Helton Creek Falls – North Georgia

I’ve heard so much about Helton Creek Falls that we made a trip of it after hiking at nearby Vogel State Park. The well-marked entrance is located on Hwy 129/19 just one mile south of Vogel.

However, we thought we were in the wrong place driving through a residential neighborhood of houses perched alonside a creek. Soon, the road turned gravel and a hand-painted sign announced the falls were just 2 miles ahead.


The road seemed to go nowhere.

The most difficult part of the trip was the bumpy, rocky dirt road. In the distance, we saw the falls and came to a parking area. For such an out of the way place, there were 6 or 7 cars. The total loop to the falls is just 1/3 of a mile. We climbed down the path and the temperature was instantly cooler. When we reached to the falls, we took a left to descended down the wooden stairs to the base of the lower falls.


The steps leading to the base of the lower falls.


Lower falls at Helton Creek.



Afterwards, we climbed back up and continued to the base of the upper falls where there was a viewing deck.


The decked area of the upper falls at Helton Creek.



Along the trail.



Upper Helton Creek Falls.


If you’re in the area, it’s worth the trip here. On the way home, we stopped by the historic Walasi-Yi Inn. It’s at Neel’s Gap where the Appalachian Trail crosses under a roof. Many AT hikers can be seen relaxing here as they get their mail, use the showers and visit before continuing their journey. The store offers outdoor gear, groceries and supplies.



This is the only covered area of the Appalachian Trail.


Walasi Yi Center at Neel’s Gap near Blood Mountain.


View from inside Mountain Crossings store at Walasi Yi.




Morningside Nature Preserve – Atlanta


  • Sandy Beaches
  • A Suspension Bridge
  • Wooded Trails

— All on one hike in the heart of Atlanta.

With its 34 acres of land, Morningside Nature Preserve is a quick getaway from the city, without leaving it. It is perfect for families with children, older adults and dogs. The new wooden, suspension bridge crossing South Fork Peachtree Creek is a favorite for photographers while the sandy beaches of South Fork Peachtree Creek (a tributary of Peachtree Creek) are popular with dogs.


Arriving at the parking lot located next to a power plant substation, I wanted to leave. The trail looked dismal as it led under the power lines up a big hill. Thankfully, we didn’t turn back.


The scenery gets much better about a quarter-mile later when the trail leaves the power lines and descends 40-50 steps. Since our dog didn’t like the metal grating on the steps, we took him along the dirt hill path next to the stairs. At the bottom, the meadow with tall grass and dirt path made me forget the power substation.


We followed the dog walkers in front of us as they veered to the right on a side path. We came to the banks of South Fork Peachtree Creek. After letting the dog splash in the shallow water for a while, we went back to the main path, which led through the preserve to a newly built, wooden suspension bridge.


Crossing the bridge to the western side, trail options abounded with a medley of interconnected loops. We observed the mixture of hardwoods and pine trees while listening to the birds. I kept reminding myself we were in the heart of Atlanta – not a suburb.



As the path meandered, it had a few climbs and descents which were enough to keep it interesting. We met hikers of all ages along the way. At one split, we could take the path leading to the Wellborn Street entrance or another that hugged the creek. We chose the latter and soon ended back at the suspension bridge. After retracing our steps, the total we hiked was 2. 2 miles.

Parking is free and located at 2020 Lenox Road. For more information, click here.


Arabia Mountain – Lithonia, GA

Springtime has come to Atlanta so hubby and I took the dog to Arabia Mountain for Monadnock Madness Month.




We parked at the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve to use the restrooms, get a map and visit the nature center. The guide on duty suggested we walk the 1-mile path (mostly on a boardwalk along Klondike Road) to reach the mountain since parking at the mountain is usually at capacity on the weekends.

Starting on the Mountaintop Trail up the granite rocks, I felt we were walking on the moon. The ascent is only 148 feet so it’s much easier than Stone Mountain. Stone cairns led the way along the blue path for a while.


The moonscape dotted with solution pools, resurrection moss and red diamorpha is surreal – especially since it’s near a busy road and under the flight path of Hartsfield Jackson Airport. I was surprised there were so many young pines.



Afterwards, we decided to take the 1-mile Mountain View Trail and got lost a few times. The path led us along the base of the mountain so it’s an uncomfortable angle to walk – one leg is higher than the other and it was easy to miss the blue dashes on the rocks to mark the trail.

We had several views of the lake from the mountain base, but it wasn’t until the path veered into the woods that we really got to enjoy the view from other angles and away from crowds.



Coming upon an old camper that was used as target practice, I was a little creeped out. Shortly, we could hear the cars on Klondike Road and came back onto the Mountaintop trail. We retraced our steps along the boardwalk back to the car. What we thought would be a 3-mile hike, turned out to be 6 miles according to an exercise app on my phone.


On the way home, we stopped by the Monestary of the Holy Spirit just 8 miles away to buy bread. We walked around the quiet retreat center and stepped into the abbey just as the sunlight was coming through the stained glass windows.




Art Saved the Western World

Did you know that Winston Churchill was a painter?


In fact, he painted over 500 works of art and they were exhibited in Atlanta from October 1, 2014 – Februay 1, 2015.

I had the pleasure of hearing Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., President of the National Monuments Foundation, speak at a luncheon. Cook’s firm built the Millennium Gate Museum in Midtown Atlanta where “The Art of Diplomacy: Winston Churchill and the Pursuit of Painting” exhibit was showcased. The 85-foot high arch resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, with its classical styling. Additionally, it houses a 12,000 square foot museum.


The Millennium Gate Museum in Midtown Atlanta


“The building was my mid-life crisis Ferrari with a few more zero’s attached,” Mims told the crowd. “Behind the state capital, it is the second largest collection of items related to Georgia history.”

Churchill and Georgia history?

Most people don’t automatically connect the two.

Mims explained that Churchill’s ancestor, John Churchill – the First Duke of Marlborough trained James Oglethorpe in the military. James Oglethorpe served as one of the 21 trustees of the newly colonized Georgia and protected the area from the Spanish at St. Augustine Fl. Additionally, Oglethorpe’s brother served at John Churchill’s aide-de-camp in the Battle of Blenheim. In the early 1930’s, Churchill and his daughter, Diana visited Atlanta, staying at the Biltmore Hotel. Later, his other daughter, Sarah, got married at Sea Island in 1949. Currently, Churchill’s great-grandson, Duncan Sandys resides in Macon with his Georgia-born wife.


Painting by Churchill’s grand-daughter, Edwina Sandys


But what about painting? After the Battle of Gallipoli, Churchill was unpopular and grew depressed. In 1915, he picked up painting as therapy. Mims said, “He was quite good at it and entered some of his works anonoymously to contests and won.”



His works have an impressionistic style to them and the exhibit showed 30 of them. Other items  are displayed – including a letter from Churchill’s doctor prescribing alcohol on his trip to Atlanta during the Prohibition years.

One of my favorite paintings is “The Tower of Katoubia Mosque,” not only for the beauty in the piece, but the story behind it.


Tower of Katoubia Mosque


Cook explained that FDR and Churchill met in Casablanca secretly without Stalin. After the conference, Churchill insisted that FDR travel the 150 miles across the desert with him to see the sunset at Marrakesh, one of Churchill’s favorite winter destinations. Despite opposition from the Secret Service, FDR agreed and they had an enjoyable time. The next day, Churchill painted the picture and gave it to FDR as a gift. It was the only painting he did during WWII.

Unfortunately, the painting got lost over time. Mim’s assistant asked for a month to try to locate it. Through extensive research, she found it had been for sale at Rou Antiques in New Orleans at the same time a particular movie had been filmed there. According to Mims, “She traced the walking routes of this one actor from where he was staying to the set. If this one actor walked, not rode in a car, but walked to the set, he would pass the painting in the window every day.”

It was a gamble, but through some connections, Mims was able to approach the actor and ask if he owned it. Once the actor heard the background story, he admitted he owned it and would lend it to the exhibit for exhibition. At first, he wanted to do it anonymously, but later agreed as long as they included his wife on the signage.

The couple – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.


The theme that runs through this exhibit is taken from historian Ernst Gombrich’s observation that art saved the western world. Had Churchill not found solace in painting, he may have succumbed to his depression – what he called “the black dog.” If so, he wouldn’t have been Prime Minister of England at such a pivotal point in history. In fact, he was one of just a handful of people during the late 1930’s that didn’t trust Hitler.


I think these works of art did save the western world and the way we live today.

The exhibition left Atlanta on February 1, 2015. However, it is at the Martha Barry Museum in Rome until March 15th. It will then travel to UGA in Athens until April 19th before its final destination at the Telfair Museum in Savannah until July 26, 2015.

For  more information, visit http://churchill-atlanta.com/museum.