Saturday, June 23, 2018


Waterfall Wonder, Mountain Mania and Idyllic Gardens

Dahlonega (population nearing 7000) in Lumpkin County, North Georgia was once actively mined for its plethora of gold. Formerly called, Talonga, the name was changed to Dahlonega by Georgia's General Assembly on December 25th, 1873. This new name comes from the Cherokee word, "Dahlonega", meaning 'yellow' or 'gold'.

Today, an imposing gold museum strides near Dahlonega’s darling picturesque square – a gem in its own right.
Most of the gold in Dahlonega is still underground (too hard to extract as the main vein runs through the town). Nevertheless, this popular town boasts another kind of timeless opulence in its above ground beauty: nature spreads out from the town  into a bounteous bastion of connecting counties.

The Camerons (to my left)

Visiting the Camerons, my long time dear friends who home half of the year in the area was wonderful. They're great company, and aside from being remarkably hospitable, superb cooks and keenly knowledgeable about the area, both Bobby and Eileen are incredibly fit; they defy the stereotypic image of a retired couple. Suffice it to say the lure of the rocking chair is non-existent for them. This dynamic duo jogs miles almost every day, and is constantly on the go – usually in an uphill fast-moving direction.
I wanted to strengthen my stamina and felt fortunate to have them as my guides. Bobby knows I love nature, and so foremost on the agenda was hiking.

Waterfalls abound here and are accessible as they spill down Smokey Mountain’s impressive range. Many seem to spoke out from Dahlonega within a 40-minute drive time. 

Mountain Climes
First stop was an 8-mile approach trail starting at Amicolola Falls which leads to Springer Mountain where the Appalachian Trail begins.

What they didn’t tell me was the over 400 steps that were waiting for us to climb. A piece of cake for them, but tough for me, the end result was exhilarating, and we avoided any sweat bath along the way; the tall old trees of this area provided ample shade during most of the ascent. Bobby mentioned many of these trees names, including the sturdy, solid white pine, hemlock, poplar, and many more species. We even came upon sassafras. The trail certainly had a lot of rocky areas, but it was well marked with white “blazes” (Bobby taught me that moniker) – white shallow gouges on the surface of tree trunks to guide all hikers.

Tree shaped by Indians to point out a direction

Another climb consisted of a 2-mile easy ascent. It brought us to Preacher Rock - part of the Appalachian trail. Here folks used to get married. At the top, the Smokey Mountains with their bluish hue halo loomed in the distance; it was inspiring to behold. Preacher Rock’s lofty lofty location - also part of the Appalachian Trail - beckons from Suches, an old farming community now sparsely populated and full of tumble-down barns buried in valleys of green.

Bring on the Grits and Serve them in a Gourd
After so much physical activity, it was time for me to find an excuse to get even fatter.
Bobby and Eileen took me to so many wonderful places, including The Gourd Place in Sautee Nachoochee. Here gourds have been crafted into amazing utility-ware, art and decor - even musical instruments -  all on display for purchasing. This place makes you smile. Eileen did when she plunked a huge pumpkin gourd over my head!

Priscilla Wilson and Janice Lymburner

 Priscilla Wilson and Janice Lymburner are the two eccentric women who opened this one-of-a-kind boutique. Their memoir, called Gourd Girls tells their remarkable story and proves them to be pioneers in the art of the gourd. It also shows them to be made of grit.

 Speaking of grit...

We also went to Nora Mill Granary in Helen, Georgia. It’s an 1876 grist mill, sitting alongside the Chattahoochee River

The mill still uses the original 1500-lb French Burr Stones for grinding for whole grain products.

 You can buy all kinds of jams, jellies, local honey and candies and more there. Once you taste their grits (they have tasting there) you go gaga over the grits. I got gong –ho addictive on those grits! Dear Bobby made them for  almost every day for breakfast.  

Titanic Waterfalls

Tallulah Gorge State Park covers 2689 acres with trails that both skirt the rim of the gorge or descend to its floor where its river flows. Much information about this extraordinary wildlife and the park’s history can be enjoyed in a video within the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center.  Discovering this outdoor world wonder, I marveled at its five spectacular cascading falls - best viewed from a very sturdy suspension bridge that admittedly challenged my fear of heights. 

Luckily, I had Bobby and Eileen to hold my hand as I traveled at a snail-pace across it.  One of these falls was called “hurricane” - an apt name for the fierce downward force of the water. Standing and looking down from the bridge was a miraculous moment for us all. It is so compelling to see the turbulent endless flow; the rush of water was deafening rush. And you are right in the middle - high up above it!

On July 18, 1970, a 65-year-old Karl Wallenda performed a high-wire walk across the gorge. About 30,000 people from around the world came to watch Wallenda’s performance which included two headstands as he crossed the quarter-mile-wide gap! You can still see one of the cranes used for his death-defying act.


Without a doubt, Bobby and Eileen had to put on hold their usual tubing and kayaking into rapids. Having never stepped into a kayak before, I eagerly wanted to embrace this method of traversing water,  but when things are calm, rather than using a canoe or rowboat.

Bobby loaded up the kayaks

 I fell in love with the ease and gentleness of the kayak. We went to two lake areas to do this. One was at Vogel Park and the other at Lake Winfield Scott, near Suches. Tranquil and quiet, Winfield Scott Park also allows for swimming right off the dock and a walk around its lake perimeter.

 Gibbs Gardens...24 ponds, 32 bridges, and 19 waterfalls

The serenity continued when, on my last day, Eileen and I visited Gibbs Gardens. This private sanctuary of floral beauty is owned by Mr. Jim Gibbs himself who generously opened his impressive gardens to the public in 2012.

His manor home can be seen from the outside by visitors who pause to rest on benches placed near one of the facades. The house and gardens' 220 acres include a beautiful stream in this valley haven.  

Eileen and I lingered at the Japanese section in the Valley Gardens section.

Most captivating was the endless parade of day lilies. Dazzling shades of orange and yellow greeted our eyes. We hit “gold” with this special exhibit.

Many years ago, I wrote a song titled “Mountain Girl". I feel it apt to share it with you after this unforgettable visit to this Appalachian region – made all the sweeter because my dear friends (whom I call family) shared it with me.


1 comment:

  1. What wonderful friends you have, and what a wonderful way to discover such a beautiful place that you wrote so vividly about! I felt I was right there with you and this remarkable couple whom you obviously love.