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Attention families everywhere: it’s time to trek to Blue Ridge, Georgia
Just under two hours north of Atlanta, my family of four savored a recent getaway at Mountain Top Cabin Rental’s Five Star View cabin, overlooking Blue Ridge Lake, in Blue Ridge, Georgia. With all the modern luxuries a family could yearn for, one look around had us wanting to extend our stay.
We fueled up at nearby Iron Bridge Cafe, a roadside restaurant along Aska Road offering views of the Toccoa River and serving lunch staples like BBQ and grilled cheese sandwiches with no-frill sides.
Next, it was off to The Lilly Pad, where mining for gems set us back only $15 while creating priceless memories. Onsite mini golf and fishing are unlimited.
Blue Ridge boasts miles of trails through the Aska and Benton MacKaye Trail system. Take U.S. Forestry Road 816 three miles off Highway 60 to a 260-foot suspension bridge, a “tickle-your-ears bumpy drive” (in the words of a two-year-old) that is worth the bumps, if just for the view and peaceful ripple of the Toccoa River.
Evening hunger pangs were satiated at Joe’s BBQ, where a sign on the door sets the tone with instruction to ring the bell if the door is locked but Joe’s truck is out front. Fall-off-the-bone pork and chicken, coupled with sides like macaroni and cheese, mean stick to your ribs eats that can’t be beat. Joe took our order, asked about our stay, and left us feeling stuffed and like less of a tourist with his thorough welcome.
A must-experience attraction for kids and kids at heart is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which sent us choo-chooing over 26 miles of scenic countryside, most alongside the Toccoa River before laying over in McCaysville, Georgia, and then returning us to Downtown Blue Ridge. After chugga-chugging down the rails, we perused Downtown Blue Ridge boutiques.
Just before beginning plans for a return visit, we ended the weekend with a visit to Mercier Orchards – a chance to show the young ones where food really comes from. Check their Facebook page to find seasonal U-pick options for apples, strawberries and more.
Mom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.
Cave Spring exudes water, passion and preservation.
Take a pitcher to Cave Spring to capture the pure and delicious water in this northwest Georgia community. There are no chemicals in the 1.2 million gallons flowing every day from deep underground — just a dash of fluoride and a bit of required chlorinate. “99.9 percent pure,” Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware says, of his community next door to Rome. To get to the source:
- Meander through 29-acre Rolater Park, cross a little stream with ducks of many-colored heads.
- Venture into the limestone cave with rocky passageways. Self-guided tours are available for $1.00 in the spring and fall, or by appointment.
- Squat outside the cave entrance to fill as many containers as you like. Paper cups are available, but I recommend taking a substantial vessel. This water tastes too good for just a sip. It is worthy of my Waterford.
The water is reason enough to visit this suburb of Rome, and so is sleeping over. Two historic inns are real options.I chose the two-story Victorian Tumlin House where the great-great niece of the original owner is today’s proprietor. I like real-live history connections, and Nancy Boehm (pronounced “bome,” spelled like the artisans of porcelain birds but not related) has a house full of them. Nancy knows lots of family stories in Cave Spring, going back to her Aunt Julia Dickerson receiving this house as a wedding gift from her father in 1896 when she married Albert Tumlin. Albert’s hat hangs in the parlor.
Passionate people live here, caring deeply about their town of 1,200 neighbors. Enduring spirits do too: the Cherokee.Local historians three years ago discovered a two-story log building belonging to the Cherokee Vann family, built in 1810. That means before the Trail of Tears, and before Cave Spring was claimed by white settlers. Quite something, this two-story house and also the substantial Cherokee family home of Major and Schoya Ridge in nearby Rome. How was the log home protected so long? It was covered up by the Green Hotel, built all around the Cherokee building.
There is plenty of evidence of what happens in this tiny town when preservation people fuel their passion. Start in Rolater Park, the same place you get the water. Hearn Academy is the name to know, the private school established in 1839 to be “a permanent school of high order.” It seems that worked until 1922 when public schools were flourishing in Georgia. This exquisitely restored building was a boys’ dormitory; today it’s an inn.
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Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972. She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com
What: Hunter Cattle Company
Where: Brooklet, Georgia
Who: The Ferguson Family
The Story: Del Ferguson has run Hunter Cattle Company since 2003 with his wife, Debra, their youngest son, Hunter, their oldest son, Anthony, and daughter, Kristan, who also live and work on the farm with families of their own. For Ferguson, who was raised on a small family farm in Appling County, Georgia, Hunter Cattle Company represents the realization of a lifelong dream. After 25 years of operating his own business in the Savannah area, Ferguson, along with his family, began the farm with the goal of raising quality animals. “We try to do it like it was a hundred years ago,” says Ferguson, who was inspired to pursue an all-natural, grass-fed, free-range approach to farming after his wife read about the health benefits associated with eating meat from naturally raised animals. Hunter Cattle Company operates under the guidelines of the American Grassfed Association and the organization Animal Welfare Approved. Under these guidelines, all the animals on the farm—pigs, chickens, cows, or even the turkeys currently being raised for Thanksgiving—receive no growth hormones, antibiotics or processed grains, and are free to move throughout the pasture.
Click here to buy Hunter Cattle Company products.
Tip: Have an authentic farm experience when you stay in the Barn Lofts at Hunter Cattle Company!