Last week this blog featured a tremendous round up of cabins
with great firepits. One of our favorite things about the weather changing is
sitting around the fire pit with a chill in the air, but you are completely
warm, not just by the heat of the fire but by the company you are so
enjoying. Adding to the ambiance of the
evening includes singing songs, swapping tall tales, and of course fire pit
It’s so fun if someone in your group has a guitar or harmonica, they could play for everyone to sing and clap along, but you don’t even need music to sing your favorite campfire songs! Telling ghost stories always proves to be a good time too. Although the ghost stories typically end up in squeals of laughter because you know that one person that is SUPER scared and they end up falling out of the chair, jumping & panicking, or making funny noises as they try to tame their heebee geebies. Oh yes, good times! Most importantly, you can’t forget about marshmallows!
Who doesn’t love to roast marshmallows? This might be the best and most memorable part about having an outside fire. First, you go on a stick hunt to find that perfect length and sturdiness then roast your marshmallow to the perfect amount of burnt that you prefer. Or, take it to the next level and break out the chocolate and Graham crackers for a melt in your mouth, perfectly crafted s’mores! But s’mores aren’t the only thing you can cook over the fire. Try one (or all) of these “fire pit fixing” ideas next time you Escape to Blue Ridge!
The Healthy-ish Approach
Have you ever considered roasting fruit over an open fire? No? Well, you should because it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! Choose from pineapple, bananas, watermelon, apples or peaches. The fruit sugars almost caramelize making for a divinely delicious guilt free treat. Of course, having a little caramel or chocolate on hand to dip your roasted fruit into never hurt anyone, and definitely adds more “pow” to your taste buds! Make ahead fruit kabobs or just place them on your stick like you would a marshmallow! Side note: strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff and then roasted will make your mouth do a happy dance!
Who says fire pit cooking has to be basic and boring? Impress your guests with fireside Shrimp Scampi! This meal is super easy to prepare, but even more divine to eat! All you need is foil, butter, peeled & deveined shrimp, a little lemon, and your favorite seasonings. We typically improvise with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but for you by-the-bookers, here’s a simple go to recipe with exact measurements.
It may not be fancy, but there is something extra delicious about a roasted hot dog! It really doesn’t get any easier than this. Pick your favorite dog, we are partial to the Hebrew National all beef hot dogs, pierce it with your stick and roast away. You can even toast your hot dog bun on a stick for a well-rounded hot dog experience!
Fast, easy and delicious…that’s my kind of cooking! You can prepare these French bread pizzas ahead of time or create a little make-your-own station on the picnic table. Slice your French bread, cover with marina sauce, add your favorite toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, olives) and finish with mozzarella cheese. Wrap your creation in heavy duty aluminum foil and throw them on the fire!
Dare To Be Different
Super easy, but super delicious is campfire cinnamon rolls! Simply buy your favorite brand of refrigerated cinnamon rolls, we personally love Pillsbury Grands. All you have to do is unroll a cinnamon bun and divide the long pieces of dough into sections. Wrap a portion around your stick, careful not overlap for even cooking, and roast away!
Next Level S’mores
Bacon. Yes, you read that right. A little graham cracker, a little
marshmallow, a little chocolate, and a couple of pieces of bacon (which you
could also roast over the fire) will have your tongue jump out and lick the eyebrows
right off your head!
We also encourage you to mix up your chocolate options. Truth be told, it’s hard to beat a piece of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, but have you ever thought of using a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup? What about a Kit Kat Bar? We suggest you try a York Peppermint Patty next time, you won’t regret it. In fact, you may never go back to the traditional s’mores again!
If you’re looking for a way to warm up from the inside out, a Hot Toddy is definitely in order and extra enjoyable sitting outside by the fire. Boil water over your fire and add a tea bag to your cup. Let your tea steep for about two minutes, then add a shot (or two) of whiskey, a little honey, a slice of lemon, and some cloves for extra spice. Bam! Now we are ready to make some fireside memories!
There are a lot of Blue Ridge mountain cabin rentals with
great views, charming décor and proximity to activities and recreation
destinations. Some have many bedrooms and are great for large families and
groups of friends, and some are cozy and quaint that are perfect for a small
family or a two-couple or BFF getaway. Regardless of the cabin size and
location after the sun sets and dusk falls across the mountains what better way
to relax than to sit around the fire pit with your favorite people telling stories,
roasting marshmallows, and creating memories to last a lifetime. On your next
Escape to Blue Ridge, consider one of these ten cabins that have fantastic fire
Bearway To Heaven
Perched on a forested hillside with an absolutely breathtaking view of the lush green mountains in the distance and Lake Blue Ridge shimmering below, this magnificent log home is surrounded by the glory of nature, and close to all the outdoor activities that the Aska Adventure Area has to offer. Inside, its cathedral ceilings and huge windows let in light, create an open and airy feel, and maximize the view. Sunrises are especially spectacular! Or you can take in the view from a rocking chair or roast marshmallows over the fire pit, which has five colorful Adirondack chairs encircling it.
After the day’s activities, you’ll slumber in comfort in one of five comfortable bedrooms, each with luxurious bedding and a unique quilt. But the best thing about Bearway to Heaven is the blissful way you’ll feel when you’re there, and the memories of that feeling that you’ll take home with you.
Big Buck Lodge
Big Buck Lodge is a charming mountain chalet in a lovely wooded setting. But what sets this tri-level vacation home apart from the others are the unique, one of a kind touches you won’t find anywhere else. Built by local craftsman Jerry Sisson of Jerry’s Mountain Furniture for his daughter, it’s made of handcrafted wood floor-to-ceiling and throughout the house, with unique log beds and branch chairs and tables in every room.
Each of the three bedrooms are outfitted with a queen bed topped with a cozy quilt and a screened-in deck or balcony. There’s plenty of seating on the lower screened-in porch, including rocking chairs and a swing. Afterward, you can have a relaxing soak in the hot tub, or toast marshmallows over the fire pit while you enjoy the evening breeze. Big Buck Lodge’s ambiance is its best attribute. Its seasonal glorious views of mountain sunrises and sunsets, serene natural setting and the relaxed and happy way you’ll feel while you’re there make for an unforgettable getaway.
This cabin’s name, ‘Cohutta Overlook‘ tells it like it is — this home is perched beautifully on an overlook high above the spectacular Cohutta Wilderness. With more than 40,000 mountainous acres, it is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi and runs from Fannin County, Georgia up to the Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. And here, at the Cohutta Overlook lodge you’ll be in the distinct position to be above it all.
This cozy cabin sits peacefully on the edge of Sunrock Mountain and has panoramic year-round views. This cabin is decorated in rustic elegance with custom furniture and attention to every detail. Start your day by enjoying the view overlooking the Cohutta mountain range and witness the flight of eagles and hawks as you sip your morning coffee on the large, open porch. If you are looking for a romantic mountain getaway, enjoy the beautiful spa on the main level and then relax by the stone fire pit or curl up in front of either of the two massive, stone fireplaces inside.
Come On Inn
Come on Inn and make yourself at home. In fact, that’s the very reason this cabin was given its welcoming name. Its cozy environment will make you feel like this is your home away from home right away. The cabin’s beautiful interior mixes mountain cabin decor with charming country accents to create a unique and inviting atmosphere all its own.
This gorgeous mountain home’s riverfront location is the envy of many other Blue Ridge cabin rentals. Sitting right on the shores of the Toccoa River, close to the Aska Adventure area. In the evening, there’s no better spot for stargazing than the lovely fire pit area. Gather some chairs, listen to the river flow and the crickets chirp, and take in these special moments with family or friends. What a serene way to end each day.
Meandering Moose is custom, 3000 sq/ft. luxurious cabin in a private mountain community appropriately named Natures Courtyard. Located in the Northern portion of the Georgia mountain region, it is ideal for all seasons offering a private secluded area and a gorgeous view of the hardwoods and evergreens for which this amazing region is known. Its private and rustic setting allows you to enjoy the peacefulness of the North Georgia mountains.
The large covered deck spans the length of the entire back of the home offering several conversation areas to have quality time with your family and friends – whether gathering in front of the gorgeous outdoor stone fireplace or eating at the outside dining table. You can also enjoy the full deck on the front of the house in the rocking chairs and outdoor swing while waiting for the occasional deer to stroll by. Take in the views from the private Master Bedroom upper deck and still watch over the kids roasting marshmallows around the beautiful stone paved fire pit.
SpyGlass is the name, the view will explain. The largest of our Blue Ridge GA cabin rentals, seize the opportunity to stay in this $5 million custom resort lodge with its own private pool and spa, where you can come and go by helicopter, and treat the entire family to 8,000 sq. ft. of pure luxury and decadence. SpyGlass is the stuff of fairy tales. Every detail, from the large log cross-beamed ceilings down to the polished wood floors, is dressed in elegance.
Start your morning keeping fit and healthy with the help of
gym-quality weight and exercise machine. After your workout relax as you
marvel at the wide-open 40-mile views before you. Set out fresh fruit and
snacks in the gazebo for your guests while they swim, sunbathe or chat at
tables and chairs throughout the deck. After dark, the fire pit is an
enchanted place for stargazing and making s’mores.
Stone Pine Lodge
Stone Pine Lodge is not your typical Blue Ridge mountain cabin rental. As you’d expect, this brand new vacation home has the rustic cabin feel, secluded private setting and breathtaking view of the mountains from its tri-level decks. There are enormous windows in its great room that let you take in nature in all its expansive glory. The cabin is also the epitome of effortless modern luxury, putting everything–state-of-the-art at your fingertips. With sound system TVs, lighting, remote gas fireplaces and hot tub with Bluetooth-enabled speakers throughout all with simplistic operations, the better to relax and enjoy the comforts of your home away from home.
The cabin can accommodate 11 guests in its three comfortable bedrooms (all with custom king beds with pillow top mattresses), a loft with a twin over queen bunk bed made of striking Amish wormy wood logs, and a queen-size rough saw timber sofa lounger in the game room. Step outside onto the decks and you can fire up the gas grill for a barbecue, settle into a rocker with a drink or soak your cares away in the six-person hot tub in the warmth of the custom level gas fireplace (there’s a wood-burning one too, on the entertainment deck above). Other options for outdoor fun include horseshoes, a corn hole game, rope swing, deck hammock and fire pit with seating for 12.
Toccoa Lookout Cottage
Toccoa Lookout Cottage is not your average Blue Ridge GA cabin rental. With 3,000 square feet of gorgeously decorated living space and four bedrooms to accommodate 11 people, all the comforts of home and amenities of a private resort, and the Toccoa River running through the property, this is a very special place. Beautifully crafted with two huge decks with plenty of seating overlooking the Toccoa and a third deck down the steps at the river’s edge with a picnic table, chairs and a fire pit, the property is customized for outdoor living.
Inside, this magnificent, updated, and unique home is warm and inviting. It is elegantly furnished and decorated in soothing, calming neutral shades that complement the serene, tranquil ambiance of its natural setting. The cottage’s greatest asset is the way it will make you feel when you’re there and remember long after you leave.
Stepping into Tondelia, you’ll immediately be taken by its views and open, airy feel, with spacious rooms and windows at every turn. You’ll marvel at the careful attention to detail that’s been lavished throughout the cabin, where the game room is every bit as beautiful as the main floor and gorgeous bedrooms.
Looking for pure relaxation? Lounge on the leather sofas
watching the big game, warmed by the cozy gas fireplace. Grill some burgers and
eat lunch on the deck during halftime. Spend the afternoon in the gorgeous game
room, playing billiards or soaking in the indoor Jacuzzi, gazing out at lush
and vibrant fall foliage from your magnificent windows on the world. Hire a
local chef to prepare a celebratory dinner for you and your guests. Enjoy some
pre-dinner drinks and music out on the deck. Then retreat to the elegant dining
room, where you’ll be treated to a fabulous meal and amazing views as the stars
start peeking through the skylights above you. After dinner, bring some hot chocolate or a Spanish
coffee down to the fire pit. Reminisce with your old friends by the light of
Woodentops is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of your everyday hectic life. Located in Mineral Bluff, just 15 minutes from the shops and restaurants of downtown Blue Ridge, this charming real-log cabin is the ideal family vacation destination. With room for eight guests in three bedrooms, the accommodations are spacious, comfortable and inviting.
You can breathe in fresh mountain air while relaxing with a glass of wine in a rocking chair or soaking in the soothing bubbles of the walk-in hot tub. Or settle into an Adirondack chair and pop open a bag of marshmallows to toast over the fire pit. The best thing about Woodentops is the peaceful, relaxed, refreshed way you’ll feel when you’re there, having fun with your family and friends (even the canine ones—you’re welcome to bring two small dogs). It’s the kind of magical place where memories are made, and yours will last a lifetime!
Just as with restaurants, we all have a wide variety of choices in the world of golf experiences. You can opt for the simple and cheap, just as you might choose fast food and a takeout menu, or you can refine your tastes, and choose to fine dine on the truly extraordinary. In North Georgia, you can easily find a golf course to suit your basic needs, then spend a couple of hours chasing the small ball, in high traffic, over unremarkable terrain, or you can be more discerning and decide to play a more sophisticated and truly exceptional track.
When it comes to top notch golf, it’s all about options, and in North Georgia there are a quite a few, but making the right choice requires a bit of research and careful decision making.
If you’re starting in Blue Ridge, you also have to decide if travel time and distance are important considerations. You could play Scotland or Ireland, if you had the time, resources, and inclination to travel. Even deciding to go north or south is a consideration – into congestion, or toward the more tranquil north and east. When you Escape to Blue Ridge, you have many choices within a short driving distance from you cabin. Let’s take a look at a few great options.
Along, and just to the east of, Highway 400, about two hours from Blue Ridge, there’s a ribbon of semi-private community golf courses with a reputation for quality. With a Lake Lanier backdrop, Chestatee is one of those courses that takes full advantage of its man-made geography, including lots of water hazards, and dramatic elevation changes.
Chestatee is a Denis Griffiths design, and his history as a golf course architect, one of the few Americans to design golf courses in St. Andrews Scotland, tells you a lot about what a golf round at Chestatee might be like (think links). Chestatee has fine practice facilities including a driving range and practice green with a bunker. It’s a course that demands some precision, but its gorgeous setting and innovative layout, encourages essential enjoyment regardless of your level of play.
In the business of golf, known architects provide preview hints to the golf experience. When it comes to the Fazio name that may mean something different, depending on the Fazio – Jim, Tom, etc. At Barnsley, a Jim Fazio design, you can expect the usual Jim Fazio design elements: spectacular greens, strategically placed bunkers and thoughtful use of the landscape’s naturally rolling hills.
Fazio likes to bedevil, with tricky water hazards and challenging carries over water. Like the signature par 3, 17th hole, with its 196-yard tee shot to a well-protected green. Barnsley also has a reputation for fast but fair greens. In fact, one reviewer joked that players could do well to practice on hardwood floors. Funny, but no fair. The greens are true, and impeccable, which is all that counts. Players looking for a great golf experience will find it at the Fazio Course at Barnsley Resort.
Breathtaking is definitely an overused phrase, bordering on cliché. Because, really, what truly takes your breath away? A sock to the gut maybe? So, when you say that upon arrival on the first hole at Currahee, with its spectacular 50-mile views of four states and lovely Lake Hartwell, and its stunning and dramatic 200-foot tee box drop to a lush but narrow fairway is breathtaking – well, it just kinda is.
Panoramic is a good word to describe Currahee – many of the holes are well worth taking a moment to simply enjoy the view. Then it’s back to business, contending with the challenging elevation changes, considerable carries over the schmutz, and rolling your putts over generous sloping greens. Before and after your round, you can live the life of elegance in Currahee’s tastefully appointed, and very “clubby” Clubhouse, complete with a restaurant, pub, and bar & grill.
Brasstown Valley is not to be confused with Brasstown Bald – Georgia’s highest point. But they are just around the corner from each other, which gives you a pretty clear understanding that there are major elevation changes in this part of Georgia. Translation for golf: challenging terrain.
Brasstown Valley golf has been consistently rated by Golf Digest and others as a top Georgia golf course since it opened. It’s not just the golf. Set in a tranquil resort environment, with a special emphasis on wildlife preserves, ponds, streams and mountain backdrops, golf is by no means secondary, but it certainly shares top billing when it comes to a means of peacefulness.
The course itself is another Denis Griffiths design and gets a fair amount of play as a corporate outing course, a couples getaway, or a weekend with the fellas. The facility also offers full practice facilities, a well equipped pro shop, and customized special tournaments.
With all due respect to those fine courses profiled above, Old Toccoa Farm is the seven-course meal of golf courses in North Georgia. It took a few years to fill out the full complement of 18 holes, but the first nine, which has been open since 2015, was enough to garner stupendous compliments and comparisons to the likes of Augusta National. Now with the back nine open, and the layout reconfigured, Old Toccoa is by far the best of the best in this neck of the North Georgia woods!
There are so many integrated, exceptional quality aspects to this golf course like bentgrass 007 greens, zoysia fairways (your ball sits atop this grass so sweetly), and a family-friendly par three/driving range combo. There are also Appalachian craftsman-style homes, just now being built, and a blue-ribbon trout stream (the Toccoa River) running along the entire length of the 416-acre property.
This golf course community is built with socializing in mind, including fire pits with golf course views, plans for bocce courts adjacent to the course, and “Nine and Dine” mixed couples golf events. But it’s the quality of the course itself that’s most striking.
Stunning lush undulating fairways, challenging roughs, and perfect greens are obvious, but management encourages players not to be intimidated, but instead to choose appropriate tee boxes suited to their level of play and to play smart. Two seven irons to a 100-yard approach might be preferable to trying for a full carry over hazards on a tempting Par 5. Golfers appreciate it. One player, who said he and his group have played all over the country, and internationally, called Old Toccoa Farm the most rewarding golf course he’d ever played. He must have had a good round!
Dreaming of Golf
Want to stay on or in close proximity to this fantastic course? We have some fantastic cabin selections for you to consider:
Ambleside rests on a hillside in a secure, gated community eight miles from downtown Blue Ridge, between the 7th and 8th holes of the top-rated Old Toccoa Farm golf course, overlooking the fairway and the Toccoa River below. The cabin’s impressive exterior embraces Appalachian architecture, mixing poplar bark, cedar, rusty tin and reclaimed materials, strategically situated to accentuate the long-range views of the Cohutta Wilderness and fabulous, fiery sunsets. Inside, the spacious, professionally decorated home features soaring ceilings, five comfortable bedrooms, a game room, and of course Old Toccoa Farm golf privileges at member discounted rates.
Staying at Legend is like having an entire five-star resort all to yourself. This luxury log cabin is truly in a class of its own. It’s built from handcrafted Douglas-fir logs and each spacious room presents incredible attention to detail with cathedral ceilings, arched doorways, sumptuous furnishings, stylish fixtures, and every amenity you desire to relax in complete luxury. This cabin features 6 bedrooms, a game room, a media room for private cinema screenings, and Old Toccoa Farm golf membership privileges at discounted rates. A stay at this peaceful and elegant retreat is just the start of what your special time here will mean for family and friends. Stories will be recounted for years to come, and the memories will be legendary.
At Chestnut Lodge, you will breathe a sigh of nostalgia, gently releasing the present-day stress. The home sits serenely over miles of pastoral fields nestled in between the rolling mountains. Chestnut Lodge is a 5-bedroom 3.5 bath and is a place of true relaxation and one that fulfills the longing of old comforts with a renewed feeling of today. The open floor plan is perfect for gatherings, but Chestnut Lodge has lovingly appointed corners with furnishings that invite you to your own personal time. A home theater, game room, and hot tub ensure your entire group a wide variety of entertainment. This splendid home is conveniently located in the Morganton area of Blue Ridge and is close to Lake Blue Ridge and Old Toccoa Farm Golf Course.
Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).
Cloud Nine. It’s the type of name one would expect for a mountain vacation rental home. It’s one of those places that if you try and follow GPS directions you’ll get lost. The rental agency sent a confirmation that stressed the importance of following the turn-by-turn directions provided in the email, including detail you wouldn’t get from a GPS such as “go right when you see a bunch of mailboxes.”
What it didn’t mention was the very steep and winding one-lane road. After putting my Honda into its lowest gear for the first time ever and having to navigate past an approaching vehicle, I came to the crest of Sunrock Mountain four miles west of Blue Ridge. I saw that Cloud Nine was the type of place I might want to hole-up for a while, but, having never been to Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay before, I came to do some exploring, to find the most beautiful scenery and the best outdoor spots to experience the autumnal ambiance.
It turned out the back porch of the cabin was one of those places. In the morning I could see how the cabin got its name. It was literally in the clouds, the surrounding mountain peaks sticking up through a thick white blanket covering the valleys below. Still, I had to venture out. First on my itinerary was the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The major attraction in town, the railway has been in operation as a sightseeing excursion train since 1998 along tracks that have a history going back as far as 1886. The tracks follow the route of the winding Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. They’re essentially the same town with the state line running through the middle. Like a running joke, the line is demarcated by a blue stripe painted on sidewalks, roadways and running through the middle of businesses.
The train rolls at a leisurely pace and the open-air windows are large, making it a prime fall sightseeing adventure with a good dose of history thrown in. Along the way, you’ll see a Native American fish trap in the middle of the river that experts believe is 500 years old, and the old telegraph poles that used to be the fastest form of communication in a bygone era. The trip takes four hours, with two spent in McCaysville/Copperhill for exploring the towns.
If hunger strikes, Burra Burra on the River in McCaysville is near the train station and serves pub fare and local brews. Be sure to ask for outside seating, weather permitting. The real selling point here is the covered deck that overlooks the clear waters of the Toccoa River flowing past the state line where it becomes the Ocoee River after crossing into Tennessee.
Back in Blue Ridge, the largest patio bar in town can be found at Black Sheep Restaurant, where the seasonal menu leans heavily on seafood. Housed in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the patio overlooks the center of town. It’s a popular place, so make reservations for dinner. Or just have a drink at the bar.
The craft beer scene is surprisingly good in Blue Ridge for such a small town that was dry not too long ago. Two breweries — Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing — both have large, inviting outdoor beer gardens where you can play cornhole, meet the locals and catch some live music. Wine drinkers have no shortage of options either, as wineries have been opening at a fast clip in this area over the last few years.
Near Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry (pronounced “my-tree”) stands out not only for its wine but also its patio outside the barn tasting room where the rolling vineyards reveal a long-range view of the mountains to the north.At Bear Claw Vineyards visitors can spend the night in the Blue Ridge Treehouse, featured on the DIY Network show “The Treehouse Guys.” The treehouse overlooks the vineyards and contains all the amenities one would expect when staying in a hotel.
No trip to the North Georgia mountains during the fall harvest season would be complete without taking advantage of apple country. The pull of a roadside farm store backed by endless acres of fruit orchards is undeniable. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and R&A Orchards outside Ellijay both have roadside markets selling freshly picked apples and other fruits, fresh-baked goods, local foodstuffs and offer pick-your-own days as well as plenty of free samples.
Welcome to the Mountains!
Lake Blue Ridge is the centerpiece of a scenic drive worth exploring. Stop at the Blue Ridge Welcome Center to pick up a detailed map. Ringed by mountains, the lake has clear, emerald-hued water and a pristine, forested shoreline. The route also runs alongside the tumbling rapids of the Toccoa River, rolling farmland, historic houses, and has many side hikes to cascading waterfalls and other pastoral pleasures. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and make an afternoon of it if you plan to visit all the stops listed on the map. On my last morning at Cloud Nine, I got up early enough to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed on the porch until checkout. Sometimes where you are is the best place to be.
In the North Georgia Mountains, we celebrate four gentle yet very distinct seasonal transitions, each measured very close to the designated tri-month celestial calendar. Mother Nature’s landscape specialist (shall we call her Flora?) takes a particular interest in altering our mountainscape on a quarterly basis, cloaking it in very different hues, depths of foliage, and fragrances.
To get a full appreciation of Flora’s artistry in any one of the seasonal changeovers, we encourage you to drive the 41 miles of Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. The Byway, one of only 120 highways across our fifty states so designated, circles around the Chattahoochee National Forest and can be launched just seventeen miles southeast of Fannin County, at the intersection of Hwys 129 and 180, located in neighboring Union County.
Highest Peak In GA
Following Hwy 180 northeast, you’ll travel twelve miles to the entrance to Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain elevation (4,784’) in Georgia. When you get to the top of the Bald’s observation tower, you will have a spectacular 360-degree view of three states!
Anna Ruby Falls
Back on Hwy
180 and after heading southeast for ten miles, you will turn south onto Hwy
75/17. Over the next 10 miles, you will motor through some of the heaviest of
forestry, including designated recreation areas Unicoi Gap and Andrews Cove. These are ideal places to hike,
fish, picnic or just relax before heading out on the next part of your
adventure. Driving for just a few minutes you will arrive at one of the
region’s finest natural gems, Anna Ruby Falls. This double waterfall is formed from the merging of two
creeks, both sourced from underground springs.
more miles south you will find yourself at Unicoi State Park, where you can jet off on a bicycle, paddleboard on Unicoi
Lake or eat at the Unicoi Restaurant located in the beautifully appointed
If you haven’t visited Bavaria’s USA sister city, quaint Helen GA, here’s the best opportunity, located just 3 more miles south of Unicoi State Park. But if Helen isn’t part of your plans for this scenic trip, then backtrack up 75/17 for only two miles where you’ll arrive at the entrance of one of the State’s most beautiful wooded parks, Smithgall Woods/Dukes Creek Falls State Park. Covering over 5,600 acres, this Park focuses on conservation. It’s also an angler’s paradise with some of the very best trout fishing in the State on the waters of Dukes Creek. Visit their event calendar to see what is scheduled during your visit.
There’s one more leg to this journey, and it is perhaps the most spectacular. Just a hair north of Smithgall Woods you will come upon the gateway (Hwy 348) to Richard Russell Scenic Hwy. These next 23 miles are not only a favorite for motorists, bicyclists and motorcyclists, but wildlife also love to roam all over the cliffs and valleys along this route. Do drive with patience and caution.
Helton Creek Falls
After nearly a 10 mile ascent, you’ll reach Hogpen Gap, (elevation 3,525′). This is a very popular, year-round hiking trail. But for just leaf lookers, the vistas at the appointed observation areas at this elevation are breathtaking! And in the spring there is no better place to view the “greening of the mountains”. As you begin the steep descent traveling north on Richard Russell, the valley brings more surprises as the fields open up and the farmlands, an integral facet of life in historical Choestoe Valley, are dotted across the highway. Look for a turn heading west at Hatchett Creek Rd. Follow this road till it merges with Helton Creek Road and visit one of the area’s favorite family waterfalls, Helton Creek Falls. The short hike (.24 miles) from the parking area leads to two falls. The lower falls has a wading pool area. The upper falls has an observation deck with bench seating.
Seasons of Fun!
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a 4 season wonderland. In the spring the hiking trails boast 1500 varieties of wildflowers with over 200 plants indigenous to just this Southern Appalachian region.
Stop, look and listen and you’ll see fawn and bear cubs emerging from the woods, beavers building dams to reroute the heavy spring rainwater, and you’ll hear the songbirds who’ve migrated back to these mountains from their winter retreats.
Open the windows on your summer drive and capture the fragrances of the season as you pass cavernous areas of native azalea, rhododendron and mountain laurel. The farmers cut hay around Memorial Day and again at Labor Day. The smell of fresh-cut hay, watching the baling process or just coming upon a field of hay bales peppering the countryside all leave an indelible imprint on one’s senses.
visits to the waterfalls along this road will often find the thunderous waters
framed by a rainbow. And as the days become shorter and autumn ushers in, the
forest canopy bursts with vibrant colors as the sweetgum, red maples, and oak
trees display their final fashion before shedding their foliage. In winter the
starkness of the bare forest, covered in frost is an incredible photo
opportunity. The cliffs near Hogpen Gap are covered with ice and a favorite
spot for ice climbers to hone their skills.
Plan on this driving adventure the next time you visit us. It promises to impress you, whatever the season. Share your adventures with us by tagging #escapetobr on your social posts. Enjoy!
September is a time of transition, when summer is coming to an end, but the crisp nights promise something even better! Life at the lake goes on, the rivers are flowing with enough intensity to host a kayak championship, apples are ripe and ready for picking, and weekend festivals feature live music, BBQ and brews! Check out the events below and come stay with us this month.
Every small town has an Opal. She’s a middle-age recluse who lives in an old, falling down mansion on the edge of town. She’s quirky, to say the least and she collects things, hauling them through town to her house in a little red wagon. She’s harmless, she’s also a target, but she’s oblivious and those trying to do her harm end up getting theirs in the end. Familiar story and funny. Check it out!
A fun and beautiful run for all ages, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of North Georgia. Awards presented for the top three runners in 5-year incremental age groups, as well as overall firsts for male and female. Welcome the first fall weekend with an exercise activity and some spirited encouragement!
It’s a tradition each Labor Day Weekend in Blairsville to celebrate local history and heritage at the place where it all began. Focused on the restored 1861 Payne family log cabin, the Mauney family barn, the Duncan family cabin and other structures from the area’s past, music and craft activities will be very much in evidence, providing entertainment as well as education!
Mountains and sea meet with some Lowcountry cooking, local brews from Grumpy Old Men Brewery and a bit of New Orleans thrown in for good measure. This is a a little bit country Cajun and a little bit charming Charleston. Diversity for sure. The culinary team from Cucina Rustica monitors the fusion to make sure there’s no- con-fusion!
Apple U-Pick September 1 – 30 LOCATION: Mercier Orchards and Area Orchards in Blue Ridge & Ellijay
It’s apple-pickin’ time! Which means it’s also time for tractor rides through the orchards, corn mazes, and definitely time to enjoy breathtaking mountain views from the top of an apple pickin’ ladder (why is it, by the way, that the best apples always seem to be at the top of the tree?!). Mercier Orchards is in its 76th year of operation, and Labor Day Weekend has always been the time to kick off the season. It’s also time to drive slowly through the lovely stretch of highway near Ellijay, watching for just the right orchard to catch your attention. Look for apple signs all over!
Yes, barbecue and gospel music do go together! In fact, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of voices harmonizing, with a bit of sauce on the side. In addition to music and “cue”, there’s also an ice cream social and a chance to discover local churches in the area.
A beautiful vineyard and winery set in pastoral farmlands in the heart of the Southern Appalachians. Cartacay’s wine history dates to 2007, but it’s heritage is comprised of Cherokee roots (in fact, Cartecay translates to “bread valley”). The winery features plenty of locally sourced wines, tastings and special events, plus live music on most weekends.
Live Music at Cartecay Vineyards: September 1 – Downtown Roy September 7 – Gopher Broke Band September 8 – Tommy Joe Connor September 14 – Gregg Erwin September 15 – Surrender Hill September 21 – Timothy O’Donovan September 22 – Ricky Byers September 28 – Man Bites Dog September 29 – Cagle & Pitts Duo Review
Be on the lookout for artists painting everything everywhere in Fannin County during this four-day international event. You may see artists in parks, in farm fields, even alongside the road – wherever the spirit has moved them to sit, or stand, and capture the beauty and uniqueness of this region on canvas. This is a judged show with various events surrounding it, including opportunities to meet the artists and purchase their work. Art will be on exhibit at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association from September 10 through October 13.
Great beer (18 beers on tap), a fun atmosphere and a stellar philosophy (delicious beer, dog-friendly, people tolerated). Plenty of craft beers, including those brewed in the brewery, and lots of live music. It’s one of those places that locals like!
Live Music at Grumpy’s: September 6 – Doctor Paul September 13 – Travis Bowlin September 27 – Gregg Erwin
The perfect combination – yoga, followed by wine tasting at a vineyard with a view. Ashlee Lofton leads the yoga class, beginning at 10:45am and then there’s a moment of reflection before moving on to Bear Claw’s Grizzly Tasting. OMMM & AHHH. Nothing better!
Diane Durret, who has performed with Sting, Gregg Allman, the Indigo Girls, Chuck Leavell and countless others will perform at the Blue Ridge Community Theater with her blend of raw soulful vocals, sultry tones and strong original songs!
World class whitewater and a bunch of folks who know how to navigate it, it’ll be like watching the Olympics in your own backyard, because these are truly Olympic-level competitors! This three-day event on the Upper Ocoee will feature raft, canoe and kayak competitions in formats ranging from slalom racing to freestyle, set against a spectacular backdrop! During down times you can enjoy the live music and regional vendor booths.
They used to say “let food be your medicine”…and how many times are diets based on a simple change of what you eat? In this class you will learn how to make and set up an herbal first aide kit, discover poultices, and try out some compresses. Each participant will be given a packet describing how to create your own herbal preparations along with a lot of lecture time and hands on, a small herbal profile, and all materials will be furnished for you to make your own concoctions.
For these bored seniors living at the “Home”, life is a monotonous cycle of pills, old movies and 7pm bedtimes, all while overseen by the killjoy nurse. But when a new arrival shakes things up, this geriatric group of grandparents hatch a scheme to break all the rules and rediscover their purpose and dignity.
There’s nothing like some cool blues riffs. And, there’s nothing like some tasty, mouth-watering barbecue. Hmmm – put those two together on the same day and you have a sure-fire winner of a fall festival! Which is what the Blues and BBQ Music Festival is, just a beautiful way to spend a day with friends, family, good sounds, and good smells!
The Boat Dock Bar and Grill at the Lake Blue Ridge Marina has one of the best views of Lake Blue Ridge around. The restaurant features a full kitchen, outdoor seating, a beachy atmosphere, and it’s dog-friendly (if your dog is dog friendly).
Live Music at the Boat Dock: September 27 – Gerry Herndon
The Blue Coyote is known for their live music and entertainment. While you’re there you can enjoy their tasty bar food and a whole bunch of beer! They even have a dog-friendly patio! Stop by, check it out, and enjoy the music!
Mudcat September 28 LOCATION: Mystic Mountain Pizza
Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck is an internationally known gospel and bluesman continuing the traditions of the early blues pioneers while adding his own Mudcat edge, resulting in one of Atlanta’s greatest treasures. Don’t miss this show. At Mystic Mountain Pizza you’ll enjoy good food, cold beer, and an inviting atmosphere!
Live Music at the Blue Coyote: September 27 – Bone Daddy
First of all, there are no guarantees that these goats really will dance, but you can probably count on them to eat, and provide pretty good backdrops for a great folk festival. Mostly, it’s a pretty snappy name that catches your attention. Once captivated by the possibility of goat dancing, you can settle into a celebration of regional culture and local traditions, including talented artisans plying their crafts, storytelling, and showcases of true folk art. Well worth the trip.
You’ve seen ‘em, you just don’t know you’ve seen ‘em. They’re sometimes called Railroad Hand Cars, and sometimes you have to pump them to get around, an exercise best accomplished with two. Operating one of these is just a part of a weekend’s worth of tribute to the world of railroads – hosted, of course, in a train depot, where you can also enjoy a large “HO Scale” model railroad based on the L & N Railroad’s Old Line from Atlanta to Etowah, Tennessee.
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
What matters most to you in a mountain vacation? Whether it’s a wide range of great activities nearby, a magnificent setting that brings you closer to nature, or the chance to relax, unwind and leave everything in your ‘real life’ behind, you’ll find it all at My Mountain Retreat. Perched on a hillside in a forest clearing overlooking a verdant canopy, with spectacular long-range mountain views, this spacious tri-level showplace is the ideal getaway retreat.
Escape to a mountaintop in Blue Ridge to a home with some of North Georgia’s best views that extend out to two more states. Summit Escape is in the wonderful community of Sun Rock Mountain, and is easily accessible off of paved roads. This property is adjacent to 100 acres of pristine, undisturbed wilderness, yet is convenient to downtown Blue Ridge and McCaysville. There is no better place than this cabin’s expansive wraparound deck or beautiful screened in porch to watch the area’s abounding wildlife from wild turkeys, to deer and hummingbirds.
There are new owners as of 2019, and with the new owners, there are numerous updates! All new kitchen stainless steel appliances, new granite countertops and refinished hardwood floors. The main and downstairs bedrooms have new premium queen pillow top mattresses/boxsprings and there’s new bedding on all levels. Even the basement has a brand new look, with an all new ceiling!
When you plan an escape to Blue Ridge there is nothing better than spending time with friends and family while taking in the sights and sounds of natures’ majestic beauty. When you add in stunning mountain and lake views to your cabin selection, you’ve just taken your vacation to a whole new level! These eight amazing cabins with picture perfect postcard views are all located in the desirable Aska Adventure Area. KEEP READING.
What? Best two out of three determines
Alright then! Bring it!
This is my game right here. May the best
man (or woman) win!
Oh yes, there is nothing more fun than a little trash talking before you take on your spouse, kid, or best friend in a friendly game of pool, foosball, air hockey, darts, video games or even old-fashioned board games. Bored teenagers are usually super thrilled to have new ways to beat their siblings and on rainy days you will be so thankful you considered the cabin’s gaming options when you booked your Escape to Blue Ridge. We in fact have 175 cabins with game rooms, but let’s take a look at the 9 most Incredible Game Rooms:
A Heaven on Earth is indeed in a heavenly spot atop a
scenic ridge with two private, wooded acres to roam. This real log
home offers a unique floor plan with two master suites featuring custom crafted
log beds on the main level and adjoining bathrooms. Each also features direct
access to the large deck overlooking the North Georgia Mountains. Game
rooms have become ever so important in selecting the perfect cabin for your
vacation. This one is no exception with dynamic offerings such as a
beautiful pecan wood billiards table, foosball, and steps away from a
warm and cozy lounging area in front of the stone fireplace. This is an ideal
cabin offering the fulfillment of anyone’s aspirations for a great mountain
getaway. Bring your better half, several friends or your whole family and
everyone is sure to find “A Heaven on Earth!”
Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter
retreat,” however, this cabin is perfect in every season. The
home’s professionally decorated and richly appointed great room features expansive
glass windows that are strategically positioned to overlook the breathtaking
and panoramic Aska Adventure area mountains. The Game Room features regulation
size billiards, an air hockey table, a dart board and an Xbox gaming system. Aska
Adventure Lodge is the perfect place and setting to clear the mind and steal
away on vacation with your friends or family. Here, overlooking the mountains
and upward to the sky-blue heavens, take in the crisp, clean air that
rejuvenates the spirit!
Bearfoot Bungalow complete with magnificent vistas and cozy
rustic charm is a mountain oasis where you can relax and recharge. Inside the
cabin settle into a comfy couch or recliner and kick off your shoes in front of
a fire while you watch TV in the family room, or play ping-pong, pool, air
hockey, and board games in the game room, which is equipped with DVD and Wii.
There are four flat screen TVs in the cabin, each with Dish service and Netflix
ability and wireless Internet throughout. When it’s time to turn in for
the night, you’ll choose from three comfortable, inviting bedrooms. Whether
you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a weekend with the
guys or the girls, there’s something for everyone at Bearfoot Bungalow!
Celtic Weaver Lodge is one of the most delightful North
Georgia Mountain cabin rentals imaginable. Elegantly rustic with tongue and
groove wood throughout, Celtic Weaver Lodge was professionally decorated and it
shows. Bursting with character, this charming cabin will intrigue you at every
turn with eye-catching furnishings and accents abundant in this split log home.
kids will naturally gravitate to the game room downstairs, drawn there to play
billiards, ping pong, Xbox, board games, even NASCAR mini air hockey. The DVD
player and iCraig will also keep them entertained for hours — they can play
movies or music to their hearts’ content while lounging by the stone gas
fireplace. This warm and cheerful cabin is positively peace on Earth for
all in its midst. Location, relaxation and a sense of magic — Celtic Weaver
Lodge weaves all the best things vacations are made of into one perfect place!
Located on a mountain with wraparound decks to showcase the
view from every angle, Hilltop Hideaway is the epitome of rustic elegance, with
plenty of country charm and a relaxed, welcoming ambience. The
downstairs game room is a gamer’s paradise, with air hockey, billiards,
foosball, a classic arcade machine with 60+ games including Donkey Kong, a
wood-slab bar, plenty of comfy seating, and a 65” flat screen TV. There’s also
a fireplace, hot tub, and a ping-pong table on the adjacent patio. The
two screened-in porches each have a wood-burning fireplace. There’s a hot tub
on the lower level porch, outfitted with Bluetooth speakers, and the upper
patio has a large swing, six rockers, and a gas grill with a picnic table on
the upper level near the kitchen. If you have dogs, you don’t have to
leave them behind. You’re welcome to bring up to two with you (as long as you
pick up after them) while you and your loved ones create vacation memories at
this very special mountain paradise.
Lake Vista Lodge is a relaxing getaway where you can escape
from the everyday world, enjoy the company of your family and friends, and
marvel at the peaceful, 50-mile views of Lake Blue Ridge and mountains as far
as the eye can see. If you’re seeking a bit of rest and relaxation, there is
nothing better than simply swinging or rocking on the porch and soaking up the
beautiful vista of Lake Blue Ridge, the mountains surrounding it, and on clear
days, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina beyond. On
rainy days, kids will have fun playing Xbox 360 Kinect with games foosball,
shuffle board, or choosing amongst plenty of books and board
games. Grownups can play billiards or indulge in a dip in the hot tub from
the comfort of the covered porch. Lake Vista Lodge was built as a welcoming
place for families and friends to come together to enjoy simple pleasures and
each other’s company. Create your own traditions and special memories here
that you’ll share for many years to come.
Staying at Legend is like having an entire five-star resort
all to yourself. This luxury log cabin is truly in a class of its own. It’s
built from handcrafted Douglas-fir logs and each spacious room presents
incredible attention to detail with cathedral ceilings, arched doorways,
sumptuous furnishings, stylish fixtures, and every amenity you desire to relax
in complete luxury. Any time of year, Legend’s spacious, covered decks with
their sweeping views make entertaining easy as a mountain breeze. Nature will
entertain you and your guests for hours, with views of the rushing creek,
horses playing in the nearby pastures, and the verdant tree farm nearby. Inclement
weather can’t dampen your spirits here. Spend an afternoon in the game room
downstairs playing pinball, billiards, foosball, ping pong or board games—
there’s a little something for everyone. Legend even has its own cinema
screening room downstairs, complete with stadium seating — it doesn’t get any
closer to an authentic movie theater experience than this! Make some popcorn,
grab drinks at the nearby kitchen and bar, then everyone can sink into
sumptuous loungers and enjoy a great movie up on the big screen. A stay
at this peaceful and elegant retreat is just the start of what your special time
here will mean for family and friends. Stories will be recounted for years to
come, and the memories will be legendary!
Moonlight Lodge is a spacious four-bedroom cabin with
gorgeous mountain views. The house features two master bedrooms, ideal for a
multi-family getaway. The two bedrooms on the lower level open to a game room
and media center perfect for family fun. Sharpen your pool skills or
play foosball or Xbox 360. Watch a movie or cheer on your favorite team on the
big screen TV. There’s plenty indoors to keep kids of all ages
entertained. This secluded refuge is perfect for families looking
for a comfortable, relaxing home away from home!
Named for the old song of the same name, Our Blue Heaven is
ideally located on a magnificent wooded property just five miles from downtown
Blue Ridge. Inside, it’s built for comfort, with inviting, spacious
rooms, all of them cozy and handsomely appointed with high-end furnishings in
rustic mountain style. It’s also built for outdoor living, with over
1100 square feet of covered, screened-in deck space on three levels. Inside,
you can gather in the living room, with its soaring vaulted ceiling, impressive
stone gas fireplace, and 55” TV, or head to the game room to play pool or watch
the game on the 65” screen. The cabin’s three inviting bedrooms,
one per level, each have their own full bath and deck or balcony access. And
if your dog is well trained, feel free to bring him along. Whether you’re
taking a family vacation or planning a getaway with your best friends, you’ll
have unforgettable memories of your stay at Our Blue Heaven!
Labor Day weekend is typically summer’s last hurrah. Visitors flock to the mountains to escape the southern city heat, hoping to “chill” before the final quarter of the year kicks into full gear. (Yikes, only 12 weeks till Christmas? Say it isn’t so!)
Whether you came to be entertained, experience the great outdoors or just eat and drink your way through these three days, we wanted to give you a heads up on what’s happening over this holiday weekend. If the event is kid-friendly we’ve noted it with a KF seal.
Grape Stomp Festival
One of the most iconic episodes of the I Love Lucy Show was the show where Lucy and Ethel take a job in a vineyard stomping grapes. It is impossible not to belly laugh your way through this episode, and Paradise Hills Winery Resort in Blairsville, offers you an opportunity to experience this adventure at their 6th Annual Grape Fest, Saturday, August 31st.
Join the fun staff at this mountain top winery for live music all day, grape stomping at 2pm & 4pm, a kid’s craft corner, local craft vendors and delicious wine & craft beer, too. Local BBQ food will be available for purchase. They’ll be having an “I LOVE LUCY – Look-alike Contest” at 2pm and 4pm. Wine Prizes for best costume! You don’t want to miss this fun time (KF). Admission is just $25 per person includes a souvenir glass and a basic tasting. Click here for tickets.
Everybody Loves Opal
It’s not just Lucy that everyone loves. Opal is a middle-aged recluse living in a tumbledown mansion in the edge of a municipal dump. Enter three vagabonds who try to swindle this kind-hearted optimist. The laughs are plenty and the joyfulness of this cast will make for one of your fondest theatrical experiences. Presented all weekend long at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, Blue Ridge GA. Click here for tickets.
Enjoying the fresh air and summer breezes in the mountains is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Labor Day Weekend is the start of one of our annual visitors favorite family traditions and outdoor activities, Mercier’s Orchards U Pick Apple season. For more details, visit their website here. (KF)
5K & Fun Run
If you are looking for a more challenging outdoor time before the summer ends, than you might want to rise very early on Labor Day and participate in the 3rd Annual River Run 5K and Fun Run at Horseshoe Bend Park in Mineral Bluff, GA. Sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia, Race Day Registration and Packet Pickup begins at 7am with the 5K race starting at 8am and the fun race at 8:30am. Bring the kids to participate, too! Awards will be presented to Overall Male/Female and top three male/female runners in 5 year age groups beginning at 10 years old and under through 75 and over. Click here for registration information. (KF)
If you like your outdoor entertainment to be loud and dirty, then you might want to head over to the Blue Ridge MotorsportsParkon Saturday night, Aug 31 for the UCRA 3K to Win. A night at the racetrack is fun for the whole family! (KF)
If you love live music then you have some exceptional options this long weekend. Saturday night the Copperhead Lodge in Blairsville is throwing a party and they’ve invited Southern Vantage to headline. Join this amazing southern rock cover band on the huge veranda/porch at the lodge for drinks, grub, and dance. They cover a variety of genres and hit songs from artists like Haggard, Cash, Waylon, Willie, Skynyrd, CCR, Seger, Blackberry Smoke, Hank Jr., Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Toby Kieth, Alan Jackson, Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime, Uncle Cracker and much more. Music begins at 7 pm. Come early, grab a seat and some great grub from the Lodge’s award-winning restaurant, The Flying Trout.
BBQ & Gospel Music
Though Southern BBQ is good twelve months a year, there’s something special about smellin’ that smoker cooking some tender butts for hours on end. If it’s BBQ and good southern gospel that you are yearnin’ for, then head into the heart of Blue Ridge for the39th Annual Labor Day BBQ & Gospel Music Show. If it has thrived for nearly four decades, you know it has to offer the best in music and in BBQ. It’s a 3-day event and the public is invited to enjoy all or part of it. On Monday, Sept. 2 from 11:30-6, enjoy the annual Labor Day Bar-B-Q with all the fixings served with Gospel and Blue Grass by tri-state area groups. Presale tickets are available from participating churches, Fannin Chamber of Commerce, and American Wholesale Print Shop. (KF)
Mountain Heritage Festival
Every Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend downtown Blairsville hosts, the Mountain Heritage Festival. Presented by the Union County Historical Society, the festival celebrates the history and mountain culture of these hills and valleys. Mountain arts/crafts, music, living history activities, demonstrations on quilting, spinning, basket making, chair caning, farm animals, and gold panning, along with activities for children. The activities will be centered around the restored 1861 Payne family log cabin, the Mauney family barn, the Duncan family cabin, and other structures from Union County’s past. Festival hours are 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and there’s plenty of free parking around the Square. (KF)
Summer’s Last Hurrah
William Shakespeare penned “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” We couldn’t agree more. We look forward to seeing you here in the mountains this Labor Day weekend for summer’s last hurrah!
Over the last decade, the number of Farmers Markets in this country has grown four-fold. Today’s consumers want our food to be as fresh, tasty, GMO and pesticide free as possible. We use the expression “sustainable food” to give a modern term to our intentions. What we really mean is we are more interested in calculating our food miles, or how far it’s traveled before we put it on our table.
But sustainable food isn’t only about proximity of the food. How the food is produced, how it’s distributed and how it’s consumed are all factors. Many of our local chefs take these factors into consideration when creating their menus. They’ve made a commitment to provide culinary fare from food grown, raised and delivered locally, and under the best possible sustainable conditions. With their Farm to Table menus, they celebrate the small local farmer, and honor the connection between the land and the patrons they serve. We would like to introduce you to a couple of the regions most committed chefs.
Harvest On Main
Don’t let the downtown location fool you. When you cross the threshold at Harvest on Main you enter a superbly appointed mountain lodge. Chef-owner Danny Mellman and his partner Michelle Moran bring over three decades of culinary mastery and magic to the Blue Ridge food scene. Chef Danny creates the menus and Michelle is responsible for sourcing the best products from local producers. Grass fed Brasstown beef, Springer Mountain chicken, and Bramlett Farm Trout are the local suppliers for such house favorites like Painted Hills Beef & Veal Meatloaf topped with Cabernet-Veal Demi-glace.
Local produce is delivered daily and those who prefer a more vegetarian fare will not be disappointed with the menu options, such as Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, layered with brown rice, beets, Portabella mushrooms, baba ganoush, red skinned garlic mashed potatoes and topped with Gouda cheese.
Mellman and Moran have other restaurants on the Blue Ridge scene, all focusing on locally grown and raised products. They even have their own farm where they’ve developed and produce their heritage rabbit, honey, and quail. If that wasn’t enough, these amazing humans also host a summer camp for children age 6-16 sharing their vision of sustainable living within the community.
Reviewers rave about the service and have more accolades for the ample number of locally brewed beers as well as Harvest on Main’s extensive wine list. The Chef describes his menu as internationally inspired with a southern twang. His patrons describe it as 5-star.
Harvest on Main (576 E. Main St., Blue Ridge) features both a lunch and dinner menu. Click here for hours and days of operation. For reservations (highly suggested) call 706-946-6164.
The Sawmill Place
The restaurants tagline says it all. “Farm Fresh, Harvest Driven, Locally Sourced”. Local suppliers include a pretty impressive list including produce from 7M Farms and Freddie Collins Farm; grits and flours for their scrumptious breakfast fare from Logan Turnpike Mill; toppings for their (patron favorite) pancakes from Tim Dyer’s Blueberry Patch, Michael Surles’ Honey and Hughes Sorghum Mill; and that coffee mug is filled endlessly with beans from roaster, JumpinGoat Coffee.
Co-owners Shawn and Amy Kight serve breakfast and lunch six days a week in this delightful cabin located just a slight jog off the downtown Square in neighboring Blairsville GA. Their giant homemade biscuits start popping out of the ovens by 6:30am. And if you don’t like to wait for a seat, you might want to get there that early. But bring a big appetite.
The breakfast menu is quite extensive and features large portions of high quality food, exceptional service and truly inspired southern recipes at very reasonable prices. Take the “Nottely Scramble” as an example. Chef Shawn scrambles 3 large Lathem farm eggs into spicy collard greens, onions, bacon and cheddar cheese. He serves this with your choice of 2 strips of Applewood smoked bacon or 1 local sausage patty, along with grits or gravy, a buttermilk biscuit, coffee or tea all for around $10.
The lunch menu boasts burgers from Certified Angus Beef raised by Georgia Cattle Farmers. There are several salad choices and all include a delectable freshly baked morning glory muffins. The hydroponic -grown lettuce and other produce are delivered daily, 12 months a year from local 7M Farms.
As we already mentioned, this place is hopping from the time it opens till the time it turns the biscuit oven off, but don’t let the possibility of a wait for a seat at the table deter you. The Sawmill Place has a lovely front porch with lots of rockers to pass the time, as well as a new Market building adjacent to the restaurant where you can shop for all things local including produce harvested locally in Union County, flower bouquets grown on Blairsville’s Whimsy Flower Farm and other artisan goods from the Tri-State area. Leave some room in your trunk to bring home honey, syrups, jams, soaps and beeswax products. They all make great souvenirs.
The Sawmill Place (1159 Pat Haralson Dr., Blairsville) features both a breakfast and lunch menu. Click here for hours and days of operation or call 706- 745-1250 .
For most American kids, our first introduction to the concept of trail markers is Hansel and Gretel’s attempt at leaving crumbs on their venture into the woods. The birds thwarted their efforts and that’s where their fictional journey begins. First published in 1812, their story was read to children in Germany at the same time the Cherokee Indians were creating their own trail markers here in the North Georgia Mountains. Or are Trail trees just folklore?
Trail Marker Trees
Trail trees, trail marker trees, crooked trees, prayer trees, thong trees, or culturally modified trees are hardwood trees throughout North America. One unique characteristic of the trail marker tree is a horizontal bend several feet off the ground, which makes it visible at greater distances, even in snow. These distinctive characteristics convey that the tree was shaped by human activity rather than deformed by nature or disease. The legend is that Native Americans intentionally shaped these trees for navigational purposes or to mark important places, such as sacred burial grounds.
Throughout the North Georgia Mountains, a day of hiking can find you encountering one or more of these gentle bent giants in our forests. As you hike through one of the twenty four top forests in our area you’ll stumble upon some of the most incredible shaped trees and wonder if they are the work of Mother Nature or did an American Indians walk these same trails 200 years ago. It is both highly possible and very likely that the tree was there marking a specific direction or possibly an area where a plant grew at its base that was used for healing.
For many, a hike in the woods is an adventure you remember from your childhood days. It is a child’s foray into uncharted territory, a field or a wooded area close to home where they might discover an old unidentifiable bone, a creek filled with crayfish, or a cluster of butterflies on a floral bush they’ve never seen the likes of before. They come back from these walking expeditions with pockets filled with pretty leaves, unusual shaped stones and always a bird feather or two. As adults we reawaken that lust for exploration and here on these mountain trails, there seems to be one treasure that many are hunting: Fairy Crosses.
The Legend of the Fairy Cross derives from the Cherokee Indians and thought to be over 2000 years old! It is said that long, long, ago fairies inhabited a certain quiet and remote region in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fairies roamed freely, enjoying the beauty and serenity of that enchanted place. One day, the fairies were playing in a sunny dell when an elfin courier arrived from a far-away city bearing the sad news of Christ’s death. When they heard the terrible details of the crucifixion, the fairies wept. As their tears fell to the earth, they crystallized into little stone crosses. Though the fairies have long since disappeared, the little stone crosses, known as “fairy stones,” still remain as vestiges in that enchanted spot. There was a belief among the Cherokee that the crosses had the power to reduce the owner invisible at will. In some instances, the tiny crosses were supposed to give the owner the power of diving into the ground and coming up again among the enemy to scalp and kill with unexpected terror.
The Scientific Side
Fairy crosses (aka fairy stones) are small bricks originally formed seven miles underground of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Staurolite crystals form into little tiny “bricks” that, under pressure, twist in 60 degree or 90 degree angles, forming crosses. As they push their way up to the earth’s surface, the action of wind and rain dissolve the softer surrounding stone called schist to reveal the precious cross-shaped minerals within.
The good fortune of finding fairy stones is best after a heavy rain. Dig with your hands along the soft dirt at the base of the trees. The cross stones are the same color as the dirt, so use your hands to sift the stones from the soil until you find a cross shaped stone about the size of a small marble, usually less than an inch in length. They are wonderful keepsakes when found, and can be polished and used as a lucky pocket token, or designed into a necklace, bracelet, or earrings.
If you haven’t had the good fortune to find a fairy stone on your hiking trip, you can still find a wonderful collection of fairy crosses at Pezrok in downtown Blue Ridge, a gallery full of artistic creations of exquisite minerals, fossils, gems and carved driftwood.
There are countless numbers of adventures to be had on your visit to these mountains. You’ll want to capture many of your explorations in pictures to take home and share with us, your family, and your friends. Oh, and while you are taking a cell phone selfie at one of the bent trees you are likely to encounter, remember your phone is also equipped with GPS, which will assure your chances of getting back to your car in the parking lot. As we already know from 19th century literature, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs will not suffice.