We had a really nice little vacation up in the north Georgia mountains! The trip up there took a bit longer then we had expected due to all the extra Thanksgiving traffic. We left home at 4:20 in the morning and got there right before 6 in the evening. A long day in the car!
We tried to do stuff outside as much as possible, and we enjoyed several nice hikes. I was surprised that nobody whined, even though we sometimes were out for hours hiking in the cold. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the beautiful nature and the thrill to experience something a bit different. Except for the dogs, all of us did however get nose bleeds. I guess it had something to do with being so high up, the air being thinner and colder.
Here is a summary of the trip with pictures:
Thank goodness for that portable DVD player, it was a loooong drive!
We drove by several cotton fields in Georgia, something we are not used to seeing in Florida
Finally we reach Atlanta, a city probably ten times the size of Tampa
The cabin, perched in a beautiful wooded mountain area. The road up there was very steep and it felt like we would drive off the edges and plummet down. I guess we are not used to anything but flat roads!
The little time we did spent in the actually cabin was often enjoyed by me in this way, in front of the fire, with two dogs curled up next to me and that wonderful view out the glass doors...
Sarah took the opportunity to roast some marshmallows.
We did brave the cold and enjoyed the hot tub. It was pretty nice sitting in that hot bubbling water, a glass of wine in hand and gazing out over the mountain vistas. It was not so fun, however, when it was time to get out of the tub and run inside in the cold! It was just a few degrees Celsius at this time...
Our first hike was on Springer Mountain. Its elevation is almost 4,000 feet (1152 meters). This is where the Appalachian Trail starts. You can actually hike by foot all the way from here to Maine! That is 2,175 feet, or 3 500 km! This entire area used to be Cherokee land. During the 1830s all the Cherokees were forcefully removed from this area along with other states and moved to the Indian Territory, which is present day Oklahoma. The trail which the Indians walked is commonly called the Trail of Tears. Around 4,000 Indians died during this relocation...
Part of the reason they wanted all the Indians out was the first US gold rush, which was in the Dahlonega, Ga area in the late 1820s. This was before the gold rush started out West. I will talk more about the Dahlonega gold rush below.
After a few hours of hiking up pretty steep terrain on Springer Mountain (and that was after 1.5 hours drive up the mountain on very skinny roads), we reach an area called Long Creek Falls. This is a pretty wide waterfall with about only a 50 feet (15 m) drop. Since it was Thanksgiving we had almost the entire mountain to ourselves, and it was a nice feeling just being out in nature in such an untouched area.
After our hike we explored some other parts of Springer Mountain, like this area above.
On the day after Thanksgiving we headed over to the Consolidated Gold Mine in Dahlonega, GA.
You can click on this link for more information about the first gold rush.
We took a tour of the mine, now a museum. It was a long way down into the deep, not for anyone with claustrophobia! It was very fascinating to learn about the harsh conditions these miners worked under in the mid and late 1800s.
We also saw a few Eastern Bats, which were all in hibernation in wait for spring.
After our tour we got to try and pan for gold, and we were actually lucky enough to find some, not much, but real gold!
On our way back to the cabin we stopped at several places just to enjoy the incredible views.
On Saturday we decided to visit the popular Amicalola Falls State Park. Amicalola is Cherokee and means "Tumbling Waters", a very fitting names for this waterfall with a 729 feet (222 m) drop!
Here the hiking was in many parts "tourist friendly", though there were some longer and more strenuous trials as well. At one point there is also 629 steps leading up to a better view of the falls. We sure got a lot of exercise during this trip!
Even the dogs liked the trail, though they skipped the part with the stairs...
The view from the top of the falls stretches far and long over the valley and surrounding mountains.
High on this mountain was a lodge with a really nice restaurant. We had such a breathtaking view from our table, a truly special lunch!
From the window at the restaurant we saw this groundhog basking in the sun. Cute!
After we left the state park we drove by a place called the Amicalola Deer Park. Here they help conserve animals of all sorts, and all the money they make goes to help mentally retarded children and youth. What a wonderful place, we had so much fun here!
On of the more tame deer came up to be fed some dried corn...
...but he prefered to actually eat peoples clothes! Perhaps he thought he was a goat?
There were all kinds of animals here, llamas, horses, goats, emus and others, all very tame.
After a sleigh ride (well, more like a hay ride), we actually got to visit Santa and his wife in their cottage. When asked what she wanted for Christmas, Sarah said: "A real tiger". Lets not hope Santa grants THAT wish!
They also had a Pyrenees dog (HUGE) that loved sniffing our dogs through the slightly opened windows (probably scared the crap out of poor Bob and Stan inside the car). Unfortunately huge dog meant huge slobber, and my car was a mess after he was done with it!
Then on SUnday we left the cabin at 7 in the morning and we got back at 6 PM last night. We are all very pleased with all that we saw and experiences; we had a great time!