Saturday, May 10, 2014

Helen, Ga

The history of Helen and the surrounding areas offers a fascinating variety of stories that include some of the earliest native hunters and gatherers in North America as well as some of the most advanced native chiefdoms with monumental architecture and intensive agriculture. Included are Colonial stories of the interaction of traders and militia units with Cherokee towns. Helen and its environs have seen the passage of early pioneers traveling by wagon to settle in the fertile valleys, followed by gold miners seeking their fortunes and later lumber barons seeking theirs.

In January 1969, three Helen businessmen were meeting at a local restaurant. They were wondering if there wasn't some way to spruce up the old main street and encourage the tourists to stop on their way north into the mountains. One suggested he would speak with an artist that he knew from church in Clarkesville. That artist was John Kollock, whose family had deep roots in the area. John agreed to take some photos and draw up some sketches. He was inspired by seeing the town nestled in a small mountain valley and recalled his time in service in Germany and his visits to Bavarian towns in similar mountain valleys. The resulting sketches were well received by the citizens and the merchants.

By the fall of 1969, Helen had reinvented itself and many of the old buildings had new facades. The fall leaf season brought new visitors and later new merchants as well. Over the last 40 years the town has grown dramatically adding new ventures, shops, and venues with varying amounts of success. The story of Helen's reinvention is one of local entrepreneurship and civic cooperation that changed a dying lumber town into Georgia's third most visited city.

We arrived yesterday around 1500.  The drive was a long one, 220 miles or so.  Most of our trip was on interstates and we still don't like them.  More traffic with rough road surfaces.  We by-passed Atlanta but the traffic was heavy.

Taking the back roads to our destination of Cherokee Campground north of Helen was a treat to our eyes.  Winding roads through forested stretches interspersed with small towns and cities.

We set up and settled in for the evening.  A simple dinner of Spaghetti and Caesar salad.

We plan on staying two weeks, but this may change as we see there is a lot to explore and enjoy in this area of Georgia.

Today we headed into Helen and because it was overcast I didn't take that many pictures.  This city is going to be fun to explore with all it's funky shops and eateries!

the decor inside Hofer's was very quaint.

After stopping at the visitor center and picking up scads of reading material Jim decided he wanted breakfast at Hofer's Bakery and Cafe.  Unfortunately we were to late for breakfast...we both enjoyed a sandwich washed down with beer.  While we were there it started raining so we adjusted our plans and headed to Nora Mill Granary.  Jim knows I like to check out mills and the products they sell.

But right across the street was a winery with tastings!  So we stopped in to check it out.  We tasted four wines at no charge.  And we actually left without buying anything.  We also learned about more places to visit north of here...

Now it was time for the Mill where this picturesque part of the Chattahoochee runs swiftly.  We learned that the river has just been stocked with trout

The mill had a couple pots with hot goodies to taste.  Grits and Porridge.  We both agreed the grits were to salty and for me the porridge was to sweet but I liked the porridge enough to buy a sack!  I also bought some biscuit mix

Next door was Goat Coffee Roasters where Jim posed for this picture.   
We didn't buy anything but had a lovely chat with the lady behind the counter.

While there, this fisherman caught the fish below.

Our next stop was the Post Office for some stamps.  Then on to Betty's, the local IGA grocery store.  We picked up a couple items so Jim could cook bacon and eggs outside.

Once home I put the groceries away, Jim took a nap and when he got up we had our coffee outside.  It was a little cool but the coffee warmed us up and we also enjoyed our pastries from Hofer's.  We read some of the literature from the Welcome Center and discussed how long we should stay here.  We're thinking maybe a month and that will get us through Memorial Day.

As we sat there we could see storm clouds moving in.  So we tidied up outside and while Jim went to check out our lack of internet (stopped working Thursday evening), I put up the awning.  While Jim was out the rains came! It was a deluge for about 10 minutes.  He got a wee bit wet on his dash home.

Around 1730 we had a WiFi signal and I swear we sat for two hours catching up!  O, we also had to deal with my side window leaking.  Jim had to take the frame off and during all this I was just trying to help and sop up water.

No dinner, I had rye toast and radishes and Jim had an egg sandwich with cheese.

And that was our Friday...