Is This Graveyard and Church Haunted? The Tale of Tilley Bend

Written By: Shane Hampton

The tale of the American Witch has enchanted storytellers since the mid-1600’s. Alse (Alice) Young was the first recorded colonist to be hung for witchcraft in what is now Hartford, Connecticut in 1647. The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts, a special court convened in Salem to hear the cases; the first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged that June. Eighteen others followed Bishop to Salem’s Gallows Hill, while some 150 more men, women and children were accused over the next several months.

Here is Where Our Story Begins:

EJBMore than two hundred years later and one thousand miles to the south, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia; the legend of the American Witch continues with the story of Elizabeth Jane Tilley Bradley. As the story goes, Elizabeth was of Creek Indian descent and served the Tilley Bend Community as a healer in the late 1800s. Elizabeth and her husband, Jason Bradley, had eight children; six daughters and two sons. During the early 1900s, the Tilley clan became embroiled in a bitter feud with their closest neighbors, the Stanley’s. Elizabeth’s family was caught in the middle as one daughter was married to a Stanley and the other to a Tilley. The feud escalated and one Sunday morning, while the Tilley Bend Community was attending church services, the Stanley’s came. Stanley men shot into the church and killed several of the Tilley’s, including Elizabeth’s eldest daughter. In retribution, the Tilley’s gathered up a posse and raided the Stanley Settlement while they slept.

stanley and tilley
The settlements were only a few miles apart.

During this raid, Elizabeth pregnant daughter, who was married to a Stanley watched as her husband was slain. She and the baby died in childbirth. Heartbroken and enraged, Elizabeth cursed both settlements and proclaimed that no child would live to either family. The clans buried their dead and life went on as usual but with one exception; during the following year, every single child born in either settlement was either still-born or died within the first year.

Our Visit on Sept 19, 2017

With the above story fueling our curiosity, Fran and I made the trip to Tilley Bend. As with most legends, I suspected that it was more fiction than reality. The church had been refurbished some time ago, but allegedly, Tilley family descendants have pictures of the original whitewashed church with bullet holes and all, as evidence of the Stanley Massacre.

The first thing you notice is the large tree, just left of the center of the graveyard. It’s the only tree within the confines of the graves. Naturally, I made my way to the tree and a strange sensation came over me as I saw with my own eyes, the weathered headstone of Elizabeth Jane Tilley Bradley. Right there under the tree, just as the legend says. The headstone, however, was facing toward the west just like all the other graves. Admittedly, I was disappointed. But the more I looked around the area, I noticed other strange things. Behind the headstone (where the body of Elizabeth would be buried if the stories were true) was a pile of blackened ash. Someone had recently burned something on the grave. I also noticed that there isn’t another grave in the same area. She lies alone.Photo Sep 19, 3 09 32 PM

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headstones

I noticed there was a footstone, but it was much more modern than the old weathered headstone. It had been placed rather recently. Much to our daughter, Julia’s delight a spider had taken up residence in the “E”

The footstone was right up against the tree trunk therefore; I began to imagine the length of a casket (or even the length of the average woman) and found that it was not physically possible for a body to be buried in that direction so close to the root system of the massive tree. Indeed, the grave would have had to be dug all the way to the base of the tree. The last thing I noticed was that the dirt around the headstone was piled fresh as if someone had dug it up and turned it around the other way. I was convinced, Elizabeth was buried facing the west, just as the legend stated.  The church (or someone) recently turned the headstone around with the intent of concealing this fact.

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Could they have dug into this root system in 1906 without killing the tree? How is this enough space for a casket or even a body? The Georgia Red clay does look freshly dug around the headstone.

Here is a video showing that the headstone was facing West until recently when someone turned it around. The stone is shown at 48 seconds. It also appears it was shifted slightly to the right of the tree

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More shivers. I looked around the graveyard for Fran, we had split up and she was walking around taking pictures and I noticed that the clear majority of the graves had flowers laid on them. Someone was taking care to tend to the dead. I absently looked back at Elizabeth’s resting place and noticed she had no flowers. Shivers. Furthermore, the area around the headstone was quite barren. A stark contrast to the thick, green grass that carpeted the rest of the graveyard.

Fully convinced that I had discovered the grave of the infamous Blue Ridge Witch, I found Fran and we began to discuss the legend. I pulled up other photos of the grave and saw clearly that people had taken photos of the headstone and it was indeed facing West. What we were seeing was a headstone that has purposefully been turned around. We began to discuss Elizabeth’s sister-in-law but couldn’t remember her name. I searched the internet and found her name. Mary.

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Mary’s headstone, covered in moss, is eerily creepy

We remembered that Mary was hung and buried one year to the day and we quickly began to search for her grave. We found it only to discover only to discover that when we entered the graveyard and Fran and I split up,  that was the very first picture Fran took without even knowing who it was. She was drawn to this headstone first as it was a small stone cross with moss growing on it, she didn’t pay attention to the name, only the beauty of the cross. Knowing that she was drawn first to this particular headstone spooked her a little.

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Tiny headstones of infants

In the very back of the graveyard were maybe a dozen or more graves marked only by large rocks. Some with very crude and undiscernible carvings on them. We later discovered that these were the graves of still-born children.  Shivers.

We left Tilley Bend Church that day, fully convinced that we had seen the grave of a bonafide witch. Maybe, maybe not. I have never been in a situation where there was so much physical evidence to support a legend. Of course, there could have been any number of reasons for so many children to be still-born, but the idea of a curse is so much more interesting.

P.S. One last creepy note: Oddly, we noticed that both Elizabeth and Mary headstones state they shared the same birthdate 2-28-1846 as well as death date 10-26-1906. That’s odd. But Legend states they died 1 year apart to the day. Mary’s headstone is also rather new looking doncha think? Were the years changed to reflect the same birthdates as well as death dates or is this a fact, did they enter the world on the same day and both perish on 10-26-1906?

P.P.S. We recently met a few awesome Stanley folk and while talking to them, they said they never heard of this story, but as children, they were not allowed to play up at Tilley Bend because “it was haunted“.

They also stated, “We don’t talk much about the Tilley’s…

Duly noted.

Is This Passenger Train Ride Worth the Cost?

“On a Warm Summer’s Eve; on A Train Bound for Nowhere…”

Ok, it wasn’t evenin’ and the train was headed to McCayesville, GA but you get the idea right? Shane said he kept humming “The Gambler” in his head the entire trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. He even went as far to say that the only thing to have made it better if they had folk dressed up in wild west period clothing and held a shoot-em-up. I couldn’t bear to tell him that this train was not originally from late 1800’s Midwest. But then again the mountain hillbillies of North Georgia were no joke either. Just visit the Tilley and Stanley Settlements cemeteries and you will see just how bad ass they were, but that is another story for another time. Today we are going on a train ride.

BRSR

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway embarks on its journey from the historic 1905 train depot in downtown Blue Ridge and makes a slow, relaxing 13-mile ride along the Toccoa River as it heads for a layover in the sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee.

Before I tell you about our trip let me tell you some cool events that are hosted by BRSR.

  • April – Easter Eggs-press – Take a ride to a Farmer Brown’s field where eggs are hidden.
  • October – Pumpkin Express – Visit Farmer Brown’s field, pick out a souvenir pumpkin and then return to Blue Ridge.
  • October/November – Fall foliage rail rides offer beautiful glimpses of autumn trees.
  • December – Santa Express – take a ride with old Saint Nick
  • New Year’s Eve Excursion – ring in the new year onboard while sipping on wine and tasting hors d’oeuvres.

Our visit was the third weekend in September, the leaves were just beginning to change and the weather was starting to cool to a brisk (not so much) 88 degrees. (oh how I wish for real fall temperatures.) We opted to sit in the climate controlled car because it felt more authentic. They have open air cars but you sit along a bench that doesn’t look like a traditional train car seat. They allow moving about the train and it is safe to walk between cars, so I just popped into an open air for a few photos and then took my happy butt back to the comfy seats.

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Julia pondering life while looking outside the train window
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Country barn sits in a lonely field along the train tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is what we found:

    • The train leaves precisely at its scheduled time, don’t be late.
    • The entire trip consists of 1-hour ride to McCaysville/Copperhill, 2-hour layover, 1-hour return trip to Blue Ridge. Plan on a full half a day for this excursion.
    • Tickets are not cheap, but if you are military or first responder they offer a discount.
    • It was worth it to cross Ride a Train off our bucket list.
    • When purchasing tickets, ask for a car in the very back of the train, so that you can get a great shot of entire train as it rounds bends.2017-09-18 11.27.28
    • Your ticket reserves your car, but not your seat.
    • The Toccoa River is on the right side of the train going and if you are taking the 3 P.M. ride make sure you are on the right, otherwise it may be dark on the ride back to Blue Ridge. When boarding, ask your car guide if the sun is already set on the return trip. If it is after Daylight Savings you may not get those pictures you wanted.
    • Get to your car early, people start lining up for the choice “right side of train” seats.
    • The car guides ask that if you sat on the right side of the train going, trade seats with those on the left so everyone gets to see the Toccoa River.
    • The Moose Caboose has rail-side food and drinks, if you purchase a ticket at the depot, you may get a coupon for a free coffee while you wait to board the train. The hot chocolate was pretty darn good too.
    • 2017-09-18 14.39.24-1Ask your car guide questions, you will find they are quite knowledgeable, ask about the ceiling paper stamped with your cars original train line.
    • If you are in the climate controlled car, move to an open-air car as the conductor announces that they are approaching the cornfield where you can see the entire train front to end. This is about the only time they will allow you to stick your entire torso out the window for a great photo op.
    • There is a concessions car aboard the train if you get hungry on the 1-hour trip
    • If you get sore sitting a spell, walk the entire length of the train and back. It is acceptable.
  • Keep an eye out for the old telegraph poles that are over 100 years old.100 year old telegraph pole
  • Be sure to see the 500-year-old Native American Fish trap

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    The only thing this fish trap is catching these days is a large limb!
  • MaCayesville/Copperhill – leaves a lot to be desired.  Want my honest opinion of the town(s)? Tourist Trap.
    • Interesting sites in town:
      • Old Steel bridge (as seen in photo peaking of the tops of the buildings
      • Georgia/Tennesee line- Stand one foot in GA the other in TN
  • Hold on to your train ticket – you will need to get it “stamped” by the conductor (ask him for a photo op, he will more than oblige) and you will need it to board the train for your return trip. (truthfully, the first is for show and they didn’t ask to see our tickets on the return trip because our car guide remembered us. )
  • The Old Steel bridge – right before you enter McCaysville/Copperton you will cross an old steel bridge. There is very little space between the train and the bridge. I am talking a few inches at best. This bridge is in Horseshoe Bend Park if you want a different perspective of it.

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  • The return train trip: If you missed something going, you get a second chance to see it on the way back. I walked to the next train car which was open air and shot a few photos without the glass between me and the outdoors. Depending on how crowded the train is, this is acceptable. When I returned to our car I found Shane fast asleep, lulled by the slow steady movement of the train. You see the same thing coming as you do going, so he didn’t miss anything.
  • Bonus tip: if you ask nicely, you may get a tour of the train engine. Ask after the trip is over not before, they are too busy getting the train ready before.  Usually, you won’t be denied this bonus that many people don’t know about.

In the end I feel like taking a ride along the Toccoa River in a antique train is worth the cost of the trip. It gives kids an idea of how life used to be when their grands lived, you learn a bit of history while relaxing and unwinding. However, the towns you visit are lacking.

Want more info? visit http://www.brscenic.com/

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Keep the Lust for Wandering, Y’all!

Shane and Fran

All Aboard!

Fall Branch Falls: The Waterfall So Spectacular It Has To Say It Twice

Buried within the Chattahoochee National Forest, hidden off a very worn dirt road along Aska Road, resides Benton MacKaye Trail. The trail climbs upward along Rocky Mountain for a few miles and has some beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shane, Julia, and I were content with hiking just to the falls and back as Shane has a herniated disk and his back was bothering him from cutting lumber a few days prior. I chose this hike because it is a short jaunt to the falls and back coming in under 1 mile total (score! I got to see a waterfall and he didn’t have to hike too far.)

NOTE- Before you go: LTE in them thar hills is limited.

I am a techie and an IT manager by trade. I use my phone for EVERYTHING; and glancing down to see “No Service” doesn’t make me overly thrilled when I have: no map, no documented route and no sense of direction. “I ain’t got no map nor directions and I have no earthly idear where we’s at,” flashed into my brain as we trudged along the dirt road. We saw a neat house that had hitching posts out front and the coolest cabin railing (literally made of sticks that seem to be collected from the forest).

We rounded a sharp curve on the packed Georgia clay road and came upon an abandoned shack and a barn that looked like it was about to cave in. My mind immediately took a wrong turn to a horror movie and I said, “This is where the city folk from Atlanta ‘gets it’ by the country folk that don’t like ‘no trespassin‘ on their land’!” This is a whole lotta nope and I looked for a place to turn around to go back to civilization.

Creepy little homestead
This creepy homestead belonged to Forest Warden Garfield Stanley

The road was about as wide as our car and we had no choice but to continue passed the scary dilapidated house. We crept by slowly as “the hills have eyes” watched. Not a single bird could be heard as Julia mentioned that this shack reminded her of “Until Dawn” a horror video game.

Greeeeaaaat… queue the chainsaw sound effect now.

The windows the house were dark and the weeds had grown up over the entrance but we could see rocking chairs sitting abandoned on the front porch. A screen door slapped in the cool autumn breeze.

At this point I just knew we took a wrong turn and my phone continued to flash “Hey you idiot, there isn’t a cell tower up here” A.K.A No Service.

Thankfully, just ahead we saw the white diamond marking the trail head. Whew! we survived. Turns out, with a little research, this abandoned shack is the homestead of Garfield Stanley of the Stanley Settlement that is prominent in this area. Garfield was the warden of this mountain area, and took care of the area until his death.

Fall Branch Falls Marker
Finding this waterfall is quite easy with directions.

We parked and headed to the trail head. You will see the sign pointing to the falls so from here it is pretty clear which way to go. The .5 mile hike to the falls is pretty easy, however the trail is muddy and goes up a fairly steep incline.

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Path incline. Shane can be seen at the top of the trail

The trails are lined with rhododendron, that bloom in late June. We went in September so the flowers weren’t in bloom but that didn’t change the beauty of the trail. Moss covered the trees and mushrooms peeked up through the soil. The sound of the babbling brook resonated through the trees and there was a soft breeze. The smell of damp earth made us feel in touch with the environment in which we walked. Our legs could feel the strain of muscles being worked and our lungs were filled with the cool morning air.

Along the way we saw two cabins, one appeared to be abandoned and the other occupied. Oh! To have a cabin on a creek with a waterfall at its end.

.4 of a mile you will encounter a fork in the trail. If you take the left trail you will continue climbing Rocky Mountain for fantastic views of Trail marker to Fallsthe Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountain range. There is a sign here pointing to the right to the falls. Once you take the right fork the, terrain takes a slight decline and the waterfall is just ahead. The ground has eroded and the trees root system in this area are showing so be careful not the trip. It is much cooler here under the thick canopy. Moss is thick on the trees and the air is damp. The forest floor was littered with colorful fall leaves when we visited. The sound of the waterfall is not deafening like a lot of falls but you can hear the water tumbling over the smooth rocks before you round the bend to see it cascading across the stone surface.

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The double waterfall with falling leaves, mountain laurel, and rhododendron surrounding it is beautiful in the Fall, I can only imagine it in the Spring and early Summer. If you visit during this time please comment with photos!

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Directions to the falls: Hopefully you aren’t like us and are looking for directions and not depending on your phones GPS.  So getting there is easy but first…

IT Manager Pro Tip: While in Blue Ridge go ahead and search for Fall Branch Falls on your phone. If you are traveling to other locations, make sure you add each location to your phone in the order you want to visit them. Leave this app open, do not close it because if you have zero service it will not search, but the phone is smart, it will continue to direct you if it is already open.

Address: Fall Branch Falls, Stanley Creek Road, Cherry Log, GA

From Blue Ridge:

  • Follow Aska Road south for eight miles.
  • You will see a sign on right side of road that says “Fall Branch Falls –>  Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is on the left side of road.
  • Turn right on Stanley Creek Road right before the restaurant.
  • At about 2 miles the road goes from paved to gravel. Keep going.
  • You will see the hitching post cabin on a curve. Keep going.
  • You will pass the scary homestead of Forest Warden Garfield Stanley’s (not so scary now that you have read who it belonged to, right?).
  • The trail head is maybe 100 yards past the homestead. The road widens a little for parking and there is a white triangle on the tree.
  • You can either head left or right down a trail. You will head right if your back is facing the homestead. Look for the sign pointing the way to Fall Branch Falls.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

Inexpensive Outdoor Stress Reducing Activities

stressShane and I both have pretty stressful jobs.  He is in law enforcement and I am an IT manager. Not a day goes by that we don’t feel the overwhelming stress associated with our jobs. Do you hear the squeak of the world tiniest violin? Anyone want to give me some cheese for all this whine? Or can you relate?  Face it.  We ALL have stress.  Whether it is our jobs, our kids, our significant’s.  We all have to deal with it.

I think the technical age in which we are living, adds to our stress. 200 years ago our ancestors worked hard from sun up to sun down and by evening they kicked back on the porch with a jug and a fiddle. They worked very hard and went to bed early. They had stress but it was different than today’s. In today’s world, we go all day, work through lstress2unch, and in the evening we have to rush to cart the kid to one activity or the next. That device in your hand, keeps you connected to your boss and co-workers 24/7.  For example, I left work yesterday at noon for a doctor appointment.  While I was in the appointment, I answered 10 emails and made 7 calls to trouble shoot issues at work. Tonight a coworker called me at 7:30 PM, because something wasn’t working right for him. Just now, my laptop just notified me that another co-worker was logging into our server. I mean come on people! Your OFF, why are you working?  Go spend time with your wife and family already dude! There is no escaping work these days!

Bottom line: We stay connected and therefore we feel as if we don’t get a break from the dreaded four letter word, “WORK“.

Shane’s Theory:

Returning from vacation, a worker feels refreshed and it is about 6 weeks before that same person really starts feeling the urge to throat punch someone. 

Shane’s Observation:

It’s a Fact!

My Observation:

Yep! He is right

Proof:

I conducted an experiment.  I started paying attention to what my body and mental state were telling me.  All is great when you first return from your lovely holiday, you are ready to help anyone with anything and all is wonderful in the world.  Then about 6 to 8 weeks in you utter the words, “Imma kill somebody“.  

Conclusion:

Realistically we can’t take a vacation every six weeks.  We ain’t Kardashian’s (I just threw up a little just typing the name) or any other insanely rich person.  So how can we have a mini vacation without spending a ton?

Here are a few ways we get out of our rut and feel better.

poohsticks

  • Play Pooh Sticks – If you haven’t played Pooh Sticks you aren’t living!  My girls and I used to play “Pooh Sticks” from a small bridge over a creek by their Nana’s house. Great times!
    • Step 1: Find a park with a creek and a bridge.
    • Step 2: Select sticks from the ground.
    • Step 3: Stand on one side of bridge facing upstream
    • Step 4: On count of 3 everyone drops (not throws) their sticks into the water
    • Step 5: Rush to the other side and see who’s stick emerges first and is crowned the “winner”.  This never gets old.
  • Visit One of Georgia’s State Parks – They are awesome!  Seriously!
  • Go on a Mural Hunt – There are tons of murals in the city of Atlanta.  Check out the Belt Line, Cabbagetown, and Krog Street for starters.
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CabbageTown, GA Mural
  • Take a Train Ride – Hop on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway or the SAM Short Line for a wonderful afternoon.  The trains go from point A to B and back again. Stopping at small towns for a bit of shopping in between.
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    Blueberries collected from Gardner’s Farm, McDonough, GA

    Pick fruit – There is something very satisfying about picking your own blueberries, strawberries, peaches, or blackberries.  All these can be done in Georgia, check your local area for farms.

  • Connect with animals – Visit an animal rescue or rehabilitation center like Noah’s Ark, Dauset Trails, North Georgia Zoo, or The Wild Life Sanctuary. The animal’s personalities will raise your spirits and if you leave a donation you will feel very good about it.
  • Enjoy Silence – I have this great hammock swing in my back yard.  On nice days, you can catch me outside relaxing with a good book.

  • Be Alone with Nature – There is a quiet trail near my kids schools that I like to hit by myself.  It is kind of creepy being alone in the quiet woods and I must admit as I approach, I pull my ear buds out so I can be more aware of my surroundings (Michael Myers might be waiting for me in there, I need to be prepared to run screaming). As I walk through the small trail between the two schools, I hear the rustling of leaves, squirrels running from tree to tree and birds chirping. It pulls me in and centers me. Always be aware of your surroundings when exploring alone and have your cellphone on in case of an emergency.Photo Jun 17, 10 37 55 AM

  • Find a Hobby and Do it in a Park – Shane and our daughter Julia are artists. Recently we visited the Goat Farm in Atlanta where Julia sat and sketched the old mill’s buildings. Shane likes to take his painting supplies to the woods where he gains inspiration. Me? I am not creative, so no art for me, but I do jot ideas for my blog while engulfed in nature.

  • Visit an Outdoor Museum – Try the a living history museum such as Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village,  or Westville . You could also check out some outdoor art – by visiting Pasaquan, or the the campus of the University of North Georgia’s outdoor-sculpture exhibit.
  • Find a Weekend Festival.  There is always something going down somewhere. Check my blog for ideas, I try to post once a week what is going down.
  • Walk a Lonely Pup – The city of Augusta’s animal shelter has a dog walking program. Check out a pooch and hit the Augusta Canal trails for a morning or afternoon constitutional.  Contact with your local animal shelter to see if they allow people to take their pup’s on a walk. The dog will enjoy it. You will feel great and the shelter will thank you. A lot of shelters also allow people to come love on the kitty cats if that is more to your liking. These babies need love and while you can’t take
    Church
    Concord Primitive Baptist Church – Jasper County, GA

    them all home, you can give them the affection they so desperately need no strings attached.

  • Take a “Photo” Trip – Recently my oldest daughter, Emily, her friend Morgan, and I went on a afternoon photo trip, taking photos of abandoned churches in Shadydale, Monticello, and Jackson. Find a topic, hit the road for photo ops. Need ideas for your area? Ask me in the comments.  Here are a few: Libraries, street art, birds, old iron gates, architecture, machinery, abandon buildings, exotic animals at a zoo, or flowers in a garden to name a few. Note: I did some research on locations before hitting the road.
  • Find a Covered Bridge – There are 16 covered bridges in the State of Georgia. Make a list and start crossing them off.  Use this map to locate them! NOTE: Callaway Garden bridge is not open to public.
  • Hike to a Waterfall.  – Pick one, pack a lunch, grab some water and go!  Use this link to Google for the closest waterfall to you.
  • Start a blog about what you see and do!  – That’s what I did! I feel better just typing this and sending it out into the interwebs!  Thanks for letting me share, I no longer want to smack someone upside the head.

 

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

Fran & Shane

9

This Festival Will Take You to New Heights!

2017-09-02 17.57.04Each year during Labor Day Weekend, Callaway Gardens, holds a summer’s end festival. Sweltering August makes it’s exit as Georgians soar into September in baskets attached to flimsy, wibbily-wobbily nylon material. The Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival is a sight to behold. Enormous balloons lift towards the sky in a slow climb, as the cool lake beckons you to take a dip. Music from live bands and the smell of festival foods fill the air. Summer is coming to a close and this is it’s last blast.

Shane had to work…again (why does Atlanta think it is a good idea to schedule college football games for teams that aren’t even in the state of Georgia, Dragon Con and a pride parade all in one day?) Crowds in the city are insane and while I would love to go to Dragon Con, I decided to head south instead. My mama and my best friend Lana, joined me on this adventure.

The Event Low-down:

If you are wanting to see flowers, AND balloons, it isn’t going to happen. The flowers are no longer blooming during this time of year. However, if you want to hang at the beach all day as images of billowy balloons slowly undulate in the background, and have fireworks blast overhead at night, then this is right up your alley. It is a festival more than an event. There are car, bird and dog shows, face painting, zip lining, food & drink, paddle boating, water fun, and pyrotechnics galore. The lines are long but people are pretty nice ‘cus they are either borderline heat stroking or imbibed with adult beverages.

2017-09-02 19.54.08Before arriving I advise you check the festivals schedule. on Callaways Gardens website. Some nights there are not tethered balloon rides. These nights the balloon are set on the beach and all are set aglow at the same moment for a breath take view photographers love this picturesque shot. Note: not all balloons glow.  I suppose it depends on how thin the material is. My mama was disappointed that they weren’t all glowing at once when we were there as we went on a day that there were tethered rides but we were able to see the balloons individually glow in the night as the pilots ignited the gas.

Callway Gardens Hot Air Balloon Festival

Here are a few more tips to help you if you are planning on attending the festival.2017-09-02 20.13.35

  • The Festival is held at Robin Lake Beach – This is only documented on the website event page. There also weren’t any signs stating this inside the park.  Follow the signs to Robin Lake Beach, you will see the cars and balloons as you approach.
  • “Patience: Grasshopper” – A Long slow-moving line of cars makes it seem like forever to get through the gate. There are only 3 huts that collect the entrance fees for each person.  To save time I recommend using cash or pay with one debit card.  We saw one car hand over 6 different methods of payment to the attendant. (of course they were directly in front of us).
  • We entered through the main entrance off of U.S. 27.  The beach entrance line was horribly long.
  • Entrance fee is higher on event days.  It was $30.00/person,  $25.00/Seniors, $15.00/Children
  • Once inside the park, traffic is not bad.  The park is so large that it feels like there really isn’t 40,000 other people there (until you get to the Butterfly House or Beach)
  • The “Gardens” are actually trails. If you think it is going to look like the Palace of Versailles, you will feel deflated.  (Did you see what I just did there? 😀 )
  • There isn’t much in bloom in September so if you are here for the flowers, um yeah… don’t come.
  • Walking the entire park isn’t feasible. But you can drive from each point of interest and park your vehicle. The park also has golf carts, canoes, and bikes for rent which is really nice.
  • The beer and food lines (serving typical festival foods) are super long.  Bring a picnic!  We had a cheese & charcuterie (meat) board and fruit.
  • If you want a bottle of water you can buy it at a little shop right on the beach (no line at all) My mama asked me to go purchase a cup of ice from a vendor selling fountain drinks. Instead my bestie and I went to the little shop and bought an entire bag of ice. WeRSmart!
  • Everything is over priced.  3 bottles of vitamin water and a bag of ice cost me 12 bucks!
  • Make sure you see the enormous bald eagle balloon on the beach.  It is HUGE!

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  • Balloon rides are tethered but go up fairly high in my opinion. I am guessing 200 feet or so.  High enough to make people happy, but low enough not to scare kids (or myself). You go up, hover for a few minutes, and then back down.  The cost is $10.00/adults $5.00/children. CASH ONLY

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  • Inflating each balloon takes 30 minutes or more.  It’s really neat to watch.

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  • The line for the balloon rides start forming early and gets very long.  I am guessing at least a 2 hour wait in the sun, at the longest.  TIP: Instead wait until the last hour of the festival where you can walk right up with less than a 15 minute wait.  The downside to this is: it is dark, not much to see in the distance, but you get to see the balloon aglow.2017-09-02 20.32.39
  • If you can’t stand not seeing your college football game, there are large TV’s at the beach bar showing the games.
  • Take a blanket or chairs to sit on.

I urge you to visit the parks website do some research prior to arriving.  There are clear signs but if you have no idea where the sites are you may aimlessly drive around saying:

  • OK bestie, I need you to look at the map and figure out where we need to go from here”  
  • “Where the $@^& is the stupid Festival? Cus I see no balloons, do you see balloons?       
  • What the @#$% is that beach’s name again?”                                                              
  • “Ok, I have decided that there is no Discovery Center at all, it is a hoax.  (There really is a Discovery Center.. we just never found it.)

We did find the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, Hydrangea Garden, Medowlark Garden, Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, the Pioneer Log Cabin, and Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.  But at summer’s end there wasn’t much in bloom.  Keep in mind that this is not the best time to see flowers, but this is what you come to see:

 

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

Fran

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