The history of Helen, Georgia begins in the early 1800’s when gold was discovered in the local area. Prior to that time the land belonged to the Moundbuilders followed by the Cherokees. The town never really grew until the early 1900’s when mills were constructed in support of the lumber industry. In 1910 Helen was officially created and named for Helen McComb who was the daughter of a Byrd-Mathews lumber mill manager and the niece of John E. Mitchell, a major real estate developer in the area. However, without any conservation measures in place, it didn’t take long for the forest to be striped and the loggers to move on leaving Helen struggling.
In 1931, during the Great Depression, the mills closed. At this time the federal government began to purchase the bare land and organize it as the Chattahoochee National Forest. The area began to see the tourist traffic increase, however, being a rundown little town, the tourists just past Helen by on their way to the forest. So in the early 1970’s Helen began to re-create itself resembling a Bavarian village. Today, Helen is the third most visited city in Georgia following Atlanta and Savannah. While walking about the village, we stopped by Hoffer’s Bakery for a nice Bavarian Creme filled pastry. :-)
Beginning on Tray Mountain, Anna Ruby Falls are created out of the joining of Curtis and York Creeks. The falls from Curtis creek drops 153 feet and and the falls from York Creek drops 50 feet which together form the Double falls. The Falls are named after the only daughter of Colonel John H. “Captain” Nichols who had purchased the land after the Civil War. There is nice paved scenic trail leading a half mile up to the falls with a viewing decks located just below the falls. The falls are managed by the U. S. Forest Service; hence, free entrance for those of us holding an “Old Geezers” Pass.
At 4784 feet high Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia. From the observation deck on top you can see four different states; Georgia, North Carolina (N), South Carolina (E), and Tennessee (NW) and, on a clear day, you can see the tall buildings in Atlanta. The weather (which was supposed to be great) was a bust leaving the mountain views in a fog but, it was still beautiful none-the-less. Again, the area is managed by the U. S. Forest Service which translates to free entrance with my pass.
According to the historical markers, the area surrounding Brasstown Bald was settled by the Cherokee people. White settlers derived the word Brasstown from a translation error of a Cherokee word. Sounding very similar to another Cherokee word, settlers confused the word "Itse'yĭ" (New Green Place or Place of Fresh Green) with "Ûňtsaiyĭ" (Brass). Itse'yĭ, New Green Place, is a Cherokee locative name given to several distinct areas in the Cherokee world, including an area to the North of Brasstown Bald in North Georgia.
Being the lazy wimps that we are, we took the shuttle to the top as this hill “ain’t” your friend; it is a strenuous hike to the top even though the trail is paved, however, we did hike the trail back down (gravity being what it is and all).
Our drive for the day was along the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway but, even though it is a very pretty drive, it is tough to get pictures of the mountains through the trees. Here are a couple of shots along the Richard Russell Highway (we were going to stop and visit Dukes Creek Falls but our energy was evaporating fast and our bellies were saying, “Feed Me!” so we didn’t make the stop).
After finishing the loop, we made a beeline for Oinker’s for some highly tooted BBQ but upon arrival discovered it was closed. :-( So, it was onto Clayton where we had the buffet at the Peking Chinese restaurant. It was good but not the best Chinese that we’ve had.
Today we’re heading out again, so hang in there!! We’ll have some more to share with you tomorrow.