Shining the Spotlight on Mercier Orchards



Farmers in the state of Georgia produce more than 26 million pounds of apples annually with nearly all the orchards concentrated in the North Georgia Mountains. Distinguishing oneself from the other apple orchards might be a large task for some. But Adele Mercier was never easily daunted by the business challenges of competition presented to her and her husband Bill and their 27-acre family orchard they started together in 1943. She had big plans for this little orchard in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Little did she know that it would take her to the dawn of the next century to execute her plan.

In 1999, Adele presented her vision for the Mercier Orchards to the regional tourism association. She shared with them her dream that Mercier’s was going to become an international tourist attraction, right along with her friends from the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway who had just started running scenic excursions to McCaysville and back. That afternoon, the tourism professionals chuckled at the naiveté of this eighty-year-old with such outlandish pipe dreams. Over the past two decades since, many of those in attendance that day have eaten their fair share of humble pie (or maybe apple fried pies?).

Mercier Orchards has grown ten times its original size, with 300 acres of apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. The farm market that once boasted just bins of apples from July till December is now open seven days a week from 7 am till 6 pm, 361 days a year.  The Market Store has enlarged to several thousand square feet with outstanding food products, fresh, frozen and canned, with the majority locally sourced. If you are planning on preparing meals during your cabin stay with us, you must visit Merciers. Don’t bother with a shopping list. Every item will take you on a new culinary journey.

The Market has also grown to include a bakery boasting several varieties of fried pies, as well as apple cider donuts, and a large variety of bread, cookies and many other delectable baked goods.  The bakery also supplies the recently enlarged Market Café (open 7am-6pm daily) with award-winning biscuits, bread and rolls served at breakfast each day till 11 am. Breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays is a great place to gather with family and friends, with buffet hours extended to noon.  After a morning in the orchards, picking your own fruit, lunch at the Market is the best place to hydrate, chill and nourish.

Yes, part of Adele’s dream was to bring multi-generational families in to enjoy the seasonal harvests of the orchards. Adults of all ages will enjoy the memories of their childhood days while picking apples, and the children will enjoy every moment, from the wagon ride out to the u-pick them area to delighting as they fill their buckets with berries, peaches or over 30 varieties of apples. U-Pick is subject to availability and the weather. For current picking dates, click here.

Maybe choosing your fruit at the Market is more to your liking than picking your own in the field. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the Orchard experience. From 10 am till 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, indulge yourself with a $5 tractor ride and tour of the 300-acre orchard. The Mercier family loves to share all there is to see and know about their orchard with their guests.

The fruits of the orchard are best enjoyed fresh, but for some, pressed and fermented fruit has as much allure. Mercier’s knows this first hand and would like to invite you to their Tasting Room at the Market. A variety of delicious hard ciders and wines, made with all “Georgia Grown” fruits can be sampled and purchased. “We are currently the only apple orchard in Georgia that can say they grow, press, ferment, and bottle their own product.” avowals their website.

As for Adele’s vision? Late last November, this writer visited the orchard with a friend to purchase a couple of bags of apples. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, three weeks past the high volume tourist season and we expected to be able to run in and out with our fruit purchase. We found the enormous parking lot to be nearly full. Walking into the Market, we discovered every cash register manned and customers were five plus deep waiting in those lines. My friend and I counted six different languages being spoken around us while we patiently waited our turn to pay for our purchases.

Adele Mercier passed away in 2013, leaving her internationally known Market in the very capable hands of second, third and fourth generations of the Mercier Family. They strive to bring to every visitor an experience that they will soon not forget. To learn more about Mercier Orchards and to see their event calendar, visit them at www.mercier-orchards.com.

Finding Bigfoot on a Rainy Day



A vacation usually means a bit of sightseeing and possibly seeking that one celebrity spotting you always associated with your destination. If visiting the Palm Beaches you might be hoping to catch a glimpse of the Presidential motorcade, where on LA’s famous Rodeo Drive, a glimpse of Brad sipping an iced Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks might be your quest. And what (or whom) are some tourists visiting the Northeast Georgia Mountains yearning to see?  Well, Bigfoot, of course!

Photo Courtesy of Patterson-Gimlin Footage

A legend or not?

To many in this neck of the woods, Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch, Yowie and Yedi) isn’t just a 20th-century folk legend. The first recorded sighting of him here in Fannin County was June 26, 1873. Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest has long been known as a hotbed for Bigfoot activity amongst the Bigfoot research community. And if you think that those who have an interest in this mysterious creature are just a little bit left of center, take into consideration that the famed anthropologist and highly regarded scientist Jane Goodall has said of Sasquatch beings, “I’m fascinated by them and would actually love them to exist”.

This reddish-brown hairy creature is reportedly about 8 feet in height and his alleged footprints that have been found all across the globe suggesting he has a 24-inch long foot that measures 8 inches across. To put that into some perspective, NBA giant  Shaquille O’Neal is 7’1” and the length of his foot measures 15 inches.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

Blue Ridge Museum

If taking a hike out into the forest after the sun sets, night vision glasses in place, to snap your photo op with Bigfoot is too much effort, don’t let that deter you from finding out all you can about him. While here in Blue Ridge, plan to visit EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum, located just east of the city. This museum may have you giggling on the way in the door, but you will leave with a new appreciation for your next walk in the woods. You’ll discover why Bigfooters from around the globe make the pilgrimage to Blue Ridge just to explore this museum and its many relics.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

See For Yourself

The quality of the displays and the huge amount of content are most impressive. In addition to the extensive collection of artifacts, the museum has interactive exhibits, lots of scientific analysis making the credible case that there are Sasquatches roaming the earth, and audio-video presentations that captivate even the least likely believers, young and old. Yes, kids are fascinated with this self-guided tour that usually lasts 90 mins to two hours. We highly recommend this as a Plan B family destination when a rainy mountain day messes up your original outdoor intentions.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

The museum, located at 1934 GA-515, Cherry Log, GA, is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 am till 5 pm. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children age 5 to 12. Kids under 5 and Active Military (with ID) are free! It’s more than a fair price for an educational and entertaining museum of this quality, with such fun opportunities for photo ops that will sure to bring gasps to your friends back home. And though you will be welcomed by a super cool staff that is known for sharing free coffee and cookies to their guests, you might want to be prepared to drop a few bucks on souvenirs at the museum’s bountiful gift shop, where Bigfoot really comes to life.

Calgon, Take Me to the Mountains…What Moms Really Want



What Mom really wants for Mother’s Day might surprise you. It rarely has to do with those lovely wrapped little boxes from the jewelry store. And it has less to do with gift certificates to get body maintenance done, like massages and manicures.

It was 50 years ago that this iconic ad first ran. “Calgon, take me away”.  It still epitomizes what every Mom wants and needs – time away from the daily grind, if even for just time for a private, quiet bath. So, this Mother’s Day we think we can help you with giving Mom that Calgon moment she’ll remember for many years to come.

Mom with Little Ones

Daddy Daycare!

Mom is rising close to noon and not hearing a peep. As she clears the cobwebs from her sleep, she realizes that she woke in the cabin they came to last night. Oh, the bed felt so luxurious, and somehow, she was the only one in it. Next to the bed is a note from hubby. “The kids and I are gone for the day. White wine in the fridge with brie, apple, and crackers. The hot tub is waiting for you. Don’t forget your book at the bottom of the suitcase.  We’ll see you at 6. Bringing dinner with us. Relax and enjoy the solitude.  You deserve this. You’re the best Mom in the world. We love you.”  She looks out over the magnificent view of the mountains from her bedroom window. This is the best gift I could ever imagine, she thought. Six hours later the gang rolls in, running into her arms to tell her all about their visit to Lilly Pad Village, where they gem mined and went trout fishing.  After a great boxed dinner from Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ was consumed, they all packed up to head to the Swan Drive-in Theater for a nostalgic experience watching the 21st-century Avengers on the outdoor screen. (Did you know that you can choose from 177 of our properties that have at least two bedrooms and a hot tub?)

Mom with Teen-agers

Growing up too fast!

Mom marvels at how they are growing and maturing. She realizes that in just a few short years they will be leaving the nest. She wants to make these times away to the mountains something special for them all to remember.  They all agree that ziplining had been on their bucket list. But first, while the day was still cool, they’d challenge themselves to trek on the swinging bridge across the Toccoa River.  After an afternoon of adventure, they pull up to the Rum Cake Lady’s outdoor dining. Mom loves Cuban food, and they sit at the picnic tables all sharing their menu picks, joyful and tired. When they get back to the cabin, the fire pit is lit, the oldest son brings out his guitar, the youngest starts to make S’mores. Mom gazes at her family in the glow of the fire and wonders how she got to be the luckiest Mom in the whole world. (Thirty-eight of our rentals have either fire pits or outdoor fireplaces. Which one would your family choose?)

Mom with Grown Daughter

No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby.

Every Mom feels the same way once their chicks have grown and flown the coop. They yearn for one on one time with them again. When her daughter texts her to ask if she’d like to spend the weekend with her in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mom searches to find an emoji that can express her excitement. She ends up sending 10 happy faces, and the words, “yes, yes, YES!”.  Saturday it’s a quick, trouble free keyless entry into their little lakefront cabin and off to the Himalayan Salt Caves for a 45-minute session of pure bliss, relaxing in zero gravity chairs, listening to soft music in a stress-free environment.  After, they head into downtown Blue Ridge and make a stop at Blue Ridge Booksellers. As different as they can be in many respects, Mom and daughter share a love for vintage bookstores. With just enough time, they make their reservation at Harvest on Main for a relaxing evening of fine dining. Back to the cottage, another glass of wine to top off the evening and a wonderful heart to heart chat on the porch overlooking the moonlit lake. They sleep in late, pack up their things, close the door behind them and take a lovely drive out to Mercier’s Orchards for brunch and then to pick strawberries together, a memory they share from a Mother’s Day trip 20 years before. Now, they head home and banter back in forth as to whether it’s biscuits or pound cake that will host these sweet, juicy berries.

We think everyday should be Mother’s Day! Thank you to all the wonderful Moms who celebrate their families with us throughout the year. We hope your Mother’s Day is a Calgon day for you!

Where Do I Find Souvenirs?



This is often the toughest chore on any vacation.  There will be someone who was left at home that wishes they had been able to escape to the mountains with you. Bringing them home a little something special might just take the sting out of having been left behind. Here are a few downtown shops that make this task a pleasure, though they can’t be held responsible if you should purchase trinkets for yourself, as well!

Shopping for the Outdoor Enthusiast?

If a river runs through the heart of your special someone, then they might be (or wish they were) a fly fisherman. Fly Shop Co. of Blue Ridge has a sizeable collection of locally tied flies, as well as all the enviable apparel and gear. This shop knows how to bait you, now it is up to you to decide what you want to net. Visit their retail shop at 11 Mountain St. #4.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Knife Company

The art of bladesmithing was developed thousands of centuries ago. The Egyptians used wrought iron in the production of swords and knife blades as early as 3000 BC. Blue Ridge Knife Company has one of the largest and finest selections of artisan and utility knives that can be found in the southeastern United States. Whether you are shopping for a hunter or fisherman, a steak lover, a bread baker or a savvy collector, you must not miss a visit to this shop located at 497 East Main St.

What to Buy the Artist or Art Connoisseur….

There are art galleries that display breathtaking works that go far beyond your souvenir budget, but Multitudes Gallery is not one of them. This eclectic shop, at 723 E. Main St., retails the works of many local and regional award-winning and collectible artists, yet everything you begin to covet is actually affordable. A hand-blown wine glass, a mosaic serving plate, a fabric covered lamp, a giant metal sculptured red ant or an antique jeweled photo frame are part of an incredible collection of works that will have you asking what their shipping policy might be, for you may not have enough trunk space to take all these works of art back home with you.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

So many of the artists featured in the local galleries are members and contributors to the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, located at 420 W. Main St. The Arts Center has a wonderful collection of original works for sale, as well as prints, cards, and an art book library. If you are shopping for an aspiring artist, the center also has a wonderful selection of fine art supplies, the ideal gift to encourage someone to pursue their talents.

Shopping for the Porch Sitters can be a challenge.

Not everyone in your life wants to paint like Monet or fish for Moby Dick. Some of them just like to sit on the porch and observe Mother Nature at her finest, or read about the wonders of the world and the people who have evolved around it.

Blue Ridge Booksellers is what book stores should always be about. Allow yourself plenty of time to peruse this remarkable inventory of collectible, rare and antiquarian books for sale. In addition, there are great books that kids will love. The Booksellers, at 691 E. Main St., also has a unique inventory of militaria and maps.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Bird Seep Company

One doesn’t have to be a life long member of the Audubon Society to enjoy birdwatching. When doing it from the porch, it does help to entice these feathered friends with food, lodging and a place to bathe. Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company is second to no other mercantile in this region when it comes to such an inventory.  You can visit the Bird Seed Company at 611 E Main St. They are open 7 days a week.

And for the “just bring me a t-shirt” person on your list…

Well, not just any t-shirt will do, right?  If you want it to say, Blue Ridge, you want to make a trip to The Blue Ridge Cotton Co. There you will be surrounded by high-quality cotton items including sweatshirts, hats, home accessories, and unique gifts. They also donate 1% of every purchase, every day, to a local charity. They are conveniently located at 550 East Main Street.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Cotton Company

One of the first questions everyone will ask you when you return home from your cabin stay is, “did you see a bear?” We hope you have experienced a sighting or two, but to ensure that you don’t disappoint anyone, visit The Bear Store, (601 E. Main St. Suite 1) where everything is about the bears. Cute, friendly adorable and wearable ones, of course.

When you get home with your souvenir stash, we are sure you’ll be greeted with hugs of appreciation. They may also suggest you plan to bring them with you on your next visit. Here is a link to our larger cabins!   

Weird Oh!



There has been quite the buzz of late regarding the revitalization happening in the twin cities of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. Word is there is an investor that has been helping to spur along the progress where the state lines meet. So, we decided to go check it out. And Wow! What a turnaround!  Things are definitely changing for the better in these two little towns, but our favorite stop of the trip was this obscure little shop, right on the corner as you come into McCaysville called Weird Oh!

Weird Oh! is not a product of the fancy investor. Weird Oh! is the brainchild of a very special lady with a gigantic heart. Once upon a time, proprietor Erin Hawley, earned a living as a comedian on the coast of North Carolina. Her favorite destination to vacation was in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. As her life progressed and her three children grew in age, she decided it was time for a change and she relocated to her vacation spot.

McCaysville, Ga

Since there were no comedy clubs in Blue Ridge, she thought maybe that would be a great business venture. However, space in downtown Blue Ridge is hard to come by. One day Erin and her eight-year-old son were walking around the McCaysville area and she thought “what do children do here for fun?” So, for the next few days, they walked the area, mother and son, back and forth, thinking and talking. Then one day on their regular walk, a for sale signed appeared in the window of the ugliest building you have ever seen. It was red and orange and just an eye sore.

As a creative artist, Erin saw a diamond in the rough and contacted the owner. For weeks she single handedly, with only the help of her youngest child, worked tirelessly to give a major facelift to this corner building. There may have been some gawking of townsfolk as Erin worked. You see, Ms. Hawley does not look like your typical business owner. Tall and gorgeous? Yes! Conservative and formal? No! Erin loves her makeup, her fashion, and it is very unlikely to catch her in any shoe other than high heels. And since she is an artist, you should expect that her body has been used as a canvas so don’t be surprised by her colorful expressions.

The Deets

So, what exactly is Weird Oh!? Well, it’s a magical emporium of fun! Better known as an unusual place for unusual people, inside you will find peculiar treasures and trinkets. It’s a place where kids can be kids and adults can be kids too! Everything can be touched, moved, and you can even write on the walls and not get in trouble! The only rule that you will encounter is that laughter is a must! No matter what. Laugh, have fun, pick up a toy, purchase a gag gift that will make someone laugh. Giggle a little, chuckle a lot, let out a guffaw if something strikes your funny bone. You won’t be judged, because Weird Oh is all about fun!

Like we told you in the beginning, Erin has a very big heart. Her whole purpose in opening Weird Oh! was to have a place for kids to come in and be kids. She gives gifts to almost every little one that opens the “Alice in Wonderland” door. Additionally, she supports Shop with a Cop, little league teams, and every opportunity for a child to get a toy that makes them happy. Being called a weirdo her whole life, Erin embraces her uniqueness and uses it in a way to positively impact the youth of the area.

Stop in next time you ride the Blue Ridge train or when you just find yourself exploring the twin cities of Georgia and Tennessee. Bonus tip: If you yell out “Dang, You’re Beautiful!” you get 10% off your whole order!