Plan A Staycation in Northeast Georgia
Mysterious Stones, Breath Taking Gorges, Tumbling Waterfalls, Hidden Tunnels
This summer, my plans to take the kids to 6 Flags and the Atlanta Aquarium fell through as the economic crunch hit home. Having lost a couple of contracts this year, money was tight, but I still wanted to continue the tradition of showing my children some amazing places during summer vacation. Cassidy went to Australia when she was 11. Ian went to Sweden last summer. But this year, we had a staycation. I worried, at first, about how this would go over. At the end, my 17 year old said, "Well, it was pretty cool". If you know 17 year olds, then, I'd say we succeeded.
What's more, is having a staycation gets you to look at the region you live in from a whole new perspective. The economic crunch had me finding things out about this area I'd been overlooking for a long time. So if you live in northeast Georgia or even South Carolina, here are several wonderful places to visit.
Tallulah Gorge - The Grand Canyon of The East
This is one of the places you'll go in your life where you will literally lose your breath in the awesomeness. There is an old-fashioned kind of general store-trading post place that I stopped at that offers a "free view". You go through the store, out on the back porch, and then...wow. The whole of the earth opens up. I was looking a thousand feet down and miles across. Hawks were flying hundreds of feet below me, soaring in the air.
The famous Walenda Family came to the gorge, and Les Walenda walked across it on a tight rope. The stand that was built at one end of the gorge to hold the tight rope is still there, although it rests on its side now. A piece of the metal tight rope, about an inch and a quarter wide, is still attached.
Once you get your breath back, you MUST go through the general store. It is like stepping back in time. Want a Nehi in a bottle? Nostalgiac candy like O Henry, Neco Wafers, Penny Candy-- the kids will love it. Coon skin caps? They got 'em. Old fashioned tin toys? They got 'em. Home made jellies and ciders? Local Honey? Moon Pies? Got 'em.
If the kids haven't worn you out and you still have some breath to lose, try crossing the bridge, driving up the hill to the State Park side of the Gorge, and walk along the paths for one of three viewing areas. You'll also walk through a museum on your way. Also free. It features wildlife in one area, and a history of the railroad, railroad town, and historic school in another area. Then walk outside to the paths leading to the viewing areas, and hear the waterfalls on the way through the woods. When you come to the clearing, you'll lose your breath again, as the Gorge from this side is even more wide open.
The Gorge is located a little past Toccoa, Georgia at Tallulah Falls State Park.
View off The Back Porch of the General Store
Tallulah Gorge - Here is a short one minute video of the gorge from the lookout
The Guideposts of Elberton - (As Seen On The History Channel Show "Decoded")
OK, if you were literally 15 minutes away from a weird place that was investigated by the "Decoded" bunch from The History Channel, would you go? The Guideposts of Elberton are a series of stones written in many language, sort of set up like a Stonehenge or some such. There is a real mystery surrounding who put them there, why they are there, and how much truth is there on the stones. There is also a lot of disturbing ideas on the stone, like "Maintain a World population at 500,000".
We had a LOT of fun taking video and making our own silly documentary.
The Guideposts are neat. Don't get me wrong. We just happened to have watched the "documentary" about them before we visited, and so we were swept up in a little X-File-like humor.
The countryside surrounding these mysterious stones is beautiful. There are horses in the fields, who come right up to the fence. I was able to pet several of them. They are quite friendly.
While visiting Elberton, you can go to the Granite Museum. Elberton is the Granite Capital of the World. There are lots of little diners on the main street. It's a great place for an afternoon visit.
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Stumphouse Tunnel - Really Awesome And A Little Spooky
The Stumphouse tunnel was started in 1852 to make a shorter route for the Blue Ridge Railroad between Charleston and the Ohio River valley. To this point, all railroad travel avoided the mountains of Carolina, Tennesse and South Carolina. Needless to say, a lot of tunnels would be needed for this project. Construction on the railway began and was successful until they hit the mountains in Oconee County around the town of Walhalla. (I just love the name of that town.) The Stumphouse tunnel was started in these mountains, as well as two other tunnels. Irish immigrant workers were brought in. But it was slow hard work. The tunnel was hand chiselled. Imagine. Through pure granite. It was slow, long, dangerous, laborious work. DId I mention slow? By 1859, South Carolina had spent more than a million dollars, and the tunnel was still not complete. Only 4,363 feet had been completed. They were still about a thousand feet short of completion. Then, the Civil War broke out. After the war, there was no money to continue building, and no desire to complete it. Another route was established, and the Stumphouse tunnel was left as it was, incomplete, a thousand feet short of making its way through the other side.
For a time, Clemson University used the tunnels as a natural place to age the cheese from their agricultural department. A lot of locals still call it the "Cheese Tunnel".
You can enter the tunnel, but you must have a flashlight. Water runs down the sides, and it is damp and cool, all year long. We went in July, and it was so refreshing walking in the tunnel away from the 98 degree heat.
It is located in a Park, and there are great trails to hike up and around the tunnel, as well as a nearby water fall. Bring a picnic and spend the day here.
The Stumphouse Tunnel Complex was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 -
Issaqueena Falls - Walhalla, South Carolina
Issaqueena Falls is named after an Indian Princess who was said to have thrown herself over the falls for the love of a white man.
Issaqueena fell in love with David Francis. Her tribe was planning an attack on David's settlement, so Issaqueena hopped on her horse to warn David and the rest of the setllers. She memorized landmarks along the way-- legend has it-- she named the landmarks she passed along the way: Mile Creek, Six Mile, Twelve Mile, Eighteen Mile, Three and Twenty, Six and Twenty, and finally Ninety Six. The towns of Six Mile and Ninety Six and the creeks bearing these names still exist today. The town of Ninety Six is really 92 miles from her starting point. Even without a compass and map, she was pretty darn close with her estimations of distance.
Issaqueena and David ran awy to what is now Stumphouse Mountain to escape the attack. They lived in a large, hollowed-out tree or Stumphouse. The tribe finally tracked the two of them down. Issaqueena ran to the falls and hid inside of a cave. The tribe believe she killed herself by jumping over the falls, so they left. Issaqueena and David were safe. Later, they travelled to Alabama, so they would not have to worry about meeting up with the tribe again.
My kids and I hiked down these very falls, to the bottom, where we stood under them. For all of us, it was the first time we'd ever stood under a waterfall. It was a beautiful adventure.
The Bottom Of TheTrail At Issaqueena Falls - Cassidy cools her feet in the calm pool of water
Even a 17 year old smiles in this environment.
Lake Hartwell - HUGE Lake located in North Georgia and South Carolina
We went out on the boat several times during the summer. We did the usual things like fishing and walking on the beach. We also did some pretty silly things on remote areas of the lake. Ian and Brett bought a "Slip and Slide" and proceeded to set it up and try it out, Lake Hartwell style. It sounded like a good idea. It was fun thinking about it. But in the end...well, a bit of an epic fail. What didn't fail was all the fun planning and executing, and not to mention laughing about it. Swimming and fishing in Lake Harwell ended up being my son Ian's favorite part of the summer. Even my daughter Cassidy got into the action. And Cassidy didn't mind baiting her own hook. Her brother, on the other hand, apologized to each worm he used.
Fun At The Railroad Tracks - Cassidy Goes On A Photo Shoot
The Staycation made us all take a look around to see things we might not have thought about before. Cassidy saw the railroad tracks, and with the coon skin cap she bought at the Tallulah Gorge General Store, decided to have a photo shoot- country girl style. She donned a pair of "overhauls" as they are called in this part of North Georgia, and we walked down to the tracks. She climbed all over the parked trains, walked the tracks, and all along we took her pictures. Several people stopped and asked what we were doing, and they thought it was such a good idea, they looked around and saw it was such a neat place, that they started taking photos of themselves at the tracks, too.
All in all, the staycation, which we did at first out of necessity due to the economy, ended up being a really terrific way to spend the summer. I highly recommend trying a staycation in your own area. And then...write about it and take photos. I'd love to see it!