A quick weekend getaway to North Georgia and North Carolina

The time is approaching for our big trip to the Greek Islands, but I thought it would be great to get away for a few days, and treat myself and my Mother to a “girls’ weekend up in the mountains.

My sister lives in North Georgia and she usually drives down to visit us when we want to get together, because there is just one of her and there is a whole passel of us.  She was happy to host me and Mother and save herself the drive down for Mother’s Day.  So she treated us to a great driving tour of her area.

The only problem with going to visit her is there is really no way to get there unless you drive through the Clusterfork otherwise known as  Atlanta.  We hit traffic there early on a Thursday afternoon, and it was stop and go until 15 miles north of town on I-85.  Two hours later we were out of the Middle Georgia heat and up in the mountains.

As you drive into Clayton, you see the usual franchises which have infected every small town. Interspersed among them are ramshackle buildings which once housed tourist shops and other businesses that failed during the Recession. The cute town center gives Clayton an air of hope, however, and my sister finds it a nice place to live.  It frequently appears in lists of Best Places to Retire because of its climate and affordability.

After spending the night in Clayton we headed north towards Highlands, NC via Dry Falls in the Nantahala National Forest.  In theory, you stay dry as you pass walk underneath the rushing torrent.

The Approach to Dry Falls.
The Approach to Dry Falls.

You do stay dry as you pass underneath the falls, except for a fine mist which threatens to destroy your camera.

Behind Dry Falls

We then drove into the town of Highlands, which has become a Retirement Haven.  Prices of real estate triple as soon as you approach the town limits.  Here you can buy fashionable outdoor gear at full retail price at the cute and friendly shops in town.  You can also buy at least 10 types of flavored balsamic vinegars at the grocery store.  Here is the parking lot of the grocery store filled with the vehicle of choice of the locals–giant SUV’s.

SUVs in Highlands, NC.
SUVs in Highlands, NC.

The grocery store is actually a nice place to pick up presents if you are driving through town, however.  And you can get some great pizza from the attached Mountain High Pizza from their wood-fired oven.

Mountain Fresh Pizza

Highlands has the ambiance of many small towns I have visited in California.  They are beautiful and pleasant places to live and visit, but you wonder how people can afford to live there. They seem to spring out of nowhere and have a Disney-esque quality about them.

The next day we drove south out of the mountains and decided to stop by Jaemor Market which is between Clayton and Gainesville.  Jaemor is an huge farm and market that capitalizes on the trade of Atlanta people who are vacationing in the mountains.  It is somewhat of an institution and has been in business for years.  It is strawberry season, and when we got there a huge festival was in swing.

Strawberry Festival at Jaemor Farm and Market
Strawberry Festival at Jaemor Farm and Market

We ate delicious fresh strawberry ice cream, but resisted sampling the dried-peach fried pies.  We decided we didn’t have time to pick our own strawberries in the field, so just bought a pre-picked crate and headed south.  Of course we ran into traffic again in Atlanta, this time on a Saturday afternoon.  There is no good time to drive through Atlanta.  The day before a small plane had actually tried to land on the I-285 Perimeter and had crashed, resulting in fatalities and horrendous traffic.

This week I will be checking airline tickets for possible schedule changes, deciding which credit and debit cards to take, and making other last-minute preparations for our Greece trip.



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