One Tank Trips - Ellijay, GA
The road-clogging, leaf-peeping crowds of October are gone, making winter the perfect time to browse the antique stores, craft shops and apple barns without being trampled in Ellijay in the north Georgia mountains.
On a recent weekend, I found the mountaintop view from the Best Western both peaceful and invigorating. Ice-laden clouds folding across the horizon made me think, “Wow, this really could be God’s country!” And the quiet solitude of those mountains whispered, “Slowdown. Relax.”
There are several nearby attractions worth a weekend drive.
25 miles west of Ellijay on Ga. Highway 52. Situated in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the Cohutta Wilderness, Fort Mountain gets its name from the 855foot wall thought to have been built by Indians as fortification against hostile invaders or for use in ancient ceremonies. Known mostly for its hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails, there’s also a 1.7 mile Songbird Trail which offers excellent opportunities for birding enthusiasts. Newly added to the park is the Primitive Horse Camping site, complete with fire ring, pit toilet, camper shell with bunks, and hitching post, but no water or electric hookups. In the summertime families will enjoy the sand beach located on a cool mountain lake.
25 miles east on Ga. 52. The 729-foot waterfall is the highest cascading falls east of the Mississippi River. Accommodations include a mountaintop lodge, rustic cabins and campgrounds. The park’s Maple Restaurant offers scenic views and a Sunday brunch buffet. There are hiking trails of varying length and a backcountry inn accessible only by hiking in. Call (800) 573-9656 for reservations, or see gastateparks.org/info/amicalola. This popular sport has earned Ellijay the title of Mountain Biking Capital of Georgia. There are more than 100 miles of single-track biking trails in the area and there is no off-season. For a selection of downloadable trail maps and list of events, see ellijaymountainbike. org.
For those who enjoy hiking and backpacking there’s the wellknown Appalachian Trail and the more primitive Benton MacKaye Trail. Both start at the top of Springer Mountain. Hiking through north Georgia and Gilmer County is one of the best ways to see nature close up, and there are hiking trails to fit almost everyone’s ability. See hikenorthgeorgia. com or call North Georgia Mountain Outfitters at (706) 698-4453.
In addition to national chain restaurants there are various eateries around the Square in Ellijay, but no visit to Ellijay is complete without stopping at the nationally known Colonel Poole’s Bar-B-Q, where, for $5, you can have your name immortalized on the “Pig Hill of Fame.” Owned by Oscar Poole, anyone who has passed this landmark is sure to remember it. It’s the place where all the colorful plywood pigs can be seen grazing on the hill beside the restaurant. For more on Colonel Poole and his Taj-Ma-Hog, visit poolesbarbq.com.
Before you leave town, especially if you missed the Apple Festival (and the crowds) back in October, it’s not too late to buy a peck or two of Pink Lady apples, which are in season through the end of January.