Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Apple Festival in Ellijay
Last week-end was a perfect autumn day. It was in the mid 70's (24 C) with low humidity and a slight wind. On Sunday we decided to drive to the North Georgia Mountains as it was the last day of the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay. The day was so perfect that I decided to switch my topic and publish a post on this gorgeous day immediately – I’ll have another New York post next week. Ellijay - population approx. 1600 - the county seat of Gilmer County is about 58 miles north of our house and 25 miles south of the North Carolina state line. (click on pictures and collages to enlarge, then click again on each picture.)
Ellijay is known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia.” This year was the 40th anniversary of the festival. There were more than 300 vendors in a large field with handmade crafts, food booths and apples of course. A big (half) inflated cruise ship called “The Titanic Ride” had a long line of children waiting to go up on its deck. Then they would slide down with peals of laughter.
A gated area was reserved for animal rides – not ponies, but camels (yes, in North Georgia!)
A little girl was watching them intently. As soon as they would walk by her she jumped up and down and giggled.
The camels just walked slowly by, then would go for some food and a rest.
North Georgia chainsaw artist, Mal McEwen (who said his family roots in the area dates back to 1746) was demonstrating how he worked with his chainsaw. We looked for a while.
Here are some of his carvings -
My husband especially liked and admired ducks and Canada Geese carved and exhibited by a wood sculptor.
Then we went towards some bluegrass music we could hear close by. A group of “cloggers” were enthusiastically dancing on the stage.
Wikipedia says: “Clogging is a type of folk dance with roots in traditional European dancing, early African-American dance, and traditional Cherokee dance in which the dancer's footwear is used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create audible percussive rhythms. Clogging was a social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.“ It is fun to watch. There was also a good variety of apples for sale.
It was still early afternoon so we decided to take a ride to the mountains. We were in Ellijay last June, but it was on a sad occasion. One of my co-workers, Woody, retired the same month as I did (January 1, 2008.) He had worked in our company for over 30 years. He and his wife lived in Ellijay. They attended their 50th high school reunion there on Memorial Day week-end. A former classmate flew from Ohio in his single-engine aircraft, a white Beechcraft 35 “Bonanza.” As a door prize at the reunion he offered a sightseeing flight over the mountains. My friend Woody, his wife and another friend won the door prize. The plane took off but did not come back. They found the wreckage in the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area, 3 days later, as there are no roads going into it. We went to the funeral in Ellijay. Below is a picture showing part of this extremely rugged and remote area of Gilmer County.
Last Sunday, before driving to the mountains we drove through the center of town. As we drove by my husband saw a booth with old books for sale, so we stopped.
The town was celebrating “Apple Arts on the Square.”
We tasted some of the apples and I bought some home-made root beer in a blue bottle, which I kept.
Many pumpkins were displayed ready for the upcoming Halloween celebration.
From the Square we took State Route 52 going toward Fort Mountain State Park. This is a scenic drive through the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokee originally lived in these mountains and called them Sah-ka-na'-ga - "The Great Blue Hills of God."
The Cherokee people were indigenous to this North Georgia area. For a while, both white settlers and Indians occupied Ellijay. After the forced removal of the Cherokees (see my post on this here) in 1838 most of the mountain land was awarded to white settlers in 40 to 160-acre tracts. The rest was left forested. These forests inspired a national forest movement seeking to preserve them. One of the first acquisitions of the United States was Georgia mountain land which later became the Chattahoochee National Forest - 750,000 acres (3,000 km2.) We stopped at a trail-head where a kiosk gives information on the area.
There was a look-out there with mountain views and beautiful red foliage in the foreground.
At first the road raises gradually, but then there are dramatic climbs and sharp curves. We stopped again at a pull-off on the road and walked on a small trail. Rocks had been placed to use as stairs and then we arrived at the top of a hill. The hike was certainly worthwhile.
Then I rested on a small wall in the shade.
The wall was made of large pieces of slate.
I walked around to the other side of the hill, which receives more sun. The foliage was more advanced and golden.
We walked down the trail to our car.
After we drove up hill for more than a thousand feet we arrived at the entrance of Fort Mountain State Park. It is a large park - 3,712 acre (15.02 km²) - with a lake (which we did not find) picnic areas, camping, trails, and streams. We drove inside the park and parked close to a trail head leading to an overlook. Time to hike up another trail…
At first the trail was nice and smooth
but then huge rocks appeared on the mountains and small ones on the trail too. With my bad knees I was walking slowly, but kept going expecting a beautiful view.
When we saw some stairs we knew we were getting close
Arriving at the top of the stairs and onto the platform felt like being in an airplane and looking down.
This was breathtaking scenery to be sure. We could see lakes and little houses below, as well as roads.
Looking to the right or to the left, the view was stunning.
My photos do not do justice to the raw beauty that is there. To be at the top of this mountain is such an experience, it is spectacular. You feel like a bird looking down.
On the way back home we stopped at a roadside orchard. There were many delicious looking items for sale in addition to the fresh crop of apples.
We reached home as the sun was setting. We were too tired to eat our “fried apple pies.” Next morning though I took a picture of the pies then went outside to take a picture of the two kinds of apples we bought – the Cameo and the Pink Lady. I did buy a mystery at the Ellijay book sale – just for its title “Red Delicious Death.”
It was a pleasure taking these photos outside near our “forest” of a garden. It has been so warm that our azalea bush is blooming again. The flowers in the planters are still showing color and a lovely rose just opened. The leaves of our hardwood trees are gradually getting more golden – autumn shows the beauty of nature so well.
As I eat an apple near my computer I can watch the yellowing leaves from the window.