Saturday, April 12, 2008

Peace of Heaven on Earth

Friday afternoon we arrived in Atlanta. It was fun to drive into the city, admiring the architecture and flowering trees everywhere.

Downtown was crowded and many streets were blocked off due to the recent tornado damage. We went to our hotel and decided to relax, since there were tornado watches and severe storms on the way.

The next morning we decided to head home to Kentucky - to the little Piece (Peace) of Heaven where my parents live. That's where these photos were taken.

So, we accomplished what we set out to do and had quite an adventure along the way. Thank you, Emily, for being my travel mate! I'm already looking forward to next time!

Ah Dahlonega!

As we headed back to our car, it was getting dark and the mist was still incredibly heavy. At the base of the 425 stairs (see next blog) - we were surprised to see a small group of deer grazing nearby - maybe 7 or more...
It was too dark to get a good shot as they blend into the browns and greys of the hillside. It was magical!
Driving back into Dahlonega, we made it to the Crimson Moon Cafe just in time to order food before it was too late.
While sipping on hot apple cider and hot chai tea, we enjoyed live music from two favorite local musicians. What a perfect ending to a memorable day!
The next morning, we browsed around Dahlonega - bought some fudge - had one last cup of java and then jumped back into the car to head south to Atlanta.

Down the Stairs

On the Trail

Amicalola State Park

It's 6 pm, we have less than 2 hours of daylight and 8 miles of hiking to go. I thought we would never get here...We booked up the first stretch of the trail in heavy mist...trying to pretend my lungs weren't killing me.

Top of The Mountain

What an incredible sight! Mountains in every direction. I kept thinking about how in the world the pioneers got through this! Truly amazing! This is somewhere around Great Smoky Mountains meets Nantahala National Forest meets Chattahoochee National Forest meets Appalachian Mountains. It's close to South Carolina meets North Carolina meets Tennessee meets Georgia. In other words, I have no idea. Thank goodness I have a road to guide me and a great tour guide/map reader - Emily!


After a lovely one-hour ride on horseback, we got back on the road and head through the Smokies. On the southern end we discovered the town of Cherokee. It was after 6 pm, so many of the shops and sites were closing down for the evening. I'm sure that once the season is in full swing, it is quite busy. Here is a link worth checking out:
We drove on winding roads headed east and finally arrived in Asheville, NC after 8:30pm. Downtown is full of shops, local art, museums and restaurants. We headed to Zambra, a great Iberian restaurant - known for it's tapas. I had an amazing pumpkin soup and a spinach salad. The atmosphere was great! Highly recommend!
The next morning, we walked around downtown - enjoying the art and local talent. Stopped in to visit the Black Mountain College Museum.
Then we stopped in the infamous Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe, where we enjoyed wonderful coffee and browsed the shelves - of course.
Shortly after 1 pm we headed out of town towards the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Enter At Your Own Risk

Entering Tennessee, we broke out of the mountains(for awhile) and headed towards Pigeon Forge. I know, I know...why didn't someone warn me!!!
There's a great line from the movie "Brother, Where Art Thou" - where they are sitting in the movie theatre and Pete tries to warn his friend:"DO NOT SEEK THE TREASURE!"
Well, that's my two cents about Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg...DO NOT GO!
It was almost more than I could bare. We found ourselves thrown into the middle of some fantasy land that was becoming more like a nightmare each mile we drove. I started to hyperventilate...wanting desperately to get into the Smoky Mountains, do some horseback riding and get as far away from there as possible. My poor brain was not computing...
All I could think about were the visitors that had traveled from far and wide to see the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and have to drive thru this to get there. Not good.

Stripping the Land

An abandoned, burned out motel that may have once been a haven for weary travelers on their long road trips. A skeleton I walked towards the windows and looked down, there was a swimming pool - filled with years of decaying leaves and rainwater.
Signs of young life are seen on the spray painted walls. It makes you ponder...
As we continued through the foothills, we began to see mining operations...sucking life out of the mountains...if it is such a good source for the economy, then why is there such poverty?
Beauty of nature in high contrast to greed of humanity. At what cost?

Goodbye Grey Skies

Wednesday morning I woke to a beautiful clear blue sky. As I drove from Indiana to Kentucky last night, I could almost feel winter peeling away and signs of spring breaking free. Brown grass began to be replaced by fresh green, daffodils waved their yellow petals and trees were budding.
We left Berea heading east and took Hwy 421 south. The road winds through the foothills of the Appalachia, passing through towns that time has forgotten. We drove through Jackson county and Clay county, into Leslie county. As we drove through the Daniel Boone National Forest, it felt as though the hills were closing in on us. Before leaving KY we drove through Harlan county. Just south of Harlan is Black Mountain, the highest peak in Kentucky, with an altitude of 4139ft. This is actually privately owned property and an incredible natural preserve.
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