Monday, May 31, 2010

A Day Of Remembrance

Today, Memorial Day, is the day that has been set aside to remember all those men and women who have served and are currently serving in the Armed Forces to ensure our freedom and liberty – especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

My father and many of my uncles served during World War II.  My dad was a corpsman in U. S. Navy and participated in the Invasion of Normandy in 1944.  Having seen Saving Private Ryan, I can only begin to imagine the horrors that he must have witnessed first hand.  Dad hardly ever spoke of the war; it was only when one of his old Navy buddies would show up that we would hear some of the stories.

When I was a young lad growing up in small town America, there would be a parade every Memorial Day.  The parade would consist of a color guard, a marching band, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, National Guard with their “army trucks”, town dignitaries riding in convertibles, and the Broiler Queen with the fire trucks pulling up the rear.  It would begin just outside of town on High Street and march to the center of town, turn left at Main Street, march past the Post Office, and up the hill to the Cemetery where a twenty-one gun salute would take place.

Our family would visit my grandfather’s grave and place flowers and a flag next to the headstone – he served in World War I.  The day was, in fact, set aside as a day to honor those generations who went before us and valiantly fought to protect our way of life. 

So, today let us not forget.  Take some time to reflect on what it means to be an American and how blessed we are because of the men and women who were willing to give their time and lives in order that we can continue to live in this great land of ours.  A great big THANK YOU to all of you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Vacation Season Begins

This weekend marks the official start to the vacation season.  The season where people with kids, dawgs, beer, and campfires show up at campgrounds across the nation.  Even still, it’s nice to see families enjoying the great outdoors; camping is still one the best ways to draw families together and to build lasting memories. 

Judy and I are volunteering at the Tallulah Gorge State Park Interpretive Center this weekend.  Yesterday was busy but no where near as busy as it would have been had the gorge floor been opened for those hardy souls who want to climb over the rocks to make their way to Bridal Vale Falls (also known as Sliding Rock).  It had rained hard Friday night which left the rocks in the gorge wet and slippery. 

Bridal Vale Falls is the only place in the gorge where people are allowed to swim.  The falls are seventeen feet high with a gentle sloping rock ledge that people can slide down which attracts the young and the young at heart.  To get there you have to climb down all the stairs to the bottom of the gorge, climb over big boulders to get to the other side of the river, and then make a strenuous three quarter mile hike along the river’s edge (more rock climbing) just to get there.

Once you arrive at “Sliding Rock”, you just have to slide down the falls in order to cool off.  Yep, it’s too bad that youthful energy is wasted on the young and not shared with those of us who have the wisdom to use it.  Oh well, it is what it is!!

Today we go into the Interpretive Center again at noon time; the good news is that the Center closes at five (we have no evening hours) even though the park doesn’t close until dusk.  Therefore, unlike last year, we get to have our evenings free – Yay!!

Hope you’re enjoying a great holiday weekend and don’t forget to give thanks for all those who sacrificed for the freedoms that we enjoy today.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Black Rock Mountain State Park

It was another beautiful summer morning with light hazy skies and bright sunshine.  Judy and I decided to visit a sister state park that is within fifteen miles of Tallulah Gorge, Black Rock Mountain State Park.  The views from the top of Black Rock Mountain were nothing short of magnificent – we even enjoyed these views better than those from Brasstown Bald.

Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest state park in Georgia encompassing some of the prettiest land in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is named for the “biotite gneiss” (dark colored mica laminated into metamorphic rock) that make up the cliffs on this 3,640 foot high mountain which is located along the Eastern Continental Divide.  There are several overlooks that provide spectacular views of the Southern Appalachians along with many hiking trails, waterfalls, cascading streams, and beautiful lush forests.

Beginning with the visitor’s center, we made a few new friends; among them a coyote named Smitty and a timber rattler named Fang – not really, they didn’t have names.

And the Moon Wasn't Even Out!! This Bad Boy Doesn't Look Very Friendly

We have done more than enough hiking over the past several days so elected to view whatever we could see from the truck and the visitor’s center.  One fine day we’ll have to go back and experience this park in more detail. So, for now, just sit back and enjoy the rest of the mountain views which we took from the deck at the visitor’s center at the top of the mountain and a couple of turn outs along the way back down the mountain side.

From the Observation Area Outside the Visitor's CenterJudy Liked the Clouds Breaking Over the Mountain TopsTaken From the Deck at the Visitor's Center One of the Turnouts on the Way Down the Mountain SideJust Plain Beautiful More BeautyAnd More Last One

This was a rather relaxing outing for us which we needed.  There is soooo much beauty to be seen up in this area that one hardly knows where to start first.  Western South Carolina and Northwestern North Carolina hold plenty of treasures as well, so we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Between all the mountain vistas and the many waterfalls we could certainly keep ourselves busy; then add the seasons to the equation and it would take a life time to experience it all.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center

Miss Judy and I traveled back in time to a period before electricity; that would mean NO radio, NO television, and, heaven forbid, NO computers or internet.  How could anyone have lived like that?

After a winding drive up the side of Black Rock Mountain, just outside of Mountain City, Georgia, we arrived at the Gate House which is the visitor’s center and gift shop for The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center.

The Gate House

The Foxfire Magazine began in 1966 as an attempt to engage high school English students and increase their interest for learning.  The simple idea of students producing a magazine grew into an education success story unlike any other and has endured in the classroom.  The Foxfire Magazine is still in production at Raburn County High School today.” -  Museum Tour Guide Booklet

As the students were searching for things that they could write about, they turned to their heritage by seeking out the histories of their ancestors, friends, and neighbors.  They wanted to know what life was like back in the 1800’s – how the people lived, how things were done, and what daily life looked like.

“In 1972, an anthology of the student-written articles was gathered and published as The Foxfire Book.  Over 30 years have passed since then, and 11 more books have been published.  The Foxfire Book series stands as a lasting tribute not only to the people and traditions of Southern Appalachia, but to those high school students who valued their community, neighbors, and families.” – Museum Tour Guide Booklet

However, the Foxfire experience goes beyond that of publishing a magazine and books.  Through the combination of the classroom and hands-on learning, students experience life as it was lived two centuries earlier.  Everything on display has been built and/or collected through the efforts of middle and high school students.

The exhibits consist of twenty plus buildings housing artifacts from life in the 1800’s.  There are cabins that were homes to families, a chapel, barns, a grist mill and other utility structures such as smoke house and root cellar.  Artifacts consist of tools, farm implements, toys, and other items used in daily life.  The structures are both authentic or built using materials salvaged from other buildings from that period.   Here are a few photographs from our tour.

The Savannah House - Oldest Structure In The Exhibit Interior of the Savannah HouseWoodworking Hand Tools Wooden Flag that was Displayed at the Smithsonian

Many of the exhibits, such as the Blacksmith Shop, are “working models” where students can gain hands-on experience.

Blacksmith Shop Blacksmith Tools

The wagon shed housed two wagons one of which is the only documented wagon known to have traveled to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears (the forced relocation of the Cherokee people from the east to the west).

Wagon Shed Zuraw Wagon Traveled the Trail of Tears

The church was the center of any Appalachian community and was usually the first building constructed.  It served as the church, schoolhouse, and meeting hall for the community.

The Chapel Interior of the Chapel

The Gott Cabin serves as a broom shop where corn stock brooms are still being manufactured by hand the old fashioned way.

Gott Cabin The Broom Shop (Gott Cabin)

Notice the stilts in front of the Shooting Creek cabin.  My dad used to make these for us kids during my childhood.  They allow you to use them and, yes, Judy and I gave them a try – it wasn’t pretty!!!

Shooting Creek Cabin

The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center is an ongoing project with more and more donations being brought in and erected every year.  A couple of those are the Phillips Cabin and the Warwoman Cabin that are not yet opened to the public.

Phillips Cabin Warwoman Cabin

Miss Judy found a nice place to rest after spending the morning climbing around the mountain side viewing and all of the exhibits.  And, with that we’ll conclude our tour of the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center.  If you find yourself in this area, be sure to stop by and take in this exhibit first hand.  It will give you an appreciation for the lifestyle of our forefathers (and mothers).

Granny Sitting in Her Rocking Chair On The Front Porch

Our next blog entry will cover a visit to Black Rock Mountain State Park, another Georgia gem with majestic mountain views, so be sure to check back with us again tomorrow.  Until then, may God Bless.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Drive In the Country

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.  :-)

Helen, Georgia Helen, Georgia Helen, Georgia Helen, Georgia Helen, Georgia Helen, Georgia

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.

Judy's Kind of Trail A View Along The Way A View Along The Way Another View Along The Way Anna Ruby FallsThe Falls From Curtis Creek The Falls From York Creek Proof That We Were There Along The Trail On Our Way Back Down

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).

Brasstown Mountain View Brasstown Mountain View Brasstown Mountain View Brasstown Mountain View Road Leading Up to Brasstown Bald Parking Area at Brasstown Bald Observation Deck on top of Brasstown Bald

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).

Along Route 180 Along the Richard Russell Highway

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.