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WHITE WATER RAFTING

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

If you’re looking for an amazing adventure during your next trip to the North Georgia Mountains, white water rafting just might be it.  We have the most stunning scenery, the most thrilling rapids and the most competent river guides in the Southeast.  No experience is necessary and the rafting companies will provide all the equipment you’ll need.  If you are staying at one of our Rainbow Cains, there are 4 rivers nearby for whitewater rafting:  the Ocoee, the Nantahala, the Tuckaseegee and the Cheoah.

The Ocoee River is just up the road from Blue Ridge in southeastern Tennessee’s Ducktown.  Discover why this is the nation’s most popular stretch of whitewater.  From launch to takeout, there is a run of non-stop Class III-IV Rapids that drop 260′ from start to finish.  The Ocoee River is divided into two wild rides–the Upper Ocoee and the Middle Ocoee.  Because it is dam controlled, even in the driest months the water level stays constant.  It flows through a picturesque gorge in the lush Cherokee National Forest.  The Upper Ocoee is home to the Whitewater Center, site of the 1996 Summer Olympics.  On certain summer weekends you can run the same course that challenged the Olympians.  The Middle Ocoee allows rafting trips on weekends only in the months of April, May, September and October.  During June, July and August, you can book a raft trip every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays (when no water is released from the dam, hence there is no whitewater).   The Upper and the Middle can be combined for 10 miles of rolling waves and turbulent rapids.  All trips on the Ocoee have a guide in the boat and children are required to be at least 12 years old to ride.  Companies that offer trips on the Ocoee River include:

The Nantahala River is family-friendly and ideal for a beginner.  Located in western North Carolina near Bryson City, rafting companies offer 1/2 day trips from March through October.  The Nantahala is nestled deep within a canopied gorge thick with rhododendron, mountain laurel and wildflowers.  The rapids are exciting, but much milder than the Ocoee.  You’ll encounter some Class II-III rapids spread out between spells of crystal clear flat water.  Most companies offer “guide assisted” rides where a guide will be along, but not necessarily in every boat.  Children must be 7 years old or weigh at least 60 lbs.  Nantahala rafting companies include:

  • Nantahala Outdoor Center  (see above)
  • Blue Ridge Outing  at www.raftwithkids.com     (800) 572-3510
  • Wildwater Adventure Center  (see above)

The Tuckaseegee River provides the perfect whitewater trip for younger kids.  Childreb as young as 4 years old are allowed on this river.  The Tuckaseegee (better known as “The Tuck”) is located near Whittier, NC, close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You’ll enjoy a wonderfully scenic trip through the lower gorge of the river where you’ll come upon some whitewater–spirited, but kid- appropriate.  The water temperature is warmer and the rapids are milder.  The Blue Ridge Outing Company has been in business since 1988 and they guarantee their raft trips 100%.  Young, old and even teens will have the time of their life!

The Cheoah River is for hard-core, experienced thrill seekers.  It will give you “hang onto your helmet” continuous Class IV-V Rapids for 9 miles!  It’s steep, it’s hard and it’s intense.  Not that you’ll have time to gaze at the scenery, but if you did, you’d be spellbound by the beauty.  Trips on the Cheoah run March to November.  Since there are limited water releases by the dam, there are only 19 very popular trips planned for the 2011 season.  The two remaining trips are scheduled for October 1st ahd November 5th.  Kids must be at least 16 years old to go on the Cheoah and they need to be very experienced.  If this sounds like the adventure for you, contact:

  • Nantahala Outdoor Center at www.noc.com     (888)662-2199

Whitewater rafting is a blast.  If you’ve never tried it, you’re really missing our on one of the best experiences you can have in the mountains.  Most companies give you a choice of how involved you want to be on your ride–from letting the guide do all the work to you pitching in and paddling  like crazy to avoid the boulder dead ahead.  Do your homework and investigate each website to see which adventure best suits your experience level, your athletic ability and your dreams.  Be sure to dress appropriately.  In warm weather wear a bathing suit, quick-dry shorts and a T-shirt.  In cool weather wear lightweight polar fleece or a wetsuit (NOT jeans or sweats).  And always wear shoes that won’t fall off–water shoes or tennis shoes, NOT flip flops.  Bring a towel and a dry set of clothes for after your ride.  As with any water activity there is inherent risk involved and you will have to sign a liability waiver before getting on your watercraft.  All of the companies I’ve listed in this article have many years of experience and excellent safety records.

You can be sure of three things when you go whitewater rafting:  you will get wet, you will get scared at times and you will have a fascinating experience to tell all your friends!  Your kids might even think you’re cool.

 

 

SUMMER VACATION WITH THE FAMILY

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

 

Recently we had our annual summer vacation in the mountains.  John and I have been renting cabins in the Blue Ridge area for the last 8 or 9 years.  We’ve stayed in so many different places and
spaces that it’s hard to remember them all. We usually go 2-4 times a year so we can experience each season.  Moving from Dallas, TX, where we’d been for many years, and where there weren’t many trees and NO mountains—we really appreciate now all that the North Georgia Mountains have to offer.  We love being able to run up to Blue Ridge in less than 2 hours, rent a large house for a week and have our daughters and their families join us for a long weekend.  It seems to suit everyone well.  And we never get bored with the same old place or run out of things to do—especially since I started writing for the Rainbow Cabins website.  Doing research for my articles & blogs has enabled us to have so many fascinating experiences we might have otherwise missed.

This has been a “Summer of Fun” for me.  I’ve been to Melbourne Beach in Florida for a family wedding; spent 3 days at Disney World with the grandkids; and spent a week with my BFF at her lake house on the NC/VA border and drove out to the Outer Banks.  It’s been a whirlwind of excitement, so the idea of kicking back in the mountains was a joy.

We didn’t kick back all the time though.  In fact, we crammed quite a lot into our week at River Lodge.  While in Blue Ridge we drove over to the Marina to check out the water level.  I’m pleased to report that Lake Blue Ridge is back to normal (after having been drained 60-70’ for work on the dam during the winter.)  The crystal clear blue waters were sparkling; all the docks at the Marina were serviceable; and homeowners had their private docks back where they belong.

Next, John and I went downtown to do a little shopping.  John normally does not enjoy shopping in the least, but he actually had fun as we meandered in & out of numerous stores to see what’s new.
My favorite stop was at the Johnson family’s “Tomorrow’s Antiques Today,” more commonly known as The Bear Store.  Every nook and cranny is filled with delightful home décor items, unique gifts and custom furniture.  I even found the Blue Ridge car decals that I’d been looking for.  We also wandered through the Mall and various art galleries and specialty shops.  When we’d worked up an appetite, we stopped at Harvest on Main.  Donna at the BR Chamber of Commerce recommended the Salmon BLT and it was superb.  John had a tasty little kettle of chicken stew.  Everything at Harvest is impressive—from the massive wood & timber beams to the stacked stone fireplace to the mammoth animal heads hanging around on the walls.  It has a rustic atmosphere, excellent service and good prices.  We paid less than $20 for our 2 meals.

When the grandkids arrived from Atlanta and I could tear them away from splashing in Fightingtown Creek and playing arcade games, I took them to Brown’s Pet Store in downtown Blue
Ridge.  They went crazy when they saw the conglomeration of animals that are packed into the old fashioned store.  Ryan, my 8 year-old, is particularly fond of reptiles so I knew he’d love all the iguanas, snakes and turtles.  Maryann and Betsy, ages 5 & 3, enjoyed the baby chicks and lop-eared bunnies.  Jason, the 2 year-old, was just enthralled by everything he saw.  I don’t know how but we got out of there without buying any pets.  Of course, I had to get a 50 lb bag of cracked corn and a deer lick for all my critters back home.  Incidentally, when I got home I had two families of deer waiting patiently.

After going to Brown’s, we took the kids to the Blue Ridge Recreation Park to run around and play on the playground.  If you haven’t been there yet, be sure to give it a try.  The City has done a beautiful job of creating this huge park of rolling green hills and ball fields, surrounded by the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  There’s an indoor rec center if you drive to the back.  The Park is located out Hwy 5, just a little past Mercier Orchards.

John and Bryan, my son-in-law, went kayaking on Fightingtown Creek.  They were dropped off at Power Dam Road (near the WhiteWater Cabin) and paddled back to our cabin.  The trip took about 2 ½ hours but was made worse by several downed trees from recent storms.  It was still a beautiful trip—very lush and shady, with a few small rapids.  Perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

John and our daughter Shelby snuck off early one morning to go fishing at Horseshoe Bend Park.  They were happy to catch & release several decent sized trout—despite not having the kids along to “help.”  Imagine that.

Mercier Orchards was hopping every time we passed by.  Fresh peaches are their featured crop right now (mid July.)  Soon the early season apple crops will be ripening and the U-Pick Specials will start up in August.  It’s fun to take a tractor ride out into the orchards to snap up the freshest fruit.

Saturday we packed up everybody and headed for the Amicalola Deer Park.  Getting there was easy and only took about 25 minutes.  Just head south on Hwy 515 and turn left onto a short access road that takes you to Hwy 52E, just north of Ellijay.  This is actually called Apple Orchard Alley since there are so many orchards along this stretch.  Go 22 miles to Mile Marker 3.  Don’t be confused by the Mile Marker numbers.  They go up before restarting at the county line.  You’ll pass Burt’s Pumpkin Patch, a really cool place you should visit in the fall.  Soon you’ll see the sign for the Deer Park.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s really fun.  Pastor Sean Smith started this place a few years ago to rescue and rehabilitate deer and use it as a tool to interact with special needs children.  It has continued to grow and now many times whern there is an animal that needs help, it is taken to the deer park.  Sean works his magic and all the animals get along famously.  You’ll be greeted by a multitude of friendly gentle and perfectly tamed deer.  We were loaded into a wagon and driven to several different areas around the farm to view and feed the animals.  There were mainly deer, but also llamas, goats, donkeys, ponies, a fat pig and an emu.  There could have been others, but I didn’t see them.  Sean doesn’t let them out to mingle with the public until they are tamed.  This is a working non-profit farm.  Be sure to bring some extra cash because you will want to purchase $2 bags of corn to feed the animals.  Sean also has some beautiful Great Pyrenees dogs that help him herd and guard the animals from predators.  Ryan really wanted to get an antler with his own money.  Pastor Sean sold him one with the solemn promise that Ryan would always be kind to animals and never kill one.  It was a truly blessed experience for all of us.

After the Deer Park we drove to nearby Amicalola Falls National Park.  We found one of the numerous picnic tables and had lunch.  The kids were starting to get tired so we drove up to the top of the waterfalls and viewed them from the Observation Bridge.  It is really nice the way the park is set up with the ability to see the falls from above, below, and the middle.  There’s an easy 10 minute walk halfway up.  All make wonderful photo opportunities.  My knees were grateful that I didn’t have to hike.

All in all it was another perfect trip to the North Georgia Mountains.  I love this time of the year when the mountain laurel is blooming, the fireflies are twinkling and the kids are toasting marshmallows for s’mores.  But, we can’t wait to return in the fall!

Laughing Bear Lodge

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

While vacationing in Blue Ridge last week I toured Rainbow Cabins’ newly renovated Laughing Bear Lodge.    Wes and Leslee have artfully turned it into a showplace of “Rustic Elegance.”  Wes converted their family home into a spacious lodge that now easily accommodates 40 people.  Laughing Bear is the ideal place for corporate retreats, family reunions, church groups and destination
weddings.

The 12,000 sq. ft. lodge sits on about 14 acres, most of which is heavily wooded.  There is, however, a large lush grassy area (big enough for playing football or soccer) between the house and noisy
Fightingtown Creek.  The creek is well stocked with trout.  A wrap around deck works great for large gatherings or for sitting alone, reading a book, listening to the water and watching the local wildlife.

The dining room table is unique in that it was carved from a single piece of wood and seats 18 comfortably.  There are many bedrooms and baths, all spacious and tastefully decorated.  Most of the bedrooms have at least 2 queen size beds so that family groups can share a room.  There’s even a western bunkroom downstairs with 2 sets of bunk beds for the kids.

Speaking of downstairs—it will blow you away.  Not only is there a ping pong table, pool table, arcade games, workout room, sauna and home theater, but also an indoor regulation size racquetball/basketball court with 20’ ceilings!!  All of these features combine to make Laughing Bear Lodge stand out from other rental properties.  It has something to entertain everyone in your party.  Please look at our website and take the virtual tour.  I’ve only mentioned a few of the highlights and can’t begin to do it justice.  Spread the word and tell your friends about this wonderful destination for large groups in the North Georgia Mountains, less than 2 hours from Atlanta and Chattanooga.

TUBING AROUND BLUE RIDGE

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

 

TVC tubing

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than going tubing down the Toccoa River.  It cools you right off and you get the added benefit of enjoying the blissful sights and sounds as you float.  The Toccoa is shallow for the most part, but there are some deep areas.  You will encounter some small rapids and rocks along the way, but tubing is quite suitable for anyone who can swim.  When tubing in the Blue Ridge area you have two basic choices–floating on the Upper Toccoa (above Lake Blue Ridge and the dam) or floating on the Lower Toccoa (below the dam).  The Upper Toccoa’s water level and speed is dependent on the rain in the summer months.  The Lower Toccoa is controlled by the dam’s water releases.  All tubing companies will provide your tube, a life vest and shuttle service.   Reservations are not necessary unless you have a large group.

Shallowford Bridge Tubing claims to be “the best float on the river.”  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s the only place we’ve tried and our family had a ball.  It is open 7 days a week seasonally from 11-6 and your float costs $9.00.  The trip takes about 1 1/2 hours.  Small children may ride in the same tube as their parents.  Shallowford Bridge Tubing is located right out Aska Road, just across the Shallowford Bridge.  They have new red tubes with yellow trim, handles and a cup holder.  (706) 632-2462.

The Toccoa Valley Campground also rents tubes on the Upper Toccoa.  Open Monday through Saturday, launch hours are between 10AM and 3PM.  The float trip costs $10.  Changing rooms and restrooms are available on site.  All tubes are hot pink and commercially equipped with a bottom and handles.  No coolers are allowed on the Toccoa  Valley floats and children must be 30 lbs or 5 years old to ride.  Children may not ride in their parents’ tubes.  The 6-mile trip takes about 1 1/2 hours when the water is up.  Gina runs the campground and has been in busines for many years.  The TVC is a very family friendly operation.  They have tent and RV hookups; hot showers and clean restrooms; river & creek frontage sites and even a special fishing hole for campers 12 and under and the handicapped.  No alcohol is allowed on the property.  Call Gina at the Toccoa Valley Campground & Tubing Company at (706) 838-4317 for camping information.   Directions:  From the McDonald’s in Blue Ridge, go NE on Hwy 515 to Windy Ridge Rd and turn right.  At the stop light turn left and go past the Ace Hardware to Aska Road.  Turn right onto Aska and travel 11 1/2 miles.  The Toccoa Valley Campground & Tubing Co. will be on your left.

Tubing the Lower Toccoa

As I mentioned earlier, the Lower Toccoa River is a dam-controlled river and the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) releases water as they deem necessary–sometimes daily.  Water levels and speed can change significantly after water is released.  Now, it all depends on what kind of ride you want and who is in your party.  Do you want a lazy river float or do you want a wild swift ride??  Both can be lots of fun.  Before the water is released, the river is shallower and slower.  The tubing companies have no idea when water will be released, so it is a little riskier to tube on the lower end for longer floats, especially if you have young children.

Blue Ridge Mt Kayaking

Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking gives you 4 choices as to the length of your trip down the river.  It all depends on your “put-in” location.  They rent both tubes and kayaks for your enjoyment.  The 1 hour trip is $6; the 2 hr trip is $8 and the 1/2 day trip is $16.  If you have young children, the 1 hour float is ideal.  Blue Ridge Mountain has tiny lifevests for the young ones 3 and up.  They allow children to ride double with their parents.  Coolers are allowed on your ride as long as you don’t bring any glass objects.  We want to keep our river safe and pristine.  BRMK is known to have “Cadillac” tubes–blue and white super comfy, with a mesh bottom and 2 cup holders!  Call the Flanagans at (706) 258-2411 for more information.  Their physical address is 227 W. Tennessee Avenue, Copperhill, TN.  But, don’t worry, it’s only a 15 minute drive from Blue Ridge.  Copperhill, TN and McCaysville, GA are sister cities and the state line running through the grocery store parking lot is the only thing separating the two towns.  Directions:  From the McDonald’s, go north on Hwy 5 for 10.2 miles and turn left at the first stoplight in McCaysville.  That will be Tennessee Ave.

Toccoa River Adventures

Toccoa River Adventures offers $6 tube floats.  The trip mainly runs by Horseshoe Bend Park.  If you’re lucky, you will see the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train  pass by and you can wave to all the passengers.  You can get 2 float trips for $10 if you want to go twice.  Tubes for coolers are $6.  Children get tubes with bottoms.  You can rent a double tube, a “Honeymoon Tube” for $12.  Toccoa River Adventures also rents canoes, kayaks, rafts and 1 & 2 man Funyaks.  They eaopen at 10 AM every day during the season and close whenever the last person floats in.  They are located at 340 Toccoa Avenue in McCaysville.  All major credit cards are accepted.  (706) 492-5280

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder River Company, which has been in business since 1977, is located right on the river in downtown McCaysville.  They offer 1.5 mile tube rides for $7.  Snuggle Tubes are $14.  Children must be 5 years of age to float.  If the river is running fast and you want more than a 20 minute float trip, their 3 mile float is perfect.  However, if the river is running stronger than normal, children must be ast least 10 years old to take the 3 mile ride.  Safety first!  Rolling Thunder also rents Funyaks (inflatable kayaks), sit-on-top kayaks and canoes.  They are best known for their white water rafting adventures on the Ocoee and the Nantahala Rivers.  Check out their website at www.RollingThunderCo.com or call (800) 408-7238.

Tubing

Tips For Tubing

  • Wear water shoes, or at least shoes that fit securely to your feet–no flip-flops.
  • Take a Zip-lock bag along for valuables.
  • A small paddle or just a stick can be handy when pushing away from rocks.
  • Wear lots of sunscreen & a hat.
  • You may want to bring some rope to tie your tubes together so tht no one gets caught in the brush & left behind.  There are no brakes on these tubes and a strong current can carry you away very quickly.  If you cross under a bridge (like Curtis Switch), be sure to pass thru single file, if tied together.
  • Children must keep their life vests on at all times.  Adults should, at the very least, tie their vest to the tube’s handle so it can be grabbed if necessary.
  • If you have young children in your party, take the shorter float trips to see how they like it.
  • Expect to get wet.  You will probably need to get off your tube & walk it over rocks if the water level is down.  That’s why the shoes are important.
  • Expect a strong current.
  • Don’t try to go thru the rapids at the big boulders at the bend on Aska Road if you are tubing on your own.  They can be very dangerous, depending on the water level and current.  You can no longer take-out at the boulders.  They are on private property and the owner is very serious about tht.
  • Don’t litter.  Keep our rivers clean.
  • If you are staying at a Rainbow Cabin, read the Welcome Book and the Guest Book for advice.  All of our cabins are located on either the Toccoa or on Fightingtown Creek and come with tubes and/or kayaks.  The books in the cabins will tell you where to drop off your party so it can float back to the cabin.
  • HAVE FUN! 

LET’S GO FOR AN ART WALK

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

artwalk logo vertical

The North Georgia Mountains are a haven for creativity.  The peaceful pace of life and the sheer beauty of the area seem to “draw in” artists of all mediums.  Many, wishing to escape a hectic urban life, but still needing to stay close enough for business reasons, have moved to Blue Ridge and made it their home.  You are quite likely to find many world-renowned artists here–especially when you visit the galleries of The Art Walk.

Every third Saturday evening from 5-8 PM, June thru December, four exceptional fine art galleries located in historic downtown Blue Ridge, GA, on East Main Street, open their doors after hours for Art Walk.  Come stroll through the galleries, enjoy complimentary refreshments and hopefully find a memento of your trip.

multitudes gallery

You might want to start at Multitudes and work your way up the street to Abreu.  Multitudes Gallery, at their new location of 801 East Main, features the best in the delicate art of hand blown glass.  This is definitely their specialty, but they also carry jewelry, ceramic pottery, iron work, wind chimes, photography, wood working, stained glass and fine paintings in oil, acrylics and watercolors.  California artist, Mary Frances, has a wonderful whimsical line of purses that are colorful works o f art.  Mon Bijou has jewelry creations made from French pewter and brass alloy.  Judson Bailey, a local legend, frequently demonstrates his gorgeous stained glass here.  It’s as much fun listening to his stories as it is watching him work.  Multitudes is open regularly Monday thru Saturday, 11-6 and Sunday, 12-5.

high country art gallery

High Country Art & Antiques–A Most Eclectic Art Gallery, is located just down the street, across from the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Train Depot, at 715 East Main Street.  This beautiful gallery features everything from fine art to folk art.  You’re sure to find somethng that speaks to your heart.  Their always popular Meet The Artist Series is back in full swing.  Saturday, June 18, 2011, during this month’s Art Walk,  Melissa Sellars will be doing a live painting demonstration at the gallery.  Please stop by and meet Melissa.  High Country Art & Antiques has been in business for 14 years.

Turning Leaf gallery

Just a few doors down, at 651 East Main, you’ll find Turning Leaf Wood Art–A Fine Art Gallery.  This unique establishment features only American artists.  Currently, they house the works of over 50 artists– most of them are well known award winners.  Although the store started with mostly fine wood art, it has expanded to cover all mediums including fiber art and face jugs.  You’ll find one of a kind pieces accompanied by an autographed artist statement.  May through December, Turning Leaf’s hours are Monday thru Saturday, 10-5 and Sunday, 12-5.

abreu photo

Be sure to keep going up East Main to the Abreu Fine Art Gallery.  It’s one you really shouldn’t miss.  Artist Anthony Abreu has a delightful  free-standing store    at the north end of the street that reflects some of his favorite things–mountain scenery, fly fishing, horses and Norman Rockwell style small towns.  His love of the Appalachians is evident in his paintings. 

 Along with the other artists represented at his gallery, Abreu has created a relaxed, but upscale atmosphere.  You will find remarkable art and beautiful accessories that are surprisingly affordable and elegantly unique.  Anthony Abreu hopes you will find items that “express your personal style, make a statement and give your room its signature look.”  Normal business hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11-6.

Come discover the vibrant art being created in and around our charming little town of Blue Ridge.  Take a leisurely stroll down East Main on the third Saturday of each month and enjoy the Art Walk presented by these four amazing galleries.

BOO!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

ghost tour

If you’re looking to try something different the next time you visit the North Georgia Mountains and you aren’t afraid of ghosts, take the Blue Ridge Ghost Tour.  Fannin County has a fascinating history, with some amazing reports of the paranormal popping up through the years.  On this walking tour, your  guide will regale you with stories that are based on folklore, legends and collections of individual encounters.  You will hear tales of  The Ghosts of Downtown Blue Ridge, The Ghosts of Tilly Bend Church and The Legend of the Bald Mountains.  You’ll learn the story behind the rare fairy crosses which are found in our mountains and you’ll hear the local tale of The Joint & Hoop Snake.

Tours are offered year round every Friday and Saturday evening at 7 PM, weather permittingReservations are a “must” because a tour requires at least 6 people.  The tours involve climbing some pretty steep hills, so be sure to wear good walking shoes.  If you are unable to do strenuous walking, don’t worry.  Non-walking tours can be arranged.  For the regular tours you need to bring a blanket or cushion to sit on since you will be stopping periodically to listen to stories,  sitting for long periods of time.  Flashlights and cameras are allowed.  You can also bring some water, but be aware that there are no bathroom facilities.  Like your Mom always told you, “Go before you leave the house.”  These tours are designed for adults and teens–not young children.  The admission price is $16 for adults and $14 for those under 18.  You can call (706) 455-9866 for reservations.

ghost

The Blue Ridge Ghost Tour is sure to provide some entertaining chills and thrills for those who are not faint of heart.  Try it.  I dare you!

UPDATE ON LAKE BLUE RIDGE

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Blue Ridge MarinaIf you’ve been in the North Georgia Mountains during the last year and driven out to see beautiful Lake Blue Ridge, you may have been terribly disappointed.  The water level in the lake had to be lowered by about 60′ so the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) could do  repairs on the dam.  When I was there 2 weeks ago the water level was still down, but looked better than it did last fall.  I saw an article in the Blue Ridge News Observer on 5/2/11, in which the TVA reported that all the work had been completed and the refilling of the lake is at least a month ahead of schedule.  It could be near full pool by August.

To confirm this, I called the Blue Ridge Marina and was given even better news.  A spokesperson there said that with all the rains they’ve been having, the lake should be at or near full pool by June.  They are already renting out boats and jet skis and all the docks (which had been moved deeper into the lake) have been reconnected.  The annual 4th of July Fireworks Over Lake Blue Ridge will go an as usual!  Beautiful Lake Blue Ridge will be beautiful once more–full of the cleanest, most sparkling water in the southern Appalachians–and ready for your enjoyment.

THE BULLS ‘N BARRELS RODEO

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

 

rodeo-bronc

If you ever dreamed of being a cowboy, or a cowgirl, for that matter–then you are going to love this rootin’ tootin’ rodeo!  It’s fun for the whole family, and just a short drive from Blue Ridge.  The Bulls ‘N Barrels Rodeo starts at 6:00PM on Saturday, June 11, 2011, at the Brasstown Valley Resort.

rodeo-barrel

 

 

There will be all kinds of rodeo games including timed events like Barrel Racing, Team Roping and Bronc Busting.  The ladies will be showing off their skills at Breakaway Roping and Goat Tying.  Kids, ages 6 & 7, will be Muttin’ Bustin’ while kids who are 7 to 16 will take part in the Calf Scrambles.  Plenty of great food will be on hand at the Concession Stand.  Admission is $10 for adults;  $5 for kids 5-10; and it’s free for kids 5 and under.  So, grab your hat and boots, round up your family and head on out to a North Georgia Rodeo.  It’s a wonderfully different way to spend a cool evening in the mountains!

                             rodeo-kid muttin

 

To reach Brasstown Valley Resort from Blue Ridge, drive about 25 miles east on Hwy 515/76 through Blairsville to Young Harris.  The address is 6321 US Hwy 76, Young Harris, GA, 30582.  You’ll see the sign for the resort and you’ll probably smell the sawdust in the air.  See you there, Pard’ner!

MORE COOL STUFF FOR KIDS!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

 

hen & rooster2

We discovered a place in Blue Ridge that we will visit every time we go to the North Georgia Mountains.  It’s called Brown’s Feed & Seed.   It is right in the downtown area at 55 Mountain Lane, close to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway tracks.  Ever since we lost our Irish setter, Molly, we have sort of adopted all the wildlife that comes to our yard.  We live on a heavily wooded lot right on a lake.  I’ve always fed the birds, but recently we’ve had 5 deer and 3 families of Canada Geese.  They are so much fun to watch.  The goslings are about 2 weeks old now and we’re expecting fawns any day now.  At any rate, to make a long story short, we were vacationing in Blue Ridge and decided to search out some cheaper food for all our critters.  We came across Brown’s and were totally amazed.  It is a step back in time for me, as my father used to take me to a very similar store 50 years ago.  Brown’s is an old-fashioned pet store–filled from floor to ceiling in every nook and cranny with every kind of animal you could imagine (except for dogs & cats, that is.)  Of course they sell pet supplies and garden seeds and supplies, but it was the vast array of exotic animals and barnyard fowl that truly fascinated a city girl like me.

ducklings2

                                                                                             gionea pig  lop eared bunny

 

green-iguana-mary-lane         A four foot iguana sits outside the front door to greet everyone.  There are also hens, roosters, chicks, baby turkeys, crested ducks and even a sleek black “Daffy” duck.  I’ve never seen such a variety of colors, sizes,and breeds.  Then there are the hamsters, guinea pigs, lop eared bunnies, ferrets, rats (some hairless-yuk!) and mice.  There is a whole wall of aquariums filled with exotic fish and graceful fantail goldfish.  They have beautiful fighting betas in reds, blues and purples.  We wandered around and met Sunny, the big yellow talking parrot.  A trained rooster was walking around the checkout desk, pecking at a box of feed.  There were parakeets of every color, lovebirds, cockatiels and other rare birds.  Then, Shadow, the old store dog, showed us the snakes–boas, pythons and even baby rattlesnakes.  There is a huge emperor scorpion, turtles, chameleons, skinks, lizards–all the kinds of things that appeal to kids–and to grownups, too.  The variety of hens and roosters was most impressive.  I’ve heard of Rhode Island Reds, but they also had silky white ones, fluffy ones, black & white ones, as well as the traditional red hens we all know.  You name it, Brown’s has it–or they know where to get it for you.

goldfish

The animals were all well cared for and loved.  It must take a huge staff to clean and feed all of them every day.  The place is pleasantly noisy with the sounds of roosters crowing and baby chicks peeping.  It smells like a barnyard, but that’s to be expected.  We’re just happy that we stumbled upon Brown’s Feed & Seed.  We were guided straight to exactly what we needed for our critters back home.  I promise you, if you have kids or grandkids, you need to take them to Brown’s.  Just make sure they know not to touch any of the animals and don’t let them talk you into buying a bunch of new pets!

COOL STUFF FOR KIDS

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

 

kids fishing

John and I spent 4 days at Rainbow Cabins’ WhiteWater this past weekend.  Our daughter and her 8 yr-old son, Ryan, came up for the day on Saturday.  He’s a great kid and just loves going up to Blue Ridge whenever we go.  This time since he was the only grandkid there, I wanted to concentrate on activities he would particularly enjoy.  The weather was clear, with cool nights and warm days–really nice after the tornado scare we had Wednesday night with the raging storms that swept across Alabama and Georgia.

Ryan loved the Hydro Thunder speedboat arcade game at the cabin and he loved exploring Fightingtown Creek, climbing on the big boulders and wading in the icy cold rushing water.  As it was way too cold to go swimming or tubing yet, we hit the road and went on an adventure.  In my research for articles, I had run across a place called The Trout Pond.  It is in nearby Morganton, just up Hwy 515 towards Blairsville.  Ryan, having the attention span of a gnat, is usually not patient enough for normal fishing.  But, at the Trout Pond he got the perfect fishing experience.  It is a Mom & Pop type place.  Howard and Janet have run the business fo 20 years and were so friendly and helpful.  The pond itself is good sized, about 15-25 feet deep and extremely well-stocked with trout.  When we threw in a handful of pellet food, the fish swarmed to the top.  Most are 1 -1/2 to 2 lbs, but we saw some much bigger fish in there.  Ryan actually caught 5 nice ones in about 30 minutes.  He was thrilled.  This place is designed for everyone to have fun and catch fish.  It’s ideal for amateur anglers because The Trout Pond has everything you need right there.  They rent out poles, bait, buckets and pliers.  No license is required.  Their Superbait is neon pink and green and looks like Play Doh.  You must keep and buy all the fish you catch, but they clean them for you for free.  We had a tasty trout dinner that night.  And Ryan had a great story for Show & Tell at school on Monday!

The Trout Pond is only open during the cooler months–October thru May.  Trout are cold water fish and don’t do well in the summer heat in a “still” pond setting.  I’m so sorry we never discovered this place before.  But, we’ll definitely be going back with all the grandkids next fall.  If you have kids, I highly recommend it.  The elderly would also enjoy this excursion.

Take a Kid Fishing

 

To reach the Trout Pond, take Hwy 515 north/east past Hwy 60 and keep going until you see Mile Marker 13.  Get in the left lane and start looking for Maple Grove Road.  It’s the first left turn after MM13.  Turn and go to the first gravel road on your right which is Wildlife Trail.  You’ll see the bright yellow sign for The Trout Pond.  They’re open every day during the cool seasons.  Tell them that Rainbow Cabins sent you.