BLAIRSVILLE is an easily affordable place to begin the day with a hearty country breakfast at the Hole in the Wall Restaurant. Locals and tourists alike have been raving about their biscuits since 1931 and all the servers call everyone “sugar”. I was inspired by their sweet sincerity. I had the pleasure of spending time with Art Millican, Jr., who gave me a rare private tour of his woodworking studio, Sleepy Hollow, where he creates whimsical homes for gnomes and fairies. He is a true artist who has inspired many people to try their own creativity. While I was there, he was also creating a steampunk bicycle. I later attended a wine tasting at Paradise Hills Winery, where a live band played a mix of rock and country. Later still, I heard a delightful live band playing an assortment of country, gospel, and bluegrass at Vogel State Park. That night I stayed in a small cabin that had an awesome hot tub.
CLAYTON has a truly picturesque downtown area full of unusual shops and bar-b-que joints. I enjoyed an oldies rock trio one evening, while watching the sun go down behind the mountains. A local distillery offers whiskey and bourbon. Black Rock Mountain State Park has stunning scenery and my legs got plenty of exercise on those steep roads.
DILLARD is the most touristy (yes, you may translate that as expensive) of these eight towns so I had to go beyond the main shopping area to discover items more within my budget. On the outskirts of town I found two or three fabulously quirky places to obtain home décor, yard art, and pieces of folk art created by talented and inspiring local artisans.
HIAWASSEE is what I call a photographers dream. I was captivated and inspired by scenes all along Lake Chatuge with the mountains in the background. Early one morning I saw a large number of sportsmen trying to find the best spot for the area’s famous trout fishing. I strolled around the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds while they were busy preparing for a festival, they have at least 15 festivals there every year complete with over 60 craft booths.RABUN GAP is now one of my favorite tiny towns of all time and the number one place to get away from it all. I was completely enthralled with Mike and Linda Johnson who have owned and operated the Sylvan Falls Mill Bed and Breakfast for the past 18 years. Their gracious and genuine nature is so very inspiring. Linda thinks of baking as a science, while Mike thinks of presentation as an art; this win-win situation is evident in every delicious meal placed on their table. (Tip: if you go there, please don’t miss the scones and strawberry preserves.) He plays a dulcimer and she plays a harp. Their relaxing and fairly secluded location has its own private waterfall; that alone is so worth seeing.
TIGER is worth a stop for several reasons. It may be small, yet is packed with vineyards, shops, and hiking trails. There is an old-fashion drive-in theater that shows a double feature on weekends. My favorite stop in Tiger was a novelty called Goats on the Roof, and yes, there must have been at least two dozen goats climbing all over their toys and the roof. Also here I found cute photo opportunities galore, along with a small gift shop full of local foods and souvenirs.
TOCCOA is a college town which boasts a stunning waterfall (Toccoa Falls) that is claimed to be 19 feet taller than Niagara Falls. The well-maintained asphalt path leading to the falls makes for excellent access for folks like me who have limited mobility. Few things could be more inspiring than the sound of the falling water and the feel of the mist on warm skin. The town of Toccoa also has an abundance of museums and galleries.
YOUNG HARRIS is a much smaller college town which has a much shorter yet equally inspiring waterfall (Cupid Falls). The path to this fall is briefer and all natural. There is no entry fee and the area is not crowded. It is a perfect place to take lots of pictures and enjoy nature at its finest. This town also has lots of rental cabins, antique shops, and an alpaca farm.
I found so much inspiration on this trip. The beauty of nature combined with the friendly people to provide such great rest and relaxation. I learned that art can be evident in many forms, such as painting, sculpting, and creating fascinating folk art that simply defies all description. Artistry can also be made manifest through food and music. I positively cannot wait to return to these eight great mountain towns in the great state of Georgia.