Blue Ridge in the Media

Keep up to date with the latest news and information about Blue Ridge, Georgia.


Outdoors recreation in Ellijay-Blue Ridge

There is plenty to do in this section of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Make a reservation at Whispering Winds Mountain Retreat and head for the hills. For skilled hikers, try a section of the Benton MacKaye (you might meet our publisher there, its one of his favorites). Try antique shopping in either downtown Ellijay or Blue Ridge. Stop and ride a horse at Adventure Trail Rides, then take the family on an adventure from a bygone era, riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.


Top 5 Rivers in Northwest Georgia to Go Fishing in the Summer

Northwest Georgia has many things going for it, including incredible fishing spots. Anglers planning a trip to the region this summer may want to check out my picks for the best places to go river fishing. Here they are:

Coosa River

The Coosa River is located near Rome and it's an excellent place to catch summer bass, catfish and crappie. I'd suggest that anglers consider using minnows as bait and focusing their summertime efforts near the dam and Mayo's Lock. Bucktails and lead-head jigs are also worthy of consideration. Fishing the shallows and submerged timber can prove productive too, especially at dusk and dawn.

Jacks River

In my opinion, Jacks River in Fannin County is a slice of nirvana when it comes to fishing in the summer. It is accessible through the Cohutta Wilderness Area. From what I have seen, it is not uncommon to pull copious amounts of summer trout out of the water. I'd recommend targeting the riffles and headwaters during the heat of day and the pools around night fall with crickets or spinners. Royal Wulffs and stonefly nymphs should definitely be part of an anglers' fishing strategy as well.

Conasauga River

The Conasauga River is also accessible through the Cohutta Wilderness Area. It offers anglers an opportunity to catch trout, bass and suckers. The only downside is that with the exceptional water clarity, the fish seem to spot a summer angler from a mile away. As such, a good deal of finesse is often needed. Riffles and pools are two great areas to target. Minnows, spinnerbaits and worms tend to work well too.

Lower Toccoa River

The Lower Toccoa River is a great spot to catch summer bass and trout. It is located near Blue Ridge. I have found that during the summer months, the tributaries and area around the Blue Ridge Dam tend to provide the most action. Caddis flies tend to work well in periods of low light as do crayfish imitators and powerbait. Night fishing trips are also worth strong consideration.

Upper Toccoa River

The Upper Toccoa River is also worth fishing in the summer. It holds trout and bass as well. I'd recommend that anglers consider bottom bumping crickets or busting out the lead-head jigs and soft plastics. Both seem to provide excellent results. In my experience, the Deep Hole Recreation Area is a good place to launch your boat and set up camp for the night. Waterfront campsite rates typically start at $12.

By: Killeen Gonzalez


City Sophistication, Small-Town Charm

Given the choice between a city and country setting, I typically opt for the latter, yet I certainly appreciate an urban environment for shopping, dining and the arts. Its no wonder Im so enamored with Blue Ridge, Ga. This little mountain town has it all the sophistication and cultural variety of in-town neighborhoods like Virginia Highland set against a bucolic background, replete with sweeping scenery, small-town charm and plenty of fresh air.

I could imagine a life here taking my coffee each morning at L&L Beanery Caf, entertaining friends at the numerous shops and restaurants in town, and escaping to a cabin in the countryside at days end. For now, Ill settle for a weekend getaway whenever I get the chance.

Discovering Downtown

On a recent visit, we rolled into town just in time for lunch at Harvest on Main, which warrants the not-quite-two-hour drive in itself. Housed in a lodge-like structure in the center of town, the restaurant blends a relaxed, rustic vibe (complete with roaring fireplace, exposed wood rafters and trophy-sized mounts) with elements of fine dining. Manning the kitchen is Chef Danny Mellman, whose classical training and worldly travels translate into exquisite global cuisine with Southern twang. The menu changes seasonally and revolves around locally sourced ingredients, including products from The Cooks Farm, the restaurants own urban farm and learning center.

After a leisurely lunch of blackened salmon BLTs with house-smoked bacon and caper remoulade, we hit the streets for some serious shopping. By the end of the afternoon, we had plenty to show for our efforts crocheted scarves from Posh on Main, specialty spice blends from Out of the Blue Gourmet, ceramic canisters from Wrapsody in Blue and old-fashioned soaps from Hucks General Store. Gourmands will want to stash the shopping bags in the car to sample all the oil and vinegar pairings in Blue Ridge Olive Oil Companys cucina-style shop, while anglers should carve out plenty of time to explore Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods, where you can watch owner Bill Oyster handcraft and engrave his casting masterpieces or learn to make your own in one of his classes, which often book up months in advance.

Our need for retail therapy duly satisfied, it was time for a little more R&R, so we settled in for a few late afternoon flights of wine on the deck at Tastings of Blue Ridge before dinner at Christy Lees Courtyard Grille, where fire pits keep al fresco diners nice and toasty on cool evenings. We declined when our server offered dessert, opting instead to stroll across the courtyard to The Sweet Shoppe, which won season six of Food Networks Cupcake Wars with flavors like French toast & bacon.

Wide Open Spaces

The next morning, we ventured out early for a healthy dose of fresh mountain air on horseback. Just 9 miles northwest of town, Adventure Trail Rides of Cashes Valley offers leisurely trails as well as more advanced terrain to accommodate riders of all skill levels, all with scenic views of the surrounding mountains. After a quick and comical introduction from guide Noey Vineyard, we saddled up for a moderate ride on the Cashes Trail. A writer himself, Vineyards commentary provided additional entertainment as we traversed the trail. We learned about his special Fairy Cross rides, which double as treasure hunts for staurolite crystals, a natural phenomenon found in this part of North Georgia, and the Picture-Perfect botanical rides, which take place only in the spring and include fantastic photo ops with the azalea trees, wild Cherokee roses, wild orchids and lady slippers growing along the trail.

After leading our horses back to the stable, we slipped into the Trailside General Store to peruse shelves stocked with old-fashioned food products and country kitsch. It was the perfect precursor to our next great shopping experience a visit to Mercier Orchards. Though fall is the time for apple-picking in the orchard, Merciers store is a year-round shrine to the fruit youll find it fresh in all varieties, covered in caramel and dipped in chocolate, baked into pies, bottled into syrups, ciders and jellies, and thats just the tip of the iceberg. The store also peddles more fresh produce, including its own production of peaches, strawberries, blueberries and cherries, every flavor of pie (and fried pie) you can possibly imagine, fudge, hand-dipped ice cream, gourmet goodies, country-chic home dcor, old-fashioned toys, and plenty of trinkets. If you time it right, you can even pick your own strawberries in Merciers U-pick fields this season.

Now in its 70th year of harvest, Mercier is celebrating the past while plowing ahead into the future with its new designation as a farm winery. With the opening of a tasting room last May, the orchard is now able to serve and sell wine products, so we settled at the bar for a few samples. Currently available are peach and blackberry wine, with plans for more products in the works.

Cabin Comfort

With so much more to do in the area, it was hard to determine our next move. Numerous trails and streams lure hikers and fisherman back outside (visit Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters for tips and all the requisite gear), while river adventures and canopy tours abound at Ocoee Rafting. In town, the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association offers one of the largest art galleries in North Georgia in the historic Fannin County Courthouse, or you can climb aboard the vintage train for a ride into McCaysville on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. When hunger strikes, Toccoa Riverside provides waterfront dining in its recently reopened restaurant, and the Swan Drive-In Theater plays first-run movies in a nostalgic setting beginning Memorial Day weekend.

But a trip to the mountains isnt complete without adequate time spent cozying up in a comfortable cabin, and our weekend home-away-from-home was awaiting our return. Aptly named River Whisper, our Mountaintop Cabin Rentals accommodation was more like a private lodge, perched high on a hill above the Toccoa River, with soaring cathedral ceilings, two master suites, a game room, a hot tub and a covered porch, where we spent the afternoon in front of the outdoor fireplace with chilled glasses of Mercier cider.

Rather than trekking back to town for dinner, we enlisted the services of private chef Douglas Olsen of Cabin Cuisine, who makes it possible to enjoy gourmet dinners in the comfort of your cabin. Olsen arrived one hour before our scheduled mealtime to prepare the food, and the tantalizing scents wafting from the kitchen had our mouths watering well before we sat down to a four-course meal of pan-fried crab cakes, fresh seasonal salads, pecan-encrusted local trout and a grand finale of bananas foster. The dessert course doubled as entertainment, as Olsen dimmed the lights to flamb the dish before our captive audience, then scrubbed the kitchen back to a sparkling clean as we practically licked our plates. His dinners are certainly a special treat, yet he swears his techniques are simple enough for the home cook, and even offers a book filled with recipes to try for yourself.

But something tells me they might not taste the same in any other setting. Perhaps Ill pack up and move to Blue Ridge, after all.


Plenty of outdoor adventure and family fun found in Blue Ridge

The abundance of outdoor adventure and the beautiful natural surroundings you find in the North Georgia town of Blue Ridge make it a perfect destination for a family get-away.

Ziplining at Blue Ridge Canopy Adventure, a monster truck ride through the country side with Blue Ridge Off-Road Adventure, gem mining and putt putt at Lilly Pad Village, a train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and picking strawberries at Mercier Orchards were all part of the outdoor adventures we enjoyed on a recent family get-away to Blue Ridge.

Ziplining

Blue Ridge Canopy Adventure, located at 1408 Appalachian Hwy., is a great place to kick off your outdoor adventure trip. The canopy tour offers 13 ziplines, providing plenty of thrills for children and adults alike. Jake did this adventure and said it was a highlight of his trip (see his column for more details on the zipline). Tyler and Austin were his guides and he said they did a great job leading the group and making sure it was fun for everyone.

For more information, check out the website at www.theblueridgecanopyadventure.com or call 706-946-1010.

Monster Truck

Blue Ridge Off-Road Adventure, located at 319 Hells Hollow Road, is owned by the same company as the canopy adventure. You can make arrangements for a ride on the truck while you are at the Blue Ridge Canopy Adventure office.

The former military trucks have been converted into monster trucks for this adventure. You are strapped into the seats lining the back of the truck and then you head off into the woods for a thrilling and scenic ride. On this one and a half adventure, you will go up steep grades, through washes and climb across obstacles and over rugged terrain

Also located on the site of the monster truck ride is a trout stream where you can feed the fish, gem mining, horseback riding and pony rides.

Lilly Pad Village

The Lilly Pad Village, located at 24 Adelaide Drive, is the perfect stop for families. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy all the family-fun activities that are offered. The gem mining, putt putt and catch and release trout fishing will provide hours of fun for the family.

My nephew, Jake, loved the gem mining. It was his first time trying this and he declared it to be awesome. It was also educational as he learned about he different kinds of stones as he uncovered them. It doesnt end here, owner Geza Csuros said. You can take the stones home, research them on the Internet and make jewelry.

Tiger Eye, Smoky Quartz, Amathyst, Moonstone, Soda Light, Garnet, Green Quartz and emeralds were among the stones Jake found in his bucket. He was so excited with each one that he found. Csuros and his wife, Gina, have been operating the Lilly Pad for six years and continue to expand the business that started out as a coffee shop as a retirement business for the couple. It has changed fro a part-time retirement job to a full-time business with more than 25,000 visitors stopping by last year.

For more information, check out the website at www.lillypadvillage.com or call 706-534-1317.

Train Ride

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway allows you to really relax and enjoy the beautiful countryside on the one-hour train ride over to McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tenn. You catch the train in downtown Blue Ridge for this sight-seeing trip that takes you through some of the most beautiful Blue Ridge scenic spots. Once you arrive, a blue line painted on the pavement allows you to stand in two states at one time as the train stop is on the Georgia-Tennessee state line. You have time for some shopping and lunch.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway also offers special excursions throughout the year, including an Easter excursion, Halloween train ride and Santa Express.

Once you get back to Blue Ridge, plan to spend some time exploring the downtown area. Among the stops to make are The Sweet Shoppe, winner of Cupcake Wars where I had the most amazing cupcakes; Three Sisters Fudge, which has a wide variety of fudge; Hucks General Store, which has a great selection of T-shirts, jams, jellies and pickles.

For more information, check out the website at www.brscenic.com or call 877-413-8724.

Mercier Orchards

At Mercier Orchards, located at 8660 Blue Ridge Drive, the family will love the wagon ride out to the fields to pick strawberries, blueberries, and apples, when they are in season. Our trip was during strawberry season and we filled out baskets with strawberries, munching on the succulent berries as we walked among the rows.

Back at the store, you will find amazing fried pies (apple, cherry, chocolate and cream cheese among the ones we tried), apple donuts, cider and gift items.

For more information, check out the website at www.mercier-orchards.com or call 706-632-3411.

Where to Stay

To find the perfect accommodations, contact Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals at www.georgiamtncabins.com. We loved Bucksnort, a two-bedroom cabin that is perfect for a family of four. The main floor had a large living room area with a television and DVD player, sofa and chair, dining area and full kitchen. One bedroom and a bathroom are also on this floor. Upstairs is another bedroom and bathroom and a sitting area with a sofa and table. Downstairs you will find a pool table and bathroom with a hot tub just outside the door.

For more information, check out the website or call 1-877-656-7368. Once you get to town, you will find the office at 3608 East First Street in Suite 105.

Where to Eat

Toccoa Riverside Restaurant, located at 8055 Aska Road, is a wonderful place for dinner overlooking the scenic Toccoa River. The restaurant specializes in fresh North Georgia Rainbow trout but many other menu items are offered, including steaks, ribs and seafood. Our server, Brace, was great and he made great recommendations, as well as making sure we had everything we needed. For an appetizer, we tried the salmon treat, which was a light, tasty start to our meal. For an entre, I had the pecan crusted flounder and it was amazing. We took a piece of the peanut butter pie back to our cabin for dessert later and it was also wonderful.

For more information, check out the website at www.toccoariversiderestaurant.com or call 706-632-7891.

To start planning your Blue Ridge adventure, go to www.BlueRidgeMountains.com or call 800-899-MTNS.


Jake Says: Adventures in Blue Ridge

My wonderful vacation took place in the mountains of Blue Ridge, Ga., where I had a great time ziplining, riding in a monster truck, gem mining, going on a train ride and picking strawberries.

We arrived at Bucksnort cabin after a two-hour ride. Our cabin was amazing! It had two bedrooms, 2two bathrooms, upstairs lounge area, living room, kitchen, downstairs pool table and an outside hot tube! I was amazed by how rustic the cabin looked although it blended well with todays up to beat styles.

After we settled in, we left to go to the Lilly Pad Village. The village has mini golf, trout fishing and gem mining. The mini golf is a fun 9-hole course that has neat challenges. The gem mining is my personal favorite of mine. It was my first time doing this and I enjoyed it so much. You get to wash away dirt and see what gems you have discovered. I found at least 50 gems. They come from far away places.

The next day, I went on Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. You ride on a train for one hour looking at natures wonders. Then, you stop at a nearby town and eat lunch and shop for about two hours before heading back to Blue Ridge. It was very fun discovering the area. They also offer Santa train rides and other special excursions.

On our train stop, we ate at Pearly Gates, a good restraint to eat at.

The next day, I went zip lining at Blue Ridge Canopy Adventure. It offers 13 lines with different speeds and heights. My favorite line was the sling shot. It was such a thrill to fly through the air in such beautiful and scenic surroundings. The guides, Austin and Taylor, were great. They made us all feel comfortable and gave us safety tips and information we needed.

Blue Ridge Canopy Adventure also offers a zip line that is huge. A record of speed was 72 miles per hour was recorded on it. That is amazing to me!

The same company that owns the zipling also offers an a fun and exciting experience through Blue Ridge Off-Road Adventure. You get in the back of a monster truck and you ride in through the woods. My aunt Angie was a little nervous but I loved it! After it was over, she said she loved it too!

Before heading home, we stopped at Mercier Orchards to pick some strawberries and shop. It was really fun to ride the wagon out into the fields and then fill our basket with strawberries. My Nanny made strawberry jam with the strawberris, so we will think about our adventure in Blue Ridge every time we have some jam.

I will never forget the fun I had in Blue Ridge. Its a great place for a family vacation.

Jake Myler, 11, often accompanies his aunt, editor Angela Gary, on trips and writes about his experiences, giving our readers a youth perspective.