Central Georgia Day Trip – Jarrell Plantation, Juliette and High Falls State Park

The sunshine was out – the first time in over a week. We had to get outside and do something. We headed down I-75 just about an hour south of Atlanta and did three distinctly different activities.

Jarrell Plantation:

Built in 1847, by John Fitz Jarrell, this plantation survived Sherman’s March to the Sea. As time went on and the family grew, more buildings were added, such as the 1895 House for son, Dick Jarrell and the sawmill in the early 1900’s.

At the visitor center, a 15-minute film describes the history of the plantation. Interestingly enough, one of the descendants continued farming on the land until the 1960’s. Fortunately, the family donated most of the buildings in 1974 to the state of Georgia to show others what plantation life was like.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Tara or Seven Oaks type of house. Rather, the original 1847 House was just a one story house for the Jarrell’s and their seven children. The boys slept in the loft upstairs, while the girls had a room and the parents had a room. Later, the porch on the back of the house was enclosed making two rooms and a “honeymoon room” a room for travelers was added by enclosing part of the front porch.

My husband enjoyed that everything, especially the location of each of the buildings, was original. This was unlike Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum at the Cherokee, NC entrance of the Smokey Mountain National Park, where the buildings had been moved their from elsewhere in the area. Here, we could see how the house was built on the highest part of the property in order to get the best breeze.

IMG_4163

The inside of the original 1847 house. The dining room was added when the owners enclosed the back porch.

The inside of the original 1847 house. The dining room was added when the owners enclosed the back porch.

The 1895 House was built by John's son, Dick Jarrell

The 1895 House was built by John’s son, Dick Jarrell.

Cotton Gin

Cotton Gin

A cotton bale weighing over 500 pounds.

A cotton bale weighing over 500 pounds.

Everything is in it's original location.

Everything is in it’s original location.

The walk around the buildings is only 1/2 mile, but full of interesting history. Visitors can learn how sugar cane syrup was made first in large kettles and then later by the steam powered machinery. Each building is well marked about it’s purpose. For example, the smokehouse here didn’t have any smoke. It was just a place to salt and hang the meat. Additionally, guests can see the covered well, the three-seater privy, the farm equipment, the evaporation house and many more buildings.

For more information and hours of operation, see the website at http://gastateparks.org/JarrellPlantation.

Juliette, GA

The tiny, unincorporated town of Juliette is where most of the 1991 movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes” was filmed. We ate ate the Whistle Stop Cafe and I was amazed that the inside looked just like the movie as well.

IMG_4148

The epitomy of the Southern meal.

The epitomy of the Southern meal.

 

Inside the Whistle Stop Cafe

Inside the Whistle Stop Cafe

Our food was delicious – an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, BBQ pork with creamed corn and a baked sweet potato, brisket with fried okra and brunswick stew – an real fried cornbread. The waitress mentioned that we should go around the back to see the BBQ pit and make sure to drive a mile down the road to see the church and cemetery that were also used in the movie.

Across the street were quaint shops with antiques, books, food and clothes. The owner of one establishment explained that Juliette had been deserted by the 1980’s. Although once a mill town, people left when it closed in 1957. The last hold out was the owner of the gas station/general store located where the Whitle Stop Cafe is now. When the film crews came to shoot the movie, they spent almost one million dollars getting rid of all the kudzu that covered most of the buildings.

IMG_4155

Now the town is back in full swing with tourism as its major economy. She told us that January is the slowest month and that usually the wait to eat at the Whistle Stop Cafe is 3-4 hours. Thankfully for us, we got there around 11:30 and got seated. To learn more about Juliette, visit the website at www.juliettega.com

High Falls State Park:

Lastly, we drove up towards Jackson, Georgia to High Falls State Park. There are many trails, but we took the 1.5 mile loop trail by the falls on the Towaliga River.

I loved that the falls can be seen at the beginning of the trail so if you get tired, you can turn back. The park ranger warned us that it’s easy to get off the trail. Fortunately, the trail was well marked by red arrows and flags on trees. At one point, we made a wrong turn and stopped seeing the markers. We were able to turn back and retrace our steps.

High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park

Had it not been for these red markers on the trees, we would have gotten lost.

High Falls State Park Yurts

Yurts can be rented.

In addition to hiking – there are 4.5 miles of trails – the park offers a playground, picnic tables and camping. Yurts are also available to rent. For more information, see the website at http://gastateparks.org/HighFalls.

Fortunately the park is located less than 2 miles from I-75 and we were able to zip back home. All in all, the trip was six hours.

 


Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs, GA

Located on the west side of Atlanta in Lithia Springs, Sweetwater Creek State Park offers 9 miles of wooded hiking trails. The highlight is walking by the ruins of an old textile mill burned during the Civil War.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park

The trail to the mill ruins is marked in red.

The trail to the mill ruins is marked in red.

We took our dog and hiked along the red, historic trail to see the mill ruins. The 1/2 mile to the mill ruins is relatively easy and follows Sweetwater Creek.

Mill ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company

Mill ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company

IMG_0065

IMG_0067

Because the ruins are unstable, a chain link fence surrounds the area. However, it does not deter from the views. In fact, there are several wooded viewing platforms. Clearly marked signs detail the history of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company.

The red trail continues for another 1/2 mile and gets difficult quickly. As long as you wear sturdy shoes and don’t mind tree roots, it is worth it just for the views of the rapids along Sweetwater Creek.

IMG_0072

 

IMG_0074

We hooked on to the white trail to continue back to the car. Notice the tree roots on along the trail.

Near the end of the red trail, the 5 mile, white trail intersects it. We took this trail for a little over a mile back to the visitor’s center. This path took us up along the ridge for a completely different view of the creek. It was such a slight slope this part didn’t feel steep. Yet, we were considerably higher than the other trail. Even though it was winter and most leaves had fallen from the trees, the scenery was beautiful.

The park offers ranger-led hikes for a small fee. You can choose to go on a full-moon hike in the evening or an early morning dog hike; a history hike or a geology hike.

Hiking isn’t the only activity. Plenty of watersports abound in warmer months including kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals. Fishing, birding and geocaching are also popular here, as well as interpretive programs and hayrides.

For more information, visit their website at http://gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek.


Vogel State Park – Fall Hike

Autumn:

Crisp Air.

Harvest Time.

Fall Leaves.

Time to get out of Atlanta and go “Leaf- peeping”

The Former Lumpkin County Courthouse is now home to the Dahlonega Gold Museum

First stop is Dahlonega. Flags and crosses honoring veterans line the streets leading into the town of 5,000 residents. Central to the historic downtown is the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Housed in the original Lumpkin County Courthouse – the oldest courthouse in Georgia, the museum details the history of the first gold rush in U.S. history.

 

DSC_0496

We stopped at The Picnic Cafe and Dessertery across from the Gold Museum to order sandwiches to go – chicken salad and BBQ Pork. While waiting for the food, I walked next door to the Dahlonega General Store filled with a collection of different gems, stones and geodes for sale. An old fashioned piano player played tunes while tourists looked at t-shirts, hats, walking sticks and candy. Scented candles, soaps and cards were in the back of the store. My mother-in-law even purchased a Santa decoration for an upcoming Christmas swap. (How she will get it on the airplane – nobody knows.)

Back on the road, which was pretty curvy, the landscape was dotted with oranges, yellows and a few reds. Despite the captivating scenery, we had to roll the windows down to help prevent motion sickness for those in the far back seat. Another 45 minutes and we reached Vogel State Park.

DSC_0522

At the base of Blood Mountain, Vogel is one of Georgia’s oldest state parks. A glistening lake sits to the right of the road, while cabins provide overnight accomodations. Choosing a spot near the lake pavillion, we set up our picnic at the tables. The orange and brown leaves against the blue sky backdrop were magnificent. As the sun warmed us up, we decided to hike around Lake Trahlyta. Built in the 1930’s when the Civilian Conservation Corps damned Wolf Creek, the 22 acre lake is a popular fishing spot. The one mile trail is flat and easy – perfect for both the in-laws and the children. Benches and swings bring rest to the weary.

DSC_0516

Trahlyta Falls – the highlight of Vogel

At the far end of the lake, we walked the short distance to Traylyta Falls. The path descends for 1/4 mile leading to the observation deck near the base of the 110 foot falls. Water rushes underneath the deck making visitors feel part of the falls.

Peace.

Serenity.

Even though we were about a week past the “peak”, the trip was well worth it. For more information, visit www.gastateparks.org/Vogel.

DSC_0532


Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia

DSC_0355

Providence Canyon State Park

We took a trip to Providence Canyon State Park, near Lumpkin, Georgia a few weeks ago.  I had read about it in a GA state park brochure and was impressed by the pictures. Calling it the Little Grand Canyon I thought we needed to investigate this treasure in Georgia. According to MapQuest, the park is a good 2.5 hours away so we hadn’t made it down there. When we were at Callaway Gardens, it was only 1.5 hours away so we decided to go there.

Hiking down the quarter-mile descent, verdant shrubs bordered the path until we were greeted by rivers of red clay at the base of the canyon floor. We tiptoed around the rivulets toward Fingers 4 & 5, which according to the park ranger, were the most impressive.

“After you’ve seen the canyons, you won’t care how muddy your feet get,” a hiker announced. “Just dip your shoes in the water every few minutes to wash the mud off and you’ll be fine.”

Our shoes were pretty muddy after our hike.

Our shoes were pretty muddy after our hike.

She was right. Instead of focusing on where I stepped, I looked out – and up. Oatmeal, buff and terra-cotta colored boulders dotted with pine saplings surrounded us. We were in a canyon – a picturesque, marvelous canyon. On closer inspection, the canyon walls weren’t created from rocks – but sand. Looking up, the cerulean sky with one, wispy cloud made it a Chamber of Commerce day.

Continuing along the three-mile hike, the red clay turned into sand. Shady trees and fragrant honeysuckle lined the slow ascent through a wooded area. The only sounds heard were “Caw. Caw” from birds. Without warning, a dilapidated, rusted out 1950’s shell of a station wagon eerily peered out at a clearing delineating an old homestead. A historical marker indicated that several cars were abandoned when the park service purchased the land, but it was cost prohibitive to remove them. It was a reminder that time marches. Time created the canyons and time destroyed the cars. What will time do to the canyon in the future?

At the rim of the canyon, numerous overlooks allowed magnificent views allowing a completely different perspective. Children on the playground equipment and families picnicking at the shelter reminded us we were close our journey’s end. For more information, visit the website at http://gastateparks.org/ProvidenceCanyon.

The rusted cars were unexpected on the trail.

The rusted cars were unexpected on the trail.