Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fred's Famous Peanuts

If you have taken the Clayton Rd. (Hwy.356) from Helen to Unicoi State Park, Lake Burton, etc., you have passed Fred's Famous Peanuts. Many of you have probably stopped for their boiled peanuts or roasted peanuts like I have on numerous occasions. If my son goes to the mountains with me you could track our movements by following the discarded peanut shells (they are organic, right?). I was lucky enough to run across the owners of Fred's Famous Peanuts at the 1st Annual Horsin' Around BBQ Showdown where they had a vendor's tent set up.
Fred & Diane Jenkins sell peanuts just about any way you can eat them..and I had never tried deep fried peanuts until they offered me a sample. That's all it took. I was on my way with a bag for the ride home and decided deep fried peanuts were worth telling y'all about! They are fried with the skins (not shells) on and then perfectly seasoned-with just a little bit of heat. Next time you are up around Helen, or if you run across Fred & Diane at a festival, give their peanuts a try. At their Helen store they also sell fresh pork rinds, honey, jams & jellies and even t-shirts. The store is located at 17 Clayton Rd.(Hwy 356) not far from the junction with Hwy. 75. Stop by and tell them sent ya!

Fort Mountain State Park and the Mysterious Wall

Overlooking the town of Chatsworth in the northwestern area of the north Georgia mountains, Fort Mountain stands like sentinel guarding the mountains to it's east. Perhaps that explains the remains of the old "fort" at the top of the mountain..or maybe it doesn't. More on that in a bit. Fort Mountain State Park covers 3712 acres at the top of the mountain, a good portion of the land donated to the state by a former Atlanta mayor, Ivan Allen Jr. I've been camping at the park since I was a teenager-and to provide a frame of reference, back then I-75 leaving Atlanta to the north ended in Marietta!
Fort Mountain State Park is a popular destination for just about every type of outdoor activity. Within the park is a 17 acre lake with a swimming beach and 14 miles of hiking trails for daytrippers. Over 80 campsites and 15 cabins are available for overnight stays. 27 miles of mountain biking trails make the park one of the best in the state for bike riding. Horseback riding is offered and encouraged on 25 miles of trails with rentals and stables available. I would advise that you plan ahead during the summer months for any of these activities that operate on a first come, first serve basis. This is especially true on the weekends.
Fort Mountain is easily accessible from Atlanta or Chattanooga via I-75 to US 76 in Dalton. A good approach from the east can be had by taking GA Hwy 52 from Ellijay. Some other attractions in the area include the Cohutta Wilderness Area, The New Echota State Historic Site (Capitol of the Cherokee Nation) and the Chief Vann House State Historic Site. Carters Lake with all of it's recreational opportunities is just south of Chatsworth off US Hwy 411. Click Here for more information from the Georgia State Parks website.

Now about that wall.....

The wall on top of Fort Mountain is one of the great archaeological mysteries in north Georgia. The mountain gets it's name from the "fort", which consists of an ancient 855 foot long stacked stone wall with 29 pits scattered in some semblance of order along it. But is it really a fort?

There are numerous local legends concerning the origin of the wall. The most widely believed seems to be that it was not a fort at all, but was a structure with religious significance built by Woodland Period Indians who were believed to have occupied the area around 500 A.D. Some of the backing evidence for this theory are the orientation of the wall and the fact that no artifacts have ever been discovered. The Indians of that period are believed to have worshiped the Sun-and the wall extends from a point on the east side of the mountain due west-so the sun rises almost precisely in line with the eastern end and sets at the western terminus. Indians of that period were also believed to always carry their religious artifacts with them when they moved on, unlike their everyday implements which have been found in good quantity near their forts and settlements.
The most interesting theory has to do with Cherokee legend. The Cherokees believed the wall was built by a group of fair skinned, blue eyed people they referred to as "Moon Eyes" because it was believed they could not see well in daylight and had excellent night vision. This strange race of people was said to occupy this and other areas of the mountains until they were eventually dispatched by the Cherokee.
One legend about the wall points to it being a honeymoon resort of sorts for newlywed Cherokee. Another claims it to be a fortification built by a Welsh Prince who landed on the gulf coast of Alabama around the year 1200 and was pushed into the Georgia mountains by the Indians..where a fort was constructed for defense. The least plausible theory is that the structure was built by Hernando DeSoto as a defense against the Indians during his time in Georgia around 1540. The problem with that theory arises from the historical fact that DeSoto and his men were only in the area for around 2 weeks...hardly long enough to construct the wall. The only truth seems to be that no one really has a clue where the wall came from.
It is a fairly easy hike to the ruins of the wall. There are signs within the park directing you to the parking area, and from the parking area it is about a half mile or so hike to the summit observation tower. The wall starts appearing about halfway through the hike. It is certainly interesting-and the view from the top would be worth the hike if the wall didn't exist.

Eco-Music-Fest 2008

The 2008 Eco-Music-Fest was held last weekend at the Amicalola Deer Park west of Dawsonville. Thanks to Scott Phillips and The Fly Brothers, was given great access to to this annual event featuring over 90 bands performing on 3 stages in a beautiful north Georgia mountain setting. The festival benefits Rainbow Nation (not what you might think it is) and the Amicalola Deer Park, which is a sanctuary for injured and neglected animals. This event provides some of the funding for care and feeding of the animals-Rainbow Nation and their outreach programs work with special needs children by offering a therapeutic setting for the kids to interact with the animals. The park is nestled in a valley adjacent to Amicalola Creek and provides plenty of room for the 3 stages, vendors, parking and a camping area for folks who want to make a weekend of it.
The music, for the most part, was great. I arrived late Saturday morning just as bands were beginning to set up and play on stage 2 (seen above-lower). Bands played sets of around 45 minutes, with the next band up starting to set up to the side of the stage and ready to go. This kept the music almost continuous throughout the day on stage 2. I pretty much camped out at stage 2 most of the day and was impressed by the quality and especially the variety of music. Southern rock covers from the Full Throttle Band-who did a nice job on "American Band", the old Grand Funk Railroad tune.......Blues/rock from the Avery DylanProject..The Planet Riders..Christian alternative sounds from Athens' Scarlet Snow Band..Reggae/Jam from The Green Hit...were just a few of the standout performers throughout the day. We Won't Stop from nearby Cumming, GA brought quite a crowd with them and brought a lot of energy to the afternoon with a heavy metal cover of "Folsom Prison Blues".
As the sun started setting, Stage 1 started cranking up and attracting a larger part of the crowd. I migrated over that way in time to catch The Pennies who put on a great show-very polished band. I went back to the other stage to catch part of the set by DeFaux...then made it back to the main stage in time for Royal Family, a very talented band out of Atlanta.
Having to be in Hiawassee for a BBQ festival the next morning put an earlier end to the evening than I would have liked. I never did catch any of the acts on Stage 3, which I regret, but it's hard to be everywhere inside a 10+ acre venue;-) I thought Eco-Fest 2008 was very well run. The vendors were helpful, the staff was helpful and the bands were all friendly and looked to be having a good time. The crowd was less than I expected. With a venue that could comfortably hold 5000 folks, it was a little disheartening to only see what may have been 1000 to 1500 scattered out over such a large venue. A lot of credit goes out to the bands. Even early in the day when the crowds were sparse, they all played with energy and enthusiasm. I was assured that the festival will be back next year and thereafter-It sure would be nice to cover them up with music fans next year. The musicians and organizers are certainly doing their part.


The Avery Dylan Project

One of the more impressive acts we were able to catch at Eco-Music-Fest 2008 was the Avery Dylan Project from Athens, GA. Joined by bassist Clint Swords and drummer Mike Strickland, Avery Dylan, as one of the fellows in the crowd told me "isn't Stevie Ray Vaughan-nobody is...but he's as close as you are going to find playing around here on a regular basis". Dylan has a style of his own but you can definitely see the SRV/Blues influence in his playing.
The ADP mixed some nice original songs in with some covers of blues legends like Albert Collins during their set at the Eco-Fest. The most telling indicator of the band's quality was the number of other musicians at the show who stopped what they were doing to come over and watch them play.
The ADP has dates in Florida, Macon, Athens and metro Atlanta coming up in June. Let's hope we can get them back up in the mountains real soon. For more info about the band, show dates and a sample of their tunes, check out their MySpace page.


Horsin Around BBQ Showdown

Smokey Mountain Smokers from Seveirville, TN took home the Grand Champion prize at the first ever Horsin' Around Barbecue Showdown at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris on Memorial Day weekend! The Smokey Mountain team garnered 2nd place in the Chicken, Rib and Brisket categories along with a 9th place finish in the Pulled Pork competition to claim the overall prize. Crowds were good and the food was good, with plenty of family oriented entertainment available. was there Sunday to talk to folks and eat bbq (and buy a new hat!). Parking was a breeze in a field right off Hwy. 76 with shuttle service to the The Stables where the event was being hosted.

I had a nice pulled pork plate from Benny's (pictured above) that included some of the best beans I've ever put in my mouth. Made me wish I had been there on Saturday for the $5 Tasting Tent where the public was invited to sample the creations from the competition teams. Organizers I spoke with were very happy with how things went the first year and are already looking forward to next year. The Horsin' Around Barbecue Showdown looks set to become a fixture on the competition BBQ circuit and at Brasstown Valley.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sneak Peek at the July

Some of the stories we are working on:

Carter's Lake Recreation Opportunities
Cooper Creek Fishing & Camping
Bub-ba-Q in Jasper
Flea Markets
Georgia Mountain Festival coming up in July
Licks & Sticks Concert coming up in July
Cool River Tubing in Helen
Bigg Daddy's in Helen

and of course, the latest music calendar and higlighting of July shows on the Mountainfreak Music Page.