After our city adventure in Atlanta and our all-American lake house retreat in Alabama, we headed to the North Georgia mountains. When browsing rental possibilities on Airbnb, we had a very manageable list of criteria. 1) It had to be in the mountains and 2) The Trees:Humans ratio had to be 10,000 to 0.
Luckily, we found Blairsville – with a population of 652 and about the same noise pollution as a tractor made of cotton wool. The town seemed to be enjoying a permanent siesta and those who weren’t in hibernation were hella curious about what two folks from England were doing, “waaaay out here.” Ah the satisfaction.
Our Airbnb host, Chris, was spectacular. The cabin was dotted with books, leaflets and information on local restaurants, hiking trails and places of interest and he was always a text away if we needed anything. I kinda don’t want to include the link to his host page because I want to keep him and his cabin all to myself.
Just gonna cryptically breeze right on now…
As well a host of hiking trails, state parks and the world-famous Appalachian Trail, this peaceful place in the North Georgia mountains is home to the highest point in Georgia – Brasstown Bald, standing at a manageable 4,784 feet.
We hiked to the lookout tower as an afterthought after a lazy afternoon of the chicken-burger-and-chips variety. I wasn’t dressed for a hike in my lace dress from Topshop but it was getting cooler outside and 2 miles isn’t that far, right?
The thought of 2 miles when you’re sat in an air-conditioned car listening to Siruis Radio (our rental car’s only offering) seems like a breeze – 2 actual, real-life miles, wearing a tight dress with restrictive lining, in 40 degree heat, up a gradient not dissimilar to the one you’d never choose at the gym for fear of dying, is a completely different bag of beans. But the view was kinda worth it. The amount of high-flying wasps was not.
In hindsight, the 2 mile hike was probably best tackled in workout gear and without makeup on.
Drive a short distance outside of Blairsville and you’ll find the alpine village of Helen, a tiny Bavarian Disney World with all of the food and none of the rides. The local time in Helen is somewhere between the 25th December and Spring Break and you’re more likely to consume your body weight in fudge than you are to find a shop that doesn’t sell assorted Christmas baubles. Actually, if you’re not a Christmas fan, I don’t recommend visiting. You may end up in a lab for testing.
The population in Helen is even more impressive than Blairsville, with a mere 430 calling it home. Just in case you were thinking of passing through, there’s something you should know. I’m not saying the town is slowly brainwashing all the tourists in order to chop them up and put them inside a snow globe or anything – but there’s hypnotic German accordion music floating from speakers disguised as rocks in the flower beds. I realise that makes me sound crazy, but that’s what they want you to think.
(For those who need video evidence of the hypnotic rocks, I’ll post it on my Twitter after this post goes live!)
What is that movie where the English couple rent a cabin in the mountains and get murdered one after the other by a masked character wearing a dirndl and long fake blonde braids? What? You don’t remember that movie? I guess it just exists in these nightmares I’ve been having then.
On a touristy note, if you ever find yourself there, Hansel & Gretel’s Candy Kitchen is as good and not nearly as creepy as it sounds. Just ignore the man in lederhosen coercing you inside, he’s probably really friendly. If you’re there in the summer, Helen Cool River Tubing gives you the chance to tube down the Chattahoochee River! It was a bit overcast the day we went, otherwise we’d have a hundred photos of us in bright green rubber donuts. On reflection, it is probably a blessing that those photos don’t exist after countless blocks of all-butter fudge and take-out pizza. You’re welcome!
Hypnotic German accordion music and giant Santa Claus aside, Alpine Helen is adorable and well worth a visit if you love Christmas in August. After lunch we ventured back to normality our cabin for reading, writing and general laziness. You’ve seen the pictures – can you really blame us?
After being laughed at by an American with a strong southern accent for buying graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate for dinner, we were starting to feel like the tourists Blairsville had never dreamed of. Keen to see who else we could startle with our British accents and general charm, I suggested we went in search of The Appalachian Trail like the true hikers we definitely weren’t – armed with nothing but crap trainers with breathable soles that let water through the bottoms.
To be continued…