Wednesday, February 13, 2002 - It was our 48th wedding anniversary. After a short visit to the hospital in Andrews, North Carolina (a preview visit in preparation for Ann's cataract surgery), we drove south through Murphy, NC, Blue Ridge and Ellijay, Georgia to Amicalola Falls State Park, arriving at the park shortly before noon. The parking lot was practically deserted. Not many folks visit the falls at this time of year. We picked up some brochures and a map at the Visitors Center, then drove up to the base of the falls.
Amicalola Falls are the highest waterfalls in the state of Georgia, with the water tumbling 728 feet in its descent over giant rocks. It always amazes to see how little water it takes to make a beautiful waterfall. This little creek is hardly five feet across and very shallow just before it spills over the edge of the cliff. "Amicalola" is a Cherokee Indian word, meaning "Tumbling Water." The falls are aptly named.
To reach a point where the falls can be viewed properly requires a walk of about a half mile, up a rather steep path. At that point, there is a frame platform with a bench upon which to rest and catch one's breath. And, from that point there are winding stairs the remaining 500 feet to the top. Having climbed those stairs once before, we chose this time to return to the car and drive to the top. At the top, there is a long range view of the mountains to the west, but the better view of the falls is from below. The air was clear this day, though the temperature was in the 30s, and there was some wind which made it feel quite cold.
Not far from the top of the falls is Amicalola Lodge. We visited the dining room for lunch, then checked in for the rest of the day and evening. That afternoon, we drove over to Dawsonville and Dahlonega. Back at the lodge, we had a pleasant meal in the Maple Room before turning in. It had been a pleasant day.
Thursday, February 14, 2003 - Packing up early, we headed west on SR52, back through Ellijay and across the Cohutta Mountains to Chatsworth, stopping for a brief time at Fort Mountain State Park. The unusual feature of this park is a stone wall, stretching some 885 feet along the top and western face of the mountain. The wall is obviously man made, but no one knows who built it or when. The wall is six feet high in places, but on most of it, the rocks have tumbled to where it is only two or three feet high. Every 29 feet, there is a circular pit built into the wall. It has been studied by archaeologists, geologists, and others, but none have found a clue as to the why, when, or by whom, the wall was built. It required a hike of about a mile up a steep trail to reach the wall from the parking area. The path was gravelled in between rough stone steps winding up to the wall. At the top there is a stone tower that was built in 1939, evidently for a fire tower. It has decayed over time and lack of use, and the top is missing. A flight of stairs, fairly recently built, allows one to climb to the top of the tower. From there, looking west, the town of Chatsworth can be seen far below. There are several Indian legends about the mysterious wall, but none that can be proven.
Not far out of Chatsworth we stopped at "The Vann
House," a state historic site that defies the stereotype
of Indian life in the 19th century. This can only be
called a mansion - and a very beautiful one. It was
built by James Vann in 1805. In 1814, the house was
inherited by his son, Joseph, who amassed a considerable
fortune - owning some 4,000 acres of land, 110 slaves,
and 96 structures other than the house. Joseph was an
influential chief of the Cherokees. He occupied the plantation until he was forced out by the Georgia Militia in 1835 - three years before the Cherokees were exiled to Oklahoma on the "Trail of Tears." Joseph had inadvertently violated a new Georgia law that prohibited Indians from employing white men. The house changed hands many times over the next 100 years, but by the mid 1940s it had deteriorated to an unrecognizable hovel. The windows were all broken out. The roof and the beautiful porches were gone. Only the brickwork and some flooring remained. Some dedicated citizens raised funds to purchase the property in 1952, then turned it over to the Georgia Historical Commission, and restoration began. The fully restored house was dedicated in 1959.
A Visitors Center has just recently been completed which will house a modern museum. We were greeted there by a young lady who gave us a private tour of the house and grounds. The architecture was amazing. The 2 1/2 stories are served by a "hanging" stairway that defies explanation. It is somehow supported by hidden cantilevered beams that have survived the 150 years of use and abuse. The Historical Commission has furnished the house with period antiques, but only one small table survived as an original part of the Vann furnishings. (When they fled, the Vanns took their furniture and belongings to Oklahoma where he built a duplicate mansion. That structure - their furniture too - was completely destroyed during the Civil War.)
From the Vann House, we drove south to New Echota, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 to 1838. Little remains of the original buildings, but several have been rebuilt to show the unusual degree of civilization the Cherokees had adopted. They had a newspaper office, a Council House - even a Supreme Court. The presses were smashed when the Georgia Militia came to force the Cherokees out, but several hundred typefaces have been recovered from digs around the newspaper building. All this restoration has taken place since 1950.
The town of New Echota is not far from Calhoun,and only about 15 miles south of Dalton - Georgia's carpet capital. It's definitely worth a stop for anyone driving along I-75 in that part of Georgia. We had lunch at a Cracker Barrell in Dalton, then retraced our route back to Ellijay and home, arriving there about 3:00pm.
Our anniversary treat to ourselves was a good one.