you permission to look in on classes. The crafts shop is an excellent source for gifts, as it features the juried work of local and regional artists and craftspeople. There is also a history center that features original photographs by Doris Ulmann. Contact the Folk School at 828.837.2775 or 800.365.5724. They can be reached on the web at www.folkschool.com.
Local & Outdoors Info
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The Folk School is in Brasstown, North Carolina. From Blue Ridge, Georgia, go east on the four-lane (515) approximately 6.2 miles to Loving Road. Turn left and go to the end of Loving Road. Turn left on 325, which will take you over Nottely Dam into Ivy Log. Turn left on 19/129. Shortly after you enter North Carolina, after about .7 miles, turn right on Martin Creek Road. After about 3.7 miles, turn right on Brasstown Road. The Folk School is on Brasstown Road, shortly before the little town of Brasstown. There are also a few shops in Brasstown, as well as a dirt track (auto racing).

Cherokee County Historical Museum in Murphy

I know from experience that many of you have not explored Murphy, North Carolina. Murphy is actually a neat little place with an intact downtown, if you can get past the hideous commercial strip to the west of Murphy on Highway 64/74. There are several good restaurants and taverns, including Shoebooties and the Chop House, and it’s a fun town to walk around in downtown and explore.

Probably the best thing in Murphy is the Cherokee County Historical Museum, which is open from 9:00 – 5:00 Monday through Friday. The director is Wanda Stalcup, and she is very energetic and helpful. You might ask her to show you her personal collection, which is small but impressive. Admission is a modest $3 for adults.

The museum is housed in the former Carnegie Library, built in 1922, an interesting building in its own right. The heart of the collection from Arthur Palmer, who operated Palmer’s Museum in Marble, North Carolina for a number of years. Judging from the photos, this was a roadside attraction featuring antique tools and bear skins nailed to the outside of the building and extensive Cherokee and settler artifacts inside. Many local residents have also donated objects to the collection, and the museum is absolutely bursting at the seams with Cherokee arrowheads and artifacts, antique woodworking and blacksmithing tools, and baskets. There are also farrier tools. There is a full scale recreation of a Cherokee log cabin and many settler objects and artifacts. The collection also includes a large number of mineral samples, old rifles, fairy crosses, antique dolls, and many other things.

The basement of the museum has been developed as in interpretive center for the Unicoi Turnpike Trail, the historic trading trail that ran from the Atlantic Ocean to the Cherokee Overhill communities. It was used in the infamous Trail of Tears, the removal of the Cherokee from North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee in 1832. Murphy’s Fort Butler was a part of that removal, and while Fort Butler itself is gone, there is a small scale replica in the museum. Noted archeologist and Cherokee scholar Brett Riggs has developed a number of illustrated interpretive panels on the Trail of Tears for the museum, making this an ideal place to begin exploration of the area’s Cherokee heritage. These panels incorporate some of the best scholarship and research that’s been done on the removal. I’ve written about the Unicoi Turnpike Trail before, and the museum is an ideal spot to begin exploring this trail, which followed roughly the route of today’s Joe Brown Highway from Murphy to Coker Creek, the site of Fort Armistead. As I’ve mentioned before, an intact portion of the trail is accessible from Unicoi Gap, along the Joe Brown Highway a few miles from Coker Creek.(When you are facing the interpretive sign at Unicoi Gap, the intact portion of the trail is behind you. Cross the the road, climb the bank, and walk a short distance along the access trail. The intact portion is a deeply entrenched wagon trail, marked with a blue blaze, that turns off from the access trail to the right. Along the trail between Unicoi Gap and Coker Creek is also the remains of an old CCC Camp.

The easiest way to get to Murphy from Blue Ridge is to go east on 515 toward Blairsville, turning left on Highway 60 north, about six miles from Blue Ridge. Go a couple of miles to Mineral Bluff and turn right on Spur 60. When you get to the end of Spur 60, turn right on Hwy 64/74. When you get to the second traffic light in Murphy, turn left to reach the old downtown. The museum is next to the courthouse at 87 Peachtree Street, 828.837.6792.

Delano Community Farmer’s Market

One of our favorite places is the Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Delano, TN. In season, they are open six days a week from 9:00 – 5:00 (closed Sunday). They do a lot of green housing and they have a good selection of early produce including several varieties of lettuce, scallions, white radishes, collards, turnips, cucumbers, spinach, cilantro, and strawberries. They also offer sorghum, preserves, and baked goods. (Everybody loves their sticky buns.) And they had beautiful tomato plants. (I used their plants last year, and had the best year yet for home grown tomatoes.) The live animal market, which is held on the last Saturday of the month, is also interesting, but draws big crowds.

Their prices are very good, and the quality of the produce is wonderful. Their “peaches and cream” corn – a hybrid of white and yellow corn – is the best corn I’ve ever tasted. In the fall, you can buy bushels and pecks of peppers and other good things to put up at truly drop dead prices.

The Amish are known for beautiful horses, and it you’ll usually see some when you visit. The horses they use to pull their buggys are always beautiful, spirited horses. It’s a beautiful piece of property and would be a tempting place to take pictures, if they weren’t opposed to photography. It’s all cash, of course, and there’s no phone. And they ask that dress be respectful. They seem to tolerate shorts. But they really don’t like low necklines or halter tops. If you’re wearing one, it would probably be a good idea to take a long sleeved shirt to wear inside the market. To us, respecting their way of life and beliefs is a small price to pay for being able to buy such wonderful produce. A lot of folks seem to agree with us. It’s not unusual to go over there on a week day and find about 40 people standing out in front, waiting for them to open the doors. As with any farmer’s market, it’s best to go early – or at least, not too late.

The market is north of Benton, TN. It’s a bit of a trip from Blue Ridge. It usually takes me an hour and fifteen minutes. From Blue Ridge, you would take Hwy 5 north to McCaysville, cross the river, and turn left on Hwy 68. After you go through Copperhill, just before you get to the traffic light on 68 in the old part of downtown Ducktown, you come to the turnoff for Hwy 64/74. Take 64/74 (the River Road/Old Copper Road) west toward Cleveland and Chattanooga. If you want to go the scenic way, after you pass through the gorge, look for the beginnings of Parksville Lake on the left. On the right, a short distance further, is the turnoff for 315/30 to Reliance (the Greasy Creek Road). When you get into Reliance, don’t cross the river. Stay on Hwy 30. When you get to 411, turn right. The turnoff to the market is on the left, just after you turn north on 411 and just after you cross the Hiwassee River. There’s a winery on the same road.

The quicker way to go would be to continue toward Cleveland on 64/74 and take the road that cuts off to Benton, which is 314. It’s not marked very well, but you’ll probably see other traffic bear off on the right fork after you’ve passed Parksville Lake. This turnoff is just before you cross the Ocoee River and the road turns to four lanes. When you get into Benton, turn right on 411. When you cross the Hiwassee River, the turnoff is on the left a short distance further. If you miss 314, it’s no big deal. Just continue on until you hit Hwy 411, and turn north. After you cross the Hiwassee River, look for the sign on the left. The market is not far from the old Webb Brother’s Texaco in Reliance, so you might want to run by there after visiting the market.

Webb Brother’s Texaco & General Store

As you drive around in the country, you often see old general stores, most of which are now closed. Some are vacant, with the name of the store still displayed over the door, and some are clearly old stores that have been converted to residences. In other cases, newer businesses have taken over the old locations. Many of the old country stores had a residence for the owners in back. (Some of my relatives operate an old country store in the little town of Mann’s Choice, Pennsylvania, in the mountains to the east of Pittsburgh. Theirs is a little different from most, because the residence and the store were constructed side-by-side under the same roof, not front to back.) These small general stores were once vital to local communities when travel to a larger town was more difficult. Today, most of them have simply gone out of business. The ones that remain often serve a camping and outdoors public, but there are a still a few in remote areas that survive simply on the convenience of their location. Many also housed the community post office. There’s a lot of interest in these old stores, both for nostalgia and for local history.

One of the most famous – and certainly the most photographed – is the Webb Brothers Texaco & General Store in Reliance, Tennessee. It opened in 1936, and the old post office still occupies one part of the store. The store is located on the bank of the Hiwassee River, at one end of the bridge that crosses the Hiwassee from Highway 30 to Highway 315. Their business today is to sell gas, operate a convenience store, and handle the camping and trout fishing trade. They offer rafting, kayak, and tube trips, and they serve as a good source of local information. For a dollar, you can buy a pamphlet on the historic buildings in the Reliance area. They also have some great T-shirts for sale. The main attraction, aside from the location itself – the Hiwassee is beautiful there – is the interior of the store, which has some interesting photographs and artifacts. The residence at the back of the building is roped off, but you can see the old parlor immediately to the back of the store.

This is an interesting area to explore. Before the Cherokee Removal in 1838, there was a thriving Cherokee community across the river in the Springtown/Childers Creek area. After removal, mail trails ran through Reliance to both Sylco and Ducktown. Reliance is close to the Kimsey Mountain Highway, and there is a road on the north side of the river that runs up the Hiwassee to the Appalachia Powerhouse. This is a pristine, mountain tailrace, and quite a good destination for trout. There are also a number of nice National Forest Campgrounds in the area, and there is fairly good access to the Hiwassee downstream of the bridge, with some picnic tables and viewing areas.

If you are planning a river trip, it is best to call ahead, because the release schedule from the dam impacts availability, as well as the work schedule of the employees who work the rafting side of the business. In addition to rentals, they also offer transportation to the put-in so you can make a one-way trip. The river trip downstream is about five miles and can take up to four and a half hours. For more information, 423.338.2373.

Reliance is about an hour from Blue Ridge. To reach Reliance from Blue Ridge, go north on Hwy 5 to McCaysville, cross the river, and turn left on Hwy 68. Go through Copperhill toward Ducktown, and just before you reach Ducktown, exit Hwy 68 and go left (west) on Hwy 64/74 toward Cleveland and Chattanooga. After you go through the Ocoee Gorge, look for the beginnings of Parksville Lake. Shortly afterwards, just after you cross the Greasy Creek, the road to Reliance is on the right. It is marked Hwy 30. Go north on Hwy 30 past the Kimsey Mountain Highway, and you will reach Reliance.

Let’s Visit Desoto Falls

This one is for the folks who want to visit a beautiful area without necessarily having to drag themselves over a rough trail and get their feet soaked. In other words, for the whole family. This isn’t necessarily for the wilderness fanatics, because Desoto Falls is a very popular area. (Those folks might want to visit Helton Creek Falls instead – see the directions below – which are a little less popular.)

Everyone loves waterfalls, right? Desoto Falls has two beautiful waterfalls, a nice campground, toilet facilities, and picnic areas. It is named for the explorer because a piece of armor was found nearby, which is thought to have come from his expedition. Whether that’s a reasonable conclusion or not, it is a very nice area to visit for photography or for a family picnic. The falls is located south of Blairsville on 19/129. It would be about an hour’s trip from Blue Ridge.
When you get to the square in Blairsville, set your trip odometer.
As you head south on 19/129, you pass the turnoff to Hwy 180, which goes to Brasstown Bald through the very beautiful Choestoe Valley. If it is a clear day, you might want to visit that on the way back. You park near the top and take a bus to the facility, which was built by the CCC. It doesn’t amount to much on a cloudy day, but on a clear day, the view is really spectacular.

At 9.1 miles, there is a new facility dedicated to the local poet Byron Herbert Reese. Here is the description from the Byron Herbert Reese Society: “This farm home place is where Reece completed his writings. Still standing are the house Reece built for his parents, his study, the large barn and home of his sister. About three miles south beyond the home place is the Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Park with hiking trails and picnic area.” The trail is .7 miles long, and goes through the Blood Mountain Wilderness to the Appalachian Trail through Flat Rock Gap. There are widely spaced blue blazes and about half of the trail is fairly steep. For those not familiar with Reese, he was a poet who was born and farmed in the area and also taught at Young Harris College. During his lifetime, he was compared favorably to Robert Frost. His poetry reflects the mountain life and setting, and his language and style are reminiscent of the old English ballads and the King James version of the Bible. He was born in 1917 and died in 1958, of a tuberculosis induced suicide.

At 10.1 miles, you pass Vogel State Park. (Reese’s birthplace is now under the lake.)

At 11.3 miles, you pass the turnoff to Helton Creek Falls. If you want to visit them, you can drive back to the parking area and follow the trail back to the falls. The improvements there were originally built by the CCC.
At 13 miles, you go through Neal’s Gap. East of here, the Appalachian Trail ascends Blood Mountain. There are some beautiful views from the trail in either direction when the leaves are off, and there is a nice year-long view from the old CCC facility that is now a trail store and gift shop. The shop is now known as Mountain Crossings. There are bathroom facilities where the trail passes under the arch of the structure (the only place where the AT passes through a structure). This is the first point of resupply for hikers traveling north, but the gift shop is worth a visit even if you are not hiking. The book store definitely has the best collection of books on local trails, history, natural history, and wildlife. The owner of the shop, Winton Porter, has recently written a book about the store, the trail, and some of the characters who hang out there, called Just Passin’ Thru. Mr. Porter described it to me as a comedy, but it also has the history of the facility, which is beautiful inside and is well worth a visit. In the back of the store, there is a beautiful handmade chair, which is a particular favorite of ours.

At 16.5 miles, you reach Desoto Falls. There is a $3 per car parking fee. The trails are well marked. It is about 1/4 mile downstream to the lower falls, which drops about 20 feet and is quite beautiful. The trail is a little steep, and there are some places where you have to step up and over things. The trail to the upper falls, which drops about 80 feet, is an easy 3/4 mile walk, although the trail goes up and over some mild hills toward the end. There are observation decks at both falls. Please stay on the decks. The trail is closed beyond the upper falls, due to excess usage that has resulted in some environmental damage.

If you are looking for a place for lunch afterwards, there is an old cafe, Turner’s Corner Cafe, that probably was originally built as a gas station. It is about four miles further south, where 19 and 129 split apart. It has been there since 1928, and is open 11:00 – 9:00, Thursday through Sunday. They have a beautiful covered deck that overlooks the Boggs Creek, and they serve beer and wine (but probably not on Sunday).

Or, you could head south toward Cleveland and turn left on Alternate 75 to Helen. The turn is also signed for the Smithgall Woods Center. Helen is about twenty miles from Desoto Falls, give or take a few.

Goforth Creek

Goforth Creek is a pristine mountain stream in the Cherokee National Forest that has a couple of nice, photogenic waterfalls. It is highly regarded by the trout fishermen as well as by the kayakers. The creek runs south from the vicinity of the Kimsey Mountain Highway into the Ocoee River, and can be accessed directly from Hwy 64.

Along with about a dozen similar streams, it provides the recovering Ocoee River with fresh water and live fish. In the spring, when the water is high, the kayakers put in at the head of the creek, not far from the Kimsey Highway, and ride it all the way down to the Ocoee. It looks like a crazy thing to do, but if you are up to it, it looks like a wonderful ride. (There is a very cool video of that on the WaysSouth Facebook page.) For a long time, I thought that the name “Goforth” was probably a reference to the mountain practice of baptizing in small creeks, but it turns out the creek was probably named for Dan Goforth, legendary Polk County hunter, or for his family.

My friend and wilderness advocate Bruce Walters says it is one of his favorite hikes: “We always spend most of our time near the water of Goforth or in it … that’s the beauty of this particular trail, it’s Gofoth itself with all the small and some very large cascades. It’s always a favorite stop for us because its directly on Hwy 64 and is an easy hike, but it is so beautiful and has very loud water sounding cascades.”

Unfortunately, Goforth Creek is endangered, along with the other creeks in this area, by the proposed new road known as Corridor K, which will be built almost entirely in the Cherokee National Forest. The route currently in favor carries a base price of $320 million, not counting the considerable cost of dealing with acid rock, and it saves exactly no minutes of travel time over making spot improvements to the existing road. (The most important improvement – widening the “trucker’s curve” – has already been done.) Construction of this highway will destroy these wonderful, scenic creeks forever. There doesn’t seem to be any point to it, except that the local politicians have promised the people of East Polk County that they will build this road for so many years that they feel entitled to it, whether it makes sense or not.

To reach Goforth Creek from Blue Ridge, go north on Highway 5 through McCaysville and cross the river. Turn left on Hwy 68 and go about three miles. Shortly before you would cross over Hwy 64/74, turn off to the right on the exit ramp. Turn left, or west, on Hwy 64, toward Ocoee and Chattanooga. Toward the middle of the gorge, after Ocoee Powerhouse #3 but before you reach Ocoee Powerhouse #2, look for the sign for Goforth Creek on the right. (If you get to the Maddens Branch or Parksville Lake, you’ve gone too far.) There is a small parking area to the right of the creek, enough for about ten cars (please park intelligently). The trail is on the left side of the creek, and it is asphalt at first. There is a bigger falls than the one in the photograph, further up the creek, but you have to bushwack off the trail to get to it. From Blue Ridge, this would be about a 45 minute drive.

If you are looking for a place to have lunch in the area, there are several restaurants in or near Ocoee, which is on the other side of the gorge. I can’t vouch for them personally, because I’m rarely over there at lunch. The old Ocoee Inn has been renamed Blackwell’s, and it is known from its “made from scratch” homestyle cooking. The Ocoee Gondolier serves Italian, but the owner is Greek and is supposed to have a great Greek salad and Greek pizza. The Dam Deli & Diner is supposed to have a good handmade hamburger.

Other things to do in the area: In season, you can stop at the Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Delano (off 411 just north of the Hiwassee River). Also, Reliance, which is on the Hiwassee, is a scenic destination with several spots to picnic along the river and Webb Brothers Texaco, a classic country store that also offers river trips.

The Ducktown Basin Museum

Most of the folks who visit Blue Ridge are here to enjoy the natural, scenic beauty of the mountains, so it stands to reason that they aren’t much interested in the industrial history of the area. But just over the Tennessee line, in Copperhill and Ducktown, there was a very important mining site for many years, and it has had a fascinating history. Today, we think of the eastern side of Polk County, Tennessee as economically depressed. This was not at all the case for many years. Julius Raht, the Captain of the Copperhill mines, was reckoned the richest man in Tennessee in the years immediately following the Civil War, and the area’s economic prosperity continued into the 1950s.

Copper was discovered in the Ducktown area in the 1840s. While this may not sound overly exciting, there was only one other copper mine in the United States at that time, on Lake Superior. For this reason, the discovery of high-quality ore in Ducktown was very important. The problem was how to get it to market, as the area was almost completely inaccessible from the nearest railroad, at Cleveland, Tennessee. In the early days, the ore was rich enough to be profitable when packed out. Later, the Old Copper Road, a wagon trail through the Ocoee Gorge, carried crudely refined ore to market. Finally, in 1890, the railroad was extended from Ellijay and Blue Ridge to Ducktown. It then traversed the famous loop near Farner, and ran down the Hiwassee River to Etowah. During the years prior to the Civil War, the major market for Ducktown’s copper was industrialized England. During the Civil War, it was vital to the Confederacy. After the coming of the railroad in 1890, there was a long period of growth and expansion, capped by the closing of the Burra Burra mine in 1959. Mining continued in the Basin until 1987.

There is an environmental side of the story, because the open smelting of copper in the basin denuded some fifty square miles of the Copper Basin, both from timber being cut to feed the smelters and from the fumes from the smelting itself. The timber cutting affected Fannin County as well, because an enormous enumber of trees were cut along the Toccoa River, and floated down the river to Copperhill. The smelting of copper was discontinued in 1987, shortly after I came to Blue Ridge. I can report from personal experience that at that time, what little vegetation there was in the Basin glowed a coppery red from the smelting operations. Today, major restoration efforts have returned the color green to the Copper Basin. The Ocoee River has been cleaned up to a certain extent (for many years it did not support aquatic life downstream of the plant) and reclamation efforts continue under a consent decree with the EPA, spearheaded by the the Glenn Springs Holding Company.

The Ducktown Basin Museum, a National Register of Historic Places site, preserves 300 acres that give some idea of the devastation, along with many photographs that give a clear sense of what went on in the old days. There are ten building remaining on the property, along with the only surviving mine headframe in Tennessee. The small museum is chock full of exhibits, and the museum’s director, Ken Rush, is very knowledgeable.

The museum’s stated hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 – 4:00 (November – April) and 10:00 – 4:30 (May – October). As always, it is advisable to call ahead, 423.496.5778.
Admission is $4 adults, $3 seniors, $1 children 13-18, and fifty cents for children under 12. There is a collection site where garnet, pyrite, chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, and actionolite can be found. The collection site is $5 or $7 with a museum tour included.

This might be a good rainy day activity for history buffs who wonder how such a huge industrial operation could exist in such close proximity to mountain culture. Environmentalists will shake their heads at the devastation, and children will likely be fascinated by some of the old photos and equipment.

The Ducktown Basin Museum is located about fifteen miles north of Blue Ridge. From Blue Ridge, take Highway 5 north. Cross the river, and turn left on TN 68. Passing through Copperhill, follow 68 for about four miles. A short distance after you pass over Hwy 64/74, the entrance to the museum is on the right. If you reach the traffic light in the middle of Ducktown, you have gone a little bit too far.

A Little Local History and a Day Trip: The Kimsey Mountain Highway

Last month, I wrote about the Old Line, the railroad line that finally reached Ducktown, Tennessee in 1890, reviving the copper industry. At that time, the only way to reach Ducktown from the west was over the Old Copper Road, a wagon road that had become unprofitable by 1876, due to reduced percentages of copper in the ore. There was also an Indian trail, which ran from the Great Indian Warpath (along the route of today’s 411 near Cleveland, Tennessee) across Bean Mountain and Greasy Creek, over the Little Frog Mountain, and then into Ducktown. It had a long history, having been used in the Cherokee removal in 1832 and subsequently as a mail route to Ducktown.

By the time motorcars became popular, the Old Copper Road had fallen into disrepair, and it was considered too expensive to rebuild it for auto travel because it was so rocky. The owner of the first motorcar in Ducktown, the famous Dr. L. E. Kimsey, was also a Polk County Road Commissioner, and, beginning in 1915, he championed the idea of building a highway over the route of the old Indian trail. Among his motives was apparently the fact that he liked to fish the Hiawassee River for trout, in the vicinity of Reliance, Tennessee. In any case, the road was completed in 1920, with the cooperation of the Forest Service and the State of Tennessee. It was designated Tennessee Highway 40 and named in honor of Dr. Kimsey. It was one of the highest roads in the south, and it became quite a tourist attraction. Newspaper articles proclaimed “Nothing Like This in Switzerland.” Etowah, Tennessee billed itself as the “Gateway to the Smokys” and the Kimsey was the subject of many beautiful hand-colored postcards. It was even included in the Toledo (Ohio) Blade’s Auto Club Map for 1923. Among its glories was the view from atop the Little Frog Mountain, a popular spot for picnics.

It was a fairly short-lived glory, for the road was rather high maintenance, and its champion, Dr. Kimsey, died a somewhat untimely death. It isn’t completely clear when it fell into disrepair, but by 1939, when the WPA Guide to Tennessee was published, the Old Copper Road had been rebuilt. The guide does not mention the Kimsey, and it directs tourists to use the gorge for the area driving trip, so it must have been in disrepair by this time.

Today, the Kimsey Highway is a well-maintained Forest Service road, rarely used except by hikers and hunters. It makes a wonderful leaf season trip, but it is also impressive when the leaves are off the trees, because of the wonderful vistas and beautiful mountain streams, especially on the eastern side.

The Kimsey is designated as Forest Service Road 68. To find it from Blue Ridge, go north on Highway 5 to McCaysville/Copperhill. After crossing the river, turn left on TN 68. After you go through Ducktown, watch for the entrance to Campbell Cove Lake, several miles further on the left. Continuing north on TN 68 a mile or so from this point, watch for the railroad crossing. After the railroad crossing, look for the sign marking the beginning of the Kimsey Highway on the left, just past a small auto parts store in the vicinity of Harbuck, Tennessee.

Following FS 68, you come shortly to Horseshoe Bend, a sharp drop-off with wonderful views of the Copper Basin. (There are also some old cars at the bottom of the cliff.) In a few more miles, you climb the Little Frog Mountain. Some twelve miles – and an hour or so later – you come back on the pavement at Archville, Tennessee (also known as Greasy Creek). After passing through Archville, you come out to a “T” intersection with TN 30/315.

You can turn right at this point to Reliance, and cross the Hiawassee there for more sightseeing on 315. Or, you can follow 30 along the river to Benton/Delano on 411. If you cross the river and continue on to Tellico Plains, you can return to Ducktown on Hwy 68 south. If you follow 30 to 411, you can go a mile or so north on 411 and watch for the sign on the left for the Amish Farmers Market in Delano (open Friday and Saturday in November). Then you can follow 411 south to 64/74 and return to Ducktown through the Ocoee Gorge, past the Whitewater Center. As you travel through the gorge, you will see the wooden flume across the river that carries water to the turbines of the Ocoee No 2 Powerhouse, and you will swear that it runs uphill.

For a shorter trip, you can turn left on 30/315 after leaving Archville, and then turn left on 64/74 to return through Ducktown through the gorge.

Let’s Visit Three Forks & Long Creek Falls

I’ve been advised to write less, because we’ve been experiencing difficulty in getting the newsletter into people’s mailboxes. So I’ll be cutting down the number of photos and articles in each newsletter, but I will try to take up the slack on my website. I write a more frequent newsletter there, focusing on upcoming events and other things of interest in the mountains.

Three Forks is named for the confluence of Long, Stover, and Chester creeks. They form the Noontoola Creek, probably our most beautiful trout stream, and it is a truly magical area. (Noontoola Creek has special regulations, so check the rule book before fishing.) The Appalachian Trail and the Benton McKaye Trail cross FS 58 together Three Forks. They run together for a short distance to the south, and for about a mile to the north.

I haven’t been in this area for a long time, probably because I had a very traumatic lost dog experience there twenty-odd years ago. But now that I’ve “rediscovered” it, I plan to go back often. It is a beautiful hike on any trail in any direction. You can cross the bridge over Chester Creek and head south toward toward Springer Mountain on either the Benton McKaye or the Appalachian Trail. Or, you can head north on the Benton McKaye toward the Swinging Bridge and Highway 60 (or on the Appalachian Trail toward the Hawk Mountain Shelter).

Today, let’s head north on the combined Appalachian Trail (white rectangle) and Benton McKaye (white diamond). From the parking area at Three Forks, follow the combined trail north along Long Creek for about .8 miles. There is a sign here for the side trail to the base of Long Falls, a short walk. Shortly after that, the Appalachian Trail turns off from the Benton McKaye. (The Duncan Ridge Trail runs with the Benton McKaye Trail from this point north.)

It is a fairly easy walk up to the falls. It took us about a half an hour, not pushing it hard. The trail ascends, but it is a good footbed, and the walking is fairly easy. After visiting the base of the falls, I suggest you return to the Benton McKaye, and go another .3 to the top of the falls and a hiker’s bridge over Long Creek. You can see the head of the falls and the precise point where the water breaks over the top. Above the falls, Long Creek is not especially big – it is a little surprising that it forms such a big waterfall – but it does run fairly deep and very swiftly. It is an interesting area to explore, and a favorite Fannin County day hike. Please use caution around the waterfall. There are many cases where people have slipped into one or another falls, which isn’t a good experience.

One of the additional attractions, especially at this time of year, is the presence of the many “through hiker” hopefuls pounding up the Appalachian Trail toward Maine. Few, if any, of these folks stop to see the falls as they race up the trail, but you do get a pretty good idea of today’s hiker ethic by checking out their gear as it goes past.

From Blue Ridge, you would go out Aska Road to the end, turn right on Newport Road, go to the end, turn left on Doublehead Gap, and then right at FS 58 (just after the church at Stock Hill. From Morganton, you would go south on Hwy 60 for 10.8 miles, turn right on Doublehead Gap, and go 5.6 to FS 58 (just before the church). It is about 5.4 miles from Doublehead Gap Road to the trail crossing. At this point, FS 58 is in pretty good shape, so four wheel drive isn’t necessary.

Visit Buck Bald and See the Stars!

It doesn’t seem to be very well known, but our area is one of the darkest areas in the southeast. If you look at a light map of the night skies, Atlanta and Charlotte show up as completely white (total), while our area – and parts of adjoining Tennessee and North Carolina – appear as blue (low). The closest spot that shows dark is a very small dot in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. (While I’m sure that’s really beautiful, I’m not sure I’ll be paddling out there at night in my canoe to see it.)

This is actually quite a tourist attraction, and the tourism people up in Tennessee realize that, and promote it ceaselessly. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of our local tourism officials in quite the same way, and they ignore it. But quite a few of us recognize and appreciate it, and our area has attracted some very good amateur astronomers – some of whom have built observatories – and we do have some astronomy groups that regularly visit the area. Some folks I know schedule their trips around yearly events, like the Persiod meter showers.
If your kids have never seen the night sky, this might be something that you’d want to consider exposing them to while you are in town. There are quite a few people who live in the city who have never actually seen things that those of us up here take for granted, like the Milky Way.

In lots of locations, you can just sit on your deck after sundown and watch it get dark. It is important to turn off all the lights you can, and allow your eyes to adjust to the light for twenty minutes or so. Then you can really begin to see what’s up there. It might interest your kids to be able to identify a few of the features up there – the Milky Way, the Big Dipper, Orion, the Pleides, and so forth. You can buy inexpensive star charts that will help you with that, or there are a number of online resources these days. Basically, the idea is just to relax and appreciate the incredible beauty of the nightscape, which you just can’t do in a place like Atlanta or Miami. For me, the mountains are even more beautiful at night than they are during the day.

Blue Ridge glows a bit at night, but if you can get away from Blue Ridge, just about any place where can you see the sky would be good. High places in the national forest are ideal. I suppose the middle of lake Blue Ridge is good, too. If you want to try a very special place, and are willing to drive for a bit, I’d recommend Buck Bald, in the Cherokee National Forest, about forty-five minutes north of Blue Ridge.

To get to Buck Bald, you take Highway 5 north from Blue Ridge to McCaysville, cross the river, turn left, and continue through Copperhill and Ducktown on Hwy 68 north. You pass through Turtletown and Farner. Then you cross the Hiwassee River just past the wooden railway trestle – the famous Farner Loop – and start to go up over the mountain. After you cross the top of the mountain, you enter Monroe County. Shortly afterwards, the turnoff to Buck Bald is on the right. It’s a gravel road up to the top, but it’s usually in pretty good shape, except that it can be tough after a heavy rain. If it has rained hard, you might need four wheel drive. It depends on how wet the road has gotten, and how much traffic has been up there since. In the dry, however, it’s a good road. When you get to the top of Buck Bald, there is a small parking area, a few picnic tables, and a fire ring. If you haven’t been up there before, it would probably be a good idea to get up there while it is still light, watch the sun set, and then watch it get dark. The view from up there is wonderful in all directions, and it is totally isolated from both civilization and almost all light pollution.

Let’s Visit Woody Gap

In honor of Blue Ridge being designated an official Appalachian Trail “Trail Town,” let’s visit Woody Gap, which is the first major road crossing on the Appalachian Trail north of Springer Mountain (where the trail begins in Fannin County).
Woody Gap is in Union County, about 30 miles south on Highway 60 from Morganton, a drive of about 45 minutes. After you pass through Suches – the smallest school district in Georgia – it is only a few miles to the top of the Gap. There is a parking area on both sides of the road, some picnic tables, and a latrine (which the Appalachian Trail Conservancy folks call “modern outhouse style”).

There are some views from the south parking lot, and you can hike in either direction. If you go to the left, or northwest, you are headed up toward Blood Mountain. It’s about nine miles to the top and then about two miles, more or less straight down, to the next road crossing at Neel’s Gap and Highway 19/129. But for a shorter hike, you can go up about a mile to the “Preaching Rock,” a rock outcropping on Big Cedar Mountain. That’s about a mile, one way, and the trail is smooth, well maintained, and not too steep. There are some good views from the top.

When we went there last time, there was a killer wind chill at the top of the gap, so we elected to go south, which is mostly out of the wind. The trail here is narrow, by Appalachian Trail standards, and somewhat rocky. It goes along the edge of the mountain, passing through a number of boulder fields, and there are some nice views as you get further along the trail. We were there after the recent rains, so the trail was wet in places from beautiful seeps and cascades from the higher ground above the trail. Once or twice, it took a little care to find a way through the little rivulets and over the rocks. I found my hiking stick came in handy in these places. One advantage of going this way is that it is far less traveled, at least until the “thru hikers” start on their annual quest from Springer Mountain to Maine.
Either direction is a good hike and will serve to “blow the cobwebs out” that result from winter cabin fever.
If you want to go back a different way, you can turn east on 180 at Suches, go past Lake Winfield Scott, and hit 19/129 at Vogel State Park. At that point, you can turn left or north and go back through Blairsville.

Let’s Visit Wayah Bald

Everyone loves a wonderful view. And everyone knows that I’m fond of CCC sites. Wayah Bald, about ten miles due west of Franklin, North Carolina, has both. While the structure on top is not as elaborate as that on Brasstown Bald, the view is comparable. The pictures don’t begin to do justice to the panorama. And Wayah Bald is nowhere near as busy. It still feels remote. There is no shuttle bus, but it is hardly needed. The walk is short and easy over a paved pathway. It does ascend some, but is fairly easy walking. The drive up is easy, on a well maintained gravel road.

There is an observation tower and a nearly 360 degree view. You can see Franklin, Brasstown Bald, the mountains over toward Asheville, and – possibly, in the far distance – the Smokies. (The day we were there was a very clear day, but the area where the Smokies are was mostly haze.) There are interpretive signs, to help you identify the various peaks.
“Wayah” apparently means “wolf” in Cherokee. That would be the red wolf, which was common before the white settlers came in numbers. The tower was built in 1937. Originally, it had two more stories, with living facilities and an observation post for the fire watchers. But these were removed in 1947 due to structural concerns. The tower was rebuilt in 1983, and the new stairs are easy to negotiate. The elevation is 5,342.

You can access Wayah Bald from Hwy 64, which runs from Murphy to Franklin, but I would suggest going through Andrews, which is a prettier drive. (Andrews itself is a very pretty town, once you are off the four lane.) From Blue Ridge, you should allow about two hours, assuming you want to enjoy the drive. You would go north/east on 515 about six miles and turn left on Hwy 60 north. At Mineral Bluff, turn right on Spur 60 and go to the end. Turn right on 64/74, and stay straight on 74 after 64 turns off (just after you cross the Hiwassee). At the traffic light in Andrews, turn right on Business 19. Set your odometer. As the town thins out, after about 1.6 miles, turn right on Junaluska Road. Go 12.7 miles to a right on Wayah Road. Take Wayah Road 9.2 miles, past Nantahala Lake, to a left on FS 69. (It isn’t well marked from this direction, but just a short distance past this turn, the Appalachian Trail Crosses and you enter Franklin County.) Take the road to the top, a distance of 4.4 miles. There is a small parking area with latrines uphill from the path to the tower.

The Appalachian Trail (white rectangle) and the Bartram Trail (yellow rectangle) go past the tower together. There are also a number of smaller trails in the area. The vegetation is the typical scrubby stuff found on these wind-whipped balds. The spring bloom is legendary.

(About a mile before you reach the tower, there is a turnoff to Winespring Bald. This is the peak with the communication towers that you see from the lower road. We didn’t have time to explore it this time, so I can’t report on the condition of the road. It is a slightly higher peak (5449), but does not have the facilities or unobstructed view found on Wayah Bald.)
On the way back down, you might want to stop and explore the Wilson Lick Historic Area, the site of the original ranger station. It is a very beautiful spot. I spent some time there poking around and pondering what life was like for the ranger and his wife, especially during the winter.

On the way back, you could go down into Franklin for lunch. There are several places to eat in the old downtown, and it is well worth exploring. You would then return on Hwy 64.

If you wanted to go back a slightly different way, you could retrace your steps past Nantahala Lake but stay straight on Wayah Road instead of turning on Junaluska. You follow a beautiful creek and see a very high waterfall on the right before coming out at the beginning of the Nantahala Gorge (at the Nantahala River Boat Launch). You would then turn left on Hwy 74/19 and go back through Andrews and Murphy.

Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend Park

A lot of you have probably heard me talk about this before, because it is one of my favorite local events. It is held every Thursday evening during the summer, starting at 6:30 in the Ron Henry Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville. The park is off Hwy 60 North, on the River Road, just south of McCaysville. From Blue Ridge, you would take Highway 5 north from the McDonald’s to McCaysville, cross the river, and turn right on Hwy 60 south. After a short distance, turn right on the River Road, just before the train tracks. The entrance to Ron Henry Park is on the right a short distance upstream.

This event was originally started by Lisa Jacobi, local fiddler and guitar player, and it is primarily an event for musicians and those who love bluegrass music.

The basic idea is to take a lawn chair or sit on the grass and listen to the music. It’s a good place to take a picnic dinner, if you can eat it in your lap. (The musicians tend to set up in the shelters, so you can’t always get a seat at a picnic table near where the music is being played. It’s become quite a popular local event, to the extent that in an election year, the politicians show up and work the crowds. There’s no alcohol allowed in the park, so you need to bear that in mind. It’s just good old fashioned country fun and bluegrass music in a beautiful setting.

If you have some trout fishermen in the family, they can fish the river while others eat or listen to the music.

This is one event that usually brings the old boys out, and it’s a joy to hear them play. While it’s not unusual for four or more groups to be playing at once, I tend to hang around the old boys. It could just be me, but it seems they tune a little differently than the younger players. And, I love to hear them play. If you’re at all a lover of bluegrass, you’re probably going to tear up just a little when you hear them sing, “I should have stayed around the old home place / And never gone to work in the mines.”

Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest mountain, and the view on clear days is spectacular. It’s a steep ½ mile hike up from the parking lot, but there is also a shuttle bus (for a fee). There is a visitor’s center on top with exhibits and interpretive programs. The visitor’s information center is 706.896.2556. The Heritage Association Bookstore is 706.896.3471.

From Blairsville, take 19/129 south for 8 miles. Turn left (east) onto Georgia 180. Go 9 miles to Georgia 180 Spur and turn left (north). Go three miles to the Brasstown Bald parking lot.

Let’s Visit Trackrock Gap

Trackrock Gap is one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeast. It is also the only site on public land in Georgia with extensive petroglyphs. It hasn’t been a very satisfactory experience until lately, because the old site protection strategy was to cover the rocks with metal grates to prevent vandalism. These have recently been removed and replaced by electronic monitors, so it is now much easier to see the petroglyphs.

The petroglyphs definitely predate the Cherokee, perhaps going back to the Mississippian people. They have recently been in the news because an architect by the name of Richard Thornton has made the very controversial claim that the site was in fact an ancient Mayan village that is over 1,000 years old. He makes a very interesting case, and his elaborate depiction of the site generated a lot of comment, most of it negative. However, if his claims prove to be true, the implications are incredible for the archeological history of the Southeast.

The orthodox view of the relationship between the Mayans and North America Indians is basically that there was very little contact between them. The idea that there was a Mayan “diaspora” as far north of Georgia is, from this point of view, incredible. Consequently, most scholars view the walls and other ruins on the site as being of historical origin. These scholars point out that petroglyphs are typically found in “liminal” settings – areas of transition like river crossings and mountain gaps. These sites were supposedly favored for rituals, which involve the transition between the everyday and the sacred realms. Trackrock Gap is, of course, a mountain gap. So from this point of view, the fact that there are petroglyphs counts against the idea that there was a city there, because if there were, the ritual site would be somewhere else, in a more transitional setting.

You all know how to Google, so I’ll leave you to explore Mr. Thornton’s thesis on your own. But Trackrock Gap is right around the corner, so let’s jump in the car and go! From Blue Ridge, you head north/east on 515, toward Blairsville and Young Harris. After you pass the Home Depot in Blairsville, it is 5.7 miles to the turnoff on Trackrock Gap Road. There is a farm stand there. After turning right, go another 3.3 miles to the parking area, which is just past the top of the gap on the right. There is a very short trail from the parking area to the site.
The rocks have eroded and have been vandalized in places, so it takes a little imagination and study to see all the images. It is supposed to be a little easier in the morning or evening, when the light is coming at an angle. It is worthwhile to study some of the reconstructions online before you go, although the interpretive signs are good. The petroglyphs are hard to photograph, but I hope my photos give some idea of the site. There is also a hiking trail that goes through the area behind the site that Mr. Thornton thinks was occupied by the Mayan village.

Poteete Creek Recreation Area

The best alternative to Morganton Point for swimmingis Lake Nottely, which is located in Union County. Nottely is also a TVA lake. It is was created by a dam on the Nottely River, which – like the Toccoa River – flows north into the Tennessee River system. Nottely is not as wide as Blue Ridge, and it is nowhere near as deep. Nor is there as much public land as surrounds Lake Blue Ridge. But it is a very nice lake, and it holds good panfish and largemouth bass. It may be a bit busier than Blue Ridge, but it is by no means as busy as the lakes closer to Atlanta.

The most convenient point of access is Union County’s Poteete Creek Recreation area. This is a county park, not a United States Forest Service facility, but the accommodations are similar to those at Morganton Point on Lake Blue Ridge. There is a nice double boat ramp, a campground, a beach with toilets and outside showers, and a pavilion for picnics. (The pavilion can be reserved by groups.) There are 59 camp sites, most with power and water, and there is also a RV dump station. The access fee is $2 per car, and the stated hours are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Poteete Creek Recreation Area is located on Hwy 325, which is also known as Nottely Dam Road. This is on the west side of Nottely, not far from the dam. The easiest way to get there from Blue Ridge is to go north/east on Hwy 515 about six miles to the intersection of 515 and Hwy 60. Continue on 515 another two miles to a left on Loving Road. Follow Loving Road all the way to the end, where it “T”s into 325. Turn right, and almost immediately left on the road to the campground. It would take about 25 minutes to get there from downtown Blue Ridge.

There isn’t a great deal else in the area, but there is a gas station and convenience store in Ivy Log, which is on 19/129. To reach it from the campground, you would go back out to 325, turn right, cross Nottely Dam, and continue a short distance until you reach 19/129. There used to be a pretty good barbecue called Bubba’s, which closed. I see that the location is active again, but I haven’t had a chance to visit.

The Swinging Bridge Over the Toccoa River

This is pretty well known, and it’s on a lot of websites. But it is a favorite spring destination, and the directions aren’t very good on some of those websites. So I thought I could do better. Also, I went out to take a look at road conditions. (Our roads have taken a beating since the last snow.) The swinging bridge was built by the Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club to replace a river ford that was thought dangerous. It was completed in 1977 by a private contractor. At 265 feet, it is considered the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. It is a suspension bridge, so it really does swing when you walk on it. The faster you walk, the more it swings. But there are good safe wooden railings and it feels secure when you are on it. It’s a favorite place for informal camping, and it is located on a pretty spot on the river. There’s a fairly large flat area there on the north side of the river that’s good for camping.

You could get to it by canoe from the Deep Hole Campground, just upriver, but most people go in on Forest Service 816 off Hwy 60 south. From Blue Ridge, you would go east/north on 515 to Hwy 60, and turn right, or south. You go about a mile and turn left, joining the old highway. After a few miles, you pass through Morganton, with the post office on your right. Shortly after the post office, Hwy 60 turns off the old highway. Set your odometer. After about twelve miles, you will see the trail sign. If you get to Martin’s Dixie Depot (the “Hunt’n & Fish’n Headquarters”) you’ve gone just a little too far.

The swinging bridge is now a part of the Benton McKaye Trail, which is marked with a single diamond. You could park there on 60 and hike in on the trail to the right (as you come from Morganton) – or south – of the road. Or you could take FS 816. It’s about 3.1 miles back in on FS 816. The road runs through some pretty coves with beautiful creeks and a scattering of beeches. There is enough room at the end to turn around and park. It is then a short walk, maybe 10 – 15 minutes, to the bridge. The trail isn’t hard, but it does descend a little bit at the end. When I was last out there in the spring, the road was a little soft due to the recent snow. I didn’t have any trouble in my Trailblazer, but it does have four wheel drive. I think I would have made it in two wheel drive, but there was one spot toward the end that had me a little worried. If you are inexperienced with this sort of thing or don’t have good ground clearance, I think I’d avoid it until the road has been worked on a bit. I wouldn’t go back in there if it was raining – or had recently rained hard – until the road has been fixed.

Judging from the map, you could get there on a better road by going a few more miles to Rock Creek Road. The directional sign says, “Fish Hatchery Road” because the fish hatchery is back there. You go a total of about 2.2 miles on Rock Creek Road, past the check station. (The check station looks a little like a trailhead. There are some buildings there and the sign holding the map says,”Blue Ridge WMA.”) Around 2.2 miles, or about a mile past the check station, there is a closed bridge to the right that goes over Rock Creek. Just past the bridge is a sign that says that the fish hatchery is 2.5 more miles. From the map, it looks like you would cross the creek and go right at the next big fork to reach the swinging bridge. I’ve never been in that way, and I didn’t have time to scout it this time, so I don’t know how far it may be or whether it really works.

Rock Creek itself is a beautiful stream, and it is featured in this month’s Georgia Outdoor News in an article titled “Eight Great Georgia Trout Streams,” by local writer and outdoorsman Joe DiPietro. Joe recommends it for children and trout newbies because it is heavily stocked, and says it is a good place to fill the stringer. He also says that there are some gorgeous wild fish in the Little Rock Creek for catch and release.

Chickamauga Battlefield

In the fall of 1863, Confederate troops under Braxton Bragg attacked Union troops under the command of William Rosecrans near Jay’s Mill on the Chickamauga Creek. Due to a rare error by Rosecrans, there was a gap in the Federal line at exactly the point at which James Longstreets’ massed forces attacked. The right side of the Federal line crumbled. Although the Federal left, under George Thomas, held firm, Thomas was obliged to withdraw from the field after dark. It was to be the last great Confederate victory in the west. This was a battle on the scale and importance of the Battle of Gettysburg, but the Chickamauga Battlefield has not yet become commercialized in the way the town of Gettysburg is today. This is truly hallowed ground, and it has been maintained in much the same state as it was in 1863. It is well worth a visit for the lessons that it teaches.
The battlefield is divided by Tennessee 27. The easiest route from Blue Ridge is probably to take Hwy 5 from Blue Ridge to McCaysville/Copperhill. After you cross the river, continue through Copperhill on 68, past the old copper plant. At Ducktown, turn left on 64/74, and follow along the river past the Ocoee Whitewater Center. As you approach Cleveland, you will see signs for the bypass. Take the bypass toward Chattanooga, then join I-75 south at exit 20. When you reach the junction of I-75 and I-24 a little to the east of Chattanooga, continue south on 75 to Route 2, toward Fort Oglethorpe. When you reach 27, turn left (south) to the battlefield. You could also go through Ellijay, Chatsworth, and Dalton to reach I-75. You would then go north until you reach Route 2. Travel time from Blue Ridge would be about 1-1/2 hours.

Other Chattanooga attractions are Lookout Mountain and the aquarium.

Amicalola Falls State Park

This is the highest waterfall in Georgia (729 feet), and it is easily accessible by car. You can also hike to the top of the falls. It’s a very nice area for picnics or for short hikes. You can also try the creek for trout. Amicalola Falls is on the way to Dawsonville, in case you have a Nascar fan in the family (see below).

From Blue Ridge, take the four-lane south about 15 miles. Just before go over the Cartecay and reach the first traffic light in East Ellijay, turn left on the short access road that leads to Hwy. 52. Turn left on 52. The Cartecay is close to the road on the right. Continue on Hwy 52 about 15 miles to the Y with 183. You will see a sign for Amicalola Falls State Park. Turn left at the Y and the falls are a few miles up the road.

Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area

A double falls, with a good observation deck. The falls are less than a half mile from the parking lot. This is a good area for picnics, fishing, and short hikes.

Take the four-lane west to Blairsville. Then take 19/129 south, turning left on 348 (toward Helen). When you reach Alt. 75, turn north to Robertstown. Then take GA 356 for 1.5 miles toward Unicoi State Park. You will see a sign for Anna Ruby Falls. Turn left and continue 3.6 miles to the parking area.

Dahlonega

Dahlonega was the center of the great gold rush of 1828. The charming, historic town square centers on the old courthouse, which is now the gold museum. There are many interesting shops and galleries. There are also several attractions centered on the mining history of the town. You can visit www.dahlonega.org for an overview.

From Blue Ridge, go west on the four-lane approximately four miles to a right on Hwy 60 south. Follow 60 south through Morganton. This is a very scenic ride through the national forest. After you leave the little town of Suches, the road goes up through Woody Gap. Be sure to stop at the top to consider the views. After you go through Woody Gap, turn right on Hwy 19, following the signs to Dahlonega. For a change of pace, you can take Hwy 19 back to Blairsville instead of returning on Hwy. 60. Dahlonega is also close to the end of GA 400, making it possible to return to Atlanta after a day trip to Dahlonega.

Nascar Fan’s Trip to Dawsonville

The Thunder Road attraction is now closed, which leaves the famous Dawsonville Pool Room (which is not a bar). I’m told it’s open again after being closed for some time. You can also stop at Amicalola Falls on the way.

There are lots of great stories about Dawsonville and Bill Elliott. Once upon a time, when Bill was in the Coors car, Dawsonville got a new school superintendent. Shortly after he was hired, he encountered a kid with a Bill Elliott T-shirt, and sent him home on the grounds that you can’t advertise beer in school. The kid tried to tell him that he wasn’t advertising beer, he was advertising Bill. But the superintendent wasn’t listening, and sent him home anyway. After the smoke cleared, this was the word from the new superintendent: “I lost that one, big time.”

From Blue Ridge, take the four-lane south about 15 miles. Just before go over the Cartecay and reach the first traffic light in East Ellijay, turn left on the short access road that leads to Hwy. 52. Turn left on 52. The Cartecay is close to the road on the right. Continue on Hwy 52 about 15 miles to the Y with 183. Take 183 to the Y with 53, and continue into Dawsonville. The Dawsonville Pool Room is on the right near the fire station.