Monday, October 20, 2014

Learning about history as we travel

As we have traveled, I have enjoyed reading and learning about the history of the places we visit. When in Gettysburg, as part of  learning more about the Civil War, I bought a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Every Southern ranger or volunteer I have spoken to about it has told me that they had read parts of it in elementary school, and more in high school history classes. I was aware of the book and its place in history as a propaganda tool used by the abolitionist movement, and the place it had in the "King and I", but I had never actually read it. 

Now I have. I thought it was well written and a good read.

When we got to the North Georgia mountains, I came across a copy of "Cold Mountain," a fictionalized account of a Confederate soldier who deserted and walked home through the Blue Ridge Mountain range. With the hiking we have done around here, I  identified with his travels and found the descriptions of the people he encountered very interesting. I didn't realize I had seen the movie until the very end of the book. I checked and see it is available from Amazon Prime, so we will probably watch it again soon. 

Now, I have just started "Thirteen Moons" written by the same author, Charles Frazier. It is the fictionalized story about a boy who was sent into the Cherokee Nation as an indentured servant to work in a trading post. It looks like it will be a good read. I know a few things about the Cherokee, and am looking forward to learning more.

With that in mind, our Friday drive took us to look at the James Vann House near Chatsworth, GA.

James Vann was the richest Cherokee at the time and built a large home on his plantation.  He was not a "good man," nor was he known to be a "nice man," but he was wealthy.

This was not a teepee in the forest.

Indians ate here. He also entertained many prominent men of his time.

This is a fork. I imagine table manners were not as prim as in later decades.

There were many wonderful quilts on display about the house. This one was up in the master bedroom. 

This was the story.

I was amazed at how well preserved this quilt was.  I don't think it was ever actually used since there was not a stain or a fray to be found. Having been made in the early 1800s it is 200 years old. 

There were also a number of Cherokee buildings that had been moved to the house property and restored. This was a typical cabin of a "poor" Cherokee family. A sign of this was the log chimney. They used this type of construction because they could not afford the mortar necessary for a stone structure. To keep it from catching fire, they lined the inside of the chimney with mud. 

It was a one room cabin with a very large loft. Typically they did not have windows so it must have been quite dark when the door was closed in winter. One of the interesting facts the ranger told us was that in summer they would knock out sections of the chinking between the logs for ventilation, and then fill them back up in fall.

Kudus to the State of Georgia for restoring these structures and making them available for travelers like us. 

Now that the rain has stopped, the air has been brisk and the breeze glorious. I am looking forward to a couple of nice hikes in the upcoming week. There are a few more waterfalls to be seen, and hopefully other things as well.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Autumn Week in North Georgia

We felt like real full time RVers this week, just being lazy and watching the season change. No plans to rake leaves, clean gutters, harvest firewood, or pay property taxes! 

There was quite a rainstorm here Tuesday. I guess Karen and Al know more about Georgia weather than we do, because they took off and went to a motel Monday night when the storms first started. We had looked at the local and regional radar and decided there probably wasn't any danger, but I did make a mental note that the brick-walled laundry room and bathroom were at the end of the street, about six lots away. I try to remember to find a safe place to go to (if necessary) when we first arrive at a new park.

We have been having overnight rains often this fall, but this one was quite hard and woke me with the drumming on the roof. I felt quite peaceful knowing we were not under any big trees like we had been all last winter on our own land.

The rain continued all day. Karen told me we got five inches and the rivers were running hard and full. 

Craig enjoyed the day alternately reading and napping on the couch.

I spent the day doing needlepoint and reading. I felt a bit like I was inside  protective bubble with the rain and wind all around. I checked all ceiling edges and was happy to report they were all leak-free. The window that we had repaired last spring was also nice and dry.

We had planned on waiting a couple of days before taking another foliage drive, but with the storm and wind we were afraid all of the leaves would blow off. Wednesday started as a partially sunny day, but by the time we took off it was mostly cloudy!

The mountain  views from the Brasstown Bald lookout tower were quite different from a few weeks ago when everything was green. This time the clouds were very dramatic, and I was pleased to catch this bit of color in a splash of sunshine between clouds. It was very cold up there as well! Forty degrees and windy, so I didn't stay up on the tower's deck for very long.

We retraced our path from Monday, but this time without the fog cover we were able to see far off into the distance from the turn-out locations.

There is a small town named Helen on the route we were driving. The central area of town has block after block of shops and restaurants decorated in a Bavarian style. I think I would rather see a small town do a theme like this than fill itself with waterslides and wax-museum-type attractions. If it fills the cash registers of the local businessmen, more power to them! 

Craig and I both like German food, so we stopped for lunch. We both enjoyed Reuben sandwiches. I make them for us at home from time to time, but they looked like the best things on the menu. 

There was still some very nice color along some of the drive, but in other places it was as we feared: pretty blown out.

Thursday was another lazy day, but on Friday we again went exploring. This post is getting too long, so I'll tell you about what we did in the next one.

[From Craig]  I love the combination of the blog title and our new top image.  If I had a dream that looked like that, I'd consider it a bad dream!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A foggy Autumn drive

Judy commented she likes her ribs naked.  Georgia would probably frown on a nudist restaurant.
Every day the trees have been showing a little more color. Unfortunately the weather has been quite rainy and we have not gotten out as much as we would like. It has rained every night.

Monday, we decided to take a drive along the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway even though it was a bit wet and foggy. I would say that the color was more than halfway to its peak. Sunshine would have been nice, but the fog gave a bit of a mysterious air to the forests.

We stopped and took a two mile walk to the Dukes Creek Falls.

It was wet, but it did not rain on us.

The fog was really neat. I heard a little boy who was walking with his parents say "it's like we're in a parallel universe." A perfect description of how it felt.

Many colors.

Dukes Creek Falls is the confluence of a smaller creek, which is coming down from on high via many branches (above), with a larger creek that makes a lot of right-angle turns (below). 

We hope one of the next few days will be dry and sunny. We would like to take the same drive again because there were many turnouts that overlooked mountain vistas that were totally fogged in today.  If the weather stays as it is, the leaves will soon fall and the show will be over.

Autumn color is one reason we are here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jim's Smokin' Que

[From Craig]  Barbecue fans from all over the country (at least those east of the Mississippi) should make a beeline for Jim's Smokin' Que south of Blairsville, GA.  It's about 2 or 3 miles south of Blairsville (94 miles NE of Atlanta) on US 19/129, locally a.k.a. Gainesville Hwy.

We've been looking at the place as we go past, for the last week or two.  Since they're only open Thursday through Saturday, it took us a while to get synchronized.  Now that we're retired full-timers, we have a tendency to forget what day it is.

I thought I'd never have as good a barbecue as we had at Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City.  Being retired full-timers :-) my memory makes it hard to make comparisons four months apart, but the food here at Jim's sure is great.  We got the big Ribs and More platter that you can see on the site, with pork back ribs, beef brisket, cole slaw and fries.  The idea was to have enough leftovers for breakfast tomorrow, but the stuff was so good that we may have supplement the leftovers!  

The ribs, french fries, and cole slaw were all world-class.  No one makes brisket as good as did my late friend John Nocher of Virginia Beach, Cape Canaveral, Milwaukee, and Fort Worth.  But if you put a good amount of Jim's excellent barbecue sauce on their brisket, it gets pretty good too!

We didn't bring our camera; the pictures wouldn't have been as good as the food anyway.  But I did catch a phone shot of their shirt.  A fold makes it hard to read their slogan "you can smell our butts for miles".

We even have 3 or 4 ribs left over.  I may dream about breakfast all night...

From Merikay:  I was thinking of making the leftovers for dinner, if I can hide them from Craig long enough.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We are still here ..

I know it has been a while since I wrote a post. In fact, Craig wrote the last one for me.  I just haven't felt that much of what we were doing was of much interest to anyone out there.

We are still here at River's Edge RV Park, in the North Georgia Mountains near Blairsville. We continue to take walks and have even done one hike that included a mile of the Appalachian Trail, but how many pictures of peaceful forest walks do I need to post?

We have had a few rather cold nights so the trees are really starting to turn. We will be here for a couple more weeks and hope to catch a bit of the color peak.

Day to day we have relaxed a lot, shopped a bit, and taken care of some odds and ends that needed our attention. We both got our teeth cleaned and have gotten our annual flu shots. Now isn't that exciting news!

I had thought that during this time I might write some thoughtful opinion post about our first six months on the road, but although many things have run thru my mind, nothing seems to be coming together.

All I can say is we are happy we are doing this. We are enjoying our travels, and are now enjoying staying in one place for a few weeks.  I think we needed this rest time, but I am starting to get a bit of "hitch itch" and am looking forward to our next round of new places and new experiences.  

We will be here until the last week of October, and there is still much to explore and enjoy.  This weekend we will be going to a local festival in Blairsville.  That should be fun.

Till the next time ...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola, Pensacola, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo 

[From Craig]  Monday night we were sitting with our hosts/neighbors Karen and Al talking about things to do in Georgia.  We said we might want to go see Amicalola Falls, which someone told us was the tallest waterfall in Georgia.  Karen warned us that it involved many stairs.  That sat in our minds overnight, and Merikay and I both woke up in an adventurous mood Tuesday and decided we wanted to go there.

It was almost 50 miles from our camp south of Blairsville, and we got to the Amicalola Falls state park in the middle of the morning.  The Georgia Parks year pass that we bought a week ago got us in for free, and we stopped at the Visitor Center.  The ranger lady told Merikay that the trail along the falls included 604 stair-steps.  Karen had prepared us for this, and we decided to go for it.

They told us about the stairs, but didn't mention the rather steep 0.3 mile path leading to them.  Merikay didn't like the slope at all, and I didn't care for it much either.

We were about to return to the VC and ask for our money back, but remembered that we hadn't paid any.  Just about this time we got to the first of the stairs.

The nice part was that all the stairs were identical and all were the standard height (7 inches).  So there was nothing to do but start climbing.  We stopped at each conveniently-spaced lookout platform and went on only when we were both good and ready.

About waterfall comparisons and claims: Amicalola literature says it's the "highest waterfall east of the Mississippi".  Sites like Wikipedia and Infoplease use "highest" and "tallest" interchangeably, so we don't have to consider small waterfalls near the top of Mount Everest.  The facts about Amicalola are "729 feet in seven cascades".  That would be just high enough to make the Infoplease list, but Amicalola doesn't appear.  Probably they only count height in a single cascade...

Anyway, the cascading waterfall is off to the left as you ascend this first stair complex.  (Don't forget you can click on images to see them larger.)

At the end of the first 175 steps is a crossover bridge to the other side of the stream.  This offers the best view of the falls anywhere along the trail.

On the crossover bridge, a young lady asked if I would take a picture of her and her friend using her phone.  Of course I said yes, and then she insisted on returning the favor.  So here we are in front of the falls.

After crossing to the left side of the falls/stream, we came upon this friendly little sign.  Of course we expected it, but still...

I knew Merikay was concerned about getting up this stair, and I tried to say nothing but positive things.  Again, there were frequent rest platforms.  

The view of the falls was not as good in this upper portion as it had been in the lower.

Finally, we made it up the last flight of stairs.  Merikay was so happy, and I was so proud of her.  604 x 7 inches = 4228 inches = 352 feet = 35 floors!

Pat on the head

This is the view looking down from the top of the falls.  It's harder to see than the views from below, but it's still a nice bunch of bouncing water!  Someone tossed a red flower on the left side.  If they wanted it to go down, they didn't succeed.

We wandered around at the top for a while.  People who don't want to climb 35 floors of stairs can drive up to the top and then walk down.  We met several such folks.

Then came the climb down.

In this direction we offered advice and encouragement to travelers in both directions.  Success was so good for our spirit!

We made it down to the bottom and fetched our lunch from the Jeep.  After lunch we revisited the Visitor Center.  Merikay almost bought this but realized that the shirt would long outlast her feeling of achievement.

I may sneak back to this VC before we leave North Georgia and buy her this owl.  Feels pretty appropriate for a retired wildlife artist...

From Merikay: I asked Craig to write the post for this hike because I was a bit tired. I feel I am getting back into shape however. About the shirt and owl, I love looking at the things in the park gift shops, but exercise restraint. Otherwise our coach would be full of stuffed toys.  "Take nothing except pictures", just like the forest. Also it helps the budget numbers.

Due to operator error, this post was published about an hour after the previous one.  So please read on below...

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Georgia

We seem to be falling into a nice rhythm of hiking every other day.

On Sunday we again went over to Vogel (the closest state park) and hiked the Bear Hair Gap Trail. 

Some hikes are too long, others are too short. This one was just right at about 4.7 miles. 

It was not the easiest hike, with a 480 foot rise in the first third, but the last part was all downhill.

Although there was no waterfall to be seen, we did have to cross a creek several times. This was one place where there was no bridge.

It seems it is acorn time. The path was littered with them, and we kept hearing plop, plop, plop as they fell to the forest floor. We don't know if these all fell into this rotted stump, or if a squirrel or perhaps even a human put them there, but because it was an extra wet place some of them were sprouting.

This stump along the path was surrounded and filled with rocks. Many were in totem stacks. I think they were left as tokens by the many hikers that came this way. Craig says he thinks the other trees had stoned this one because it had been adulterous.

Treasured or punished?

Monday was a no-hike day and it rained a little, so we went out to lunch with Karen and Al.

Life is so hard here in the Mountains of Georgia!