I’m Not Lost, I Am Wandering! Come Wander down GA Hwy 60 With Us

When I am out exploring, I don’t really have a hard “to-do” list.  I have a rough idea of the things and places I would like to see and visit.  Case in point; on one of our recent trips to Blue Ridge, GA I wanted to see an “old iron bridge” I had read about. The problem was there was not a lot of information on the exact location of the bridge so I did a Google search and found “Iron Bridge Cafe and General Store”. Without knowing for sure this was, indeed, the Iron Bridge I was looking for, off we went to just see for ourselves. When we set out to see something, the “something” is very open. A 13 mile 20 min drive between two points may turn into a full-on three-hour excursion because I may get sidetracked seeing “other” things.

Within the Chattahoochee National Forest runs a mountain road called GA Hwy 60. It twists and turns through the treetops and along the Toccoa River. There are pastures, old homes, barns, and shacks: it is rural country. As we drove, whenever I saw something of interest,  I would snap a few photos. I thought I would pass these along to you.

directions

So let’s go!

2017-09-19 10.02.57The map above shows the starting point in Morganton with the end point of the Iron Bridge Cafe & General store. We got off track during the route, and the story goes a bit like this….

We were camping on Lake Blue Ridge at Morganton Recreational Area, therefore we left from there.

Head south down Hwy 60 past Hoot Owl Hill (yes that is the name) and you will see a red barn.

A few miles past the barn just after Sourwood Lane, is an old cattle barn. It is just before Dial Road on the right.

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Skeenah Creek Mill

I planned a stop at Skeenah Creek Campground on the way in search of the bridge, because I wanted to see the old mill there. At 23300 Morganton Hwy, we turned on Skeenah Creek road and pull immediately into a driveway at 20 Skeenah Gap Rd, Suches, GA I got out of the car and asked if we could check out the campground and mill. We were granted permission to look around. Such a neat little place!

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There is a building directly across the street from Skeenah Creek Road on Hwy 60, where I took this photo. I got out of the car and walked down a little dirt road about 50 feet and stood in the midst of these wildflowers to capture this shot.

The address is close to 23394 Morganton Hwy and I am certain this is private property so do not venture too far, as it is illegal. Leaving Skennah Creek Mill, we turned left. Our GPS was struggling to load and we figured we should go the way we already were heading before our mill detour. WRONG. PROTIP: GPS Signal is limited in the mountains. Don’t depend on your maps to tell you where to go.

As you continue along Hwy 60, you will pass Cooper Creek Baptist Church on your right, just before you reach Cooper Creek Store. The church doesn’t have an address, but if you get to the store, you just passed it 20 seconds prior. The church was built in 1849 and has some very primitive headstones. As you head towards the church you will see a glimpse of the Toccoa River on your right.

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Old Gas pumps at Coopers Creek Gas Station

At this point without GPS we figured we needed directions, so stopping at Cooper Creek Store for a drink and a photo and directions made sense. Cooper Creek store is located at 27880 Morganton Hwy, Suches, GA. Directly across the street is Hemlock Lane, which we cracked up about because nearby is Tilley Bend where the Witch of Blue Ridge legend originated. We asked the store owner if he had heard of Tilley Bend or Tilley Baptist Church and he said: “no, that he had lived here for 40 years and never heard of either.” We find this hard to believe as you can’t throw a rock up there without hitting a Tilley. He did tell us that Suchee is home to Georgia’s smallest public school. “It’s just a few miles up the road” (by few miles he meant 10 and 10 miles takes 30 minutes in the mountains. We decided that the schoolhouse might be worth our time and that we would take the detour off our route. 2017-09-19 12.39.20As we were climbing in our car I noticed across the street from the store there was a set of steps leading nowhere, which I thought was cool looking. I am assuming they go up to someone’s home, maybe the store owner.

We passed a restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. called the WildCat Cafe. It was closed when we stopped, or we would have grabbed some lunch on the patio. It looks like such an eclectic place, right up my alley (cat). Check out the neat photos I took here. Next time we are in Blue Ridge, we might just have to stop by here for lunch. The address is: 7475 State Highway 60, Suches, GA

Right past the WildCat there is a road called Johnny Cap Road, on the corner sits an old abandon barn. As you near it you will see some bee hives on a little hill.

I couldn’t help but stop and take some photos of rural mountain life on Hwy 60 near Harkins Road. I parked the car on the dirt road and took the photos below without intruding on the owner’s property. Please remember to be respectful when photographing peoples land and buildings.

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If this photo is enough to make you happy about seeing Georgia’s Smallest Public Schoolhouse then don’t even bother putting in the location and carry on the route without visiting.

Woody Gap School located at 2331 GA-60, Suches, was less than exciting. Honestly, I was hoping for something a little bit older and rustic. Like you know a log building from 1890. But it’s kind of neat to think that kindergarten through twelfth grade is housed in this one little building. At the beginning of October, they host a square dance at the Indian Summer Festival that everyone is welcome to join. I would have loved to go get my square dance on, but we had other plans, maybe next year.

Finally, our GPS kicked back on and pointed the way to our original location, The Old Iron Bridge Cafe.

We had veered off course quite a bit, but by doing a little exploring look at what we saw! From Skeenah to the school is 16 miles. We had been on the road for two hours, it was time to head to our original destination, Iron Bridge Cafe & General Store, 8436 Aska Rd, Blue Ridge, GA and hope that there was indeed an iron bridge there.

Doubling back means that we had to go all the way back past Skeenah Mill to Dial road. Then onto Aska Road. The Old Iron Bridge Cafe was on our left. I parked the car and went to ask if there was an iron bridge anywhere in the vicinity and…..

TO BE CONTINUED….

Want to know if we found the Old Iron Bridge on this adventure? Click “Follow blog” below to find out next week!

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all

Fran

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Drive-in Anyone? See a Drive-in Movie While You Still Can!

There are only 336 drive-in theatres in the entire United States left, 3 years ago there were 348, in 1980 there were over 2400. It is a dying pop cultural theatre technique and you should take your kids to a drive-in before they are all gone! With movies going digital, it is too costly for drive-in’s to convert and more and more of them are closing. Georgia has 4 remaining drive-in theaters: Jesup, Atlanta, Tiger, and Blueridge. If you live in Atlanta, you know about the iconic 6 screen theater located here. Does the thought of going to Starlight Drive-in, in south Atlanta kind of scare you? After all, it is in a pretty rough part of Atlanta and my cop husband says, “absolutely not” to it. Like me, do you really want to cross Watch a Movie at a Drive-in” off of your bucket list? Well, there is another drive-in that is within driving distance of Atlanta, up in the rural mountain town of Blue Ridge, GA.  Come take a tour of Swan Drive-In Theatre with me.

The theatre was established in 1955 by  Jack Jones and W.H. Tilley, Jr. Dang those Tilley’s and Stanley’s they have their hands in everything up here in these mountains! If you haven’t read my ghost story about the Tilley’s click here.  Mr. Tilley named the drive in Swan because while stationed in England he liked to watch swans elegantly swimming. They were so beautiful and peaceful he suggested this name “Swan” for the new drive-in. He also thought a nice short name would be easy to light up in neon lights. 

swanToday, more than 62 years later, it still has a “retro” feel. You enter through a single gate that accepts cash only and as you wait for the movie to begin, oldies play on your car radio. You can almost picture the jocks, the leathers, the good girls and not so good girls, hanging in their t-birds, coups, and daddy’s Oldsmobile’s. I could picture Danny singing, “stranded at the drive-in” and Risso making the walk of shame from the ladies room as all the kids spread gossip about her from car to car. “News sure travels fast!”

2017-09-17 19.27.01There is one screen at this drive-in and the lot is pretty small, but the view of the screen is pretty awesome no matter where you park. When you pull into your parking slot, pull up the little “hill” as it angles your car up for a better view for those in the back seat. Protip1: Park as close to the white PVC pipe as possible. The spaces are wide enough to fit two cars and the lot gets pretty crowded, you will be asked to readjust if you aren’t close to the poles. Bonus: You also get a great view of the setting sun while you wait for the movie to start.

The concession building lies in the middle of the lot and offers up all kinds of yumminess at affordable prices. To add to the experience, I recommend feeding the kids at the theatre. Skip the healthy for one night and indulge in hot dogs, corndogs, nachos, and burgers, popcorn, funnel cakes, and deep fried Oreo’s (oh.. my… gaw…). The Oreo’s are a large quantity, 6 lovely, puffy pastry, warm, good cookies so you will want to share those. They are rich.

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  • Protip2: Swan does not take debit or credit.  Cash only. Grab it before you arrive as there isn’t an ATM in sight. They keep it as true to the era as possible.
  • Protip3: If you have a car full, it is difficult to see from the backseat, bring chairs and a radio to listen.  If you have a van or SUV: park backward, open the hatch and pile in the back with pillows and blankets. This will thrill the kiddos. We even saw a couple snuggled up in the bed of a truck. They had an air mattress with pillows and blankets piled up. FUN!
  • Protip4: Did I mention the deep fried Oreo’s from the concessions. Get them, you won’t regret it.

2017-09-17 22.23.25The theatre plays a double feature on Friday and Saturday night so you get two movies for the price of one. The first movie doesn’t start until dark so be prepared for a late night. A single movie plays on the giant single screen on Sunday night and if you don’t like what is showing then tough Oreo cookies. Some nights it is a kid-friendly movie, other nights, not so much. Make sure you check what is showing before bringing kids. The night we went it was not kid-friendly.

We saw Steven King’s “It” while visiting the theatre. I was not overly thrilled to see a horror movie at a drive-in surrounded by woods. But Shane and Julia were pretty stoked as they like horror. I opted to sit in the back seat, where I could hide behind the passenger seat if I got freaked out.. which I did… 2017-09-17 19.44.17

About 1/3 of the way through the movie Julia stated matter-a-factly, “why is there someone outside our car carrying a red balloon“. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! The theatre had workers tie red balloons to posts beside vehicles while people were distracted by the movie as a fun prank. What an awesome touch! In addition, they added clown heads outside the main gate as we were leaving. Niiiiceee touch. I said a few choice words when I saw it. Just what we needed to see as we were headed back to our campground to sleep in a tent in the woods. I honestly figured Julia would end up in Shane and my tent that night, but she braved it out alone in her small 2 man tent.

My honest opinion on a drive-in theater:

  • It is fun to do, but am much more comfortable in a theater in an actual seat. Maybe it was because I was in the back seat of the car. Maybe if I was snuggled up in the back of a truck it would have been even better.
  • This is a historic theatre that gives children the opportunity to see a movie the way their grandparents used to see it. An opportunity to relive the past.
  • It was creepy as hell to watch a scary movie at a drive-in and if I were to do it again, we would bring chairs and a radio to sit out in the cool mountain air at night.
  • It was a neat experience and Swan Drive-in Theatre truly goes all out to keep the authenticity of the drive-in and made it fun for the customers.
  • Have a baby but no babysitter? This is an opportunity to see a movie without disturbing others around you. The baby can sleep blissfully or scream their head off and only you will have to deal with it, no one will scowl at you. (While in the military, Shane and I used to go to the drive-in with a couple who had a baby. We never heard the baby from our car parked beside them, it was awesome for all of us because they got a date night and we all enjoyed dinner before the show and conversations afterward!)
  • Because the sound comes from the car radio you have to leave your car running which is really bad for the environment. We have a hybrid so our car is very quiet and was using electricity the majority of the time, but there was a monster diesel truck beside us that was loud. We had to roll up our windows to drown it out. Once the windows were up and the radio was on, we couldn’t hear the truck.

Protip5: You may want to bring a battery operated radio along for sound if you do not want to leave your car running or have a loud truck.

There are novelty items in the concessions such as tee-shirts, mugs and water bottles with the drive-in logo.  They even were selling, “I saw “IT” at Swan’s Drive-In” tee shirts while we were there.

Want to see what is currently playing?  Check out their website 

Cost for Admission

 ADULTS $8.00

CHILDREN AGE 4-11 $5.00

CHILDREN 3 and under FREE ADMISSION

Interesting fact: The Swan Drive-In was featured in the Movie, “Need for Speed”, as “Mt. Kisco Drive-In. If you are on the Georgia film trail known as Y’allywood make sure you visit here.

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Have I interested you in a drive-in? Are you looking for a Drive-In in your state? Click here

Keep the Lust for Wandering, Y’all!

Fran, Shane, and Julia

  • Thank you to Swan Drive for the history of the theatre
  • Thank you to Quartz for information on the disappearance of Drive-Ins.
  • Thank you to Mentalfloss.com for an interactive map of all drive-in’s in the US

 

A Family’s Legacy in the Blue Ridge Mountain’s

Shane and I like to read up on the history of an area before we visit it. Knowing that we were going to spend a few days in Blue Ridge, GA. I looked into some of the local lore and heritage. I hit a gold mine up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, (all puns intended). In the early days of the settlement in the Blue Ridge, Georgia mountains, there were Creek and Cherokee tribes along with two prominent families: The Stanley’s and the Tilley’s. From what I read they didn’t exactly get along, and the two were regular Hatfields and McCoy’s of the Georgia Mountains, but that is another story.

2017-09-20 11.31.07-1Today, along the picturesque Aska Road, on top of a hill stands a lone whitewashed church. The church has been genuinely cared for by one family who calls this place, “home”. It is part of their heritage, and you can’t escape the Stanley name up here. This is Stanley territory. Roads, creeks, gaps are all named after the family and there is a ton of history in this small valley about them. Like every family, there are stories of heartache and joy, laughter and tragedy. So many wonderful and tragic stories to be told and I would like to share just a few with you.

From what we can tell the Stanley’s came to this territory from Avery County, N.C. and a few married the Cherokee tribe members that had also moved into these lands. After the trail of tears, the natives that had married into families were safe from the U.S. Army and were allowed to stay. The family built a village in a hollow (pronounced “holler“) and began to thrive: raising sheep, cows, horses, and growing crops.

Southern Slang: An -er sound is often used for long “o” at the end of a word. For example, hollow— “a small, sheltered valley betten two hills” is pronounced holler

In 1886 a church was built near the homestead and like most churches in that area, it served as the schoolhouse, a gathering place, as well as a place of worship. The church started off as Baptist but when a Church of Christ minister showed up at the church a great contest started and the current preacher knew less scripture than the Church of Christ minister and that settled that! The Baptist preacher was sent packing and from that point on they were Church of Christ. If only all things in life were this simple.

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Long-stone table sits hundreds of family members

Today this church sits vacant all except one day a year when the family meets on the last Sunday in August for Decoration Day. This big ole family reunion pays homage to those that lived in the hills, toiled the ground and raised families. Three to four hundred people pour in from all over the country who still have their roots in the little church. A long cement table has been built under an enormous pavilion to accommodate the family’s lunch after the sermon. This thing must be 50 yards long! A hymnal sits atop the stone table awaiting a family member to pick it up again and sing from it.  A silk yellow daisy was gently laid atop the book. I couldn’t help but snap a photo, before placing the book back under the table with the other hymnals. I didn’t want it to get ruined by moisture.

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You can see here the massive length of the table that awaits the family lunch

Luckily, while visiting the Stanley Settlement we were surprised by a visit of two Stanley ladies, but more on that later.

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R.C. Stanley was 6 years old when he witnessed his father being shot by Confederate soldiers.

First, let me tell you about Elisha Stanley who established this valley. The creek that the settlement is built on, is named after Elisha. He was a hardworking farmer with a family and community to care for. In the late stages of the Civil War, the Confederate Army was desperate for men and showed up at his front door to conscripted him and his brother-in-law, Elv Evans Hughes, into the rebellion. Neither men were too keen on this idea, “they didn’t want to fight in the war, or for the southern army.” — as historically written. The current caretaker Ralph Stanley has said, “Our People were on the Union side“. The men kept going AWOL, leaving camp, and coming home to work their fields and provide for their families. Their crops didn’t stop for war, and their women and children were not going to go hungry. The two men were hunted down by the Confederate Army. On September 6, 1864, Elisha was on the porch repairing his 6-year-old son, Ricklas Calvin’s (R.C.), shoe when the Army came calling. Without hesitation, Elisha was shot 6 times while his son and pregnant wife watched.  The Army then found Elv Evans Hughes in a field sheering his sheep. With a pleading wife, they tied him to a horse and drug him away to the camp where he was tied to a tree and shot dead.

The wives had no men left to bury the bodies and it was hard labor to dig the holes, so the two men were buried in the same plot. The women used a corn box used to feed the horses as a coffin. They placed one man in, covered him with a sheet and laid the other on top. Today a new headstone shows those buried there as “Family” and the plaque states:

The marker reminds us the men where “killed standing for the Union of our Great Nation.”

Elisha Stanley

After the war, The Stanley Settlement took in a lost boy, named Moses, who was found crying along the roadside and raised him amongst their own. The Stanley’s were farmers who worked their own land and did not own slaves. When they saw a young black child alone they assumed he was the child of runaway slaves, but no, he was born free and was lost or abandoned. MosesMoses was raised by Mr. Johnson until he died and then R.C. Stanley took him in. He was the first black child to attend school in Fannin County. He was educated on Stanley Creek and lived his life in the valley. Moses is buried in the cemetery, along with the other Stanley family members. He wasn’t blood, but I have a feeling he was buried alongside the only family he ever knew, the ones who cared for him. His gravestone doesn’t have his year of birth because it was unknown. It only has his name, “Moses Johnson” and “Colored”. Some may think to have the word “colored” as disrespectful, but I think it is paying honor to the man that lived and flourished amongst a white family during a time when race was a dividing factor. I would have loved to meet old Moses. I bet he was full of stories.

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Life in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s wasn’t easy. It was made especially difficult in the rural north Georgia mountains. In times of need, high on the hill, the church bell would ring. You could hear it 2.5 miles away and when the parishioners heard it, they knew they were needed. As we drove through the heavily wooded mountains, I imagined just how difficult life must have been up there for the Stanley’s. They built a community, were hardworking, and God fearing. They raised babies, took care of their elderly and died here. In the cemetery, all but four, are all kinfolk of the Stanley’s. Here we saw the headstones of Ada and Harrison Stanley and their 7 young children, who perished in the early 1900’s. Many children were lost in the GA Mountains at the turn of the century. (there’s a creepy legend about that. The mortality rate of infants was high in this region and an eerily weird local legend spawned from out of that.) As the church plaque states: “These small graves attest to the risks that came with childhood and the need for a tight-knit community.

2017-09-20 11.38.36 HDR-3Then there was Buell Stanley who was the crazy hillbilly who blew his arm off trying to fish with a stick of dynamite in the Toccoa River! Now that in itself is a story but this is where it gets really good. Buell blew his “good” arm off fishin’ — I mean it would have to be his good arm because who throws a stick of dynamite with their “bad” arm right? And after they got him bandaged up they held a ceremony for the arm and in the family cemetery, here it lies with the family. Not ALL of Buell, mind you, just his arm, may it rest in peace.

Remember at the top of this article when I said while we were visiting the church we met two Stanley ladies?

Meet Evelyn and Beverly

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I don’t believe in “chance”. I do believe in destiny. And it was our destiny to meet these two ladies. Shane, Julia and I were about to leave the settlement that is only really visited every once in awhile by family. It isn’t like someone is up there every day, these days, you know. As we were piling into our car, another vehicle slowly made it’s way up the drive. They stopped a short distance away, sat there for a moment and then came on up to greet us. It was almost like they stopped and discussed, “why are strangers up here?” (They did, in fact, discuss this. Beverly said, she said, “mama, go on up and see what they are doin’” and they did and we are so glad!) They were coming to check on the family church and their loved ones buried here. We stood and spoke to them for about 45 minutes and they told us the stories that I just told you. Evelyn is the great great granddaughter of Elisha. She told us, “My Great Granddaddy was shot by Confederate Soldiers. We Stanley’s didn’t own slaves and didn’t want to fight for the Confederates and they shot him“. This made me sad to think, that back then if you thought differently than someone else, you could lose your life in an instant. Unfortunately, we haven’t learned much from history since then. I wish Elisha could come talk to our society. I am proud of Elisha. He stood up for what he believed in and was there for his family until the end. We discussed Ada and Uncle Ralph. We discussed Buell and his missing arm and then they told us where Moses was buried and we bid them goodbye as we sauntered off to find his grave on the edge of the yard by a tree. As I walked away, I turned back and jokingly said, “I am gonna come crash your families decoration day” and without hesitation, both ladies invited us to join them in 2018.  I think we will take them up on it. I want more stories!

Thank you to Evelyn and Beverly who more than graciously told us stories of their family. I dedicate this entry to the both of them and their heritage.

Thank you to http://www.gcgsi.org/Research/ChurchHistory/StanleyChurchofChrist.pdf

Step back to the Jazz Age at this Atlanta Home

This week my girls and I decided to take my mama up to Ballground, GA to Gibbs Garden for the Monet Water Lillies exhibit. We jumped in the car and headed up the road! An hour into the trip we began to notice signs advertising the gardens and a random thought popped into my mind, “What if they are closed today? Crap! I didn’t check!” Julia pulled up the site and yep: closed. Ugh! I pulled the car over and began a search for something to do in the area. I wasn’t certain exactly where we were but knew we were already OTP (Outside the Perimeter – of Atlanta).
Lesson Learned: Always check hours of operation BEFORE scheduling a day trip! 

My mom likes beautiful houses, gardens, churches, and anything of historical relevance. Olivia likes beauty and art deco. Julia is usually “along for the ride” and while the aforementioned does not interest her, she is accommodating and doesn’t complain (and I bribed her with a trip to Cabbagetown). I chose the Atlanta Historical Society’s Swan House.

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You may recognize the Swan House, as the home of President Snow in “The Hunger Games“. As part of the Georgia film industry, the series was filmed around the Atlanta including this location.

Today, the film crews are gone and the house isn’t a gaudy shade of purple. It looks much like it did in the 1920’s when it was built for Edward and Emily Inman by architect Philip Trammell Shutze, whose art collection is now on exhibit at the home.

Here you can step back in time to the Jazz Age during the roaring 20’s. Named for the swan theme that is found throughout the interior of the home, The Swan House is a representation of wealth in an age just before the Great Depression

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backInteresting fact: The picture above is actually the back of the house, where you enter during tour. Coaches and cars carrying guests entered from the back of stately homes. The front of the house always had large gardens.

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The black and white marble floor embraces you as you enter through the grand doors to an impressive entry foyer decorated as it was during the time of music, speakeasy’s, dance and indulgence. We strolled the rooms of the dramatically opulent home taking in the art deco motif which features swans. Golden light fixtures adorn the walls and carved wooden fireplaces embellish each room.  This is the sort of house that we would love to live in, and it was Emily Inman’s dream home, built for her by a loving husband. In every detail, he had the family in mind, and tragically just three years after it was complete, Edward Inman passed away at the age of 49. Emily raised her family here and live here until her death in 1966 when she left it to the Atlanta Historical Society.

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Along with fantastic architectural design check out the skills of Athos Menaboni, who decorated Mrs. Inman fantastic dressing room and Herbert J. Milard who crafted the bookshelves, fireplaces and other carvings throughout the home (look up as you enter the study and see the carved flowers on the ceiling.)

1920's csrWhile visiting the home you may “meet” some interesting characters: Mrs. Emily Inman, who is poised and elegant, Emma Jean, the family’s fateful maid, Ruby Ross Wood, the lively, interior decorator, Mr. Edward Inman who will relish in telling you about racing in his motor car, and Mr. Grant Carter the lovable family chauffeur. Grant and Edward were known to race the vehicle on display in the back of the home where you enter. Ask one of them about the grandeur of racing a car at top speeds of 45 miles per hour! Mr. Inman held several racing records during this time and auto racing in the late 20’s was insanely dangerous, but this is not what killed him. It appears the lavish lifestyle took a toll on his heart.

On a historical note: The Inman family were known for their philanthropy and were key to the development of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Agnes Scott College, and Oglethorpe University. The Inmans also supported the founding of the Atlanta orphanage and Grady Memorial Hospital.

The home has three gardens. The largest a baroque garden is situated at the front of the home on a landscaped lawn. A large gate marks the entry of the home followed by 3 small pools and an ivy and rose covered retaining wall. A stream runs along the edge of the yard and a gazebo sits quietly within the cover of trees and blooms.

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A cascading art deco fountain, flanked by stairs, sits in splendor at the top of the lawn. You can just imagine debutants gracefully descending the stairs as gentlemen stopped discussing stocks and watched in reverence. At the top of the fountain, a horseshoe staircase complete with iron handrails gracefully leads up a flight of steps to a heavily framed central entrance door.

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The boxwood garden has a pair of broken columns surmounting a garden bench and a rampant eagle.

There are 22 acres of trails leading to gardens, the Smith Family Farm and a WWII trench. Visit the Coach House where Mr. Inman parked his vehicles and is now a restaurant. There is a cafe in the Atlanta History Museum as well. We opted to walk over to Smoke Belly for some fantastic BBQ.

The all-inclusive general admission ticket includes access to the Atlanta History Museum, the 1860s era Smith Family Farm property, the 1928 Swan House mansion, and 22 acres of gardens. Plus, admission to the Margaret Mitchell House, is included if visited within 9 days of Atlanta History Center. Ticket prices are $21.50/Adult, $18.00/Senior or Student, $9.00/Child 4-12.

If you are crossing off filming locations in Atlanta. Be sure to hit the Swan House. There is a room dedicated to the filming of The Hunger Games.

 

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

Fran, the girls, and Mama

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  • Thank you to the Atlanta History Center for information regarding the Swan House and the Inman family.
  • Also thank you to Tammy H. Galloway, and GeorgiaEncyclopia.com for information regarding the Inman family.
  • All photos are mine except the back entrance and garden and the photo of The Swan House decorated for the Hunger Games.

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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Exploring a Hidden Botanical Treasure

One hour south of Atlanta and thirty minutes from Macon is the small town called,”Flovilla”. If you are traveling down I-75 between these two cities, I urge you to hop off the exit and take the back road detour to explore this area.

Down in these neck of the woods is Indian Springs State Park, Dauset Trails and The Village at Indian Springs.  You could see all three of these in just one day.

Photo Jun 17, 12 31 29 PMThe Whimsical Garden, is a botanical treasure that  resides behind Mrs. Lee’s Sweet Stop in the Village at Indian Springs. The garden, sitting atop a hill, is almost hidden behind the town’s sparse buildings. You can enter the garden through an education shed or near the Big Chief Store. A stone path winds throPhoto Jun 17, 12 13 28 PMugh the garden, making it an easy stroll for wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers. Every where you look you see, impatiens, daisies, jonquils, rhododendrons, purple heather, and jasmine brightly shining in the sun. Large oak, willow, and pine trees gently sway, kicking up a gentle breeze. The cicadas sing their sad tune throughout the trees lining the perimeter of the garden. This is truly a botanical beauty.

Photo Jun 17, 12 12 16 PMWe started our garden tour in the rose garden where a large wooden totem stands greeting you. There are hundreds of roses in every color surrounding it.  I wish I knew who carved this beauty.

The garden itself is situated so perfectly within the Village at Indian Springs so that if standing in the center of the garden you see the chapel in the background and a lovely fountain in the foreground. There is a large gazebo with ceiling fans and rocking chairs that provide a place for visitors to relax while taking in the botanical scene. Shane and I sat for a spell, enjoying the warm breeze, surrounded by blooms that permeated a sweet fragrance throughout the garden. We enjoyed our ice cream that we picked up at the Sweet Stop. (Try the banana pudding flavor) The birds were singing, and the chapel was in the background.  It was a hot summer day, but sitting under the fans of the gazebo was cool and relaxing.  We just sat and connected with each other.

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Whimsical Garden

Following the path that winds under archways and through manicured tunnels, we continued on. Bright pinwheels twirl along the way and playful stone animals await children to pose for a photo op!Stone critters await you in the Whimsical Garden

 

 

 

 

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As we moseyed along we came to a screened building that had at least 50 vintage metal “Tonka Trucks”. These are kind that my brothers and I used to play with. Sadly, ours were left behind in the crawl space when we moved from our childhood home. Years later my brother Chris and I went back to the old house, hoping they were still there, but alas, no, they were gone. This was a nostalgic gold mine! They are old, battered and covered in mud and rust. I could picture these fellas being played by little boys and girls, making dump truck and screeching tire sounds as they plowed through the Georgia red clay! Ah! the good ole days of childhood in 1975!

The architect that designed the garden paid attention to artistic details.  Our favorite was the “flower bed”, such a fantastic idea!

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Before we knew it, we came to the end of our tour in the garden.  A small potting shed acts as an exit.  You enter through one door and leave the garden through another. Inside the shed are pots, spades, and signs that teach children how to plant flowers.  We hated to leave the garden but we had other things to see and do so we parted ways with a, “bye Y’all!”

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I sure hope you take a hour out of your drive to check out this town and garden.  It is worth the trip down the back road.

Keep the Luster for Wandering Y’all!

Fran

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