Trail Trees and Fairy Crosses



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.

Photo Courtesy of Donna O’Neal

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.

Fairy Crosses

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.

Pezrok

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.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Korzep

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.

Pet Friendly Blue Ridge



As animal lovers ourselves, we understand that when you plan a vacation to Blue Ridge, Georgia that you want your four-legged family members to accompany you. Just as you love the fresh mountain air and seeing new places, so do pooches! There are so many new smells they’ve never sniffed, creeks to splash in, and they would much rather be with you than be kenneled!

Stay

Here at Escape to Blue Ridge we have over 100 cabins that are pet friendly! You can choose cabins by the lake or near a river. There are also pet friendly cabins in the middle of the woods with acres and acres for your puppers to run to their little heart’s content. Some properties are even fenced in like Black Dog of Blue Ridge.

Shop

Blue Ridge is a very pet friendly community. Whether you are bringing Fido with you or just want to bring home a souvenir for your best friend, Blue Ridge Cotton Company is both a pet and human friendly store! Here you will find great apparel, gifts, and of course doggie approved décor! The owner’s own pup, Watson Agee, can often be seen “working” at one of their two locations in Blue Ridge or Blairsville. Stop in, give him a pet on the head, and enjoy browsing all of their unique finds!

Watson Agee working at Blue Ridge Cotton Company

For the outdoorsy canines, head to Blue Ridge Adventure Gear for the hottest trends, most delicious treats, and all the outdoor gear you might possibly need. Keep Rufus safe out on Lake Blue Ridge with life jackets, play fetch at Morganton Point with glow in the dark balls, or keep them safe in your car with a dog hammock. Oh, did we mention the treats? Well, they have plenty along with their sister store, Blue Ridge Adventure Wear. Your pup is going to get pawsitively excited when you buy him some of their most scrumptious looking doggie donut treats!

Doggie Donuts at Blue Ridge Adventure Wear

Love Dogs and Cats Too is a holistic pet supply shop that has everything you could ever need for your favorite family member. They carry collars, leashes, food, toys, and treats. Here you’ll find natural flea and tick soaps, pet friendly cbd oils, and even puppy clothes! Stop on in if you Love Dogs, they’ll be happy to see you!

Dine

It’s true. We have some incredible restaurants here in Blue Ridge. The best part is some of them allow pets to join their owners for delicious meals. Right in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge, you can sit on the inviting patio of Treo and enjoy an outstanding meal. This fine dining establishment features southern cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Their steaks are to-die-for, but really you’ll enjoy anything Chef Patrick prepares!

Coolest Pooch at Treo

Why does happy need to be limited to an hour when you get to vacation with your best friend? Well, it doesn’t have to be at Brew Ridge Brewery! Their “yappy” hour lasts from 4pm to 7pm. You get good deals on custom crafted brews and your BFF gets a special puppy treat! While you’re here you can also enjoy a delicious burger, meatloaf sandwich, or some good ol fashioned chicken wings. They often have live music and of course ice-cold beer!

Yappy Hour at Blue Ridge Brewery

Drink

How can you not love a business that broadcasts “Dogs are welcome, and people are tolerated!” Grumpy Old Men Brewing is a laid back, fun microbrewery is open Tuesday through Saturday and offers 18 beers on tap. They often have live music and they stand by their motto: If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it. So, come out and feel like a local, have fun, and drink good beer!

Chilling at Grumpy Old Men Brewing

Best Friend Wanted

If you don’t already have a best friend or are looking to grow your furfamily, stop by the Humane Society of Blue Ridge. This no kill shelter often partners with local businesses to encourage pet adoptions and to support their non-profit work of supporting sick, injured, or abandoned animals. They run a Thrift Store to help offset operational costs, and they even have a dog park that’s open 24/7 that all are welcome to use!

Adopt a best friend at the Humane Society of Blue Ridge

Doggy Daycare

A lot of times our guests will make day trips from the cabin and not all towns are as pet friendly as Blue Ridge. If your planning an adventure and you can’t take Benji with you, make an appointment at Violet’s Doggy Daycare. Here your pup will be able to make friends, run around, and be safe and secure until you come retrieve them. While there you can even get your pooch a peticure or a full grooming session. Violet’s also offers homemade pet treats and jerky treats.  

Puppy Play Date at Violet’s Doggy Daycare

Emergency Services

While you are on vacation, sometimes things can happen. Maybe Rufus counter surfed and gobbled down some grapes and now he feels under the weather or maybe while he was out exploring in the yard, he tried to eat some berries that he shouldn’t have. We don’t like to think about these things happening and when you are away from home you don’t know who to use or where to go to when emergency services are needed. Fortunately, right here in Blue Ridge we have a highly rated and extremely respected emergency veterinary service that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Mountain Emergency Animal Center provides comprehensive emergency and urgent care and work closely with your primary veterinarian to provide the most complete care possible for your family pet. We hope that you won’t need to utilize their services, but in the event that you need to, know that you are in great hands!

Memorial Day in the Mountains



Spring has sprung, the temperatures are climbing, and everything is blooming! The last weekend in May, Memorial Day Weekend, is an excellent time to get away from the hub bub of daily life and Escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the beauty that is bursting all around us!

Extreme or Serene

There is no shortage of fun to be had around town, but if just relaxing with your favorite people (and pups) in a fabulous cabin is your idea of a good time, we totally get it. Many of our cabins are equipped with game rooms, hot tubs, fire pits, and wooded trails to explore. There is also horseback riding stables, zip lines, and whitewater rafting close by for added immersion into the wonders of Mother Nature.

Downtown Blue Ridge

In downtown Blue Ridge you’ll enjoy attending the 44th Annual Spring Arts in the Park event on Saturday and Sunday, May 25th & 26th.  This Southern tradition features more than two hundred arts, crafts, and food booths for you to admire fine arts and mountain crafts. You’ll also be able to see artist’s demonstrations, hear some great music, and support the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association! The event is held rain or shine, and well-behaved leashed pets are welcome. Admission is $5 and children 12 and under are free!  

Spring Arts in the Park
Photo Courtesy of The Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Center

Music will be abundant in the Downtown area as well. The Blue Ridge Brewery will welcome Gopher Broke on Saturday and Travis Bowlin on Sunday. At Grumpy Old Men Brewery you’ll get to see Highbeams on Saturday and the Copperhill Brewery will host Gerry Herndon on Sunday. You won’t want to miss Travis Bowlin at the Boat Dock Bar & Grill, which by the way, did you know, they are a sunny spot for shady people? Check them out. They offer great views of Lake Blue Ridge, delicious food, and fantastic drinks! Last but not least, The Blue Coyote will be jamming on Saturday with the Breaking Point Band and a local favorite, Gregg Erwin on Sunday.

Downtown Blairsville

About thirty minutes East of Blue Ridge in the town of Blairsville, you’ll encounter their annual Spring Arts, Crafts, & Music Festival. Saturday morning begins with a Memorial Day Parade and the rest of the day and all-day Sunday you can enjoy more than 200 local and regional artists. Many musicians will also be on site to entertain you and your family. There is no charge to attend, but plenty of family fun is sure to be had!

Photo Courtesy of Visit Downtown Blairsville

McCaysville/Copperhill

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Railway

If you’ve never experienced a trip on the Blue Ridge Railway, you should definitely consider boarding in downtown Blue Ridge and taking an enjoyable two hour ride to the revitalized cities of McCaysville, Ga and Copperhill, Tn.  Yep, this is your chance to stand in two states at one time! Grab a sinful shake or decadent donuts at Sweet & Southern Sugar Company.  Maybe Cuban is more your style and you prefer a Cuban coffee and empanada at the Rum Cake Lady for an afternoon treat. For a good giggle and unique gifts, head over to Weird Oh!. 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.

Whatever plans you make for the holiday weekend, we hope that you are spending it with all the ones you love creating memories and enjoying the freedom that we get to enjoy in the great United States of America. As we approach Memorial Day Weekend, we want to take a moment to thank all of the men and women that have so courageously given their lives to defend this beautiful country in which we are so fortunate to live. There is no greater sacrifice one can make and the patriotism that these honorable souls displayed deserves our recognition and gratitude, not just one weekend a year, but all year long. Thank you for your service.

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!