Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Autumn in Blue Ridge

Crunchy leaves underfoot, the smell of sweet earth.  Fires in the fireplace and sweaters in the evening.  Steaming hot tubs, brilliant foliage.  What's not to love about autumn??  We continue to enjoy the fabulous weather that is absolutely atypical for August in the mountains.  If you are feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued....let a weekend in the mountains rejuvenate you!  Here are upcoming Autumn activities!

See you on the Mountain!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Above the Rest Weather and Live Theatre

We have been more than a little stunned at the crazy autumn-like weather that we've been experiencing this last week.  In August!!!  We have windows open to fresh mountain breezes, sweatshirts on in the mornings and humidity?  What humidity?  We're not naive enough to think we're out of the woods as far as sticky, steamy summer goes, but this respite is something you'll not hear us complaining about one bit.

As you may know, we have an incredibly active theatre group in downtown Blue Ridge.  Their next production is The Fox on the Fairway.  You can find additional information at their website, including the schedule for the remainder of the year.

More coming soon.  We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fab-O Waterfalls Tour

I love a good waterfall.  There's something so relaxing about sitting beside one and just "being".  Then, of course, there's the whole photography aspect.  David, Jonathan and I recently set out on a day long journey to find 12 waterfalls.  We succeeded in locating 7 of them.  Here is the path we followed, and some alternatives should you wish to do only part of the tour.  Enjoy!

Take Hwy 515 East toward Blairsville.  At the traffic light at McDonald's, make a right.  Go to the stop sign facing the BiLo and make a left.  This takes you to the round about at the courthouse.  When you enter the roundabout, take the first right onto Hwy 19/129 East.

If you're interested and haven't seen Helton Creek Falls, watch for the sign for Vogel State Park on your right.  Just after the park, you will see a sign for Helton Creek Falls on the left.  Take this road and follow it until you see the parking area for the falls.  They are a short walk from the parking area.

Return to Hwy 19/129.  Continue East to Turner's Corner (you have to pay attention here - if you get to talking you will blow right by it.)  Make a right at Turner's Corner, and then the next right where the sign is for the Baptist Church.  Follow this road about 3 miles or so to Dick's Creek Falls.  It's a beautiful drive.  You'll see the falls from the road, but don't get all excited and stop here.  Drive a bit farther to the parking area on the right.  There is an easy path to the lower falls.  Don't miss the upper falls as well - they are gorgeous!

Return to Hwy 19/129, making a right to continue east to Cleveland.  Pick up 115 E (a/k/a Clarksville Highway) into Clarksville.  The driving time to this point is about an hour or so.   Now, in Clarksville, it gets kind of tricky.  You come into an adorable historic downtown area and a t-intersection.  We went right, on 441 south, eventually picking up 441 North toward to Tallulah Falls.  This was not part of the plan.  The plan, and the more efficient route, is to pick up 385 N/E out of Clarksville, which I think involves making a left and then a quick right at the t-intersection. Either way, your goal is to be on 441 N.

You'll come into Tallulah Falls and see a sign for "the only roadside viewing location" of Tallulah Gorge, to the right.  This is an adorable little store and the proprietors didn't blink when Maxie went running right in.  Apparently they like dogs.  They have a porch with one of those coin operated viewers and in the fall and winter, the view would be really spectacular.

Return to 441 and you'll now be following directions from Photographer JJAnthony's website.  The first set of falls to tour is Panther and Angel.  http://www.jjanthony.com/waterfalls/falls/pantherfalls.html

The hike to these two is a little bit steep, but not overwhelming.  The scenery along the way is fabulous.

Return to your vehicle after enjoying the falls, and continue along Lake Rabun Road, to Minnehaha Falls.  http://www.jjanthony.com/waterfalls/falls/minnehahafalls.html.  Please note that Mr. Anthony's directions are someone older, and the one lane road below the damn is now a very nice, 2 lane, concrete bridge.  The parking at Minnehaha is a little limited, so be careful.  If you don't have 4WD, don't pull down too far into the parking area or you might be spending a bit of time there... You will see stairs with To Minnehaha scratched into them.  This is an easy walk to a large waterfall that is great for playing and splashing.  Photographers, the light at noon is HORRID.  Very difficult to get good shots mid-day. Just sayin'.

Return to your vehicle, and continue on to Bad Branch Falls http://www.jjanthony.com/waterfalls/falls/badbranchfalls.html.  If you see nothing else today, this is the waterfall NOT TO MISS.  It is exotic, angular, and simply stunning.  Parking is wherever you can find it, however, there is a maintained recreation area just a smidge down the road, with restrooms, if, unlike me, you mind parking your vehicle semi-sideways up a mountain.  This is an easy walk, and you will have a hard time pulling yourself away.  Photography heaven.

So, now you have to really pay attention.  The next waterfall is actually a double, and is simply known as the Falls on Crow Creek.  http://www.jjanthony.com/waterfalls/falls/crowcreekfalls.html  Continue on Crow Creek Road (which you were on to observe Bad Branch Falls).  The mileage in the directions is just a teeny bit short.  You will see a SMALL stream with an accompanying path that has blocking mounds as described in the directions.  BUT, unless you see the waterfall, just like the one in the picture, you haven't gone far enough.  Go about another 0.10 miles to the actual site, which is easily identifiable by the large waterfall visible from the road.  Trust us, the first trail goes NO WHERE.  It is steep, not maintained, and there aren't any waterfalls. :)   When you are at the proper location, follow the small trail to the right up to the second waterfall.  There is a rather steep descent to the first falls should you wish to visit them at ground level.

Return to your vehicle and continue in the direction you were heading.  It is a well maintained gravel road and the scenery/lush forest is pretty.  Take Crow Creek to Burton Dam Road, make a right.  Follow this to the first left onto Bridge Creek Road.  Take this 2 miles to Charlie Mountain Road on the left.  Follow this to Hwy 76 and make a right and take it into Clayton.  If you want to eat at the Dillard House, you can make a left and take 441 just a short drive up to Dillard.

For waterfall tour continuation, make a left at the intersection of 76 and 441 (there is a Wendy's just across the intersection. Take the next road on the right, Warwoman Road.  The only stop we did on this road is Becky Branch Falls.  http://www.jjanthony.com/waterfalls/falls/beckybranch.html  Now, you can go into Warwoman Dell and park at the first parking lot on the left.  The trail would be on the other side of the road, heading back up toward Warwoman.  OR, you can look for the Bartram Trail side on Warwoman, and park at the little pull off across the street from it.  The falls are accessible from trails on either side of the branch that runs under the road.  We found the left side to be a little bit easier.  There is a footbridge where you may view the falls.  The overgrowth is pretty heavy right now so fall/winter would be best for viewing.

If you like, you may continue on Warwoman Road, picking up  Hwy 28N into Highlands, and return home via Hwy 64W.  There are numerous waterfalls along Hwy 64W (Bridal Veil, Dry Falls, and several others...) for your enjoyment.  As of this writing, the walkways at Dry Falls are under repair and the falls are not open to the public.  I would assume they are doing this now so as to have them reopened for peak leaf season, and this waterfall, which you may walk behind, is very special and not to be missed.

If you don't want to add another 1.5 hours to your trip, return to Clayton on Warwoman Road, and take Hwy 76 W (go back to the Wendy's intersection, make a right.  Hwy 76 will take you into Hiawassee, and then becomes Hwy 515/76 which will bring you back through Blairsville, then 16.2 miles to Loving Road and back to the mountain.  You will pass through Young Harris, and see signs for  Crane Creek Winery.  This diversion of only a few miles puts you at one of the most beautiful pieces of property, and the only winery in the area that produces 100% locally grown/processed wines.  Enjoy a wine tasting and some light snacks on their porch, and feel free to explore the property.  The proprietors could not be nicer!


Monday, June 25, 2012

A Day of Beauty - Easy Driving Tour with Photo Ops Galore

I am often asked to post directions, etc. for the many beautiful places I've been fortunate enough to find and photograph.  This tour is one of the easiest, with much of the scenery being visible right along the roads travelled - no hiking required!  Thus it is particularly good for anyone with mobility issues.

Leave My Mountain and return to the 4-lane (Hwy 515) toward Blue Ridge.  Turn right onto Hwy 60.  Travel on Highway 60 through McCaysville, continuing on toward Ducktown, TN.  The road changes from 60 to Hwy 68 once you cross into TN.   Stay on Hwy 68 -you'll cross a big 4-lane - this is Hwy 64/74 - DO NOT TURN.  Stay on Hwy 68 through the beautiful rural countryside for about 13 miles.  It will drop you right into Tellico Plains.  There are several fast food restaurants (Subway, Hardees), and a grocery store (Safeway) if you want to pick up picnic provisions.  Or you can do what we did - go to Shorty's!  When you come into Tellico Plains you will see the signs for the Cherohala Skyway.  This incredibly well maintained road was built to connect the towns of Tellico Plains, TN and Robinsonville, NC, and is named after the Cherokee and Nantahala Forests.  Google it for additional interesting information.

If you get on the Cherohala, you'll travel a very short distance and see Hwy 360 on your left.  About 1/4 of a mile down the road is a Shell Gas Station and market, known as "Shorty's".  The nice folks there will make you a delicious sandwich, and you can pick up soft drinks, chips, and other snacks for your day.

Return to the Cherohala, and make a left off of Hwy 360 to get back on.  You will pass some additional restaurants, and see the beautiful Tellico River on your left.  Continuing for 1-2 miles or so, watch for a road that goes off to the right, with a sign indicating "Bald River Falls".  Take this road.  It meanders along the Bald River - one of THE most beautiful, photogenic and simply delightful places I've ever been.  There are numerous pull offs where you may stop to snap photos, or play in the river.  Please be mindful that all 4 wheels must be off the narrow road at the pull offs for safety reasons, and the USFS folks are around to check!  This is a frequently used road, and in autumn can be well populated.  Drive slowly and graciously to avoid an unpleasant addition to your otherwise serene trip.  There's no hurry!  Relax and enjoy!

Staying on this road, you will come to a concrete bridge and as you cross it, the Bald River Falls are immediately on your right.  They are stunning, and it is easy to get distracted by their beauty and not pay attention to the road.  As the bridge is always populated with pedestrians, children, dogs enjoying the view, please continue to the parking area on the other side of the bridge, safely park and then walk the short distance back to enjoy the view.  There is a hiking path from the parking area that takes you to the top of the falls on the left.  On the non-parking side of the bridge, there is easy access to the river and the base of the falls, and you may also climb dry rocks to the top of the falls from this side, at your own risk, of course. :)

When you've had your fill of this beautiful waterfall, return to your vehicle and continue driving in the direction you were heading (i.e., do not turn around and go back, unless you're not interested in the rest of the tour.)

A short distance up the road you will find another waterfall, and just beyond it is a parking area with rest rooms.  Locals enjoy sliding down through the lovely, wide falls into the cool pool below.  Whether you decide to join them or not, it is a beautiful photo op.

Make a left out of the parking area to continue in the direction you were heading.  You will drive along the Bald River, and may spot turkey, deer, and if you're lucky, a black bear.  You will come to a road leading off the left (gravel) that indicates you will be heading toward Stratton Meadows.  Take this road.  It is typically in EXCELLENT condition and there is no difficulty whatsoever for any normal passenger vehicle.  1.1 miles along this road is what we call "faucet falls" - a beautiful spout of water that comes through a wall of rock.  This is a fantastic photo op area, and the creek is fun to wade in.  Be mindful of slippery rocks, especially where the water lands at the base of the rock wall.  With many cascading mini-falls above the rock wall, you can literally spend hours playing, taking pictures, enjoying a picnic and just soaking up the peace and quiet.

Return to your car when finished, and continue along the road to Stratton Meadows.  This will be a drive of several miles - continuing along the Bald River and then climbing in altitude steadily.  You are not lost - there's no way to get lost because there are no other roads.  Just keep driving and enjoying the scenery.

When you arrive at Stratton Meadows, you will actually drive under a concrete bridge that is part of the Cherohala (it's waaay above you so look up!).  You will come to a T-intersection - go RIGHT.  This will wrap around and put you directly onto the Cherohala.  You are in North Carolina.  If you take a left, you will enjoy some of the most scenic vistas imaginable.  Turning right will take you back to Tennessee.  I suggest taking the left and enjoying the drive!  There are numerous pull offs for photography.

Near the NC end of the Cherohala is the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  The entrance is on the left.  Take it.  Continue down past the first road to the left which is a campground - not particularly scenic or interesting.  The second left takes you to a lovely area with hiking trails and picnic tables.  Running along the left side of the parking area is a deliciously cool stream with boulders covered in lichen that seem to glow in the dappled sunlight.  This is another fantastic photo op location.  Be mindful that wet, lichen-covered rocks are slippery. :)

Return to the Cherohala.  At this point I usually turn right and head back to Tennessee.  If you continue to the left, you can drive on to Deal's Gap and the Tail of the Dragon - a road legendary for 300+ turns in 11 short miles.  It is not for those who suffer from motion sickness.

Turning right on the Cherhala, enjoy the drive and the scenery until you see the signs (in Tennessee) for Indian Boundary Lake.  This is a large and stunning lake that offers a boat ramp, beach, walking trails...it is another great picnic location, or just a place to let the kids run off some steam and enjoy a dip in the water.

Return to the Cherohala, following it back into Tellico Plains.  Get on Hwy 68 South for your return trip to Georgia.  Enjoy!

Map:  http://maps.randmcnally.com/?s=screen&loc1=McCaysville%2C%20GA&loc2=Tellico%20Plains%2C%20TN#s=screen&lat=39.11339950561523&lon=-94.62660217285156&zoom=10&loc1=McCaysville%2C%20GA&loc2=Tellico%20Plains%2C%20TN&loc3=&loc4=&loc5=&loc6=&loc7=&loc8=&loc9=&loc10=

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Walk in the Woods...Round I

I cannot believe it has been a year since I've updated the blog...apologies. Here is a nice autumn drive/hike/walk series that coordinates with the Albums A Walk in the Woods I and II on our FB page.

Take 19/129 South out of Blairsville. Left onto Hwy 180 (also known as "the road that takes you to Brasstown Bald, Georgia's Highest Point). Stay on Hwy 180 until you get to Hwy 17/75. Hang a right. NOTICE on your left the entrance to High Shoals, but recommend leaving this for the end of the trip, because you'll be very tired afterwards.

Continue on 17/75 for approx. a mile or so. You'll see Unicoi Gap - and the AT crosses the road here. On the RIGHT is Forest Service Road 41 (gravel and NOT marked as such, but there are signs to a camping area - so you know you're on the right road). Continue 5 miles on this well maintained gravel road until you get to the day use parking lot. There is a parking fee ($3).

The signs to the falls are clear. Water volume was low when I was there (Sept. 18, 2011) owing to lack of rain in August. Photographers, light is best in the a.m.

You'll find an easy walk of 0.30 miles to a viewing platform. Before the falls you will cross a bridge over a creek that is the headwaters of the Chatthoochie River. This is a child and family friendly trail and strollers would be easily managed.

When you return to Hwy 17/75 (come back the way you went in, or you're going to be on a looooooooooong gravel drive into Helen, GA.), hang a LEFT and go back to where the turn off for High Shoals is. If you hit 180 again, you went too far. It is easy to miss.

Turning at the sign for High Shoals, you'll ford a creek (I would not recommend this road for sports cars...anyone else will be fine), and travel a total of 1.5 miles to High Shoals Trail #19. Park. The trail goes steeply downhill for about a mile. Remember you will have to walk back up this. Take plenty of water.

This is NOT particularly young-child or walking impairment/mobility challenged friendly as the trail is narrow and entirely covered by roots in some areas (i.e., you're walking on uneven tree roots.)

The trail will level out nicely for a bit and you'll stroll through some lovely camping areas. There are several wooden bridges, and then the trail resumes an up and down topography. You will see a side trail to the upper falls (there are steps that kind of bend around to the left) and the walk to the viewing platform is extremely easy.

Return to the main trail and continue to where the steps bend around again to go to the lower falls.

Photographers - morning light would provide direct lighting, afternoon the sun is behind you. I shot at ISO 100 with 0.9 NDF and f/16 to get sufficient blur/exposure times that I wanted at about 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon at the lower falls. Upper falls are shadier.

When you return to the trail, you'll see that it continues on to the left but is not as well "worn". THIS DOES NOT GO ANYWHERE WORTH GOING. It will add 0.75 miles to your hike, it's all downhill on the way and it's a major schlep back up. Do not recommend. Just hang the right at the top of the stairs and start that long hike upwards.

Total trip length purported to be 2.4 miles but it felt significantly longer to the lower falls. Just sayin'. This is a 'bring water and some trail mix' hike.

Return the way you came, hang a right out onto 17/75 and Hwy 180 is less than 1/4 miles on your left. Left onto Hwy 180 to return home via Blairsville.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fall Color Driving Tour #1

I went out on an expedition into North Carolina today to map out a potential “nice fall foliage tour”. Here’s the route I took, which is not recommended for sports cars, but any normal sedan will do fine. Four wheel drive is not required.

Off the mountain via Katydid. Left onto Lowery, right onto Cutcane, left onto Dean Road, right onto Spur 60.

Take Spur 60 to Hwy 19/129 North/East, through Murphy, and on into Andrews, NC. I continued all the way to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, only because I’ve never been there. It’s a gorgeous drive if you want to head that far, with plenty of photo ops. If not, (or if you do, back track and then) head east onto Wayah Road (if you do this directly, you’ll be making a right, if you’re back tracking from the NOC, it’ll be a left.) Wayah Road runs along the Nantahala Creek (more great photo ops) and up to Lake Nantahala. Once a few more leaves are down, there will be some stunning panoramas. Just past the lake be on the watch for Forest Service road 437 on the right – brown marker. This road is in excellent condition – 1 small tree was down, but I think even a sedan could “take it” – it was only 4-5” in diameter. Otherwise, extremely well maintained and extraordinarily scenic. At the 7 mile mark (check your odometer when turning onto FS 437) there is a house that looks like it’s going to drop down onto the road, and just before that is a nice, fairly high, waterfall on your left. At 10 miles is a lovely photo op of the creek. At 12 miles you’ve reached the end of FS 437 and will make a right onto Hwy 64 West. This is a fairly heavily traveled road, but the trees and mountains are very pretty. As you start the 9% down grade (you’ll see the sign warning the truckers), there is a scenic view pull off to the right. If you’re not traveling 90 miles an hour you’ll have plenty of time to make the turn off. I, however, missed it….

Continue on Hwy 64 West through Hayesville, and keep an eye out for Old Hwy 64 WEST on your left…it’s probably 20 miles at least from where you exit FS 437. Take Old Hwy 64 West as it winds through some beautiful farm country, and then when you see signs for the John C Campbell Folk School, take ‘em. You’ll be turning LEFT onto Brasstown Road. Stop in at the Folk School if you wish – they have a fall festival the weekend of the 3rd. There are some lovely photo ops here with old barns, buildings, etc.

Continue on Brasstown until it dead ends at Martin Creek Road. Hang a LEFT. Martin Creek Road is also very scenic with some gorgeous horse farms. It will dead end at 19/129, just on “our side” of Belleview Home Furnishings, one of my favorite stores ever! So, if it’s open and you want to check out some great stuff and great prices, make a right and it is just down the hill. Otherwise, hang a left and you’ll soon cross back into Georgia.

Couple of options here:

Option 1: Continue on 19/129 into Blairsville. On the way you’ll pass Rountree’s on your right – my other favorite shopping haunt that offers AMAZING home d├ęcor items at prices that almost make you feel guilty. Stop in and say hey to Laurel and her amazing dog, Dancer, who smiles when she gets excited. When you’ve loaded up the car with deals, make a right out of the parking lot and continue into Blairsville. Hang a right onto Hwy 515, and go 16.2 miles to Loving Road on the right and come back home.

Option 2: At the traffic light where Granny’s Cottage sits on your right (this would be before Rountree’s), make a right onto Hwy 325. Take Hwy 325 over the dam at Lake Notelly (more photo ops) and continue to Loving Road on the right (just across from the little white church – drive slow, take your time, keep your eyes peeled. If you miss it, no big deal, 325 will take you to Hwy 515 and you can hang a right and come in via Loving Road from the 4-lane). If you don’t miss the turn, enjoy the drive along Loving Road to Old Loving Road and come on back to your cabin for a delicious dinner.

Or, just buy a map and a compass and make up your own itinerary! “Give me a map and a compass, and I will rule the roads!”

Copyright 2010 Above the Rest Luxury Cabins.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You Just Can't Make Up This Kind of Stuff...

So, I’m feeling much better. We had three (3) goals for today, in this order:

1. Set up cabins for arrivals. David was on it while I took care of some other business.
2. Go check on the mares. Kachina has started locking herself in one of the paddocks…she goes in to eat the clover, manages to push the gate shut, and voila! Trapped horse.
3. Tile the second bathroom in the house that we recently tiled the first bathroom in.

Things did not go quite as panned. David & Hanker went to Dream Catcher to set it up. I get a call. “Please come pick me up at Dream Catcher”, he says.

“Why, what’s wrong with the truck?”

“Um, it is currently wrapped around a tree.”

“Okey doke – be right there.” (I felt bad later than I didn’t ask if he was okay, but thought, hey, he’s talking, this is a good sign.)

I grab the tow straps and Max and off we go. David’s sitting at the picnic table – clearly shaken.

“Where’s the truck?”

“Look down the hill.”

(Okay, Dream Catcher’s driveway is TOTALLY FLAT, so I’m thinking okkkaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy, what hill…)

“What hill?”

“Over there” (David points down the road that continues past the driveway.)

Yep, sure enough, there’s the truck. It doesn’t look good.

“How the hell did you manage that???” (Please note – I am laughing because this is too bizarre.)

“I didn’t. I wasn’t in it.”

Now I need a full scale explanation. So here is what happened.

David goes into Dream Catcher. He is in there for 5 minutes when he hears a loud crash. He comes out, the truck is gone. He’s thinking – damn it! Someone stole my truck! Now he’s more worried because Hanker was in the truck; Hanker, his boy, his buddy, his yellow lab mix who rolls in poop and tries to become brown. Please also note that yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the day Charlie, his best dog ever, was intentionally run down on My Mountain Road, so “Hanker Day” right next to “Charlie Day” – this would be bad.

Well, to make a long story short, David left Hanker in the truck, with the A/C on, as he has done a million times before. Hanker lays down on the seat and waits. Now we don’t know if a deer, a bear, or what passed in front of him, but apparently Hanker got excited. Or maybe he just thought “Hey, here’s my chance! I’s always wanted to drives, but they’s never lets me.” (Insert Hanker’s voice).

Hanker knocked the truck out of park and into drive. The truck moved forward, gaining enough momentum to cross over a small ring of rocks (we don’t know if Hanker was actually accelerating at this point or not…) and then wham! Made a perfect path between two rows of trees and doggone nearly made it out onto the gravel road. Except for that one, solitary, EXTREMELY LARGE oak tree, which the truck collided with, with sufficient force that (a) it got shifted back into park, AND (b) the emergency brake was on (it’s on the floor – so we're thinking Hanker hit the floor after hitting the gear shift) BUT, to Ford’s credit, was still running when David got to it. Hanker was shaken up but fine.

Oh, if you could have seen the guilty look on this dog’s face. It was pitiful. The truck? Yeah, it may be totaled. The tow driver said he’s seen things totaled for less damage and it is a 2004, but it only has 50K on it.

Now, all evidence to the contrary, we’re pretty fond of that truck…so we’ll see what the adjuster says tomorrow.

Needless to say, tiling got a later start than anticipated. David hooked up the wet saw, and the pump wasn’t working. I told him to take my Pathfinder and go check the mares. In the meanwhile, I took the pump apart and fixed it. By the time he got back, I had 2/3 of the floor laid out and edge pieces cut. It was still a long day – 5 hours. Floor looks great.

Man, we sure do hate when our dogs try to drive…but this will always go down in history as the day Hanker totaled Daddy’s truck. It just never ends…