7 Best Botanical Gardens in Georgia ***PLUS BONUS RESORT WITH GARDENS!

For anyone that knows me, knows I get thorough enjoyment out of flowers and plants…maybe because I grew up with a horticulturalist as a dad, being a part of the Ornamental Horticulture team in FFA or just because they are so beautiful; either way, I truly enjoy the beauty in it all.  These gardens are some you need to visit when you are in Georgia.

Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta Georgia

Atlanta Botanical Garden is located at 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA

https://atlantabg.org/

Entry fees range between $20 and $25 per person depending on the day.  You have to reserve an entry time to come into the park (during COVID-19). 

Atlanta Botanical Garden includes 30 acres of outdoor gardens in the middle of Midtown Atlanta.  The Botanical Garden opened their doors in 1976 and has been ever evolving since.  The gardens mission is to develop and maintain plant collections for the purpose of display, education, conservation, research and enjoyment.  

There is something always blooming there, just depends on the season, what you might see.  For example in March, there are daffodils, tulips and orchids all in bloom.  Visit their website before you go to see what’s in bloom and what special events and exhibitions they might have.  As the garden evolves, each experience there will be unique.  There is a fantastic display of Christmas lights there as well.  In addition, Atlanta Botanical Gardens displays the largest collection of Dale Chihuly works in a Botanical Garden.

Please note: Earth Goddess is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. During this in-depth process undertaken every few years, you’ll see our horticulture team replacing her soil and performing other duties to have her ready, as usual, by mid-April 2021.

You can see the Alice and Wonderland exhibit, some of the Chihulu Displays and the scarecrow exhibit on one of my previous blog posts.  https://sosarah.net/2019/10/21/atlanta-botanical-garden/

Orchid Daze and Spring Blooms!  are featured in one of my recent blog posts. https://sosarah.net/2021/03/22/atlanta-explorations/

Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville Georgia

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville is located at 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville, GA

https://atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden/

Entry fee is $10 per person.  You have to reserve an entry time to come into the park (during COVID-19). 

The Gainesville Garden is more than just a garden.  Discover acres of natural woodland beauty on its multitude of maintained trails.  There are over 168 acres at the expansive garden with a Children’s Garden, Stream Garden, Overlook Garden and more.

The Gainesville location, opened in 2015, celebrates years of planning and development of one of North Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes. It is home to the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast.

Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground Georgia

1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground, GA  

Entry fees range between $10 and $20 per person

Gibbs Gardens was named 2020 “Best American Botanical Gardens”.  Gibbs Gardens is about 220 acres and features over 20 million Daffodils!  The gardens are composed of 16 gardens including 3 feature gardens – Manor House Gardens, Japanese and Waterlily Gardens.  There is so much to see, be sure to wear good walking shoes and plan to spend at least a half a day.  The day I went, it was raining and I was the only person in the garden.  It was a surreal experience as I explored with my umbrella in one hand and my camera in the other. 

Massee Lane Gardens in Ft Valley Georgia

Massee Lane Gardens is located at 100 Massee Lane, Ft.Valley, GA

https://americancamellias.com/massee-lane-gardens

Entry Fee is $5 per person.

Massee Lane Gardens is one of the world’s finest collections of camellias.  It fills a nine-acre area with brick walkways surrounding the camellia trees for easy viewing.  The Abendroth Japanese Garden, the Scheibert Rose Garden, and beautiful plantings of daffodils, daylilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, flowering trees, annuals and perennials add to the year-round beauty.

Massee Lane Gardens is one of the world’s finest collections of camellias.  It fills a nine-acre area with brick walkways surrounding the camellia trees for easy viewing.  The Abendroth Japanese Garden, the Scheibert Rose Garden, and beautiful plantings of daffodils, daylilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, flowering trees, annuals and perennials add to the year-round beauty.

UGA State Botanical Garden in Athens Georgia

UGA State Botanical Garden is located at 2450 Milledge Ave, Athens, GA.  

It is free to visit the gardens, but there is a donation box.  

There are trails and nature areas, Children’s Garden, Flower Garden, Heritage Garden, Horticulture Greenhouses, Hummingbird Trail, International Garden, Tropical Conservatory, Herb, and Physic Garden, and Shade and Native Flora Gardens.  There is plenty of variety here to suit everyone’s enjoyment.  

You can see my blog post from my visit there. https://sosarah.net/2020/03/08/a-mini-road-trip-around-north-georgia/

Smith Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw Georgia

Smith Gilbert Garden is located at 2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw, GA. 

Admission fees range between $5 and $10. 

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is 16 acres of serene setting with over 3,000 species of plants, several rare in American gardens. United by woodland paths, the Gardens consist of separate groupings with individual elements of fascination.  These include the Bonsai Exhibit, Palladino Camellia Garden, tea house and waterfall area, Rose Garden, and Conifer Display.  There are beautiful sculptures throughout the garden as well.

You can view my recent explorations there. https://sosarah.net/2021/02/16/valentines-weekend-getaway/

Columbus Botanical Garden in Columbus Georgia

Columbus Botanical Garden is located at 3603 Weems Rd, Columbus, GA

Admission to the garden is free, but they suggest a donation of $5. There is a donation box near the farmhouse.

You can come and visit their rose, cottage, herb, vegetable and camellia gardens. In 2020 had the new additions of a perennial wild flower collection, pollinator garden and ginkgo shade garden. Take a stroll along the tree shaded, mile long trail through the mixed hardwood forest. You can see a diverse array of native songbirds along their trails and at their feeding stations.

In March there were a ton of annuals blooming along with azaleas and camellias, some trees, lantana, with roses just starting their new growth awaiting the buds.

BONUS ***Callaway Gardens & Resort in Pine Mountain Georgia

Callaway Gardens has multiple entrances/addresses for entry. Please see their website to find the best address to use for your GPS.

Georgia’s Authentic Outdoor Escape

Also, I’m not counting it as one of my top botanical garden, it is more of a resort, but be sure to check out Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia as well. There are restaurants, lodging, zip lining, fishing, golf courses, water sports, spa, trails, and gardens all over. They have a butterfly center and birds of prey show. You can rent bikes or bring your own and ride on the bike trails or just walk the pedestrian trails. Be sure to check them out especially in March/April for azalea season and November/December/January for Fantasy in Lights and Christmas market.

It’s Spring Y’all! Get out and explore some of the gardens Georgia has to offer.

XOXO

-S

Valentine’s weekend getaway

Our Valentine’s Day weekend started out like all other volleyball weekends. After I dropped my hubby off at the venue, I headed out to explore. The weather called for rain up until 2 pm, but it was just a drizzle. I donned my rain coat and set out to see Smith Gilbert Garden in Kennesaw. Because of the rain, I left my camera in the truck and just used my phone. There were Camellias, Daffodils, Snowdrops, Darwin Barberries, Black Hellebores, and Algerian Irises blooming. According to their website, there is something that is in bloom all year round at the Garden. There are statues and art pieces throughout. I can only imagine what it looks like in spring and summer; I will definitely have to go back in the other seasons. I also bird watched for a while and observed some cute little chipmunks. The rain didn’t last very long, so it was quite enjoyable to get outside and check this garden out.

I returned to the venue to watch the rest of the tournament. The team brought home the Gold again. Three out of three gold tournament winners this year so far.

We booked a King City View Room with balcony at the iconic Hyatt Regency, Atlanta for 2 nights. I honestly was too impressed…I have other favorite spots in downtown Atlanta but they were booked up for Valentines weekend by the time I made reservations. It was nice, but for the price we paid, I would expect a lot more amenities and perks than what we received. The view from the balcony was a so-so view of downtown. I was expecting a more awe inspired view.

On Sunday, February 14th, I booked a Modern Southern Food and History Tour around Inman Park. I booked the tour through Viator using Food Tours Atlanta. We come to Atlanta quite a bit, so I wanted to see if a tour might open our eyes to a new cuisine right under our noses.

We met our tour guide Michael at One Eared Stag. Michael brought our first tasting with him from Revolution Doughnuts; it was called the Crunchy Mister, a savory ham with béchamel donut. Next up for the food was chicken wings with three sauces, spicy boiled peanuts and a cocktail at The Albert in the Park. Right around the corner we stopped at Beetle Cat Seafood for a valentines donut (this was my favorite of the day). Last, we headed down the belt line to Krog Street Market for the last three tastings. We had paani poori & pakoras from Jai Ho Indian. To close up the tastings was a cheddar apple turnover from Little Tart Bake Shop. This was a close second place for me of all the tastings. All the while, Michael was touring us, he was telling about the historic homes and places of Inman Park. We also got some history of some of the belt line while headed to Krog Street Market. The photos are in no specific order, but all are from the tour.

I also learned that there is a festival in Inman Park every April that started in the seventies. It is the largest neighborhood festival in Atlanta. I think we will have to check it out!

For dinner, I made reservations at Thrive in downtown. We have eaten here before and really enjoyed it, so we decided to check out some different dishes.

It felt as though, we ate and drank all day, but honestly, that is one of the things we enjoy most about traveling. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for an early relaxing evening.

My husband had been contemplating trading in his truck for a more fuel efficient vehicle. Earlier in the week he finally found a car he wanted to purchase in South Carolina. When we woke up, we grabbed breakfast and headed to Greer, SC. A few hours at the dealership and then we found a quaint little place for lunch called The Bleu Porch. Then we were back on the road headed home. It was a stormy day, so no pit stops besides Dunkin and to pick up some take out for dinner!

Always something exciting to live for!

XOXO

-S

Massee Lane Gardens

If you’re ever near Ft Valley Georgia, in February especially, you can not miss the Camellias in bloom at Massee Lane Gardens! I visited there today and there were so many varieties. It was nice to get outside for a while too.

One of my favorite spots there is the Japanese Garden.


The main reason for a February trip is its the season in which most camellias bloom and put on a beautiful show for our senses.


If you’re in middle Georgia, it is a must visit.

XOXO

-S

Bartow County Explorations

Another volleyball Saturday in the books. This weekend, hubby was coaching in Marietta, so I headed to White GA to explore Old Car City and Big Door Vineyards. Then I explored some more of Bartow County and a few of its Historic Rural Churches (St James A.M.E. & Brandon’s Chapel).

My first stop was Old Car City, as it closes at 4 pm and only had a little over an hour to explore. Since I had been before, I was saved from hearing the spiel and just let to roam as much as I could in my limited time there. This day, a lot of the cars were barely peeking out from under all the pine straw that had fallen from the many pines in the yard. There were also some downed trees on some of the cars, that were not there on previous trips. I only had time to visit the “front” section of the yard, but really love wandering through looking at the rust and twisted metal, imagining myself sitting in the driver seat, behind those steering wheels that still remain. I made sure to get a few of my favorite shots that seem to be some of the most photographed at Old Car City and left just as they were closing.

Next I headed to Big Door Vineyards. When I arrived, it was very busy. Live music had just ended at 4pm, so I think that was what had the crowd out. I made sure to wear my mask, grabbed a glass of wine and went and sat by the pond to enjoy the quiet and beauty outside while I sipped my glass of wine. It was a little to peopley for me, so I didn’t stick around, but long enough to sip my one glass and then I headed to my next stop.

Now it was time to find the Historic Rural Churches of Georgia that were in the area I was in. The first one up was St James A.M.E. It was boarded up, but in decent condition. It was near some older homes, but didn’t seem to be completely forgotten.

According to HRCGA.org, “The nondescript little church you see above in no way reflects the historical significance of it. The church was originally organized as Cassville Presbyterian in either 1833 or 1844, the records are not clear on which date is the proper one. We also know that the the Presbyterians dissolved in 1872 and the church was “given to the black families living in Cassville”, thus the AME church was organized at that time.

According to a the Cassville Historical Society “It was on November 5, 1864 when the city of Cassville was destroyed by fire at the hands of the Fifth Ohio Regiment of the Federal Army under the command of Colonel Heath and Major Thomas. They said they had orders from Sherman “that not a house be left within the limits of the incorporation, except the churches.” The town had been in the hands of Yankee forces since May 25th, when General Johnston had retreated without a fight, and left the city to the mercy of the Union Army. Sherman’s forces had marched on in pursuit and, as General Sherman gave no order to burn the town at that time, many people believe that possible he never did, but the burning of the town was the work of Yankee stragglers who had some sort of grievance against the people of Cassville”.

The history further states that “The three churches which still are on the same grounds and three residences were the only structures left standing by Sherman’s Army. The home of Dr. Weston Hardy served as a hospital and was not burned for that reason. The Mercer home also, was spared because of sickness. Tradition has it, the home of Mr. A. C. Day was saved when the captain saw a certain Masonic emblem as it dropped from a bible while the family brought out their furniture. These three homes and the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches were unharmed”. Cassville never fully recovered from the war time damage and the business center of Bartow County moved to Cartersville. 

The old church has been heavily modified over time so it is difficult to recognize what may be original to the old structure and what has been modified. However, the historical aspect of St. James is significant in that we know it is one of only a hand full of structures to survive the 1864 destruction. After the war, the African Americans in the Cassville area were told they were emancipated but it took years to realize what that actually meant. They were given freedom but little else. Our research indicates a pattern of confusion in the south after the war for both races. The blacks embraced the white man’s religion because that was what they had been exposed to, but they learned to embrace it in their own way within their newly emerging and very strong culture. AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal and is the oldest independent Protestant denomination founded by black people in the world. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists.

After the war, southern African Americans began to form their own congregations, often assisted by whites. Thus churches like St. James AME came into being in 1872. Even though the original church had been Presbyterian, St. James would likely have been formed by congregants who had been raised in the Methodist church of their masters. This was a very difficult time for both races and they found spiritual comfort in these old churches, but they found it in very different ways. We salute the Historical Preservation efforts of the citizens of Bartow County. Hopefully, a way can be found to save historical sanctuaries like this that tell us who we are and how we got here.”

As I was leaving St James A.M.E., I noticed a historic site, that I stopped to check out. It was the National Historic Site of the Atlanta Campaign Cassville. According to the marker, On May 49, 1864, Johnston entrenched on the ridge east of this marker. Planned to give battle but Sherman threatened his flank and his corps. Commanders objected to the position. He therefore withdrew to Allatoona Pass rather than attack this strong position Sherman moved past it toward New Hope Church.

Lastly I headed to Brandon’s Chapel. Brandon’s Chapel was a surprise as it is still “in service”. Due to COVID, they are not currently holding services, but they do have an active congregation and staff.

According to HRCGA.org, “Thomas W. Brandon is the founder of the church in Bartow County known as Brandon’s Chapel. Mr. Brandon grew up in Gwinnett county but he was born in Virginia, a very typical migration pattern of early Georgia settlers that populated Georgia from Virginia, North and South Carolina. Thomas and Louisa Green were married in 1830 and moved into the county in 1835, and began their life on a plantation he acquired on the Etowah River in the wilderness that was then Bartow county. He became one of the leading farmers in the Euharlee-Stilesboro area. Thomas and Louisa had seven children, four girls and three boys. All three sons served in the Civil War. They survived the war but not without a lot of trauma. All three boys were captured but ultimately made their way home. Thomas died in 1874 and Louisa in 1883. Both are buried in the family cemetery near the old home place now on land now owned by Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen.

Thomas joined the Methodist Church at the age of 17 and later started a Sunday School on his property that was the beginning of Brandon Chapel. Built of hewn logs, with a large fireplace at one end, it was used as the first school house in the county as well as the church. The old United Methodist churches were called societies, and this new church was named ‘Brandon’s Society’ in honor of its founder. Later a new frame church was built on the west side of the present railroad, nearer the town of Stilesboro. Mr. Brandon was instrumental in the building of this church, and it was known as Brandon’s Chapel. The church was destroyed by a cyclone in 1898. The present building was completed in 1899 in Stilesboro and in the course of years has had a large membership.

Brandon’s Chapel was a Methodist church for 161 years but in 1997, it became a Baptist church. The church has recently undergone some restoration work.”

On the way back to the volleyball venue, I had a dinner/out fit malfunction and stopped at Target to buy a clean shirt. The joys of eating while in the car, but will always lead to a story to tell. The sunset was fabulous, but I could only get a good view when I was driving and therefore all I could do was bask in the beauty and you will just have to trust me to say it was FABULOUS!

I arrived back at the venue and watched a few of our teams. One of our teams won the Tournament. Good day for exploring and the teams as well! Bringing home GOLD to the club is always a good thing.

On to the next explorations…

XOXO

-S

A mini road trip around North Georgia

It’s been two weeks since I’ve done any decent exploring, so I have been
chomping at the bit to get out.  We have had what seems like 2 weeks of rain
and it has been almost impossible to do anything.  This weekend like many
others is a volleyball weekend for us.  It also is my mother in law’s and
niece’s birthday; on the way to the hotel Friday, we decided to meet up with
the rest of the family to celebrate their birthdays.  Mami loves Lake Oconee,
so we scoped out a restaurant on the lake for her.  We chose The National
Tavern at Reynolds Lake Oconee.  Located at 1145 National Dr, Greensboro, GA.
Hubby and I met my mother in law and sister in law and her family there Friday
night for dinner.  Dinner was pretty good, but they were really busy, so the service was a little slow.  We just enjoyed our time together!
After dinner, we headed the rest of the way to Suwannee, where we stayed for
the night.  We were quite tuckered after about 4 hours of driving to make our trek to dinner and the hotel.
Hubby had to be at volleyball at the crack of dawn, so I dropped him off and
left out on my adventure.  First planned stop was Anna Ruby Falls in Helen.  I arrived before opening, as usual, but this time it kinda bit me; normally State Parks will let you in the gates and you just put your payment in the box, but this is separate from the State Park, so I guess they have different rules.  There are gates and you can’t even get to the parking area before the gates open.  So I drove around Unicoi State Park for about 15 minutes to see if there were any must sees and then headed back to Anna Ruby Falls.

 

There are fees for Unicoi State Park and Anna Ruby Falls.  If you are not
parking at Unicoi, you can drive through to get to Anna Ruby Falls without
paying the State Park parking fee.  There is a $5 parking fee at Unicoi and a
$3 per person fee to visit Anna Ruby.  There were quite a few people that arrived to the parking area when I did, so I grabbed my gear and headed in to the shop to pay my entry fee (the gate guard wasn’t even at the post when I arrived).  There was a couple that headed out on the trail before me, but they stopped quite a bit to take photos, so I was able to pass them and make it to the Falls and have a 10 minutes to photograph the falls before anyone else arrived there.  Anna Ruby Falls is a .9 mile hike  (round trip) on a paved trail.  Some areas are a little steep, but overall it  was a pretty easy hike.  I carried my tripod and camera in to make sure to get some beautiful long exposures of the falls. There are two falls there; one is a 153 feet drop from the Curtis Creek and the York Creek falls have a 50 feet drop.  The water at the bottom of the falls is considered to be Smith Creek, which flows into Smith Lake in Unicoi State Park.

 

 

After Anna Ruby Falls, I headed to Toccoa Falls.  From Anna Ruby, Toccoa Falls
was about an hour away.  Toccoa Falls has a vertical drop of 186 feet. 107
Kincaid Dr, Toccoa Falls, GA.  It is $2 per adult to get in; be sure to ask
for senior, military, group, and children’s rates.  The falls are only about 100 yards from the visitor’s center/bookstore.  There is a gravel path to the falls.  There were a ton of people there climbing on rocks, so I just patiently hung out enjoying the scenery until I was able to get some clear shots of the falls.

 

 

Next up, I headed to the UGA State Botanical Garden at 2450 Milledge Ave, Athens, GA.  It is free to visit the gardens, but there is a donation box.  There are trails and nature
areas, Children’s Garden, Flower Garden, Heritage Garden, Horticulture
Greenhouses, Hummingbird Trail, International Garden, Tropical Conservatory,
Herb, and Physic Garden, and Shade and Native Flora Gardens.  There is plenty
of variety here to suit everyone’s enjoyment.  Because of the great weather, there were quite a bit of people out, so I explored and saw the beautiful blooms of Spring; it was a little too peopley for me, so I headed to get some lunch.

 

 

After the gardens, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and the time came to get back to make sure I was at the volleyball venue before the tournament was over.

Hubby’s team won the Silver Bracket, so it was a good volleyball day.  Afterwards, we were starving and headed to try to find somewhere that wasn’t packed on Saturday at 8 pm in Atlanta.  We found an amazing little Italian restaurant called Trattoria One • 41. We were quite underdressed and they were busy, but we managed to get a seat at the bar within 10 minutes.  The bartender was great and the food was amazing.  Seemed very authentic, but I will be able to judge on how authentic it really was soon, as the Europe trip will be here before we know it.  After dinner, it was almost 10pm, so we decided we would find a hotel and stay one more night, because we were exhausted once again.

Have 2 pretty big trips left for March…so ready to be exploring for more than a day!

Get out there and find your passion!
XOXO
-S

New plan for 2020

For 2020, I am taking my photography down quite a different path. I have been photographing families and sports sessions for about 10 years. I enjoy a great portrait, as much as anyone, but my joy just wasn’t there any longer. I really enjoy shooting landscape and still life. I will still be a food photographer and the voice behind the Pond on social media. I will also still offer my one-on-one mentoring session. I will be focused more on my travel locations, enjoying my almost empty nest, and just embracing what I truly love; travel, food and my family! I will be offering art prints of my favorites from my travels. If you see anything you’d like to see displayed proudly in your home or business, please let me know!

XOXO

-S

North Georgia Exploration

What do you do when you have a long weekend?  Well this long weekend, I rented a tiny house in Clayton Georgia and headed north to get a sneak peek of the fall colors.  I do think it was a little early for the full leaf changing, but when I get an extra day off of work I take full advantage of it.

Before we could hit the road Saturday, Perry played in Region Tournament…We had to leave before it even ended, we headed to Atlanta to drop Baylee off at the airport to head to meet up for her cruise…we dropped her and headed north east to get to our weekend getaway started.

We rented Little Red Roof, a brand new tiny house in Clayton Georgia. They have some specific house rules, like no shoes worn in the house, which just tickles my fancy. We are a shoeless house, so it makes me happy to see like-minded folks. I know it may seem silly to some, but my OCD just cannot stand the idea of shoes/germs on my floors and wearing down my wood finish and carpet…Our hosts were Andrea and Curtis. Their tiny house, was just perfect in every way. House listing

Up to $55 off your rental

Dinner Saturday night was at Universal Joint in Clayton. They are know for burgers and live music. While I’m not huge on loud music, I do love a good burger, so decided to check it out.

So it hasn’t rained in over a month in Georgia and guess what 80% chance of rain on Sunday…the day to hike Tallulah Gorge. So we let the anti-rain dance to commensurate. Hoping and praying for the best weather.

Rain dance didn’t work and it poured off and on until after noon or so. We had a quick breakfast and figured we’d drive up to Black Rock Mountain State Park and see what we could with the fog and rain. Rain stopped for a little while and we were able to get some photos of the fog in the mountains.

I wanted to check out Minnehaha Falls, but wanted to do it when the sun wasn’t too high, the cloudy skies were perfect so I could get the right exposure that I wanted on the water…a nice motion in the water as it falls over the rocks.  The hike to Minnehaha is only .2 miles, so it is very doable.  It is located off of Bear Gap Rd near Lake Rabun.  You depart the trailhead at the green diamond and number 147. The drive there was beautiful around Lake Rabun…all the houses and two story boat docks were phenomenal.

So the big thing I wanted to see was Tallulah Gorge.  Tallulah Gorge is one of the 7 natural wonders in the state. It is a must see! There are multiple trails there, but with my back, I had to just listen to my body and see what it could do as the day went on.  If you want to hike the gorge floor, you MUST get a permit.  

There are only 100 given out every day, so you need to arrive early!  My plan was to hike the easier hikes and see how I felt. Today though there were no permits given out because of the inclimate weather.

The easiest of the all is the Shortline Trail. It is 3 miles, but is paved.  This trail can be accessed from Terrora Circle Road.

Then next up is the Inspiration Loop Trail. It is 1.5 miles round trip; it is mulched with exposed rocks. This trail is accessed on the Interpretive Center Road.

The North and South Rim Trails are 3 miles total and take about 2 hours to hike. It is a mulched trail with exposed rocks.

The North Rim is accessed behind the Interpretive Center.  It is approximately ¾ mile one way with some incline and stairs. The trail has six scenic overlooks

1. Inspiration Point is the best southern view into the gorge.  Gorge depth is 900+ feet

2.View of Oceana Falls with Bridal Veil Falls at the far end of the gorge

3.View of L’Eau d’Or (pronounced Ladore) Falls, top of Tempesta Falls, and Hawthorne Cascade and Pool.  Gorge depth is 350 feet

4.View of L’Eau d’Or Falls, Hawthorne Pool and remains of Water compressor plant used in building the Dam

5.Good view of Tallulah Falls Dam (completed in 1913) and upper portions of the Gorge

6.View of upper gorge and southern view to Hawthorne Pool and Overlooks 2 and 3. Gorge depth is 250 feet

The South Rim Trail is accessed opposite side of the gorge from the Interpretive Center.  It is approximately ¾ mile one way with some incline.  The trail has five scenic overlooks

1. View of Hawthorne Pool, North Rim Trails overlooks 2 and 3, top of Tempesta Falls and down Gorge to Hurricane Falls.  Gorge depth is 350 feet

2.View of Hawthorne Pool, Tempesta Falls and Pool.  Gorge depth is 400 feet.

3.View of Hurricane Falls and Pool, Devil’s Pulpit outcrop below, and the interpretive center across the gorge.  Gorge depth is 500 feet

4.View of Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, Caledonia Cascade and North Rim overlook one. Gorge is 650 feet

5.View of Celedonia Cascade and the Wallenda north tower area.  Bluff to far right is approximately 1000 feet high.

I really wanted to go to the suspension bridge in Hurricane Falls Trail Loop…but had no idea if I could make it.  The Hurricane Falls Trail Loop has 1,099 stairs to the gorge floor…to get to the suspension bridge isn’t all the way down though. This is the trail you take to get to the gorge trail…and need a permit to go on the gorge floor.

Honestly I’m not even sure which trail we did…we did the stairs all the way down to hurricane falls and some of North Rim trail…my legs were jello and I was super thirsty. There are fountains along the trail, but are not functioning so make sure you bring water with you.

After our hike, we hit Goats on the Roof for some homemade ice cream…it was pretty good and servings were HUGE!

For dinner, yes I planned ahead.  I always look for Farm to Table restaurants before I travel anywhere.  The last thing I want to do is eat subpar food.  I made reservations at Fortify Kitchen and Bar in Clayton for 7:30pm.  Hoping that would give us enough time to see what we wanted to see and get back and showered and dressed for dinner. We had the special shrimp lettuce wraps for our appetizer and I had the pork chop and hubby had the lamb. Both were large portions and very tasty.

Monday morning we woke up and had to check out of the house by 10 a.m.

We had two little friends that looked to have be dumped by someone the day before. They even hopped in the van while we were loading it up…had to scoot them out and then we were on our way. Our host had no idea where they came from.

There is so much to see here, that really a few days isn’t enough to do it all, but if you know me, you know I will squeeze in everything I can.

I could not have come all this way and not visited a winery…after check out it was breakfast at the Dillard House. It is family style dining. You get a TON of food, my favorite was the cinnamon roll!  The Dillard House has been family owned since 1917.  They served locally sourced items and have won multiple awards in the Southern Living Magazine.  The views from the Dillard House were beautiful mountain views.  They are a full service resort…They also offers horseback riding and stables where you can visit their animals.  While there will be no horseback riding for me…I did enjoy visiting their beautiful grounds and animals.  

After breakfast and a visit of the grounds at the Dillard House, we were headed to Tiger Mountain Vineyards at 2592 Old Highway 41 in Tiger Georgia. But they were not open…so we changed our plans.

We went back to Black Rock Mountain State Park to the lookouts to get some more photos. It was very different without all the fog from yesterday!

After that we headed to 12 Spies Winery for a little wine tasting. We did the 10 tastes for $15 and hubby and I split it. My favorite was the sangria…it’s a blend of 5 different wines. The grounds were really pretty too.

After a little wine tasting and exploring, it was time to hit the road to make our trip home.

As we were driving down 441 I saw a sign for a tallulah gorge lookout…so we detoured to check it out. It was pretty but really not worth the detour as there were a lot of power lines in the view. There was a cute little store to buy souvenirs and local goods.

As we got closer to home, we were ready for dinner, so we stopped in Macon. We ate at Ocmulgee Brewpub. I had the Juliette Burger and this burger has moved up to my number one burger of all times. It is topped with a friend green tomato, bacon, onion, lettuce on a freshly baked bun…has a special sauce too! It won the best burger in 2018 and I know why!!

We are home and showered, ready for my next adventure…

Tomorrow morning…another adventure if you want to call it that-L5/S1 injections again…last round before nerve ablation.

XOXO

-S

Travel on a budget

Top Sites for Travelling on a Budget

So what is life without living?  This is exactly why I travel, to live, to see the world, experience cultures, and to feel alive.  I have found some really great deals, my only issue is having enough time away from work in order to travel.  I squeeze in a trip where ever I can, and if work sends me somewhere, I explore as much as possible on my downtime.  Here are some tips, which can help you afford a trip on a budget.

Be flexible.  You have to have some wiggle room in your calendar, or you might be succumbed to high prices if you travel in peak travel times.

My favorite travel websites are listed below.  This blog post will cover specifically air travel and overnight accommodations.  

Air Travel

Check fares often, but ensure you clear your cache and cookies, as the airlines will increase the price if you continually search the same flight from the same device over and over. 

1.  KIWI.  You can visit the app or the website www.kiwi.com Kiwi also has the option for rental cars and hotels as well.

You can go to Kiwi and search for the best flight deals.  You can also input in your home airport and put travel anywhere and leave the dates blank and it will show you the best deals.  So if you’re open for an adventure, you can find the most budget friendly place, get a ticket and there you are exploring!

2.  Skyscanner.  You can visit the app or www.skyscanner.com

You can also search Skyscanner similarly as you can on kiwi and but it also allows you to pick the cheapest month to search for which is a really nice feature!  Skyscanner also has the option to book your hotel and car as well.

The next sites are well known, and are still a great starting point when comparing flight prices.

3.  Priceline.  You can visit the app or www.priceline.com

4.  KAYAK. You can visit the app or www.kayak.com

5.  Expedia.  You can visit the app or www.expedia.com

6.  Travelocity.  You can visit the app or www.travelocity.com

7.  Orbitz.  You can visit the app or www.orbitz.com

8.  Next Vacay I personally use Next Vacay (https://nextvacay.com/).  It is a membership site with an annual fee (there is a free trial) that reports to you in email any great deals from your local airports.  I get deals almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  You don’t book directly with them, they send you to the deal and you purchase there.  There are other sites such as Scott’s Cheap Flights (scottscheapflights.com) and Thrifty Traveler (thriftytraveller.com) that you can enroll in to get deals, but I don’t want to spend too much of my travel budget on subscriptions to these, so I am just vigilant in checking airline prices a lot on my own

Now even when I use these travel sites, I always, always, always check the airline directly, as sometimes, their prices are the same or a dollar or so cheaper.  Working directly with the airline though, could be easier in the end, as long as the price is the same.  

There are more sites to search airline travel, but these are the ones, I find myself searching most frequently.

Overnight Accomodations

1.  Most of the airline sites, I listed above also have the capability to search for hotels as well. 

2.  Airbnb.  To me, though, to be immersed in the culture of the area you are staying try using Airbnb.  You can rent anything from a semi-private room up to an entire house.  Prices can be very reasonable and you can find some pretty unique places to stay.  If you have more people than would fit into one or two hotel rooms, Airbnb is the way to go.  It will be much more comfortable and inexpensive than getting multiple rooms.  You can use the Airbnb app or visit www.airbnb.com.  And did you know you can book experiences, adventures (not all locations have these available) and restaurants through Airbnb as well; want a wine tasting or cooking class, museums, tours, rafting, etc…check out the respective tab in Airbnb.  I have a tiny house booked for a mini weekend vacay in October and can’t wait to share this little slice of heaven.  And for anyone that knows me, knows I hate shoes in the house…and this tiny house’s number 1 rule is No shoes in the house.  They are my kind of folks and I have complete faith that it will be immaculate.

3.  Hotel Tonight.  If you’re looking for last minute hotel deals, hotel tonight www.hoteltonight.com is your place to go.  You can find rooms for tonight that aren’t sold yet and get a JAM UP deal!  You can also book future travel with them, but I believe the best deals are on the most last minute rooms.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good deals, but the great deals will come at the last minute.

Comment below if there are any sites that you know about that I should add to my list!  

Until the next post…get out there and explore!

XOXO

-S

Prepping for Ireland – What to pack

We have big Thanksgiving week plans! 95 days and counting down. We are headed to Ireland. A few months ago we booked a Globus tour and I have heard amazing things about Globus. We are going to get to see some amazing places. I just can’t wait.

From the research that I have done the weather should be in the 50’s and rainy a lot of days, so the prepping has begun. North face was having a phenomenal sale, so I got myself a fleece and hubby a rain jacket. North face is no longer having the sale, so I have linked the Amazon item below.

I purchased my rain jacket from Amazon. I chose the Columbia rain coat for myself as it seemed a little longer.

These jeans are some of the most comfortable jeans I have ever worn and they have long lengths that are perfect for longer legs.

I have read to wear layers as the weather can change at the drop of a hat. I also found these waterproof boots on amazon. They are super comfortable with memory foam inside and will be perfect for my week in Ireland when out exploring and hiking around, while also stylish.

We also need these adapters for charging your devices.

These are just the beginnings of what we may need for the trip.

As I buy more I will put a more inclusive list of everything. Right now, I am just so excited and want to make sure I have everything.

UPDATE: We just returned from Ireland on Sunday and a few things to add as MUST PACK…gloves, stocking hat, scarf, umbrella, and Dramamine non-drowsy. While touring there are many curvy roads…so Dramamine is a must if you get motion sick as I do; they do not sell Dramamine there and everything I tried there made me drowsy.

XOXO

-S