As the days shorten, and frosty mornings greet those of us who find ourselves in the mountains of North Georgia, late autumn is a wonderful time to take in those last trips to the apple orchards that dot this unique landscape. From farm to table, scrumptious family recipes made with genuinely fresh apples are never beyond reach, as numerous varieties are still coming into harvest…a sweet reward of life in this region. The breathtaking landscape of the North Georgia Mountains warrants a drive on any given afternoon, whether to stop and pick apples for use in baking pies, or to sip the ready-made cider many establishments offer the cold passerby. Early fall in North Georgia welcomes numerous tourists, drawn to the area, eager to attend the plethora of annual fall festivals, choose pumpkins and delight in the novelty of picking apples. It is this time of the season, as autumn wanes, that locals can relish the benefits of living in this relaxed and awe-inspiring part of America. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and fiery foliage just past, many people have retreated to the warmth and comfort of the indoors. Those of us in and around Big Canoe, who relish the invigorating change of seasons, however, embrace this opportunity to enjoy such local excursions as a brisk hike up to Springer Mountain, or a visit to the nature center and well-groomed trails of Amicalola Falls State Park. A candlelight dinner at the Oar House restaurant in Dahlonega offers a chance to experience the cool evenings and ambience of nature while dining in an intimate setting along the Chestatee River. Take a weekend, with tourist season on hiatus, to visit and see what North Georgia has to offer, and why so many who have come as tourists, have stayed on as residents.
Although sweltering temperature and intense humidity suggest that summer is still in full swing, the occasional evening breeze reminds us that our fall trip back to Big Canoe is just around the corner. This is, perhaps, a collective favorite annual tradition of mine as well as my husband and two children. There is an invigorating feeling, brought on by the cooler temperatures, after the lethargic “dog days” of summer.
Unlike our sojourns at Thanksgiving, Christmas or even Spring Break, our Fall odyssey permits flexibility in planning, as we are not hemmed in by specific dates. Any weekend we choose will promise festivals, music celebrations and any number of activities in and around Big Canoe.
One activity we know we can’t miss: apple picking! Our favorite orchard to visit is nearby R and A Orchards in Ellijay, GA. Their website has the dates of harvest for all of their apples (by name and specifics), and any other fruit that is ripe for picking. For a city girl like me, such information is tremendously helpful, especially as we plan for baking! Another outing we always take in is to Cagle’s Family Farm, located a short drive south in Canton. A working farm, with lots to do, but the highlight is undoubtedly the impressive corn maze, which, for the not-so-faint-of-heart, is also open at night! For a trip into the city, Zoo Atlanta is high on our to-do list at this time of year, the moderate temperatures making it a pleasant outing for us and we also know that the animals will be more active than they are during the heat of summer. Before we head home, a stop at the Burt’s Farm, open only during the fall months, to choose the family’s future jack-o’-lantern never disappoints – their motto sums it up: “a one-day Fall vacation!” Lastly, we never pass up a drive through the mountains to see the beautiful fall foliage. I recently learned that there is a term for those of us who take a drive specifically for this purpose: “leaf- peepers!” Whether it’s hiking at nearby Amicalola Falls State Park, or driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are ample “leaf-peeping” opportunities!
So, unplug, lace up the hiking boots, and head for the mountains of North Georgia to celebrate one of the most dramatic seasonal transitions.