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A new GPB podcast about the 1970 Augusta Riot has a message for today

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Shots in the Back PodcastIn a bonus episode of GPB’s recently released podcast Shots in the Back: Exhuming the 1970 Augusta Riot, reporter and instructor Sea Stachura catches up with a few of her students from the podcasting program at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts. Like most kids, 10-year-old Gabbie Stallings has been attending school remotely and hasn’t been able to talk with Stachura about all that has happened this year. But in a recently recorded, candid conversation, she admits she’s become fearful when leaving her home following the deaths of Black people such as George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. “I’ve become very self-conscious whenever we go out. I try to be safe. And I feel very relieved when we go home,” she says. Her reflections cast a sobering light on how history repeats itself.

Shots was produced in partnership with the Jessye Norman School throughout the past year as part of an after-school extracurricular program for middle and high school students. Stachura had already been an instructor before presenting the idea to the school’s principal. “He saw it as a real opportunity for the students to engage in their community and recognize that even at their age they can contribute something significant to the world,” Stachura says. “The ground beneath their feet has a history, and that history isn’t as rosy or as clean as some would present it.”

Shots in the Back has been years in the making for Stachura, but the content of the podcast is as timely and relevant as ever. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Augusta Riot, which was sparked when 16-year-old Charles Oatman was beaten to death in a county jail. Six Black men were shot in the back and killed by police during the ensuing riot. The podcast tells this story over six episodes and several bonus episodes, featuring narration from Stachura, interviews with sources, including witnesses, family members of the victims and local leaders, and occasional reflections from students who are learning the complicated history of their town for the first time. The inclusion of young students offers a sober look at history for listeners who may have grown numb or cynical to news about racism and police brutality.

While GPB had originally planned to hold the podcast until September (a postponed date thanks to the pandemic), in June, as America was facing an ongoing racial reckoning, the radio station opted to release it early, hoping to spark further conversation about race in America over the past half-century. As many older people also feel uncomfortable discussing such issues, Stachura hopes the podcast will encourage them to push past these feelings and have important conversations.

Releasing the story as an audio docuseries allowed Stachura’s research to discover new sources, too. She credits listeners with providing tips that helped to further contextualize the deaths of Oatman and the six Black men killed during the riot. In a bonus episode, one of these sources, Fred McBrayer, shared his memories of working with Oatman as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, helping prepare the mentally disabled teen for future jobs.

Not surprisingly, the journalist and podcast instructor had some challenges getting students to feel comfortable discussing race. For one, half of the students in the class were white. One white student, Aidan Allen, 14, says he’d never really discussed race at length before deciding to participate in the podcasting program. As a result, he was self-conscious and worried he might say the wrong thing. “I have this fear of just saying some random stuff that’s racist. I was stressed out,” he says. “I’m in a whole school of people that I don’t want to offend.”

In one episode, Stallings hints at how awkward it was for her to discuss these things in front of her white peers. “Not to be offensive, but it’s a lot of white people in this room and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

“That’s fair,” a white student responds.

“Because they are fresh to the story, [the students] haven’t yet muted themselves,” Statchura says. “They haven’t decided that there are certain things that they are not supposed to say, although they are already at a point where they know that this stuff is dangerous to talk about.”

Stachura first began reporting on the riot in 2011. While at Augusta University (then Augusta State University), she received a grant that allowed her to conduct oral histories, do a few presentations, and submit a FOIA request that got 900 pages of FBI files declassified. Many of the interviews featured in the podcast are from this work, although students did help conduct a few of the newer interviews. “I was stunned there was no historical record besides some Augusta Chronicle newspaper articles that told a very racist version of what happened and left out lots and lots of parts,” she says of her motivation to report on the riot. “I think this is a story that is valuable to the entire nation because how can you have a major civil rights uprising where six Black men were killed by police and [the nation has just] forgotten about it?”

Many of the students who participated in Stachura’s podcasting program are too young to completely recall or comprehend previous instances of police brutality. For them, learning about the 1970 Augusta Riot—something that happened in their own hometown—and watching this year’s instances of police brutality were the first times they’d grappled with the country’s long history of racial injustice and the ways it still persists today. “What they learned is that they were holding a mirror to their own time,” Stachura says.

Tiara Dugger, now a college freshman at Georgia State University, participated in recording Shots during her senior year of high school. She admits she had no idea about the Augusta riot before participating. “I felt so bad because I’ve lived here almost all of my life and I knew nothing about the history,” she says. “It makes me have a deeper appreciation for the city. It wasn’t a bright situation, but my city has more history than I thought it did.”

Dugger says she’s happy this project included the voice of students because, ultimately, these issues impact them, too. “A lot of older people think that children should stay in a child’s place. But we see all the stuff that’s happening and it does affect our daily lives,” she says. “We have to go out into this world and our lives are at risk every day just because of the color of our skin, our gender, all of that stuff. With kids, it provided a new perspective. It shows you that a child isn’t a child in today’s society. We had to grow up faster.”

For the past month, GPB has hosted a series of virtual panels to continue the conversation about the 50th anniversary of the Augusta Riot. The final event will take place on Oct. 5.

6 great hikes—from gentle to brutal—in the North Georgia mountains

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Where to hike in Georgia
Marble Mine Trail

Courtesy of ExploreGeorgia.org

Marble Mine Trail at James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
Easy, 1.6 miles out-and-back

This family-friendly hike is a favorite of Adriana Garcia, cofounder of Atlanta-based LatinXhikers, who set a goal of hiking all of Georgia’s nearly 50 state parks this year. The trail coasts along a wide path passing mining ruins until it opens up to an enormous cave, with a boardwalk where you can peer into the abandoned mine. A waterfall trickles down the sheer face and into a pond of “the clearest blue water.” $5 parking

Arkaquah Trail
Difficult, 12 miles out-and-back

There’s the popular way to hike Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest peak at 4,784 feet)—by driving most of the way to the top and climbing the half-mile trail—and then there’s the Arkaquah Trail. Start at the base of Brasstown at Track Rock Gap, where you can view ancient Native American petroglyphs, and then you’ll head due up in a heart-pumping workout. “My favorite part is when it levels out on the ridgeline,” says Eric Champlin, founder of Atlanta Trails and owner of Hiawassee outfitter Trailful Outdoor Co. “It’s incredibly peaceful.” There, you can join the throngs up to the summit, with its 360-degree observation deck—or not. $5 parking

Raven Cliff Falls
Moderate, 5 miles out-and-back

Hit this mossy mountainside trail first thing in the morning—parking spots regularly fill up by 9 a.m. But it’s easy to understand why it’s so well-loved: Its shady, meandering roll along Dodd Creek is accompanied by a soundtrack of rushing waterfalls. The final 100 yards scramble through the boulders, where you’ll reach the falls, sluicing dramatically through a split in a rock outcropping. If you’re looking for a shorter but similar option, try the two-mile Duke’s Creek Falls Trail, just east. $5 parking

Rocktown Trail
Easy, 1.6 miles out-and-back

This gentle wander on Pigeon Mountain leads to one of the state’s most fascinating geological formations, a “village” of peculiar, sculptural boulders—one of the best places in the Southeast for bouldering. There, you’ll have your pick of rock perches for a picnic, where you can watch the expert climbers tackle the sheer, ancient crags or carefully explore the climbs and squeezes yourself. $3.50 day pass, gooutdoorsgeorgia.com

Lula Lake Land Trust
Moderate, 3.5 or 6.1 miles

The nonprofit land trust opens this gem to the public just a few days a month and requires a reservation ($15, lulalake.org), keeping the crowds at bay and the trails pristine. Choose one of two routes, and either way, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Chattanooga Valley and the 120-foot Lula Falls, where you’ll be blanketed in mist and can splash in the pool at the bottom.

Pinnacle Knob on the Bartram Trail
Difficult, 8.1 miles out-and-back

“The Appalachian Trail is iconic,” says Champlin of Atlanta Trails, “but I love the Bartram Trail.” This trek begins down in the cool Warwoman Dell (thought to be named for a Cherokee woman) and follows the route taken by 18th-century naturalist William Bartram, one of the area’s first explorers. You’ll climb through rhododendron and old-growth forest past waterfalls until reaching an overlook with views of the Smokies in the distance. For a shorter, family-friendly hike, take the trail from Warwoman Dell to Becky Branch Falls, just 0.6 miles in.

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This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

3 scenic drives to take this fall in the North Georgia mountains

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Scenic drives in North Georgia Mountains

Ridge & Valley Scenic Byway
51 miles

The terrain on this loop ranges from pastoral valley with fertile farmsteads and 19th-century farmhouses to climbs along ancient ridges with long views and unusual geological outcroppings. Pass hikes like Keown Falls (where the trail actually passes underneath a waterfall, usually larger than a trickle only in spring and after a rain) and magical picnic spots like the Pocket Recreation Area, where you can cool your feet in a stream.

Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway
54 miles

This route starts at the 19th century Prater’s Mill in Whitfield County—now a park where visitors can wander nature trails alongside the old grist mill—and stretches past Fort Mountain State Park, which offers spectacular lookouts and some heart-stopping drop-offs. If you’ve got time, take the short hike around the park’s summit with offshoots to the ancient 855-foot-long rock wall of uncertain origin and a 1930s stone fire tower. Or pull over at the Cohutta Overlook between Ellijay and Chatsworth—where a five-minute uphill walk takes you to a stone platform with 360-degree views.

Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway
20 miles

Start your ascent up State Route 348 near Smithgall Woods State Park, and you’ll soon roll by some of the state’s most beautiful trails (including Raven Cliff Falls, page 58). You’ll feel like you’re in a Subaru commercial as you wind along this 1930s-era route with unimpeded vistas and rugged cliffs playing host to trickling waterfalls, ferns, and flowers. Stop at Hogpen Gap—the route’s highest point and an Appalachian Trail crossing—to picnic way above Lordamercy Cove with views of Brasstown Bald. When you come down the other side, hang a left onto Highway 19 and pop into the historic Sunrise Grocery for killer boiled peanuts. Keep heading south and you’ll pass Vogel State Park and Mountain Crossings, an outdoor gear shop and the only place where the Appalachian Trail passes right through a building. Mind the motorcycles.

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This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

Where to pick fruit and flowers (or pick them up) in North Georgia

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Where to pick and by flowers in Georgia
Whimsy Flower Farm

Courtesy of Whimsy Flower Farm

Whimsy Flower Farm
For a dreamy day, try wandering a field of bright blooms. At Whimsy Flower Farm, zinnias, anemones, and ranunculus thrive, but now is the season of the dahlia, which you’ll find in 50 colors. Owner Jennifer Flowers (really) Logan and her husband, Rusty, cut flowers daily (no picking yourself!) and assemble glorious bouquets from $15.

Fritchey’s Gardens & Farm Fresh Market
This Clarkesville market has been a staple for more than 30 years. Owners Allen and Nancy Fritchey grow much of the produce themselves, and in early fall, you can catch their sunflower field in bloom and take home a bunch or just a dried head full of seeds.

Tomato House Farms
The claim to fame at this low-slung, tin-roofed Murrayville market is the largest collection of home-canned goods in North Georgia, from pickled quail eggs to salsa and chow chow. The compound is also home to a kitschy gift shop, a butcher, and an ice cream counter with hand-spun milkshakes. Look for the life-sized Big Foot statue outside.

Timpson Creek Farm
You may not see a soul at the sweet, self-serve farmstand, where the honor system prevails (cash, check, or PayPal) and you can load up on fruits, veggies, and flowers grown without synthetic pesticides. Pop by any day, sunup to sundown, or find their goods at the larger nearby market at Osage Farms.

Hillside Orchard Farms
Far from the crowds that flock to Apple Alley in Ellijay each fall, Hillside Orchard Farms near Lakemont now offers its own “u-pick” apples. Like many of those farms, it offers campy attractions like a train ride and corn maze, but unlike them, it’s open for picking on weekdays (though not all attractions are). It’s free to roam and pet goats and pigs the size of tractors. Nab a bag of stone-ground speckled grits.

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This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

North Georgia’s wine scene is surprisingly sophisticated. Here’s where to visit.

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Wineries in Georgia
Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Photograph courtesy of Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Sure, you’ll still see muscadines and slushie machines, but visit North Georgia now and you’ll find sophisticated small-batch varietals you’ll never spy at Total Wine.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards has won more than 200 medals in major U.S. competitions and produced the first Georgia wine served at the James Beard House. Open terraces like those at Yonah Mountain or Tiger Mountain offer scenic hillside views, while Kaya currently allows guests to spread out across all 90 acres—plus cottages to bunk up in.

In 2018, the Dahlonega Plateau—a swath of the state’s Appalachian foothills with soil similar to Italy’s Piedmont—was designated the newest viticultural area in the U.S. To earn the appellation, 85 percent of a wine’s grapes must have been locally grown, making the region a fun place to discover new varietals like Touriga Nacional, Tannat, and Norton. Georgia wineries also are experimenting with California grapes, putting their own spin on familiar Chardonnays, Zinfandels, and Cabernet Sauvignons.

The third-generation winemakers at Chateau Meichtry, with family vintners tracing back to New York and Switzerland, offer 18 different wines for tasting. Some, like the 2017 George’s Cuvée (90 percent Norton and 10 percent Noiret), are estate grown, while others, such as a Burgundian-style Chardonnay and a bracing Zinfandel (16.4 percent alcohol), are crafted from California grapes. However, the imported fruit is shipped whole in refrigerated trucks, minimizing sulfites. Plenty of outdoor umbrella tables and a patio bar make it easy to find ample space, and there’s a steady rotation of live music and food trucks.

At the nearby Fainting Goat Vineyards & Winery, yes, there are goats (Ronnie, Reagan, Dolley, and Mamie), and they do faint. But these mascots only pass out when they’re scared, and they’ve grown accustomed to visitors, so don’t get your hopes up. This boutique vineyard tucked into the side of Burnt Mountain offers expansive views of the surrounding hills. You’re welcome to bring your own picnic (they don’t serve food) and enjoy free sunset concerts on weekends around the terraced lawn—you can even bring your leashed dog. We recommend the Patriot, a dry red made from regional Lenoir grapes, which has hints of leather and tobacco. And it’s hard to resist a souvenir glass with an upside-down goat.

If wine’s not your thing, head to the Etowah Meadery & the Dahlonega Brewery, which share space in a roadside facility where they raise bees, ferment local fruits and honey, brew, and pour. Bottled and on-tap sparkling meads are on offer, including fruity varieties like the Strawberry Rhubarb and Spiced Pear-Licious. High tops afford plenty of space on the shaded patio, and water bowls for your pup mean you can all take a load off after a long hike. You also can pick up a six-pack of cute cans.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Georgia mountains story without whiskey and moonshine, given the area’s history of Prohibition-era distilling. In an old stone building in Dillard, find the R.M. Rose Distillery, a 2016 revival of a historic brand founded in Atlanta in 1867. It manufactures its own copper pot stills and cypress fermenting tanks and makes varieties seasonally with local fruit. At the young venture, aged varieties were distilled elsewhere for now, but they’ve had plenty of action in their stills. They offer tours of the tiny space, but there’s not much reason to linger in the Prohibition-style tasting room, though it’s fun to pop in and pick up a bottle of whiskey or a jar of moonshine—or even a half-gallon of hand sanitizer—straight from the source.

Back to An Insider’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

Where to reel in trophy trout in North Georgia streams

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Gone fishing

Illustration by Claire McCracken

Blackhawk Fly Fishing
On Abby Jackson’s quiet, private stretch of the Soque River near Clarkesville, you can haul in 12-pound rainbow trout and browns. Then, you can bunk up at the 1860s farmhouse and even hire Jackson—who is also a professional chef—to prepare meals. (Pick up a jar of her Sweet Fire Pickles while you’re at it.) $200 half-day access and $275 full-day, plus another $100 to $150 if you want a guide

Hatch Camp and Art Farm
This hip, idealistic little community in the northeast corner of the state was opened by Scott and Nicole Low in 2017 as a fishing, art, and music retreat. (He’s also a singer-songwriter.) Hatch offers six private campsites along Warwoman Creek, as well as private guided fishing trips and a small fly shop. In addition to catching trophy trout, you can swim, explore, hang by the fire, or catch a concert or performance art on their funky little stage. (Tickets are limited to allow folks to stay distanced.)

Cohutta Fishing Company
The charming town of Blue Ridge is known as a hub for some of the state’s best fly fishing, and the Cohutta Fishing Company can tell you all the secrets. Hire a guide and head out to the Toccoa River or small mountain streams and lakes—or just hit up the fly shop before you head out on your own. (They’re next door to Oyster Fine Bamboo Fly Rods, where high-end, split-cane fly rods are crafted by hand.) Through the outfitter, you can lodge at the stylish, Beverly Baribault–designed Pecos Del Rio cabin. Wade trips start at $200, float trips at $350

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This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

5 cool cabins to rent in North Georgia

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“Cherry Blossom” yurt on Lookout Mountain
“Cherry Blossom” yurt on Lookout Mountain

Photograph courtesy of Airbnb

“Cherry Blossom” yurt on Lookout Mountain
1 bedroom, sleeps 2
$121 per night

You won’t be roughing it in this beautiful yurt perched on the edge of the bluff on Lookout Mountain. A peaceful, modern design gives the hut a Zen vibe (as if the views aren’t enough), and the hosts, who live on site, managed to partition the space into distinct living spaces—and even squeeze in a king-sized bed. Adults only.

Rising Fawn cabin on a 45-acre horse farm
4 bedrooms, sleeps 12
$481 per night

This postcard-perfect family getaway offers not just Cloudland Canyon views but horses roaming the rolling pastures and a pond stocked with trout, bass, and bream. There’s plenty of room to roam, but the charming cabin made of reclaimed wood is a great place to hunker down with bunks, books, and lots of amenities for kids of all ages (including a s’mores kit).

Getaway tiny “cabins” near Suches
1 or 2 bedrooms, sleeps 2 to 4
From $99

This community of tiny mobile cabins is part of a national expansion of Getaway, which has created these serene retreats across the country. Spread across 57 acres, the 20-plus Scandinavian-style minimalist cabins encourage social distancing by design—as well as immersion in nature, with cell-phone lockboxes so you can commit to truly checking out. Dogs welcome for a small fee.

Julep Farms in Dillard
1 or 2 bedrooms, sleeps 2 to 6
From $275 (two-night minimum)

The Kentucky meets Napa–style Julep Farms opened last fall in Dillard with airy cottages, an upscale coffee shop and market, and a glossy restaurant serving up elevated Southern fare—there’s lots of patio space, but they’ll also bring takeout to your car. The pastoral 22-acre grounds include a barn full of miniature horses, a croquet lawn with string lights, and a haute poultry coop fit for Martha Stewart.

“R Lake,” a modern home on Lake Rabun“R Lake,” a modern home on Lake Rabun
2 bedrooms, sleeps 4
$368 per night

There aren’t many rentals on the upper-crust sister lakes Rabun, Burton, and Seed, thanks to restrictions by landowner Georgia Power—but there are a few exceptions. This contemporary renovation tucked into a cove on Lake Rabun features 20-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, a sundeck with a sunken cedar hot tub for stargazing, and an outdoor rain shower. The luxe little house comes equipped with paddleboards and double bunk beds for the kids (who should be old enough to handle the swanky floating staircase).

Back to An Insider’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

4 secluded swimming holes in the North Georgia mountains

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North Georgia Swimming Holes
Bridal Veil Falls

Photograph by Eric Champlin

Conasauga Snorkel Hole
You might feel a bit odd packing your snorkel for a trip to the mountains, but hear us out: The Conasauga River watershed is home to more than 70 different species of native fish—more than in the entire western U.S. You may come face-to-face with salamanders, freshwater drum, crayfish, and turtles. Waters are calm here, and the pool is just a short walk from the parking lot. Getting there requires a confusing drive through gravel roads with spotty cell service, so have directions on hand.

Sliding Rock, Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park is one of the state’s most breathtaking natural wonders (see our cover photo)—so no wonder it’s also one of its most popular. To beat the rush, arrive first thing (8 a.m. on a weekday, if you can) and procure one of the 100 free day permits to hike to the gorge floor. You’re there for the Sliding Rock Trail, accessed via the rim trails, stairs, and a heartstopping suspension bridge, ultimately a rugged 3.5-mile in-and-out that drops 1,000 feet. Your reward? The wide natural rock waterslide at Bridal Veil Falls that launches you into a cool, mountain pool. Note: At press time, the park was limiting capacity due to the pandemic, and gorge permits were temporarily paused. Parking $5

Upper Tallulah Gorge
Just north of Lake Burton, across the bridge of the Coleman River, is the lesser-known scenic “upper Tallulah.” Albeit not as dramatic as its famous counterpart, this quiet stretch of the gorge is no less worth the visit but will have far fewer crowds. A gravel road (FS 70)—once a railroad bed—winds along and across the river, which rushes over boulders and creates countless waterfalls and plunge pools with designated entry points and pull-outs for parking. Cruise along until you find one that’s available, and jump in.

The Pocket Recreation Area
For more relaxed wading, try the Pocket, a 1940s-era Civilian Conservation Corps Camp nestled in a forest of oak, beech, and maple trees next to the steep ridges of Horn and Mill Mountains. The abandoned CCC stonework channels a stream into a large shallow pool, its flat bottom covered in smooth stones that make it easy for children to navigate safely (possibly created for the Depression-era workers to soak their feet). $5 parking

Back to An Insider’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

3 favorite places to bike in the North Georgia mountains

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Hit the road

Illustration by Claire McCracken

Cartecay River Loop
Opened in the 1980s as one of the first mountain-biking trails in the state, this nearly four-mile trail in Ellijay can be a rugged ride, says Dondi Fontenot of Cartecay Bike Shop. But it is unmatched for its beauty as it twists and turns through dense forest and meadow and drops down (sharply) to the wild Cartecay River (which you’ll have to climb back up from). You’ll need a day pass from georgiawildlife.com.

Five Points Recreation Area
Built in a 19th-century coal mining area, this nearly 20-mile, well-maintained network of singletrack loops at Cloudland Canyon State Park was constructed to provide ride options for mountain bikers of all skill levels, from a gentle roll to exciting slopes with jumps. The difficulty level is marked at each trailhead and on the state park maps. One section is open to hikers, but the rest is all wheels. $5 day-use fee per vehicle

Jake Mountain
Just under five miles, this intermediate trail at the foot of the Appalachians in the Chattahoochee National Forest provides rolling climbs and a soaring deep dive to a creek you’ll want to ford on foot. For steeper inclines, take the connector trail to nearby Bull Mountain—the whole network covers up to 50 miles. Watch out for horses.

Back to An Insider’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

An insider’s guide to the North Georgia mountains

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Get rid of cabin fever by renting . . . a cabin

“Cherry Blossom” yurt on Lookout MountainFrom big to small, rustic to luxe, east to west, here are a few of the great places to hide out in the wide open. > Read the full list


Golf above the clouds

McLemore golf course
Par 4, 18th Hole

Photograph courtesy of McLemore

The dramatic, craggy Northwest Georgia cliffs make McLemore one of the most spectacularly beautiful golf courses on the East Coast, with jaw-dropping overlooks, meandering creeks, and immaculate greens. This Rees Jones–designed, highlands-style course has been nominated as one of this year’s best new courses by Golf Digest. Other amenities include a short course, rock-climbing routes, waterfall-studded trails (including a soon-to-open trek to Singing Sisters Falls), private homes, a clubhouse due in October, and a planned hotel. The resort takes its name from the adjacent valley, McLemore Cove, named for John McLemore, the son of a Scottish fur trader and Cherokee princess who eventually became a Cherokee chief and fought for the U.S. in the War of 1812. To get into the private course, rent a cottage for a stay-and-play package (from $250 per person).


Just get behind the wheel and admire the change of scenery

Scenic drives in North Georgia Mountains(Especially spectacular when the leaves are turning in October.)

Ridge & Valley Scenic Byway
51 miles
The terrain on this loop ranges from pastoral valley with fertile farmsteads and 19th-century farmhouses to climbs along ancient ridges with long views and unusual geological outcroppings. Pass hikes like Keown Falls (where the trail actually passes underneath a waterfall, usually larger than a trickle only in spring and after a rain) and magical picnic spots like the Pocket Recreation Area, where you can cool your feet in a stream.

> Find more scenic drives


Take a hike

Where to hike in Georgia
Marble Mine Trail

Courtesy of ExploreGeorgia.org

North Georgia is loaded with top-notch treks. Here are a few picks to help guide you. > Read the full list


Cast a line

Blackhawk Fly Fishing
On Abby Jackson’s quiet, private stretch of the Soque River near Clarkesville, you can haul in 12-pound rainbow trout and browns. Then, you can bunk up at the 1860s farmhouse and even hire Jackson—who is also a professional chef—to prepare meals. (Pick up a jar of her Sweet Fire Pickles while you’re at it.) $200 half-day access and $275 full-day, plus another $100 to $150 if you want a guide

> Find more fishing spots here


Pick some fruit or flowers—or just pick some up

Where to pick and by flowers in Georgia
Whimsy Flower Farm

Courtesy of Whimsy Flower Farm

Whimsy Flower Farm
For a dreamy day, try wandering a field of bright blooms. At Whimsy Flower Farm, zinnias, anemones, and ranunculus thrive, but now is the season of the dahlia, which you’ll find in 50 colors. Owner Jennifer Flowers (really) Logan and her husband, Rusty, cut flowers daily (no picking yourself!) and assemble glorious bouquets from $15.

> Find more flower spots


Sip some local wine (and ‘shine)

Wineries in Georgia
Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Photograph courtesy of Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Sure, you’ll still see muscadines and slushie machines, but visit North Georgia now and you’ll find sophisticated small-batch varietals you’ll never spy at Total Wine.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards has won more than 200 medals in major U.S. competitions and produced the first Georgia wine served at the James Beard House. Open terraces like those at Yonah Mountain or Tiger Mountain offer scenic hillside views, while Kaya currently allows guests to spread out across all 90 acres—plus cottages to bunk up in.

> Find more North Georgia wineries


Coast and climb on two wheels

Cartecay River Loop
Opened in the 1980s as one of the first mountain-biking trails in the state, this nearly four-mile trail in Ellijay can be a rugged ride, says Dondi Fontenot of Cartecay Bike Shop. But it is unmatched for its beauty as it twists and turns through dense forest and meadow and drops down (sharply) to the wild Cartecay River (which you’ll have to climb back up from). You’ll need a day pass from georgiawildlife.com.

> Find more cycling spots


Park (or camp) and catch a movie on the big screen outdoors

The 1950s-era Tiger Drive-In, where viewers can tune in via FM radio from their cars, drop the tailgate, or spread out a blanket or tent on the grass in front of the screen, is seeming less like a throwback novelty these days and more like a brilliant activity. Reopened in 2004 by the original owner’s daughter, the drive-in features family-friendly classics (The Sandlot, Ghostbusters), first-run films, and now, virtual concerts and reduced capacity for plenty of space. Three 1960s-era campers with their own viewing patios are available to rent on Airbnb, and RVs can hook up for $20 a night. $10 adults, $5 children (4–11)


Take a dip in a secluded swimming hole

North Georgia Swimming Holes
Bridal Veil Falls

Photograph by Eric Champlin

Conasauga Snorkel Hole
You might feel a bit odd packing your snorkel for a trip to the mountains, but hear us out: The Conasauga River watershed is home to more than 70 different species of native fish—more than in the entire western U.S. You may come face-to-face with salamanders, freshwater drum, crayfish, and turtles. Waters are calm here, and the pool is just a short walk from the parking lot. Getting there requires a confusing drive through gravel roads with spotty cell service, so have directions on hand.

> Find more swimming spots


Plot your Escape

Before you take off

  • Check websites and social media: Some state parks and other sites have limited hours and capacity that is frequently changing.
  • Take cash for parking and roadside stands.
  • Consider a moisture-wicking gaiter-style mask that’s easy to pull up in case you encounter crowds.
  • Review the rules of the trail. Don’t let dramatic photo opps (like our cover shot, taken at the top of a route for advanced climbers in Tallulah Gorge) lure you off trail or into unsafe situations.

These articles appear in our September 2020 issue.

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