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.


Cloudia said...

Glad you survived rural Georgia. I'm only partly joking. Beautiful photos. I enjoyed them very much. Thank you

Lowcarb team member said...

Oh my! Your first and last photographs are so beautiful :)

All the best Jan

PS I enjoyed the read in-between them too.

Elephant's Child said...

Definitely a day to remember. Both your sunrise and sunset photos are gorgeous and I love that not one but two people wanted to buy you dinner.

DJan said...

What a delightful day, well told (of course) and filled with adventure and more. I love that your dinner was purchased by a stranger, and that another also wanted to do the same. :-)

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh what a strange and interesting day. My favourite bit would have been the grist mill for sure. I wouldn't have tried to find the wood artisan thought . Sounds a bit creepy to be around that place alone and not daring to ask directions.... The idea of 2 people wanting to pay for you is strange, I agree, but also really sweet 🙂

Ginnie Hart said...

Now THAT, my friend, is a story! I declare, Vagabonde. You sure know how to tell (and show) them! But I'm not sure I'd recommend you going back to the guy who sold you the table. HA!

Jeannie said...

Oh, what an exciting adventure! I enjoyed every moment.

Being from around the same area, I have been lost in the mountains and have stopped to ask for directions many times. Never have I feared the people. They are always extremely eager to help because they too, know what it is like to be lost.

The proper etiquette in this situation is to knock on the front door, then back away into the yard. When they appear at the door, smile, wave, and tell them you are lost. Always, they will walk out on the porch and begin giving instructions. Stay in the yard unless invited closer. If you are still uncomfortable, leave your car door open and the engine running. Just remember, you are as big a threat to them as they are to you.

Never has anyone ever refused to help me.


Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

What an adventure!
Being lost is scary at certain points. You handled it all really well. The days of up a driveway to ask directions are sadly over. I am glad you are safe. Congratulations on meal payers. That is amazing.

David said...

Hi Vagabonde, What a day full of adventure! GPS can be scary at times and it isn't unusual for me to override what 'she' suggests. One time she led us right through the most dangerous area of a larger city and in Ireland, she (with the accent) sent us on an unpaved single lane 'goat path' across some lonely hills. We saw a shepherd and his sheep and one other car...another tourist headed in the other direction! We have an amazing woodworking shop/retail store in Tellico Plains TN...beautiful natural wood furniture items. We take visitors there because they have such high quality products.

When we were in Helen we did make it to Sautee-Nacoochee and visited the antique store across from the mill. Sadly, by the time we were done browsing, the mill was closed for the day. Your day was beautifully capped off with those folks paying for or asking to pay for your dinner. There are some good folks out there... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Granny Marigold said...

I enjoyed reading about your interesting day also the pictures, which are amazing. I like stopping at Country stores and finding unusual products. The grist mill sounds like a place I'd like to visit too. Getting lost, however, must have been somewhat scary.
Granny Marigold

Jeanie said...

Wow! Now THAT is a day to remember. You saw a lot of beautiful territory (maybe a little more than you wished!) and the mill and general store look so interesting. I'm not sure a stranger has ever paid for my meal before! I don't know what the IT is, but you obviously have it!

Rajani Rehana said...

Beautiful blog

Willow said...

I found you via Down by the Sea Dorset. Although I am a beach girl, I love the mountains, too. Just moved to Ohio two years ago and beginning to appreciate the eastern part of the US (I hail from the West Coast).
We enjoy our mountain drives. Have you visited Foxfire Museum yet? In Mountain City, GA. Totally worth the drive and the visit.

DUTA said...

Your header photo is mind- blowing! Being on the wrong road is awful! You, seem, however, to me a resourceful, skillful driver!
What a pleasant mystery, having your dinner paid by an unknown customer!
Anyway, you had quite an adventurous day, a day to be remembered!

Vicki Lane said...

What a day! Yes, one has to think twice about turning around in strange driveways, alas. And to end with two anonymous admirers--how nice.

Nadezda said...

What an interesting and eventful day, Vagabonde. It's good that you found your way back and didn't get lost in the mountains. I think your new table will look great in your house. Having two patrons at once is good luck!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I really enjoyed reading about your incredible day! We're used to mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest, but even though we've been lucky enough to travel and stay in every US State, I still don't associate Georgia with those winding mountain roads. (Maybe this means we should come back to visit again -- and I wish we could!). I'm not afraid of these roads, but getting lost even with GPS is definitely not a fun experience. We've had that happen more than once. (And I do remember that pretty much every street in Atlanta is named Peachtree something -- only sort of kidding. We did a lot of wandering around there (which is what my husband calls "lost." But at least that was not on a winding narrow mountain road! ... It's lovely that people volunteered to pay for your meal. That was a happy ending to your day.

CAMILLA said...

I have just had the pleasure of coming across your blog, I was looking on Pininterest of pictures regarding the topic of books, how wonderful! I love books too loved your whimsical picture on your blog to the books.

Best Wishes,

morfeas said...

Very beautiful photos
I was glad to find and read you
Goodnight from Greece

Kanani said...

Hi, I love the water fall and the fish! Sounds like a fun trip.
FYI, I keep my eye on zillow, and Naomi's house is on the market.

Arti said...

What you've posted here are movie moments, yes, especially twice being favored (one attempted) for a nice meal in a diner. Your pictures are memorable to match that extraordinary experience. Thanks for sharing all these, VB!

Glenda Beall said...

Vagabonde, I love your blog. I learned so much about France and India in one of the posts. I live on the north end of Lake Chatuge and look across it to the tallest mountain in north Georgia. I go to Hiawassee and Young Harris often. The woodcutter lives in my area and I would not be afraid to ask for directions from the mountain folk. However, being a stranger to the area, I'm sure you had misgivings. Your pictures were all so familiar to me as north Georgia and southwestern North Carolina are home to me now. Thanks for taking me on your trip and next time you come up to the mountains, let me know and I can go with you to see the woodcutter. I think I live in one of the most beautiful places with the lake and the mountains and I am glad you had a good visit.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

OMG, Helen, GA! I love this place. Some years ago, we stayed at the Unicoi State Park, and from there we took the trail to Helen!
I also remember 3 cool mini golfs there!
And we stopped and bought yummy cornmeal at the Nora Mill Granary Grist Mill and Country Store!

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