One Tank Trips - El­li­jay, GA

The Covington News - - Local News - By DiAnn Wheeler

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.

AM­ICALOLA FALLS

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