Day Trip to South Carolina – Yellow Branch Falls

Another weekend arrived and we wanted to take the dogs on a hike. We’ve done a lot in North Georgia and decided to try South Carolina instead. Since we’d gone to Lake Keowee for the Solar Eclipse, we decided to explore the surrounding area. Our travels lead us to Yellow Branch Falls in the Sumter National Forest.

Since we were also trying to get some practice driving for our teenagers, we drove up to Clayton and then on a windy road to Mountain Rest. There, we stopped at a local restaurant called the Rooster’s Call for burgers. Since we had the dogs with us, one of us stayed in the car with the dogs (and AC running) while the others ordered. I had the pimento cheese burger which was hearty.

Just about five miles down the road, we parked at Yellow Branch Falls. The trail is about 1.5 miles to the falls. As we climbed up and down, dodging tree roots along the rugged path, we passed friendly hikers and other dogs.  After 1.5 miles, we came to the falls.

 

You can walk on the rocks at Yellow Branch Falls

There were several things I particularly liked about these falls. First, you could walk right up to the rocks. There was no dedicated platform where people were squished together. We had fun climbing the rocks and one person was napping on one of the ledges.

I also liked that although they were not tall, these falls were really wide. The water cascading down wasn’t located in one big burst, but in nice trickles all around. It was like a gentle shower.

After returning to the car, we drove literally across Hwy 28 to Issaquena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel Park. For a $2 parking fee, you can visit both in less than an hour. We drove to the parking lot for the falls. Just a short walk away is a view of the top of Issaqueena Falls. The wooden platform area was crowded and some people were taking the ten minute walk to the base of the falls.

Issaqueena Falls is taller with a 200-foot cascade

We drove over to the other parking lot to see Stumphouse Tunnel. I couldn’t figure out what it would be, but the sign explains it all.

 

 

In a nutshell, construction of a railroad tunnel through the mountain began before the Civil War, but was never completed. Now, you can walk in the tunnel area. Using our flashlights from our cellphones, we could feel the cool air as we walked through the wet, sometimes sloshy, earth.

Entering the tunnel

 

Inside Stumphouse Tunnel

You don’t appreciate the light until you turn around and walk back towards it to exit. Its like another world inside, completely oblivious to the outside world.

After leaving South Carolina, we took a windy path to Toccoa, Georgia. I’d heard there are falls you can almost drive up to on the Toccoa Falls College campus. Our map directions took us to the wrong part of the campus, but a helpful person gave us directions. Some of us were tired and cranky and opted to stay in the car. We went into a Visitor Center, walking through a gift shop and towards the back of the building. I had no idea what to expect. So far, I wasn’t impressed. We continued to walk a few feet and there it was – a tall, really tall waterfall.

Toccoa Falls right on the Toccoa Falls College campus

 

Who knew this would be right here on a college campus? It was another one of those falls where you could walk around and enjoy. One lady had a stroller and when I walked by, something inside yelped. It was a baby – but two small dogs.

 

As we left, we went into the student center to use the restrooms and fill up our water bottles before driving home. The students were courteous and said things like, “How are you doing?” and “Hello.” I later found out it is a Christian college of only 750 students on 1,100-acre campus. It might be worth looking into for our family.

One last view of Toccoa Falls


New Echota State Historic Site – Calhoun, GA

Do you remember the Trail of Tears?

Sadly, the only thing I could tell you was it had to do with Native American Indians being forced to move out West. It seems my history classes focused more on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War than anything else.

Did you also know that the Cherokee Indians tried to get along with the white man by adopting many of their styles in clothing? They adopted a government similar to ours with three branches? They also had a written language and a weekly newspaper. In fact, the Cherokee Indians were about 90% literate.

The print shop where the weekly Cherokee Phoenix newspaper was printed.

My lack of knowledge was apparent when we visited the New Echota State Historic Park. Until then, my perception of Native American Indians was from TV Westerns. In my mind, they were savage groups of people who viciously attacked settlers moving out West. They wore warpaint, little clothing and were completely uncivilized. That may have been the case at some point, but not by the 1800’s in Georgia.

During the 17-minute film at the visitor center, I learned many new things. First of all, the area was named New Echota after the original Echota in Tennessee. New Echota was developed around 1825 and served as the capital of the Cherokee Nation until the late 1830’s when the Trail of Tears forced the tribe to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee didn’t sleep in tepees, but rather had farms in this well laid out town complete with a tavern, print shop and silversmith.

Interior of a Cherokee farmhouse

They also had three branches of government set up similar to the United States. Also on display were the recreated Council House and Supreme Court building.

The Council House

 

Inside the Council House

The Reverend Samuel Worcester resided here with his Cherokee wife and six children at the edge of the town. It is the only surviving building from the 1830’s.

The only original building belonged to Rev. Worcester

 

Dining room inside Rev. Worcester’s house

What happened to this peaceful town? Gold — or rather the discovery of gold at nearby Dahlonega caused efforts to remove the Native American Indians to quickly ramp up. Rev. Worcester sued the state of Georgia in 1831 and the case went to the Supreme Court. Although the highest court ruled in favor of the Cherokee Nation, President Andrew Jackson ignored it. Additionally, three prominent leaders  – Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot (owner of the newspaper) signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835 without the consensus of Chief John Ross and the majority of the Cherokee. Because of this betrayal, the three men were later assassinated. But the damage was done, in 1838 the Cherokee were forced to move into stockades and ultimately westward.

It is a sad chapter in U.S. history, but thankfully the park was begun in 1962. Today, a volunteer explained the workings of the printing press and how much work went into getting the weekly newspaper printed. Did you know they stored all the type (individual letters to form words) in cabinet drawers. The Capital letters were in the top drawer and the rest in lower drawers. Hence the term uppercase and lowercase letters!

After spending a few days putting the type together in columns, print shop workers would ink the press, lay the paper down and press with the large lever. Then, they had to hang up the paper to allow the ink to dry before printing the other side.

Our volunteer demonstrates the printing process

The entire site was a fascinating look at history. The site was opened in the 1962 after archaeologists excavated the area in the 1950’s. Today, it is open Wednesdays through Saturdays. For more information, click here.


The Rock Garden – Calhoun, GA

 

My hairdresser told me she and her boyfriend did a weekend in Calhoun, GA. Located in the northwestern corner of Georgia, this community gets overlooked by many Atlantans. Since it’s only about an hour away, it’s too far to be a suburb, but too close to be a destination like Chattanooga.

We needed to get driving practice in for our teenagers and since it was Labor Day weekend, we were itching to get out of the city and do something different. We took Hannah’s advice and went to see the Rock Garden in Calhoun.

When I think of rock gardens, I think of front-yard landscaping in Arizona houses – brown and ugly. This is totally different. It’s more like whimsical castles and bridges made out of rock pebbles. And it’s totally free!

The gardens are located behind the Calhoun 7th Day Adventist Church, who also owns the land. The garden was started by Dewitt Boyd, aka “Old Dog” in 2007. He and other volunteers have spent years working on the different formations. The first one we came to was dedicated to one of the ministers of the church and had names of people in the rocks that contributed. As part of the building, there was a large rock wall that made a secluded outdoor living space to sit and reflect.

On of the first structures and leads to outdoor room

As we walked around more of these structures, we were amazed to see the detail work involved – arches in the windows, climbing staircases around towers, even a few mini-figures placed inside some of the rooms. But what’s even more neat is that the area is a true garden. Impatiens, hostas and ferns flank many of the rock castles. Sometimes, the turrets and walls serve as planters. A small pond is situated along the back side and there’s even a castle that drapes over the lake.

This castle built over the water serves as a planter for ferns.

It’s a relaxing place and you can walk among the buildings.  However, plenty of seating areas dot the garden for quiet reflection including a wooden gazebo.

The area has plenty of seating

The buildings aren’t always made out of pebbles. Sometime, the artists use marbles, seashells, broken glass and other items that have significance to them. One of my favorites is the replica of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, which uses stained glass for the windows.

The replica of Notre Dame

For more information about The Rock Garden, directions and hours of admission, click here.


Corn Festival at Hardman Farm State Historic Site – White County, GA

Mount Yonah serves as the backdrop for the Hardman Farm and gazebo-topped Indian Mound

Located at the intersection of Hwy 75 (Helen Highway) and Hwy 17 in North Georgia, lies the 162-acre Hardman Farm State Historic Site. It is one of the newer additions to the Georgia State Park system. The farm was built by Colonel James Nichols in 1870 and originally called West End. After discovering the Indian Mounds, he built the red-roofed gazebo on top of it. As a side note, the nearby Anna Ruby Falls was named after his Nichols’ daughter.

The farm was sold in 1893 to Calvin Hunnicutt who used it as a summer home for ten years. Then, Lamartine Hardman bought it and it became a working farm and dairy. Later, Hardman served as the governor of Georgia from 1927-1931 and his family donated the property to the state in 1999. The historic site is only open Thursdays – Sundays.

Who knew there were so many varieties of corn?

On this day in late July, they were having the corn festival. You could go out into the one acre and pick your own corn for the bargain price of 25 cents per cob.

Among the rows and rows of five-foot tall corn stalks were four varieties: Peaches & Cream, Ambrosia, Temptation and Providence. The volunteer explained that the first two are often the varieties found at local grocery stores. Temptation is a smaller corn and is the first to harvest. Because it was a bit after the picking time for Temptation, they told us the corn cobs would be a bit smaller than the rest.

We also learned that you look at the tendrils at the top of the stalk to determine whether it is ripe enough to pick. Once you find a ripe corn, grab it with one hand, pull down with other hand and gently twist. It readily comes off the stalk. After we spend a few minutes picking from the Ambrosia and Peaches and Cream area, we headed back to the visitor center for popcorn, music and corn tastings.

Outside the visitor center, volunteers served popcorn, refreshments and corn tastings

After trying several different types of corn, we decided that Providence was our favorite. It was amazingly fresh and crisp! We went back into the fields and picked a few more from the Providence section. I also saw small red flowers on some of the stalks. I had no idea corn stalks produced flowers.

Inside, we talked to the rangers about the farmhouse. Tours are given every hour on the hour from 10 to 3 pm. Each tour takes about an hour and encompasses many outbuildings as well. When we have more time, I plan to come back for a longer visit. Directly across the street is the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mounds. Currently, you can’t walk on this site, but you can see the gazebo that has topped the mound since 1890.

For more information about the Hardman Farm State Historic Site, visit here.