The Blue Ridge Experience: Spring Edition



Spring Hiking 

There’s no better time to hit the trails than on a beautiful spring day! The weather is absolutely perfect this time of year for a stroll through nature. Temperatures are mild, the forests are lush with greenery and flowers, and the water may be a little chilly but it can be a refreshing way to cool off after a long day of hiking. From trails just a little over a mile to challenging, multi-mile hikes there’s the perfect route for everyone.

And what do you hope to see on your journey? Peaceful babbling brooks, a tall rushing waterfall, a unique swinging bridge that dangles over the waters of the Toccoa River, or views as far as the eye can see? Blue Ridge has miles and miles of trails with everything and more to offer! So bring along your friends, family, and your favorite pup too, and get ready to explore the great outdoors! Discover the best trail for your group here:  https://www.escapetoblueridge.com/blog/8-blue-ridge-hiking-trails/ 

Ride the Rails 

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Mountain Scenic Railway

Spring means that train rides are back at Blue Ridge Scenic Railway! Running from March 5th to late December the train is a favorite Blue Ridge activity. You’ll fly past mountains, rivers, and farmlands as you ride through the beautiful countryside of North Georgia. For a short and sweet adventure, take the 2-hour scenic ride but if you are looking to make the trip an all-day event why not go for the 4-hour ride? On the longer ride you’ll have a 2-hour layover in the charming sister cities McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. Stand in two states at once on the Georgia/Tennessee border that lies between the two cities. Go for a quick shopping spree or grab a bite to eat. Then hop back on the train for another scenic journey back to Blue Ridge. Tickets are available online: https://brscenic.com/tickets/ 

Family-Friendly Outdoor Fun

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Williams

The kids are off of school for spring break and there’s no better way to celebrate than with some family fun in the great outdoors! One of our favorite spots for family-friendly activities is at The Lily Pad Village. One of their biggest attractions is their gem mining experience. The kiddos will love sifting through the dirt to find their own beautiful gemstones. The staff is friendly and are always ready to explain to the little ones what they’ve discovered. Not only is this experience educational but it’s also fun & rewarding because the kids can leave with a bag full of goodies.

On top of gem mining, Lily Pad Village also has fishing and mini-golf, so the fun times can last all day long! Another great outdoor activity the whole family will enjoy is horseback riding! You can go on a relaxing trail ride through the forests of North Georgia and become best friends with your horse along the way. Cowgirl Up Stables is great for new riders and Appalachian Trail Rides is always a wonderful choice as well. Giddy on up and bring the whole family along to explore Georgia on horseback! 

Spring at the Orchards

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

Mercier Orchards may be known for their apples but there’s more to them than that! The orchards are incredibly beautiful during the spring because the peach and apple blossoms are in full bloom! On weekends, you can take a farm tour to learn more about Merciers and see the blossoms up close, it really is quite a sight. Pay them a visit in May for strawberry season! Pick the biggest strawberries you can find and turn them into your own delicious strawberry pie or eat them straight from the plant! Recover from your strawberry hunting with a refreshing glass of hard cider or wine, made right at Merciers. And before you leave, shop in the market for all kinds of goodies to bring home with you, and be sure to pick yourself up a fried pie from the cafe too!  

Adventure 

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Adventure Park

Sometimes you need a heart-pumping adventure! If you like to be dozens of feet in the air then we have just the thing for you! Navigate a challenging ropes course high up in the air at Blue Ridge Adventure Park. You’ll have 4 aerial courses to choose from with obstacles and challenges that range from moderate to extremely difficult. Make your way back to solid ground on the 125+ foot long zipline! Are you up for the challenge?

If you are all about the zipline and would rather skip the ropes course then check out Zip Line Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge. You’ll zip through the trees on over 6,000 feet of cables. You’ll feel like you’re flying as your soar past the Blue Ridge Mountains. Get ready for an adventure like no other at these two great spots! 

Biking

Photo Courtesy of Sorella Cycling

If you’re into mountain biking Blue Ridge is just the place for it! Weave through the winding mountain trails, with the wind in your face, and the trees zipping past. A few of our favorite trails for a ride are Jackrabbit Mountain, Bear Creek Trail, and Stanley Gap. Learn more about mountain biking in Blue Ridge here: https://www.escapetoblueridge.com/blog/11-memorable-mountain-biking-trails/ 

Trout Time

Photo Courtesy of KC Outfitters

In Blue Ridge, we are known as the trout capital of Georgia so you’d be remiss not to head to the waters with a fishing pole in hand! Not only is the weather perfect for a day on the water but the trout supply is abundant in the spring. Our favorite spots to fish are on the Toccoa River or at the Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery.

If you’re an experienced fisher then, by all means, get out on the water and do your thing but if you need a little extra assistance that’s no problem we’ve got you covered! A few of our favorite fish-loving teams are Cohutta Fishing Company, Blue Ridge Fly Fishing School, and Noontootla Creek Farms. Take your pick but all of these teams will give you the proper guidance and techniques to help you become a fishing expert! Looking for more fishing fun? Don’t miss the Blue Ridge Trout Festival on April 30th! 

Outdoor Picnics 

Photo Courtesy of ExploreGeorgia.org

Nothing says spring like a delicious picnic with your family! We think one of the most beautiful spots for a picnic is at Morganton Point beside Lake Blue Ridge. Set up at one of the picnic tables or spread your blanket out on the grass and enjoy your feast as you gaze out on the waters of Lake Blue Ridge.

For more waterside spots check out the Toccoa River Park to listen to the calming sounds of the river rushing by. You can even picnic in our Downtown City Park, just pick up some to-go from one of your favorite restaurants downtown and enjoy it in the warm sunshine. Wherever you choose to picnic you’ll be in the great outdoors and able to enjoy the beautiful spring weather! 

Take in a Festival 

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

Spring in Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas have so many great events worth checking out! Here’s just a few of our favorites: 

  • The Blue Ridge Trout and Outdoor Adventures Festival: This year’s annual event takes place April 27th in our Downtown City Park. With all-new tents and exhibits, this year will be the best one yet! You can learn all about fishing, hiking, paddling, rock climbing, and more. Plus there will be plenty of craft beer, food, and music. 
  • Easter Egg Hunt: Easter weekend will have lots of holiday activities happening around town. Mercier Orchards also typically hosts an Easter Egg Hunt as well. And stay tuned to our social media pages for more Easter events happening around the area! 
  • Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds events: Take a day trip over to Hiawassee, GA where they have a great line-up of events happening all spring long! They will have concerts featuring great artists like Dustin Lynch, 38 Special, and more! Every day from April 12th-May 12th you can be one with nature at the Rhododendron Festival. Stock up on all kinds of goodies at the Spring Yard Sale or admire cool cars at the Memory Lane Classic Car Show. Drink wine in the gardens at the Hiawassee Highlands Wine Festival. And end your spring with a Rodeo on Memorial Day weekend. Learn more about Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds great upcoming spring events & get your tickets here: https://georgiamountainfairgrounds.com/localevents 
  • Spring Arts in the Park: Finish out your spring Memorial Day weekend (May 25th & 26th) by admiring beautiful art in Downtown Blue Ridge featuring over 175+ artists. This is the 46th year that Spring Arts in the Park has brought so many talented artists to Blue Ridge for such a great event! 

No matter your spring break plans we’re happy to provide you with the perfect cabin to call home for a few days. Our cabins are not only comfortable and accommodating, but there’s fun for everyone with game rooms, hot tubs, fire pits, and more. Let us be your home base for all your spring adventures! 

What’s Swimming in the Blue Ridge Waters?



Exploring the flowing waters in Blue Ridge can be such fun! There are many types of wildlife that are easily discovered, while some creatures remain hiding in their secret spots where only they know. The two main waterways where our water-bound friends live are Lake Blue Ridge and the Toccoa River. These bodies of water are known for their stunning location, scenery, and marine life. Other bodies of water include local streams and ponds. The Blue Ridge Mountains are an ideal habitat for a variety of animals. The rocky terrain, cool streams, and climate all provide support for the aquatic animals’ lives.

Bog Turtle

Photo Courtesy of Turtle Conservancy

Bog turtles are the smallest turtle species in North America at about 11.5 inches in length. These turtles tend to hang out on the banks of streams and soak up sunlight. They are most active between late March to early October. Bog turtles tend to favor wet areas and thick, dense vegetation to live in. Their black/brown shell can easily camouflage them on pieces of wood. Certain bog turtles will have a yellow/orange stripe or patches throughout their shell. Bog turtles are one of the most rare turtles found in the United States and are currently critically endangered.

Northern Water Snake

Photo Courtesy of Raritan Headwaters

Don’t be scared, these slithering non-venomous fellas can’t harm you! These snakes may make you squirm, but it’s not you that they’re after. Georgia has almost 50 species of snakes, and only six are venomous. The venomous and notorious Copperhead snake is commonly mistaken as a Northern Water Snake. But these two differ by the shape of their heads, swimming path, and pattern of their eyes. Rivers, lakes, swamps, and ponds are where Northern Water snakes like to camp out at. They tend to be dark-colored snakes, with tan, black or brown scales. If they are young or wet, their scales will display a vivid pigment. Their diets consist primarily of amphibians and fish.

Brook Trout

Photo Courtesy of FishingBooker

Also, known as ‘brookies’, Brook Trout are a beautiful speckled fish that is found throughout North America. Since they are often found in clean, cool mountain waters, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a perfect spot for some to call home. Mostly active during dusk and dawn, Brook Trout are likely found in deeper waters during the day. Aquatic insects are their favorite choice of food. They also will eat smaller fish, ants, and beetles when available.

Brown Trout

Photo Courtesy of Animals.net

While they may look like Brook Trout, they are a different species! Brown Trout often have a brassy appearance, and display olive-brown to black spots along their sides. Due to their large size, they are a dominant predatory fish amidst their environment. They become a threat to smaller, native fish that also live in the mountain waters. If the Brown Trout population is smaller than 12 inches, they will feast on aquatic insects. But if they become larger than 12 inches, they will snack on crayfish and smaller fish. 

Rainbow Trout

Photo Courtesy of We Sport Fish

For good reason, Blue Ridge is referred to as the Trout Capital of Georgia. Rainbow Trout were given their name due to their colorful appearance. The color of these fish can depend on their age and habitat. They prefer the chilly and clear waters that are found in these Blue Ridge Mountains. Rainbow trout are surprisingly a member of the salmon family. Does their pink stripe give it away? They survive off insects and smaller fish.

Smallmouth Bass

Photo Courtesy of Game & Fish

Smallmouth Bass are found primarily in the rocky and deeper areas of Lake Blue Ridge. These fish prefer waters that are fast-flowing and enjoy pools with gravel bottoms. The reason that Smallmouth Bass do well in Lake Blue Ridge is because of the cool water temperature. Crayfish can be a staple in their diet, but when small fish are present, they also feed on those. Smallmouth Bass are a part of the sunfish family. and are known to leap through the water!

Walleye

Photo Courtesy of Coastal Angler Magazine

Walleyes tend to stick together in small groups when cruising through the North Georgia waters. They are known to chase each other and swim in circles when in their small groups. Walleyes are native to lakes and streams. They have large, glassy eyes (hence the name) that help them catch their prey. But the downfall is that their eyes appear under lights during nighttime, which makes them easily catchable.

Crayfish

Photo Courtesy of Self-Reliance

Mudbugs, crayfish, crawdads, or crawfish… call ‘em what you want! Depending on where you live, you may even call these speedy crustaceans a different name. They require clean water to live, so they are commonly found in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams in North Georgia. They are active most of the year until the water drops in the winter.  Crayfish adapt their bodies to their surrounding environments and blend in with the waters around them. They peruse along the floor of the creek or lake bed and will bury themselves under rocks. Crayfish are scavengers and will hunt for fish, eggs, and aquatic vegetation to feed on.

Green Salamander

Photo Courtesy of Marshall University

The Green Salamander is speedy and often slimy, and not to be mistaken for a lizard. While they can be spotted on land and water, they must have a water source nearby to keep their skin moist. Salamanders also have their offspring which hatch from eggs and remain in the water. Crevices in rocks and bark from fallen trees are where salamanders can be found when not re-moisturizing.

The Trout Capital of Georgia is ‘Wading’



Grab your fishing gear, license, and get ready to go! Fishing in North Georgia is one of the most peaceful, but also exhilarating past-times! Some of the state’s best freshwater spots are conveniently located in and around Blue Ridge. Whether you’re searching for trout, bass, walleye, or all the above, you can find it all by boat or wading in the beautiful chilly waters.

For beginner and advanced anglers, the fishing spots found in North Georgia rank in with top sights and top catches. With waterfront property rentals, Escape to Blue Ridge will ensure that your lodging experience is first-class after a long day of fishing. The summer season in North Georgia brings an assortment of adventure and a wonderful chance to test your fish-catching skills!

There’s a reason why Blue Ridge is named the Trout Capital of Georgia, and you’ll have to come fish around to agree. We picked a few of the best fish-biting spots in North Georgia, and with peak season upon us, you won’t leave empty-handed!

The Toccoa River

Photo Courtesy of KC Outfitters

The trout found in the Toccoa River include rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout. The variety of the species found in these waters weigh in heavier than average and seem to continue growing with each passing year. The consistent cold rushing water in this river makes it a prime spot for year-round fishing. The two main sections of the Toccoa River, the Upper and Lower areas, offer almost 20 excellent miles of available fishing spots. Access points for entry include the Blue Ridge Dam, Horseshoe Bend Park, and Tammen Park.

Shallowford Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Explore Georgia

This spot is located on the Toccoa River and provides fishing spots under the bridge or along the side of the river. The bridge is located on Aska Road and is a part of the Benton Mackaye Trail. This section is a Delayed Harvest Area, so you are almost guaranteed a catch if you are with fly fishermen. There are strict ‘catch and release’ policies during certain times of the year, nonetheless, this location is a great spot to strengthen your skills.

Lake Blue Ridge

Photo Courtesy of 365 Atlanta Traveler

The crystal-clear waters and mountain peak views make Lake Blue Ridge one of the most premier spots for a full day of fishing. The waters are packed with a variety of species, with the bluegill being the most plentiful in this area. This lake is known for its walleye, catfish, white bass, smallmouth bass, and bluegill. There are several points to enter these waters, and a boat is necessary if you’re wanting to explore all that Lake Blue Ridge has to offer. Lake Blue Ridge Marina, Morganton Point Recreation Area, Lake Blue Ridge Day Use Area, and Lakewood Landing are top access sites. Lake Blue Ridge’s consistency and abundance of fish make this spot a must-visit!

Ellijay River

Photo Courtesy of Reel Em In Guide Service

This stream in the heart of Ellijay stretches for over 15 miles. Its ample width and length are full of brook trout, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass. These waters are private and some of the most pristine in North Georgia. All you need is your tackle and a little bit of patience and you are good to go!

Cartecay River

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Tea South

One of the best-kept secrets in North Georgia for bream and bass fishing is the Cartecay River. This waterway only 0.2 miles away from Ellijay is stocked with trout once a month. Popular species caught at this stream also include rainbow trout and flathead catfish. The sounds of the flowing waters and rolling hills in view make up a picture-perfect scenery for a fishing adventure. Enter the 34.691475 latitude, and -84.483536 longitude coordinates into your GPS or smartphone to find the Cartecay River.

Rock Creek

Photo Courtesy of Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery

This fish hatchery spot found in the Chattahoochee National Forest reels in a large population of wild trout. This creek has nearby streams that flow into these waters, providing several spots to cast a line. Rock Creek is nestled in between Dahlonega and Morganton, only 45 minutes from Blue Ridge. It’s found off Forest Service Rd. 69 on State Rte. 60, making it an easy entry for fishermen. This is a prime spot for rainbow trout, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch native brookies in the higher elevations!

Jacks and Conasauga Rivers

Photo Courtesy of Coastal Angler Magazine

These two rivers run parallel to each other, providing about 45 miles of ample fishing opportunities. The Conasauga River is open year-round and Jacks River is open from March to October. The overhanging branches keep these waters cool and have a population of Appalachian brook trout. The rugged terrain and 60-foot waterfall on Jacks River are added bonuses to the fishing experience!

Adventure Awaits in Aska



Nestled only a few miles outside of downtown Blue Ridge, the Aska Adventure Area is packed with plenty of activities for visitors. Whether you are hoping to explore the serene North Georgia Mountains or grab a bite to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant, you’ll have a blast in the Aska region of Blue Ridge. The Toccoa River, Appalachian Trail, and the Benton Mackaye Trail all intersect through the Aska Trail System. When you are ready to make your Escape to Blue Ridge, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, load up the bicycle and get ready to have some great outdoor fun!

Eat Off Aska

Photo Courtesy of Toccoa Riverside Restaurant

If you’re looking for a tasty meal without breaking the bank, Van Zandt’s Riverwalk Grill & Grocery is a country diner serving breakfast and lunch. Their shelves are stocked with basic groceries and a gift shop with goods crafted by local artisans.

The Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is a true ‘taste-and-see’ spot, as this eatery sits alongside rushing river waters. Here you can feast upon fresh local trout prepared several different ways or choose from the finest and freshest steaks, seafood, ribs, and signature pasta dishes. Pets are welcome and Fido can even enjoy some canine cuisine from the Pooch Porch Goodies menu!

Play

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Williams

Channel your inner child and get ready for a day full of fun and adventure at the Lilly Pad Village. Explore the two acres of picturesque land and choose to go gem mining, fishing, and mini-golfing! You are sure to get lots of smiles out of your little ones, and who knows, you might end up having more fun playing along with them!

Roll up your sleeves and get ready for an entertaining and educational gem mining experience. Once you’ve discovered some shiny treasure, head over to the fishing pond for some peaceful relaxation. The fishing hole, sitting on one-third of an acre, is stocked with catfish, bream, and bass. Fishing tickets and rental equipment are offered on-site. End your trip at Lilly Pad Village with a competitive game of mountainside mini-golf. The nine-hole mini-golf course takes players through tall trees with sounds from a variety of birds and frogs at the lily pond. The best part about Lilly Pad Village is that your activity ticket lasts all day so you can stay as long as you would like!

Additional Gem Mining experiences can be found at Aska Mining Company & Cohutta Cove Mini Golf and Gem Mining.

Explore Trails

Map Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Ranger District Office of the US Forest Service

Because of its mountainous terrain, hiking is one of the main reasons that travelers add Aska to their must-visit list. The Aska Trails Area consists of a 17-mile trail system where hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels can explore. This trail system highlights the landscapes of North Georgia by revealing mountain peaks, shorelines of Lake Blue Ridge, and a series of hardwood trees among thickets of Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons.

A few of our favorite hiking and mountain biking trails include:

  1. Long Branch Loop (2.3 miles round trip)
  2. Green Mountain Trail (2.8 miles round trip)
  3. Flat Creek Loop (6 miles round trip)
  4. Stanley Gap Trail (9.5 miles round trip)

A River Runs Through It

Photo Courtesy of Dell Neighbors

The Toccoa River flows parallel to Aska Road and is at the heart of outdoor activities in this idyllic mountain region. The 93-mile-long river journeys through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Ocoee River Basin and is one of the South’s few north-flowing rivers. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful Toccoa by their choice of tubing, kayaking, rafting, or fishing.

Photo Courtesy of the Toccoa Valley Campground

A tubing trip down the Toccoa River is a popular activity that allows visitors a simple way to capture the river’s beauty. Depending on the drop-off site, you can float on your river tube for an hour or close to four hours. The Toccoa Valley Campground, Shallowford Bridge Tubing, and Van Zandt’s each offer tube rentals, life vests, and a shuttle trip.

Rafting and kayaking allow you to embark along the Toccoa River at your own pace. If you’re looking for a route alone or with a guide, both options are available in Aska. Pack a lunch and enjoy cruising along the mountain waters. Kayaks and rafts can be rented at the Jon Ron Toccoa Outfitters.

Photo Courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company

Fishing in the surrounding Aska areas provides peace and relaxation for all outdoor enthusiasts. Sandy Bottoms is an excellent spot to splash in the swimming hole or catch fish on a hot summer day. Another great fishing location is at the Shallowford Bridge. Underneath the steel one-lane bridge, fishermen (and women) can set up their line and patiently wait for a bite. Private guided trout fishing tours are also available through companies like Cohutta Fishing Company.

The breathtaking scenery and endless adventures are waiting to be explored off Aska. This adventure area is rich in history and wildlife, and it will be a trip that you won’t forget. Hop in the car and Escape to Blue Ridge to explore the Aska Adventure Area!

Provisions for Your Great Escape!



I’m not sure if I was in my right mind when I let my two cousins convince me to spend a week with them in the cabin they rented in Blue Ridge last September. It started as friendly banter between us at the annual 4th of July family reunion. My Aunt asked me about my love life, and my cousins snickered. They accused me of being a workaholic. I assured them that was not the case. They asked me how much vacation time I had accrued at my job. I admitted to three weeks (It was actually 5). They challenged me to join them on their annual fall fishing trip, promised me the master bedroom, and said that if I’d agree to cook the fish they caught, they’d foot the bill for everything, all week. That included my choice of wines.

I contemplated.
I made them pinky swear to the wines of my choice.
My Aunt chided me when she kissed me goodbye that evening. “I look forward to hearing all about you great escape adventure”.

Happy friends travelling together by a car

Ten weeks later I was in the back seat of a jeep sans shock absorbers, my suitcase stuffed with ten books I had been collecting to read on the vacations I had never found time to take and my cast iron frying pan (because frying fresh trout in anything else would be a crime).

That evening when we arrived at Eagles Landing, all my trepidations about the “deliverance” experience were evaporated. This cabin was gorgeous. And true to their word, they dropped my bags in the upstairs master suite. I decided to explore the kitchen to see what might already be there to help me execute my “duties” in the next six days. I was impressed with the tools of the trade and took out my tablet to start to create my menu.

My cousins, Jake and Jeff are twins. My Aunt and her sister (my Mom) were pregnant at the same time. I was born a mere 34 hours after they were. At family reunions, we were referred to as the triplets. Growing up we lived just two blocks away from each other until we all left for college. Our families took summer trips together for as long as I can remember. Vacationing with these guys wasn’t going to be a new journey. In many ways, I was hoping it would be a rekindling of such joyful past adventures. While deciding on the culinary options, I knew what they’d eat, what they’d abhor, and what would make them gastronomically delirious.

The next morning I woke up to find the car keys on the counter and a credit card. The note from my cousins said their guide picked them up and I should feel free to take the jeep into town and shop for whatever was needed to keep us all well fed and hydrated.

I had done my internet research on possible provisions before our arrival. My first stop that morning: Out of the Blue. This is one of the finest gourmet shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping, and now, on my cousin’s tab, I was going to indulge for all three of us.

Photo Courtesy of Out of the Blue

Sara, Out of the Blue’s founder, who travels all over the world to select wines from small producers, asked me my vin likes and dislikes. We also discussed my menu ideas for the next week. I settled on wines from three countries, craft beer for the boys from the region as well as from Europe, and a selection of cheeses that she packed on ice for me so I could continue on my shopping adventure. I left feeling accomplished and I also bid farewell with a promise to revisit before heading back to the city.

My next stops were Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. and Tupelo Tea, two sister stores that abut one another. My morning rituals are always accompanied by at least one cup of freshly brewed tea so the first door I chose was Tupelo Tea. It was amazing; a “candy store” for tea drinkers. I browsed and sniffed and tasted. After having indulged in a cup of MOCHA NUT MATE, I left with pouches of PU-ERH HAZELBERRY and CHINA MILKY OOLONG, as well as a pump jar of honey. 

Photo Courtesy of Tupelo Tea

Next door, I found the Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. to be more than irresistible. I wanted to taste-test every one of their 65+ olive oils and balsamic vinegar from around the world, but alas, the day was short and my palette overwhelmed. I had two salads and two appetizers on my menu that needed the right dressings. Two bottles of olive oil and two of balsamic seemed a bit excessive, but it was my cousins’ nickel. I added a small bottle of blood orange olive oil to the purchase and made a note that I was going to have to make a dessert with this that both of the guys would adore (recipe below).

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company

While downtown, I found my way over to Huck’s General Store. I nearly didn’t find my way back out of there. This is the kind of place that our parents would find on past summer trips, knowing that we kids would be occupied for at least an hour deciding on how we were going to spend the five dollars they gave each of us. Then we’d negotiate with each other for the rest of the trip, swapping pieces of candy and taking turns wearing the raccoon hat.  Even though the barrels of candy were overwhelmingly nostalgic, my adult tastes led me to the outstanding selection of rubs, sauces, jellies, pickles, and other canned delicacies. I took a long time deliberating before making my choices: pickled okra, habanero pickled garlic, and Huck’s sweet potato pecan butter. (recipes below).

Photo Courtesy of Huck’s General Store

Man (or in this case “men”) can not live on just fish alone, so it was off to find some scrumptious protein. I knew that easy grill meats were in order this week. These guys were going to want to just kick back with a beer (or 3) after trolling the fishline all day. I needed to keep it simple but succulent. I wanted a variety of sausages so my research took me to Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Not only did I find a great selection of European weiners and sausages, but she also carried locally raised beef, pork. chicken and free-range eggs.

Photo Courtesy of Margo’s Bistro & Deli Polish Restaurant

Now it was time to take a lovely drive out to Mercier’s Orchard. Mercier’s started over 40 years ago as an apple orchard, but the second and third generations of the Mercier family have developed an amazing farm to table experience that draws visitors twelve months of the year, seven days a week, and from all over the world. I decided that I would have lunch in their café, and stuffed myself with a delicious salad and a fried peach pie. That gave me all the energy boost I needed to continue on my shopping throughout their huge market for the best of provisions.

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchard

Ladened with Mercier’s fresh produce, homemade cheese spreads, and a hefty selection of hard cider, I had just left myself enough time for my last stop of the day, Ingles Supermarket, Blue Ridge’s large grocery chain store. Trip Advisor reviews gave Ingle’s nearly 5 stars. It didn’t disappoint. I found all the rest of the staples on my list and made it home in time to sip a glass of fine wine while I read three chapters of my first vacation book before starting dinner.

The First Night’s Menu

Hordourves and Spirits

Snakebite Cocktail: Mix the following in a chilled mug: Six ounces of a dark German Guinness ale from Out of the Blue. A pinch of salt. A tablespoon of liquid from the jar of  Huck’s General Store pickled Okra. Stir.
Now pour six ounces of Mercier’s Sneaky Jack Hard Cider over the beer mixture. Serve with Huck’s Pickled Okra, (slit down the middle and scoop out the seeds)  stuffed with Mercier’s Pimento Cheese Spread. Shake a dash of Cayenne pepper over each filled okra.

Dinner

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: I cheated and bought Bob Evans family size at Ingles. You can’t tell the difference after I spiced them up with three minced cloves of habanero pickled garlic from Hucks and drizzled with Garlic Olive Oil from Blue Ridge Olive Oil.

Trout: What can one do to fresh trout besides adding a light dusting of flour, salt, and pepper then pan-fry in a hot cast-iron skillet and a large slab of Amish Butter? Well, I topped each filet with a tablespoon of Sweet Potato Pecan Butter from Huck’s General store. The guys devoured it all.

Vegetable: Steamed shredded red cabbage with a side of  Spice Apple Chutney from Mercier’s.

Dessert

Blood Orange Olive Oil Pound Cake

INGREDIENTS (Makes one 9 inch loaf)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of Blood Orange olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons brandy (or bourbon)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup of grenadine (maraschino cherry juice)
Frosting Ingredients:
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup of orange juice

PREPARATION
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk in the olive oil, milk, brandy, lemon zest, orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. The batter is wet. It’s okay.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. You will smell the cake when it is done. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool enough to handle, then flip over onto a rack to cool thoroughly.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup orange juice. Turn the cake right side up. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the cake. Allow the glaze to harden some before serving.

Not a cook? Call the Chef!

Local area professional chefs will come to your cabin, prepare an incredible meal suited to your tastes and dietary needs, and the best part is they clean up all the mess! We recommend you consider one of these amazing options (listed alphabetically because we love all 3!):

Blue Duck Eats

Photo Courtesy of Blue Duck Eats

Steven Lash is a veteran of the the restaurant world having worked in some of the top kitchens in Atlanta for over 15 years. Steven’s food is best described as “inspired American cuisine” combining fine dining with local influence inspired by his extensive travel, passion for the outdoors, and hunger for understanding cultures.

Chef Jeff Servin

Photo Courtesy of Chef Jeff Servin

With over 15 years of restaurant experience, this 33 year old Executive Chef takes pride in sourcing his produce from local farmers, and bringing the best quality to the table for every plate he delivers, so you know it’s fresh!

Trey Griffith, cheftreygourmet

Photo Courtesy of Trey Griffith, cheftreygourmet

Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey will create an imaginative menu for your family or friends, all in your kitchen. Giving consideration to food allergies or dietary restrictions is something he takes into account when writing the menus.

Top 5 Blue Ridge Adventure Cabins



Sometimes it’s challenging to motivate for outdoor fun when it is so chilly outside. However, being active outdoors is a great way to enjoy the mountains in a whole new way. Not only is it less crowded, but there are no bugs to contend with! To make the most of your outdoor adventure and not be cold and uncomfortable, layer your clothing so you don’t wimp out and head back for the cabin. Here are a few inspiring North Georgia cabin rentals to keep you active in and around Blue Ridge.

A River Runs Through It

The Aska Adventure Lodge is located in the much sought after Aska Adventure area. Did you know Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter retreat”? However, this cabin is perfect in every season. The Lodge has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and can easily accommodate ten people with king beds in the two master suits, a queen bed in the guest room, and two futons in the loft and game room.

This retreat is conveniently located less than five minutes from the quaint town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Nearby access to the Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge is easily accessible. Our friend, Dell Neighbors, at Fly Fishing North Georgia would be happy to take you on a guided fly-fishing trip to the area’s many cold-water streams and rivers. When you return from a great day of fishing, you can throw your freshly caught trout on the grill of your expansive deck and reflect on the successes of the day. Cap off your evening by lighting the outdoor fireplace and relax on the deck as the sun sets behind the expansive Blue Ridge Mountains.

A Gallop and a Trot

Vista Ridge is a distinctive Georgia mountain cabin rental that offers the peaceful get away from your everyday life that you are craving. Named for the spectacular view that overlooks the Toccoa River and stretches all the way to Tennessee and North Carolina, this four-bedroom, three bath home is your perfect base camp to explore the Blue Ridge area.  To get a better feel for the view, saddle up a horse with our friends at Blanche Manor and go on an adventure through the unspoiled beauty of the mountain wilderness.

After a long day on the trails, soothe your sore muscles in the hot tub and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Back inside, turn on the gas fireplace and snuggle into the leather couches. Before your weekend is over, challenge your partner to a game of pool in the game room and make the looser take you out to a fabulous dinner at Harvest on Main.

Fly Like an Eagle

Eagles Landing is as bold, majestic and unique lodge that is the epitome of rustic elegance. This spacious custom home has seven bedrooms to accommodate nineteen guests. Situated directly on Lake Blue Ridge, this spectacular showplace has incomparable views of the surrounding mountains. The hand-carved spiral staircase spans four floors, from the unique loft down to the terrace level where you will find the “grown-ups’ game room”. There are three decks spanning the length of the home, a hot tub, swings, and a picnic table to enjoy views and privacy that cannot be found anywhere else.

Close by you can channel your inner eagle and zip through 165 acres of beautiful North Georgia mountain property with our friends at Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge. Here, you’ll experience the mountains from the treetops, you’ll zip into the valley, soar over pastures, and cross over Fighting Town Creek. From 75’ in the air you can squeal with delight take off on 6,000 feet of cable, crossing thirteen platforms and three walking bridges.

A Walk in the Woods

It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time. Fortunately, the mountains are rich with hiking trails to explore and Take a Hike cabin is the perfect home base. Beautifully situated on Mt. Pisgah, this cabin overlooks absolutely fantastic mountain views. It also has three massive decks to enjoy them and from where you’ll be inspired to plan the many and nearby open-air activities that surround you. This home has great sleeping accommodations for up to 7 people and is a perfect set up for two families vacationing together or a good-sized group.

Explore the Cohutta Wilderness just off of your back porch where you can pick from delicious blueberry and blackberry bushes for snacking along your easy hike to a waterfall, cave or to Colonel Magnum’s memorial. A quick ten-minute drive will get you to major hiking trailheads including Dally Gap, Jacks River, Benton Mackaye and Hemptop.  Whichever route you choose, you will find peace and tranquility both in the woods and back at the cabin.

Fightingtown, but the good Kind

High up on the mountain crest, located in the clouds is a spectacular cabin called Almost Heaven. This real log exterior home has graceful windows, an affable front porch and happy hunter green roofing. Almost Heaven is snug in the treetops of an enchanting forest that makes for natural framework around layered panoramic mountain views. The interior of the home includes a smartly laid out, open first level with everything you’d need in cozy reach. In this home, you are steps away from a fully stocked kitchen, dining area and rock breakfast bar.

Here, most guests live on the decks overlooking amazing mountain views. On the main level, there is a stainless gas grill and a covered dining / lounging area. If that isn’t enough, the lower level offers a full array of recreation with a pool table, ping pong and air hockey. Additionally, the lower level has a large covered outdoor living and dining area with a wood burning fireplace and a 6 person hot tub with spectacular long range mountain views. Here, are also steps that lead down to a beautifully crafted outdoor fire pit area with built-in seating. This is a perfect spot to catch up with one another while roasting marshmallows and gazing out toward the spectacular North Georgia Mountains.

Fightingtown Creek Nature Park is now open and is just steps from Almost Heaven! Phase One of the 190-acre park includes 3.6 miles of biking/hiking trails. Coming soon will be an additional 7 +/- miles of trails in addition to a disc golf course, apiary, picnic areas, nature based interpretive signage, native plants and wildlife supportive items.