Seeking Beauty in the Mountains of Georgia
I am a proud American. I am prouder still to be one of the G.R.i.t.S. (Girls Raised in the South), and I am of the opinion that every inch of the Deep South is precious and worthy of consideration. So when a New Jersey transplant to Florida got ready for a slight change of scenery, I was eager to show him the abundance of beauty and art in the northeast corner of the mountains of Georgia.
My friend was hesitant due to stereotypes he’d acquired through sitcoms and movies. I assured him that the area at the southern end of the Appalachian Trail is filled with more charm, goodness, and grace than he could possibly imagine. His New Jersey cynicism went into overdrive when I not only suggested that we make the road trip a way to celebrate his approaching birthday, but promised it would be absolutely unforgettable on many levels. That is how this travel experience became a quest to seek beauty, question stereotypes, and celebrate everything.
My favorite part of this trip was viewing the many waterfalls and discovering that each one has its own attributes. Some waterfalls can be seen from the car, but most require hiking. Since my friend and I both have limited mobility, there were three that we particularly loved. Toccoa Falls, in the town of Toccoa, is majestic and awe-inspiring. At 186 feet it is taller than Niagara Falls, and it’s easy to access on a clear path alongside a meandering stream. The large viewing area is quite popular, and the water spray is cool and refreshing.
Nature at its picture-perfect and unblemished best abounds at every turn here. Ruggedness meets charm, mountains meet lakes, and thick forests make way for delicate flowers.
In the town of Rabun Gap are the stately Sylvan Falls, which cascade down a gentle incline and are surrounded by tall timbers, a historic mill complete with waterwheel, and an enchanting herb garden. In the town of Young Harris are the short, playful, and simply adorable Cupid Falls. At only 15 feet high, these double-tier falls skip and scamper over slick and mossy rocks. The path down to its base is easy to walk along, and folks from the local college have been known to frolic in the cool natural pool.
Nature at its picture-perfect and unblemished best abounds at every turn in the mountains of Georgia. Ruggedness meets charm, mountains meet lakes, and thick forests make way for delicate flowers. The most identifiable trees are hickory, maple, oak, pine and spruce. The most impressive flowers are jewel weed, pink lady slipper, and trillium. Animals are also in abundance: the lakes are full of trout, bluegill and bass, the forests are filled with bear and bobcats.
We also got a glimpse of deer, raccoons, beavers, snakes, turtles, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Traditional local farms raise horses, cows, pigs, and chickens, while the more adventurous and entrepreneurial breeders also have goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, emus, and an ever-growing number of exotic animals.
Life is good, people are beautiful, nature is beyond awesome, and every day is worth celebrating in the mountains of Georgia.
During this remarkable trip we met locals whose inner beauty and strength of character epitomize the pioneering spirit of courage and creativity for which this area is famous. I was thrilled at the variety of music. We heard a dulcimer in the home of a very hospitable couple. We heard rock and country at a winery. A trio at a restaurant played light rock and honored my request to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd. At Vogel State Park, a six-piece band kept an audience of about 50 cheering and clapping with their lively down-home mix of bluegrass, gospel, and patriotic numbers.
My travel companion was overwhelmed by the kindness, integrity and hospitality of everyone we encountered. So many offered entertaining stories of how they or their ancestors had settled here, or of why they felt such a genuine love for the area. We both loved their accents and the way the locals seem to call everyone darlin’ or sugar.
Seeking Beauty in the Mountains of Georgia
My favorite discoveries in the mountains of Georgia were the crafts and the food. Without fail, every community and tiny town was overflowing with stunning craftsmanship and scrumptious edibles. We were privileged to tour the private workshop of an artisan named Art, who creates whimsical homes for fairies and gnomes. Every orchard, vineyard, farm, and flea market along the way had a space set aside to display the local folk art and yard art.
A sweet couple named Mike and Linda gave us an unforgettable lesson on the art of cooking, science of baking, and the flair of a flawless presentation. Local farm-to-table pride runs deep and is very apparent with every taste of homemade preserves, honeys, biscuits, scones, vegetables, syrups, ciders, and wines.
By the end of this fantastic adventure, my New Jersey friend and I completely agreed that life is good, people are beautiful, nature is beyond awesome, and every day is worth celebrating.