By Geoff Smith
This is the time of year in Georgia when spurts of cool breezes blow through the humidity and heat, and tickle our spirits into a state reminiscent of an old college buddy popping in through the door to whisk you off to one more, wild weekend. Or at least into trying to be fancy with your writing of a business article.
Truth be told though, there are few places on the planet better than Georgia in the fall and spring. It’s a proven fact…probably. The weather is a big reason that so many people have moved down here – just ask someone from the great city of Chicago.
This time of year, those cool breezes move my attention to the mountains. Standing mountaintop, looking out miles and watching the wind blow up and down the red- and gold-covered hills and valleys, will lead you to a true moment where you say “there really is no other place I’d rather be.” And there are many great places to go in the North Georgia mountains. Blood Mountain is one of my favorite spots. It’s just north of Dahlonega and is an easy day trip. You could drive up GA400, enjoy the ride, park at the base of the mountain, hike to the top, enjoy the open views and be home in time for dinner. Or, better yet, eat on the square in downtown Dahlonega.
Georgia’s mountain towns have developed nicely over the years and there is a wide variety of places to go visit. There are relatively large cities such as Dahlonega and Clayton that are surrounded by great parks and nature, but also have large commercial districts and hotels. Then there are also small towns like Blue Ridge and Ellijay that have just enough.
Perhaps the most visited, or most known, is Helen. This city was originally founded as a logging town, but in the last 1960’s reinvented itself as a Bavarian alpine town lined with buildings modeled after many of the great south-German cities. It has become crowded over the years and is flooded throughout the day and night with sounds of loud motorcycles, but it has a thriving commercial district with shops and restaurants, is built along a much smaller and younger Chattahoochee River and is surrounded by awesome sites like Anna Ruby Falls, Unicoi State Park and Dukes Creek Falls.
Blue Ridge and Hiawassee are two of my favorite North Georgia towns. Both have nice-enough downtowns, good restaurants, and are surrounded by fat mountains. But what they also have are incredible lakes. Lake Blue Ridge and Chatuge Lake are surrounded by mountains, have clear water and whisper serenity.
That said though, if I’m talking about North Georgia lakes, I have no choice but to mention Lake Burton. As far as beauty and serenity goes, it has both Chatuge and Blue Ridge beat. Located just west of Clayton, it is also lined with some of the most expensive real estate in the state. Many famous people have houses there including Nick Saban and country music star Alan Jackson, and houses go easily for $2M to $5M. I spent part of a summer in college working at Camp High Harbour, which long ago secured a prime spot on the lake. The owner of Waffle House had just bought the small mountain next to the camp and was in the process of blasting off the top of it so he could have 10 flat acres. I bet it’s interesting walking around the grocery store on the weekends there these days.
In Georgia, there are countless day hikes, waterfalls, small lakes and small towns. Oh – and canyons. Right. Cloudland Canyon is one of our recent finds. It is awesome and is about a 20-minute drive from Chattanooga, TN. Last time we went we camped there and drove into the city for dinner. It was fantastic.
Bottom line is, it’s that time of year again. Do yourself a favor: just pick a spot and go.