Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mountain Dreams

Sitting in the back seat sandwiched between my brothers, feeling green, as we swerved back and forth on curvy roads. That's mostly what I remember about going to the mountains as a child. My parents absolutely loved going to the North Georgia Mountains. In fact, they often fantasized about moving up there. I lived in fear for most of my tween and teen years of being pulled away from all my friends and plunked into Rabun County Middle School -- or somewhere equally horrific (in my mind). I thought I was too cool for the mountains. So, when my parents would announce one of their spontaneous Sunday afternoon drives up to the hills, I'd roll my eyes, grab a sick bag and go along. When I got old enough, I stayed home or found somewhere else to be.

Painting by Joyce Corn Roberts (c. 2005).

Clearly, I was missing out. It's funny how as you grow older you begin to appreciate the places and things that you shunned in your youth. It's beautiful up there, and now I can see why my parents were so in love with the rolling hills and hazy blue mountains just a short drive north. My mama often painted pictures of mountain landscapes, usually drawing from photos she had taken of her favorite places along the road. The one above is of the Young Harris Valley in Northeast Georgia.

This past weekend had a little getaway to the mountains near Blue Ridge (more toward the west) -- and it was lovely. The leaves on the trees were beautiful shades of yellow, red and rusty brown. For most of our trip, the sky was bright and clear and the Blue Ridge Mountains seemed exceptionally blue. I took a ton of photos and even caught myself several times thinking "this would be good picture for Mama to paint."

Mercier Orchard, Blue Ridge.

We spent two nights in a cabin in the woods and watched deer from the screened porch at night. We tried to build a camp fire with wet wood, and when that failed, we roasted marshmallows on the gas logs.

One day we explored the little town of Blue Ridge. Its biggest attraction, as far as my boys are concerned, is
the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The railway offers a daily 3-hour trip to McCaysville that I would like to do someday. Of course, there are lots of shops, eateries and my favorite -- Brown's Feed and Seed which was like a bizarro pet shop. They had chickens, turkey, exotic birds, kittens, rats, iguanas -- all kinds of creatures. OK, it was kind of disturbing, but fascinating at the same time. The "attack chicken" in the photo below resides there.

Of course, this is a food blog so you must know that I had the most delicious barbecue in the mountains. First up, we ate at Harvest on Main in Blue Ridge (it's the lodge looking building above). The food here was great and we had a chance to meet the chef-owners who are doing a lot to support the local food movement in the area. You'll be hearing more about them!

Lunch at Harvest.

I couldn't leave Blue Ridge without a visit to Mercier Orchards, the largest apple orchard in the state. I am addicted to local apples because they are so flavorful and so cheap! And Mercier, like most apple houses in the area, lures you in with their market offering fresh-pressed cider, fried apple pies, cider donuts and other apple treats. We were there on a Friday afternoon when U-pick was not available, but they did have a little Halloween Festival going on that was a lot of fun for the kids. We took a hayride up to the orchard, played games and took in the beautiful scenery.

Scenes from Mercier Orchard.

I could write much more, but I think I am going to save it for another post! Needless to say, I came back from the mountains re-energized and inspired. Maybe that's why my parents always wanted to go the mountains. It is a place to experience the beauty of nature, to hide in the woods and feel, for a moment, that you can escape life's problems. Now I am starting to fantasize about having a mountain cabin, and I'm betting I'll be dragging my kids around the curvy switchbacks again soon. After all, we'll have to get apples, barbecue, fresh ground cornmeal, sorghum syrup and boiled peanuts -- delicacies that always taste better in the mountains.


  1. Your photos are gorgeous! I think I may have met the couple that own Harvest on Main at the Housewares Show - do you know if she also writes for a housewares trade magazine?

  2. I love your blog, and I love your mom's painting. I miss her and I know you do, too. What a great tribute.

  3. What a wonderful post with great pictures and a beautiful painting.

  4. Rachel, thanks so much for your story and pictures. There is a saying " The mountains are calling and I must go". That is why I am in the S.W. Va. mountains. Nothing better than being where the air is pure and seeing the sun come up over the mountains in the morning. Yes, your Mama did love the mountains. Joyce, we miss you!

  5. Beautifully written and photographed post and one that makes me wish I could transport myself into it.