There’s gold in them thar hills – Dahlonega

Well, contrary to expectations, we had a lovely day and reached the airport with no stress at all. We’ve said a sad goodbye to our trusty jeep which has got us about the place for three weeks:

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Now we are in the lounge waiting for our flight and I’ve copied and pasted my diary into this blog. On our way down this morning, we stopped for a short hike (2 miles) at Desoto Falls:

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We then had lunch in a lovely place called Dahlonega. It was the most successful gold mining town in Georgia in the 19th century, but is now set up for tourism – though in a much more tasteful way than Alpine Helen. All the old buildings round the main square have been turned into shops or restaurants – we ate on the balcony of the Bourbon Street Grill, a little piece of New Orleans in Georgia.

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The old courthouse in the middle of the square has been turned into an interesting little museum about gold mining, which we enjoyed.

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So now we have two flights to go and then we’ll be home. Time to start planning the next trip.

Waterfalls and Alpine Helen

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Friday 29th July, 5.30pm

Back on the balcony, this time with beer and chips. An easier day today – after yesterday’s tumble we decided to limit the hiking. All the mountain areas we have been in are very proud of their waterfalls. We visited three today, driving in a loop round scenic backroads. Helton Creek Falls is not far from the cabins and these were the least spectacular. Dukes Creek Falls are 300 feet high and beautiful. Anna Ruby Falls (pictured) are unusual because they are double falls – two creeks falling into the same basin, one from about 50 feet and the other from about 125 feet. None of these falls are just off the road so we’ve still done 3-4 miles and a fair bit of descent and ascent so I feel we still deserve the beer.

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We also visited the town of “Alpine” Helen. This sounded intriguing in the guide book, a little bit of Bavaria in Georgia. It was certainly everything I expected, and more – truly tacky! Still, it had a good grocery store, Betty’s, which concealed all mod cons in a log cabin style early 20th century general store ambience. We stocked up our bread supplies there and had a tasty lunch in one of the cafés. The guy playing the oompah music in the centre was authentically dressed on his top half, but I don’t think floral shorts really cut it instead of lederhosen.

11pm. Still up so must be getting used to the mountain air. Microwave Chinese dinners tonight, not a patch on the real thing (including John’s own stir-fries).

The Smokies are still smokin’

As I write, we are spending our last night in the Smokies. We are in another lovely B&B, the Charleston Inn in Bryson City – which is not, of course, a city but a rather charming small town. Our room is called the Treehouse because it’s two flights up and has a balcony overlooking a walnut tree. Excellent for the drinking of beer after a hard day, as you can see.

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We also have this lovely lily pond just outside our building.

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Yesterday, on our way over, we hiked a trail called Chimney Tops. It wasn’t the best choice, because the guide book we had didn’t warn us about the rock climb at the end. John made it some way up but was impeded by a large group of tourists who were taking their time (and lots of photographs) – and also by my anxious face peering up from below. It’s harder than it looks, so we missed the best views.

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Today, however, has been the best day’s hiking so far. There are two entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Bryson City and we explored both. In the morning, we visited the Deep Creek area which was very busy – not with hikers, but with people going tubing. This looked great fun. However, we did the Loop Trail which took in three waterfalls: Juney Whank, Tom’s Branch and Indian Creek.

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After a picnic lunch, we moved on to the Lakeview Drive, known to locals as the Road to Nowhere. As part of FDR’s New Deal, a dam was built to create Lake Fontana and, to replace a road flooded in the process, Lakeview Drive was promised. That was 1943 and it has never been completed. It ends within the park at a 1200 foot tunnel, now only accessible on foot, and through that are various trails. We did the Goldmine Loop which took us down to the lake and back up – a stiff climb which left us needing those beers. In contrast to the morning, we didn’t see a single other person on this walk so, apart from worrying about meeting a bear, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think we’ve done 8 or 9 miles today.

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As you might have gathered, I am fascinated by the variety of fungi here and today we saw several new kinds.

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As I said, Bryson City is a pleasant little town. Last night, we ate in Trip Advisor’s number one recommendation, the Cork and Bean, a wine bar / coffee bar combination which also does wonderful crepes. On the way home, we spotted a Chinese restaurant and went in to see if their menu was suitable for vegetarians – this is a frustration with this country, they don’t have to display a menu at the door. Anyway, the staff were friendly and it looked fine and I was ridiculously excited all day about going there – there have been some definite culinary highlights so far, but a lot of pasta and veggie burgers too. In the end, it was very good – despite the staff who were on tonight not having such good English as last night, any misgivings were unfounded and the veggie meal turned out to be completely veggie. Kung Po tofu with cashew nuts was particularly good.

So, last words on Bryson City – it’s a pretty little mountain town….

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……which post-dates the Civil War and therefore has a statue of a 1WW soldier instead of the usual Confederate…..

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…..and best of all, takes pride in encouraging its kids to read:

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This has been a long post but there was a lot to fit in. Tomorrow, we head back into Georgia to a cabin on Blood Mountain. No wi-fi and probably no phone signal, so might not be online again until we get home. Ciao.