Monday, August 24, 2009

NOTES ON NORTH GEORGIA


I.
Friday, we arrived in Ellijay, Georgia where former President Jimmy Carter is said to own a summer retreat home. I can’t verify this information about his second home because he’s rarely seen in the area. “His favorite eating place is the Pink Pig near Cherry Log where you can find premiere barbecue,” the owner of an antique co-op told us. “I’ve sat at a table for hours, hoping to get a glimpse of him, but he never shows up.” The shopkeeper also told us that hunters wander on President Carter’s property near Turnip Town Rd. but are chased away by government men dressed in business suits who emerge out of the wooded area near President Carter’s home when anyone steps onto the property.

On our way to Blue Ridge, we passed the turn-in to the road leading to the Pink Pig, and I looked long and hard down the road, hoping, but knowing, I wouldn’t see him. What would I have said to him if I had seen him? Would I have just walked up to him and said, “President Jimmy, I’m glad you got out of the Southern Baptist Convention because you don’t believe in the subordination of women to men.” Probably not, but it’s a sentiment I’d like to express to him.

It was 82 degrees in Ellijay, a temp that wasn’t nearly as steamy as southern Georgia can be during the summer. Was it Carson McCullers who wrote that summers in southern Georgia, a place of slash pine flatwoods, are long, hot, and lonely? From my stays there, I know a summer afternoon can last a century. However, Ellijay is actually the same elevation as Sewanee, and temps at Sewanee are equal to northern Georgia, so we’re on what one friend calls “a busman’s holiday.”

Downtown Ellijay, like most southern hamlets, has a small square; this one was lined with antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. As I’m a “gallery gazer,” I explore art exhibits and pottery shops on most of my odysseys. I wandered into a gallery featuring “apple country artists” and met a transplanted Floridian who was minding the store for the owner of the gallery. Floridians, whose ancestors once migrated to Florida from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, have made a reverse migration, seeking the cool mountains in their ancestors’ territories and a return to rural life. This summer, while travelling in these three states, I’ve encountered many who have escaped Tampa, Orlando, and Miami; most of them were artists, designers, shopkeepers, and chefs.

At the gallery featuring apple country artists, former Floridian Diane Knowles gave me her card showing a copy of a mural she had painted in the garden room of a home in Ocala, Florida. The mural depicts an Italian scene, probably in Tuscany, and I asked her to e-mail me a copy of the beautiful rendering. This morning, she forwarded the mural shown above, along with her thanks for my interest. Diane and her husband Joe love nature and tout that it inspires much of the work they render in murals, 3-D art, and custom woodworking. They also create faux finishes in office buildings, recreation centers, clubhouses, and homes. You can Google them at www.daystar-design.com and view their wonderful work.

As we traveled along the Appalachian Foothills Parkway, we decided to turn off toward Amicalola (a Cherokee name meaning tumbling waters) Falls State Park. We never pass up state parks because they usually include a center that provides the geography and history of regions, as well as maps for good hiking trails. We passed apple orchards and sheds with apple and peach displays on every hill and forests of kudzu so tall that they’d shame the same growths that plague Alabama and Mississippi. Once we reached the Amicalola Falls Lodge, which houses 67 visitors and has a huge dining facility, we decided to book a room that had a breathtaking view of the Appalachians. The temps were in the 60’s, so we hiked the West Ridge Falls access trail to the base of the falls, a 729 ft. cascade. The surface of the trail wasn’t quite like any trail I’ve trekked – it was made of recycled tires obtained from a grant given by the Scrap Tire Management Program. The tires had been collected from purchase of replacement tires in Georgia and had been shredded to construct a smooth path not common to most mountain trails.

The southernmost part of the Appalachian Trail begins at nearby Springer Mountain and covers more than 2100 miles to Mt. Katadin in Maine, a site near the place I lived in Maine during the early 50’s. The Trail meanders across 14 states, and 75 miles of it is in Georgia. Only seventeen percent of the hikers who attempt the 2100 mile trek end up in Maine. If you hiked the entire trail, you might be gone from home six months!

While I was on the trail to the Falls, my friend Vickie noticed that I had become highly exhilarated as I do when I’m in a high energy area; e.g., when I was on vacation in Sedona, Arizona, where formations of quartz lie beneath those stunning red rock mountains. Scientists and geologists claim these quartz deposits are responsible for the high energy levels of visitors to Sedona. When I returned to the room at the Amicalola Lodge, I found a book about the area lying on the bedside table. A section on the park’s history described how the stream (the falls) had attempted to erode backward toward its source and encountered a rock unit resistant to erosion. The rock unit is metagray-wacke, a rock containing a high percentage of quartz! The energy I was feeling resembled that same “quartz energy” I had experienced while vacationing in Sedona.

Many people reveal that they experience a spiritual awakening in high energy areas similar to those I mentioned above. At Amicalola, the clouds were white suds touching the mountain tops; clouds and mountains were indivisible. In such a place, people claim they connect with a Higher Power because the line between humans and Deity is so thin.
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