Monday, May 8, 2023

Another day in the mountains...

The weekend before I visited the Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens in Hiawassee, GA. (see my previous post here ) was the beginning of their weekend festivals. There were some vendors' tents but they were closed, apart from one that was partly opened. You could see the rustic wood pieces for sale. Before I left the gardens I checked to see if someone was in this tent, but there was no one, although I was able to get a business card of the wood craftsman. In 2019 a large hackberry tree in front of my house in Nashville was struck by lightning and had to be cut down. A piece of the tree was given to me and it fit on top of a plant stand I had. So I was interested in a little table I had seen under the tent in the garden as a match for my plant stand.
Upon return to the lodge I called the wood artisan and left a message. He called me back and told me he had some pieces for sale in his house and only lived about 6 miles away in Young Harris, GA. We agreed that I would go there the next morning early, before 9 am as I had to meet a friend in Hiawassee at 10:30 am. He gave me his address and said I could find it easily with my GPS. I got up at 6 am the next morning to pack and have a quick breakfast. I was able to take a photo of the sunrise over the lake as pictured in my header photo. I checked Google Maps and saw his house in the middle of woods on a hill. Below is a map of the aread where I was. It is located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains on the border of Georgia and North Carolina. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
I placed the address in my car GPS and drove away. Upon reaching Young Harris my GPS told me to turn right on GA State Route 66, then left, then a bit later right, then further on left, then right again, then left and then it said "You have reached your destination." I was on a hill with no houses anywhere near. I called him and he told me two roads had the same name and I was on the wrong one. My GPS was useless then and I could not remember all the turns. After a while I tried to call him again but I was on a tiny road on a hill and there was no cellular signal. I kept driving but the road was twisting up the mountain. I was totally lost.
I had seen a house on the side, among the trees, and started going back toward their driveway to ask for directions. Then I remembered that I was in the US, and asking directions can be dangerous. The red marker on the map below shows where his house was and the black cross near the North Carolina border, in the mountains, was where I went.
I gingerly turned around (as by then the road was one lane) and after twists and turns somehow got back on the main road where my cell phone worked again and he came and met me. I did find a small table at his house and bought it. Then I had to find my way back to the main road again... not easy. This little trip should have taken me 45 minutes but ended taking almost 2 hours (I was lost for a long time...) Luckily I made it back to Hiawassee by 10:30 am to meet my Swiss friend. Then after a nice visit with a strong cup of coffee and a tasty piece of almond cake I drove down the road again toward Bavarian-style Helen, Georgia. It was a lovely morning and the route around the mountains is scenic but I had forgotten that it is steep hill mountain driving on a winding road with blind curves. Although I am used to these mountain roads if I don't use the interstate highways between Tennessee and Georgia, but I had to keep my eyes on the road and not the blubbling stream along the highway.
Arriving in Helen, I stopped at the Betty's Country Store. The first time my husband and I drove to Hiawassee we stopped at Betty's Country Store to buy a snack for our baby daughters. That was back in 1975. The store had opened in 1973 and was quite small, selling mostly fruits, vegetables and snacks. Now it had expanded quite a lot, like a large supermarket, with meat, beer and wines, etc., and eating areas outdoors.
I drove about 1.5 miles down to the village of Sautee-Nacoochee and stopped at the Nora Mill Granary Grist Mill and Country Store (one of the southeast's last working grist mill.) A small dam on the Chattahoochee River was built there in 1824, and later, in 1876, a grist mill was established selling grits, flours and cornmeal. The mill is four stories tall and has 1,500 pound French Burr Mill stones, a 100-foot wooden raceway and a water turbine. A gold prospector, John Martin, built the mill in 1876. In 1901 it was purchased by Dr. Lamartine G. Hardman who named the mill after his sister Nora.
Now the mill has been run by four generation of the Fain family. They still use the original stones to make flours, grits, cornmeal, etc. They sell other products like jams, salsa, hot sauces, syrups, local honeys and pre-packaged products such as pioneer's porridge, pancake and waffle mixes, biscuit and bread mixes amd more. The old-fashioned country store attached to the mill is quaint and it is fun to walk around and look at everything for sale, which I did and took numerous photos.
An assortment of kitchen items were also for sale such as cast iron cookware, cookbooks, wooden mixing bowls and trays, old-fashioned candles and other attractive kitchen gifts.
I walked out to the breezeway and porch that overlooks the Chattahoochee River. Large trout could be seen gathering at the foot of the dam.
It was a warm and sunny day. Watching the trout from the deck and listening to the bubbling river below was vey relaxing after all the mountain driving.
Back inside I took more photos of interesting old items on the walls.
There was also information on how the mill operates. It uses turbines rather than the water wheels used by most mills of that time. It gives an idea on how flour was produced in the past, and how this mill has kept producing stone-ground grains for almost 150 years. The mill is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Before I left I purchased a few items, some requested by my daughters, and a few for me, as shown below. I make my own jams but I bought a couple that were a mixture, to taste and see if I'd like to try making them - T.O.E jam (tangering, orange, elderberry) and Five Pepper Strawberry jelly (strawberry, green bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, Thai pepper, cayenne pepper, habanero pepper.) For the people who cannot drive to the North Georgia Mountains to buy their products Nora Mill has an online store, click here for it. Once you click on the online store link you will see all the different items for sale, and they ship.
Then it was time to hit the road again. I could have driven down the highway to Atlanta but that would have meant crossing the city during rush hour... Instead I cut across the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Talking Rock, GA. to join highway I-575 down to my area, close to Kennesaw Mountain. It was a small two lane road from Nacoochee to Talking Rock with many curves, but there was hardly any traffic, and it was scenic.
I arrived home at 5:30 pm, quite tired and hungry as I had had no lunch. I unloaded the car and noticed that my newly purchased table (made of maple) was a lot smoother and shinier than the piece of hackberry wood I had placed on top of my plant stand. Later, I called the wood artisan to ask him what I should do. He suggested that I bring my piece of wood back to him and he would work on it. Well, now, will I dare go back and get lost in the mountains once more? I told him I may come back in a couple of months...
There was no fresh food in the house and I did not feel like eating a frozen dinner, so I drove to the local diner. They serve fresh meals with large portions. I usually can bring food home for a couple more meals. I had a meat, two vegetables and a side of coleslaw salad. Then the server came and asked what dessert I had selected. I told him I was full and ate only a third of my meal. He said he would bring me a take-out box and asked again what dessert I wanted. I repeated I desired no dessert to which he replied "you have to select a dessert." I asked him why? He said "because someone has paid for your meal and dessert is included." I asked him who had paid and he said he was not at liberty to tell me. So I selected a piece of strawberry cake to take home. When he brought it to me he said "a funny thing happened - someone else wanted to pay for your meal and I said 'too late, her meal is already paid for'. I was astounded and asked him if this occurred often in his restaurant. He told me he had been working there for a long while and he could think of no other time this took place for one of his customers. I was speechless.
What a day it had been - getting lost on primitive roads in the North Georgia Mountains after sunrise, and being afraid to ask for directions, then having two different patrons wishing to buy my dinner at sunset. How about that! Certainly a day to remember.
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