Friday, October 28, 2011

New Echota - Cherokee Capitol

The Pride and Shame of Two Nations - More
The original courthouse where the elders
met still stands at New Echota today.

New Echota, founded in 1825, was the first and final capitol of the "unified" Cherokee Nation. The park, now a Georgia Historical Site, is located just off Interstate 75 on highway 225, about an hour north of Atlanta. Here, in what quickly became a bustling little town, hopes of a sovereign government for the Cherokee were both nurtured, then extinguished. Here is where the leaders of a nation of proud immigrants signed a treaty that surrendered their land to a new breed of immigrants. Yes, you read that right; the Cherokee were immigrants. Cherokee migrated from the north and nudged the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the south and west. The Cherokee migrated south for the same reasons so many other northerners do: a warmer climate, and seemingly abundant natural resources (and a retreat from the European invasion). In 1825, the well armed and aggressive European immigrants were moving south at a rapid pace.

The 1830's Cherokee lived in log
cabins similar to this
The landscape and structures of New Echota capture a key period in the history of the Cherokee. A place where they almost overcame (or assimilated). They had a government very similar to the United States: a constitution, a written language, and, as a nation, a relative amount of wealth. There were those that opposed their "progress" and newly adopted European characteristics. The opposition came from the newly-formed state of Georgia, the US government,  and a good number of the Cherokee themselves. When the "friendly" European visitors discovered gold within Cherokee territory, the onslaught began. The end to any hope of peacefully coexisting with the white settlers was near.
The kids sampled old-fashioned hand-
churned butter and sweet buttermilk.
To make a long story short, the Cherokee leaders signed a treaty that either forsook their brethren, or the chieftains sacrificed their own lives for the sake of their people. They were outnumbered and outgunned. What choice did they have? President Andrew Jackson had ignored the Supreme Court's decision to let the Cherokee keep their land, and it would be taken either by force or coercion.

The Cherokee opponents of the treaty retaliated quite violently. The endorsers of the "Treaty of New Echota" were assassinated. The remaining Cherokee were removed. Within ten years of the proud founding of a capitol city, the Cherokee were gone. The endorsers of the "Treaty of New Echota" were assassinated, and the balance of Cherokee were marched West to Oklahoma. 

One of the fireplaces in the old tavern at New Echota.
The march west eventually became known as the Trail of Tears. Women, children, and the elderly were forced to walk much of the way. The cruel cold of winter took about 4,000 of the 15,000 remaining Cherokee. A once proud nation was suddenly silenced. Today, New Echota is an echo of the best of times, and a reminder of the tragic end of a legacy.

Visiting New Echota evokes a range of emotions from amazement and admiration to sorrow and shame. It's a place you must visit if at all possible. It's a history that must not be forgotten.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Georgia Mountain Fall Festival

The Fairgrounds are Fantastic!
A shady lane passes the exhibits as it winds around
a hill overlooking Lake Chatuge. It's beautiful.
 We planned this entire trip to Hiawassee, Georgia around a single event: the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival. We'd heard a lot about the fairgrounds, but we had not yet attended an event here. The Fall festival, combined with the Autumn colors, gave us a great excuse to visit the park.

The first task in planning this trip was to identify a good campground as a home base for our adventure. The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds feature two beautiful lakeside campgrounds, but we need full RV hookups for a four night stay, and the fairgrounds do not provide full RV hookups, After doing some research, I booked us a site at Enota Mountain Retreat, a place that qualifies as a PB&J Adventures destination in itself. We camped at Enota in the Winter of 2008 when it was very cold. We wanted to return when the weather was better.

If you are an artisan and craftsperson of rustic
mountain life items, this is the place to be.
We decided to visit the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival on Saturday. Admission was half price, and Ricky Skaggs was performing in the afternoon. We were a little worried about crowds when we first saw the parking lot. I really dislike crowds, especially when I'm trying to keep up with four kids. Much to our surprise, the fairgrounds didn't seem crowded at all. Because the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds are so large, crowds seem to dissipate soon after passing through the gate. Honestly, it's the first fairground I've visited in which I felt relaxed and wasn't anxious to leave. We were always surrounded by beautiful foliage and rustic architecture.

This awesome wooden waterwheel was operating
during our visit. Very cool!
Soon after arriving at the fairgrounds, we were faced with the difficult but enjoyable task of choosing our lunch. The job proved to be more difficult than we'd anticipated. I think we ended-up purchasing food from 3-4 different food vendors. Lee Thomas and I had some exceptional clam chowder, and the others had hotdogs and various other yummy delicacies. Like the fairground, the food selection here is exceptional.

After eating, we wandered through a large variety artisan displays and exhibits. Rebecca and each of the kids got new pocket knives from the DirecTV booth, and we sampled honey at the beekeeper's association exhibit. We passed through the farm-life museum where the kids and I admired the massive collection of die- cast cars, trucks, and tractors. Rebecca and I had to explain some of the vintage equipment, tools, and kitchen appliances to the kids. As we exited the rear of the museum building, we discovered a large, fully functional wooden waterwheel. It has a strong resemblance to the one at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

From there, we continued to explore the exhibits. There are many old buildings on display at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. Many have been moved from other locations and reassembled here. There are numerous cabins, farm buildings, and an old one-room schoolhouse. Demonstrations of mountain farm life were happening all around. The kids were engaged the entire time, and were never bored.

By the time we'd seen the main part of the fairground, the first half of the Ricky Skaggs concert was already past. We decided to head back to Enota for the remainder of the afternoon instead. On the way back, we stopped at Track Rock Gap to see some ancient Native American petroglyphs carved into rocks there. Very interesting. More on that later. For a detailed description of the fairgrounds including dozens of pictures, click here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Enota Mountain Retreat - Hiawassee, Georgia

PB&J Adventure Journal - October, 2011
One of several waterfalls at Enota Mountain Retreat.
Autumn in the north Georgia mountains is a colorful event, so the Tribe tries to visit the region as much as possible this time of year. The Fall leaves combined with the crisp cool air makes for great camping and hiking. Additionally, numerous seasonal festivals occur in the area, including the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival held annually at the legendary Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee. This awesome event is what brought us back to Enota.

We camped at Enota in 2008 (see PB&J Adventure Journal entry) when it was bitterly cold. Enota Mountain Retreat is very near Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in the state. The weather up there is different than anywhere else in Georgia, and on that visit in 2008, we awoke to nine degree temperatures and frozen lines our first morning there. Although it was miserably cold on that visit, we decided to come back when it was more pleasant.

When I made reservations for this trip, the initial fee for camping was reasonable. Enota is a non-profit preserve that focuses on ecology and the environment. They have imposed fees to offset the "environmental impact" of their visitors on the area. So, just be warned, they add $5 per day for each child, plus a flat $10, then $5 a day for additional vehicles (in my case, our car carrier), and $5 for a fire permit (includes wood). So, the total cost of camping at Enota Mountain Retreat for a family of 6 for 4 nights (with firewood)? Just shy of $275. One may get the feeling of being nickeled and dimed, or even punished for having too many children. I don't want to linger on this because the money is, after all, going for a good cause. I also feel compelled to mention that, once you've paid for your site, the amenities are, for the most part, free. The farm tour, most popular with the kids, was free, and we participated twice.

A simple rope swing makes for lots of fun.

On Friday, our first full day at Enota, we didn't leave the park. There were hardly any visitors, so the kids had the in-ground trampolines to themselves. They also discovered a rope swing that swung out over the creek allowing them to get good and wet. Thankfully, the afternoon sunshine kept them from getting too cold. At 4pm we joined other campers for the farm tour. This was an awesome experience for the kids (and Mom and Dad too). The animals are very tame and friendly, and milking the cow was an experience they will never forget.
In-ground trampolines. Ingenious!

On Saturday, we drove down to Hiawassee to attend the Fall Festival. It was our first event at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, and we were very impressed. Numerous vendors and exhibits made the visit an educational and entertaining experience. More on that later. On the way back to Enota, we stopped at Track Rock Gap to check-out some ancient petroglyphs carved into rock formations.

Sunday morning was cool, breezy and a little overcast. We decided to hike up to the first set of waterfalls. The hike isn't long, it's just a pretty steep climb. The reward at the end is well worth the huffing and puffing. After that, we took a drive up to Brasstown Bald. At 4,784, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the state. It was very cold and windy, Rebecca had to buy a couple of extra shirts in the gift shop. The view was spectacular, and the fall colors were already brilliant.
After returning to Enota that afternoon, we once again attended the farm tour. By now, the kids were familiar with the animals, and the animals seemed to know them. What a great experience. We also grew to like the farm tour guide, a former Amish farmer with over 40 years experience. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and quite funny.
In summary, the weekend was one we'll remember forever. And, while the cost for camping initially seemed high, we'll probably be back for another visit in the Spring. For more details and lots more pictures, click here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jellystone Park - Cave City Kentucky

Yogi oversees the minuature golf course.
Never a Dull Moment
Rebecca had a training session to attend in Louisville on this particular week. We decided to head that way a few days early so we could visit Mammoth Cave National Park. I'd traveled through the area before, and I camped at Jellystone Park in Cave City. Frankly, I hadn't planned on staying here again. My image of the park was from the perspective of someone that really loves the natural surroundings and large campsites of state and national parks. Jellystone is all about amusement and fun. In all fairness, Jellystone Park does have some very nice surroundings.

As I researched and planned for this trip, I could find no better alternatives to Yogi's place. Questionable reviews and the lack of good photographs made the selection of another campground a scary proposition. In hind-site, I'm thankful. There might have been a mutiny had we stayed anywhere else.

When we first pulled into the park, the kids immediately began to take note of the amenities. Statues of Yogi and other Jellystone characters suggested fun. And fun it was!  I had a pretty big problem finding a site that would easily accommodate Homer II (our camper) and the Jeep's trailer. Most of the sites are very high on one end or the other and/or from side to side. I watched as other campers arrived and began to set-up. Regulars seemed prepared to do some pretty major jacking to level their RV's. I also observed that the best sites are the first to be reserved by those that are familiar with the campground.

The kids were never bored.
When the setup job was finished, I rounded-up the crew and loaded them in Willie B (our Jeep) for a ride into Mammoth Cave National Park. The park was very impressive. We saw considerable wildlife on the way to the visitor center. After purchasing tickets for a cave tour, we headed out to explore. It didn't take long for everyone to start begging to go back to Jellystone Park. A "Hey Hey Hey" Ride was beginning very soon. And so it went for the rest of the weekend.

We did make the scheduled cave tour on Saturday, and it was fascinating. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We drove through the national park's campground, snapping some shots on the way back to the Jellystone Park where we spent the balance of our time.

This was certainly a favorite destination of Rebecca and the kids. We enjoyed the exceptional miniature golf course, painted ceramics, sang karaoke (Kara-Yogi), watched an outdoor movie, sang songs on hay rides, made s'mores, ate waffles, played bingo, and thoroughly sucked every bit of fun possible from Jellystone Park. 

For the rest of the story including lots of pictures and details, click here.