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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


Georgia Governor’s Mansion

“Are you sure we can do this?” my daughter asked. “I mean, doesn’t somebody live here?”

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We had just turned into the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta. I presented my driver’s license and the guards at the gate told us where to park.Walking up to the orange brick building flanked with 30 white columns, we rang the front door bell where a white-haired, petite docent greeted us on this rainy day and gave us the history of the mansion.

Built in 1965 during Lester Maddox’s tenure, it had formerly been property of a Robert Maddox. After his place burned, he donated the land to the state so that it wouldn’t be turned into a subdivision. Previous governor’s mansions were in Ansley park and Peachtree street in Midtown.

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A docent stationed at each room on the first floor gave a description of the function and history of the furnishings. My favorite was the library with its wood walls and fireplace made in England of Italian Carrera marble.”I could sit here by a warm fire and read a book with a cup of tea, ” I told my children.

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My favorite room

My least favorite room was the guest bedroom which is located to the left of the front door. It has a tiny alcove bed reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It’s only used on rare occasions as there are 7 guest bedrooms on the 2nd floor.”One time an aide to President Clinton was staying here. He was very tall and said he was so uncomfortable, he got his pillow and slept on the floor.” Seeing the marble floor with only an oriental rug to cushion it didn’t look that appealing to me, but at least he could stretch out.

“If Ms. Deal was here today, she’d be greeting you right here,” a docent proudly informed us. She’s so down to earth and once a year invites us upstairs to see their suites. “Education is her big thing so she’s signed up to read at one of the schools, ” the docent continued.

Wouldn't it be fun to be invited to dinner here?

Wouldn’t it be fun to be invited to dinner here?

The main living room is large and supposedly so decorated during Christmas, you can hardly even see the furniture. Several different docents encouraged us to come back during the holidays when they have it decorated and serve cookies.

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The living room with a view of the informal sitting room through the opening.

 

The fireplace in the family sitting room

The fireplace in the family sitting room

The informal dining room has a mahogany table and red chairs purchased by Sonny S (from Midnight in the Garden of good and evil to pay for one of his trials). To the right, we could peer into the kitchen where staff were preparing lunch. Christmas ornaments of the mansion and the state seal are for sale for $20 while a cookbook is for sale for $10.

I loved peering in the kitchen to see a meal being prepared.

I loved peering in the kitchen to see a meal being prepared.

Outside, we wandered the gardens. Surprisingly there’s a swimming pool. Somehow I just don’t picture any governor and his wife swimming, but there it was. I loved the rocking chairs outside with the large columns. Despite the fact that the mansion resembles a Georgia state rest area, it is beautiful. A large fountain is at the front door, as well as two rockers – one says governor and the other first lady.DSC_0109

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Morningside Nature Preserve – Atlanta

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


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

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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.

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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.