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Archive for May, 2009

Oconee County Lookout near Walhalla SC

Oconee County Lookout near Walhalla SC

Dotted along Southern Highroads is scenic overlooks. Those little side skirts that are available for you to pull over and take pictures of an unobstructed view.

There are no warnings that a scenic overlook is about to come around the next bend, so this should encourage you to take those turns carefully. We find them the most starting in North Carolina, a few in Tennessee (especially along the river), and a few in Georgia (right when you enter from Tennessee). Rarely is there any picnic tables for you to camp out at, usually it’s a quick pull over and stretch and photo-op, which I suggest you take advantage of. They chose those spots for a particular reason. Pull over and find out!

Chatooga River, Oconee County, SC

Chatooga River, Oconee County, SC

Scenic Overlook near Murphy, NC

Scenic Overlook near Murphy, NC

Murray County, GA Scenic Overlook

Murray County, GA Scenic Overlook

Ocoee River in Polk County, TN

Ocoee River in Polk County, TN

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Polk County TN

Polk County TN

If you think the drive through Highlands was nice, just wait til you get to the Ocoee Country in Polk County Tennessee. Now there’s even more beautiful rock faces, scenic drives along the river, and a lot of opportunities to pull over and take pictures.

The recreation opportunities here are endless. This is also the area that the 1996 Olympics held their white water rafting in a natural river (usually they’re man-made). There’s a natural beauty about this place that we feel is largely untouched by corporate retail looks, at least not on the main Southern Highroads Trail it’s not. It’s such a peaceful drive and we’ve been fortunate every time we come through here that it’s sunny. I’m not sure how Mother Nature manages it for us every time, but we’re very thankful. 🙂

Ocoee River, TN - White Water Rafting

Ocoee River, TN - White Water Rafting

I would have to say that the main reason for visiting Polk County, TN would be for their water recreation. That alone is notorious and bountiful. They also have some very nice events and festivals for the whole family. There’s also a lot of back stories, legends, and their own hauntings. My favorite place though is inside of Benton, there’s a lovely B&B there called the Ocoee Mist, which will have to be a post by itself because the experience deserves a full blown post about it.

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Downtown Highlands NC

Downtown Highlands NC

We start driving early morning from Atlanta, and we always head East on the Southern Highroads Trail. I’m not sure why we do this, but this is what we’ve always done and it kind of stuck.

Dry Falls Highland NCI know largely it has to do with being able to stop by Highlands, North Carolina on a late Saturday afternoon. Every time we seem to go it’s pretty quiet. Maybe everyone is tired from shopping or recreational, or they’re all getting ready for dinner and we’re just early birds.
Many restaurants in Highlands have received noticeable attention from magazines and even TV shows. There are playhouses, creative arts center, antique shopping, and just a wonderful area for a casual stroll through a quaint downtown area.
I feel that the waterfalls are the main attraction. They have: Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, Quarry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls

We get to stay in Franklin, NC at a beautiful timber frame home and the morning drive to get back on the road is awesome. It really is one of the most beautiful scenic drives you’ll ever take. No matter what season… it’s breathtaking. The waterfalls, the cliffs, the turns, and the scenery.
We enjoy Franklin for it’s annual Gemboree Gem and Jewelry show because Franklin is “the gem capital of the world” and there’s a lot of family fun to be had in gem mining. Their downtown area is also nice to walk around in.

Scenic Drive through Franklin NC

Scenic Drive through Franklin NC

You can stay on the Southern Highroads and land right in Highlands and Franklin, there are no extra turns you have to make. When you do drive through there, GO SLOW! There are many photo opportunities and if you’re going too fast, you’ll miss it and there’s nowhere to really turn around.

I highly suggest getting a good digital camera or video camera and mounting it to your dashboard while you drive. After you watch the footage, it does get a litte nauseating, but it’s something you will watch over and over again.

We do.

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Traveling through the mountains, you have to stay overnight somewhere, and we opted for a Timber Frame Home in Franklin North Carolina. Sure we could’ve stayed at a motel, but why stay there.. when you could stay here:

Timber Frame Home Cabin Rental

Yea. That’s where we stayed. Talk about living in the lap of luxury, and honestly, it wasn’t that expensive and it was worth every penny. Pam (owner) has thought about every single detail of this home. The only thing we really had to bring was ourselves and a change of clothes. There was even leftover food in the fridge and freezer and plenty of condiments. The kitchen was fully equipped and we didn’t have to want for anything.

Nature Walk in NC MountainsWe took a nice nature walk during sunset, and once nighttime came around, we sat outside on the back porch and could actually count the stars. It was beautiful, fantastic, and peaceful. In the morning we woke up to birds singing, a beautiful mountain breeze, and coffee on the back porch (it had the best view). Coffee was provided. I told you, there was very little we had to bring.

Timber Frame Home Cabin RentalSo how does this experience differ from a stay in a hotel? Well I just got back from another trip and let me just tell you the difference:
– We had to go to the front office to get more sugar, more towels, and some little shampoos.
– The people next to us really enjoyed watching a movie… LOUD
– Some guys outside our door talked until 2am.
– We were near a fire station.
– I opened our curtains and our lovely view was a guy bending over (yea, not kidding there)
– We had to go out to eat, which is nice sure, but after driving for 6 hours.. we only wanted to rest and didn’t want to have to get back into the car.

You really pay for the experience, the exclusivity of the area, and the bragging rights once you get back home. And honestly, when we returned home we didn’t have that exhausted feeling. We felt extremely refreshed. I know that has to do with Pam’s attention to detail in The Pond House.

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Living History DaysThe Rabun County Christian Home Educators host their 2nd Annual Living History Days at the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City, GA. Held once a year in April, this event is to show visitors the life and culture of Appalachia people during the 1800s. Very true to form.. everyone is dressed in period costume, cooking in an open fire, holding church service and using period tools. Even the children play with toys from that era.

Living History Days - Foxfire Museum

The experience is absolutely wonderful. There are volunteers at each building, and they describe to you what they’re doing, how people lived in those days, and invite you to take part in activities. This year there was a blacksmith, a wookworker, home-school moms cooking over a fire, and a master storyteller.

Michelle is the one who began this 2 years ago, and with the help of the Rabun County Home Educators and Foxfire, she was able to bring Living History Days alive, and alive is truly what it is. It couldn’t be held in a better or more authentic location. The Foxfire Museum is so far up Black Rock Mountain that you can’t hear the roaring of any cars. You truly feel like you’ve time traveled and these volunteers have really made this a memorable experience. Keep Southern Highroads Trail website bookmarked on the events page to see when this event will take place again.

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foxfireThe term “foxfire” is a name commonly applied to several species of bioluminescent fungi that grow on rotting wood in damp forests. These fungi typically produce a dim blue-green glow that can be seen only in dark, starlit areas, away from any artificial lights or moonlight.

However, if you travel on the Southern Highroads Trail, you may see actual foxfire, but one may be talking about The Foxfire Fund. The Foxfire Fund is an educational and literary organization in Mountain City, Georgia. Less than 5 miles off Southern Highroads, up Black Rock Mountain, around a dirt road, and just when you think you’re lost.. you’re there!

Foxfire Magazine MuseumFoxfire Fund produces magazines and books in order to educate and entertain people about the lives and culture of the Appalachia people. They’re not just simple “hillbillies”. It is a vast and rich culture of self-sustaining folks who have a wealth of knowledge. And this knowledge was bound together in a magazine beginning in the late 1960s, with the first production of their book in 1972.

Foxfire has produced many books since that time and has turned it into a learning experience for those in Rabun County, GA. Their learning technique has actually come into demand from other people wishing to expand on their own culture.

Foxfire Museum

Due to the popularity and profitability of the Foxfire books, the Foxfire Fund (and the help of their students) were able to get land on Black Rock Mountain and clear it out to make way for the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center. The students built the buildings you see here. Yes. Students. High school students built all of that. That’s how passionate they feel about the organization they belong to.

Foxfire Museum

A little blog post like this does not give Foxfire enough credit to them though. To really experience it, you have to visit their museum. For more information about them, visit their website: The Foxfire Fund. On our trip we were lucky to coordinate it on the Living History Days, which will be in another post. Look for that soon!

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