Thursday, June 26, 2014

3 WHY GEORGIA: Tallulah Falls, Lake Burton, & High Shoals Falls

The next Sunday after we visited Amicalola Falls, we decided to keep crossing off the list of the Top 10 Trails to Waterfalls in Georgia.  This time we picked another extremely popular waterfall area to visit – Hurricane Falls Trail at the Tallulah Gorge.  We have driven by the gorge countless times, but never took the time to stop and explore.  As we pulled into the parking lot early Sunday morning, we were excited to see that we had beat the crowd at this popular Georgia park. 

We start down the path of the trail, and it looks very promising.  There is a very well kept recycled rubber pathway around the top rim of the Gorge.  We stop at the first view point and gaze down into the gorge and then across to a small platform across the gorge much like the one we are on.  We couldn’t possibly be going all the way over there, could we?  This is only a two mile hike!  After walking to a few more viewpoints down into the Gorge, we begin the descent.  Like last week at Amicalola, the descent isn’t bad.  No one ever complains about going DOWN stairs.  Fairly quickly, we reach the bottom of the staircase and walk across the suspension bridge to the other side of the gorge.  I walk behind my husband and love watching baby girl look from his back over the side of the bridge.  She’s in awe because she’s never seen anything like this.
Suspension Bridge at Tallulah Gorge

Walking across the suspension bridge at Tallulah Gorge
Across the suspension bridge, down a few more flights of stairs, and suddenly we are at the bottom of the Gorge viewing Hurricane Falls.  The platform at the bottom is starting to get crowded and my husband stops about 30 steps from the bottom and says “Do you want to just go back up?”  I say no, we might as well go to the bottom since we made it this far.  We were glad we did, as we came around the corner of the bottom, the full view of Hurricane Falls comes into view which we didn't realize we would be able to see at the point we pondered heading back up.  There is a path off to the right that is closed off as some days you can go further down to the gorge floor, but due to weather conditions the gorge floor was closed on this particular day that we visited.
Hurricane Falls
Hurricane Falls at Tallulah Gorge
Even though we couldn't get to the gorge floor, viewing the falls from the platform is beautiful.  We spend a few moments enjoying the "natural air conditioning" of the mist coming off the falls.  It’s strange in hot, humid Georgia how cool and relaxing the mist of the cold mountain water is coming off a waterfall.  Then we remember – We have to climb all the way to the top of the gorge.  It won’t be hard, right?  Coming down was easy.  We made it to the top, but it took a few rest breaks along the way.  The stairs are nearly straight up the side of the gorge and when we reach the top of the gorge, we will have traveled 1,099 steps in all.  Bless my husband, he did this all with baby girl on his back.
As gorgeous as the waterfall was from the gorge floor, I preferred the views from the top of the gorge.  From the top you can see all of the small waterfalls coming off the sides of the gorge walls, as well as the big waterfalls at the bottom.  For a moment, it feels like you are somewhere completely different than North Georgia.

Again, it is only a 2 mile hike in all, but the 1,099 steps straight down and up in the middle make it seem much, much longer.
View of the marina while eating at the Chophouse on Lake Burton
After we left Tallulah Gorge, our plan was to visit the antique shops in the small quaint mountain town of Dillard.  But as we were driving north to Dillard, an idea popped into my husband’s head.  “Why don’t you see if there is a restaurant to eat at on Lake Burton?”  Lake Burton is a clear beautiful mountain lake only 20-30 minutes from the gorge where many of the well-known names in Georgia have lake houses.  With a quick search on TripAdvisor, I find a spot on the lake called The Chophouse.  Sitting down at our table at The Chophouse, we know we have made the right last-minute decision.  We sit at a table in the open air dining area overlooking the marina and my husband comments that it felt like we were on vacation.  Indeed, it didn’t feel like we were just a couple hours from home.  It was an unusual June day for Georgia as it was overcast and cool.  The breeze coming off the lake was perfect.
Enjoying Sunday Brunch at Lake Burton

Feeling refreshed from lunch, and with a whole afternoon to spare, we decided to cross off one of the other small hikes on the Top 10 list near Helen.  So we set the GPS and headed towards Helen to find High Shoals Falls.  We were a little surprised when traveling down the dirt road that leads to the trailhead to find a small creek that we were to drive over.  It was at this point we realized we were definitely somewhere more remote than the first two state park waterfalls.  But, adventurers at heart, we forged ahead and found the trailhead.
The trail is a little over 2 miles roundtrip, with mostly a descent to get to the falls and climbing back up elevation to return to the car.  It seems like much more than a mile to reach the first platform overlooking the upper falls.  Maybe this is because of the hike earlier in the day, or maybe it’s just because you lose track of time and distance when you’re wondering through nature.  There is another platform overlooking the lower falls and we spent some time using the wood railing to set up the camera to take a family photo.

Can you spot the teenage girl at the top of the waterfall taking pictures in the water?
 It’s hard to turn around and head back to the car, because what we refer to as the “natural air conditioning” of the falls feels so amazing and relaxing.  So relaxing, in fact, that baby girl couldn't make it back to the car before settling in for naptime.  Why wait, after all, when Daddy’s neck makes the perfect pillow?

Lower portion of High Shoals Falls

Baby girl and daddy in awe of the falls
Naptime before we could make it to the car


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