Monday, September 29, 2008

Mountainfreak Review-Smokestack & The Foothill Fury

I wandered a little south of my normal coverage area this month to Loco's in Gainesville for some music by a fellow whose sound I had heard labeled "Punk-Country-Blues". Hard for me to miss something with a handle like that.

"Smokestack" is a one man band with enough energy for a quartet. Armed with a small arsenal of guitars, his foot driven rhythm section, and a knack for telling a story..he puts on a good show that is a little different but highly entertaining.
Folks in north Georgia can catch Smokestack & the Foothill Fury at the Hemlockfest near Dahlonega coming up in November.

To see his full show schedule and listen to a sampling of his music, check out his MySpace page-

Smokestack & the Foothill Fury

Wildcat Creek Has A Lot To Offer

Generations of families and visitors to the north Georgia mountains have spent their summer days cooling off at the rock slide at Wildcat Creek pictured above. Located between Helen and Clayton in the Lake Burton area, Wildcat Creek is a popular destination for outdoor fun and adventure. Access to Wildcat Creek is gained by following the stream on USFS 26 within the Lake Burton Wildlife Management Area to the two camping areas and eventually to Addis Gap.

When trout season opens in the spring, fishermen descend on the creek in droves, as Wildcat is heavily stocked before and during the season with rainbow and brown trout from the nearby Lake Burton Fish Hatchery.

When I took the photo above I was able to talk with the fellow from the Georgia DNR who was catapulting 9-12" rainbow trout from tanks on the back of his truck into the creek. He told me that Wildcat Creek receives additional "bonus" stockings in the heat of summer because the water temperature remains cold enough to keep the trout healthy-which is good news for both the trout and the folks using the creek to cool off. I see trout fishermen on the creek just about every time I visit it during the season, but once the first couple of weeks of the season has passed the crowd does tend to dwindle and it becomes easier to find a fishing spot that offers some solitude.

The two campgrounds situated along the creek are popular destinations during the summer. The first campground, after you cross the second bridge on USFS 26, is used a bit more and can fill up on the weekends. Campground #2, located a mile past the first, is used a little less and can be worth the extra distance back into the forest. These campgrounds do not have showers or available drinking water. Sanitary pit toilet facilities are located at each campground.

Campsites are first come/first serve, no reservations can be made. The $8 per night camping fee is deposited in collection boxes inside the campground-so correct change is a good idea (I never seem to remember this). I talked to some of the campers on my last visit and they told me the August nights had been getting down into the 50s and the fishing was fantastic.

For hikers, the Appalachian Trail can be accessed at Addis Gap, a mile past Campground #2. The trail runs through the Tray Mountain Wilderness from there and access to numerous other trails in the area.

Wildcat Creek does indeed offer much in the way of outdoor activities, and the stream and the forest it runs through are among the most scenic in the north Georgia mountains. If relaxing is your top priority, this is a prime spot for that as well. The sounds from the tumbling water never seem too far away and it isn't hard to find great spots to take some photos or read a good book. Wildcat Creek is not hard to find-Forest Road 26 (also known as W. Wildcat Rd) leaves Ga Hwy 197 to the west 22 miles north of Clarkesville, just north of LaPrade's Marina..and not far south of Moccasin Creek State Park and the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery.

Downtown Asheville
Sunday, September 7th

Co-written by Torva Logan, Erin Scholze, and Jay Sanders

In the wee hours of the morning on the first Sunday of September, trucks and cars are bustling in and out of Lexington Avenue dropping off funky painted signs, fabulous wares and fresh food. The activity goes virtually unnoticed until it's time to open the gates and invite the crowds into Asheville's largest independent street festival: the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF).

Now in its seventh year, LAAFF's three stages, two courtyards, and city streets will play host to the biggest bands, dancers, and performers Asheville has to offer; even the sponsors are all local. Lexington Avenue will overflow with tons of interactive art stations and teem with local artists demonstrating their inimitable talents. This is a day that everyone can feel free to dress in costume, dance, celebrate Asheville's true colors.

By 11 AM, when the first performers take the stage, eager masses will flood the streets dressed in their funkiest attire. This is a day of all-local entertainment, shopping, food, and drinks, showcasing why Asheville has long been considered the Freak capitol of Western North Carolina. You can paint an art car, build a giant squid out of recycled material, hula hoop, weave baskets, dip your feet in paint and dance on a canvas, parade, get a henna tattoo, sew your own art clothes at the Honey Pot, make puppets, experience live painting, tour the fabulous Emerge-and-See Art Ambulance and Gallery or learn how to spin fire, dance, and drum.

There will be a "Get Your Freak On" photo booth, located in Bobo Gallery located at 22 Lexington Ave., where you can try on tons of freaky fun costumes donated by the wonderful Costume Shoppe. Jen Bowen, Director of the Faces of Asheville Portrait Documentary, will snap your shot, and within minutes you'll have the best fun and freaky memento ever! All monies raised will go to the final completion of the Faces of Asheville Portrait Documentary Project. This project will also host community forums throughout the year to discuss diversity, artist resources, green living, the local economy, and more in Asheville.

Local Graffiti Artists will be performing live painting between 1-4pm on the I-240 overpass support columns to celebrate the conclusion of the first quarter of The Asheville Mural Project. This expansive mural portrays original images of local characters and uniquely Asheville scenes focusing on Sustainability, Arts and Culture, Community, and Asheville Saints. AMP is adding value to the community with the support of the City of Asheville. Team members consist of 5 local artists and several auxiliary painters. Much of the proceeds from LAAFF's past have been directed toward AMP.

Be sure to see Asheville's own Tall Bike Freak, Michael Mooney, attempt to set a world record by riding the World's Tallest Bike, mountable only by crane! This is one show during LAAFF that you will just not want to miss. Michael is ready for a second attempt at the Guinness world record for riding the world's tallest bike (over 43 feet!) for 100 meters. The preshow to the Tall Bike Experience is the Bicycle Circus, commandeered by Ringmaster Bill Glasscock and set to Circus Music played through a giant Gramophone. Featured performances will also include Clown skits, Blue Ridge Rollergirl action, BMX fun, unicyclists and jugglers.

LAAFF is a festival where the music never stops, and the music at LAAFF is all local and all original. Every year, LAAFF's lineup changes, but always represents the musical diversity that makes Asheville's music scene great. This year there are over fifty performance acts including Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Shannon Whitworth, the Asheville Horns, Jar-E, the Firecracker Jazz Band, The Plowshares, the Hunab Kru B-boys, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. Old-time and bluegrass pickers are invited to join in The Shady Grove Courtyard Jam from 1-6pm. If your taste tends more towards the electronic scene, head for the Freaky Tiki DJ Lounge in the old Vincent's Ear Courtyard to hear some tribal rhythms, house, funk, soul. Performer merchandise will be sold at Static Age Records, located at 82-A N. Lexington Ave, and all proceeds will go directly to the performers.

While you will be able to purchase a great CD, this is one festival where you will not be able to buy a bottle of water. Free water is what LAAFF is all about. There will be three stations set up where you can fill up your own reusable water bottle or compostable cup; no more wasted plastic! You can support the festival, and the environment by purchasing a LAAFF reusable water bottle or souvenir beer mug. All compostable items will be carted away to the Long Branch Environmental Education Center.

Sustained by widespread community support, LAAFF is a volunteer driven event that serves as a celebration of Asheville's unique personality and as a fundraiser for Arts 2 People, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the role of the arts as an integral part of our culture. Arts 2 People serves the entire community through arts outreach, bringing the arts to those in need, supporting the careers of artists, and through community cultural development. Projects of Arts 2 People include The Pritchard Park Cultural Arts Program, The REACH Educational series, Moving Women, The Asheville Mural Project, Faces of Asheville and more. These projects support Asheville's thriving eclectic cultural values and all will have representation at LAAFF.

The Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival is chock-full of exciting activities until 10 PM. Come dressed in your wildest clothes, or as you are. LAAFF is free and fun for everyone. Sunday, September 7th; 11 AM – 10 PM; Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, NC. Come join in the festivities! For more information visit and

Roadside Find in Dillard

Once in a while you run across a real culinary jewel where you least expect it. I was driving down Hwy. 441 heading towards Clayton, and I was hungry. I wasn't really in the mood for fast food, or a heavy meat & 3 lunch, or something I would have to wait long as I approached Dillard I was on the lookout for something different. I found it just off 441 in the row of stores and shops that line the downtown area when I pulled up in front of the Java Mama Cafe.

A menu in the front window looked enticing so I decided to give it a try. The cafe was bigger than it looked from the outside, with ample seating and even a nice couch up front that would be a good spot to enjoy your coffee and read the paper. The menu is not huge but not limited either. Choices include whole or half sandwiches accompanied by tortilla chips and homemade peach salsa, soup of the day, salads and snacks. The "liquid" menu includes smoothies,frappes and an extensive selection of coffees, teas and espresso drinks.

The roast beef sandwich with Muenster cheese and horseradish sauce looked good to me, along with a half garden salad with a homemade vinagrette dressing. My sandwich was very good and the peach salsa was fantastic. I'm not sure tortilla chips were the perfect side for this particular sandwich, but they were good as well. The salad was very fresh and I would have liked some of the dressing to take home. I browsed a menu while I was eating and decided that I would try the cranberry-walnut chicken salad on my next visit along with a green apple smoothie-so I do plan to return and would certainly recommend the Java Mama Cafe to our readers!

Java Mama Cafe
6818 Hwy 441N
Dillard, GA 30537

Best Biscuit in Batesville

Approaching Batesville from any direction, you will see a sign advertising the Batesville General Store and "The Best Biscuit in Batesville". I think that might be just a little modest, the biscuits are the best I've had from Helen to Clayton at least. The store (pictured above) is a well preserved 104 year old landmark located on Ga. Hwy 197 near Lake Burton. A few knick-nacks are still sold inside the store, but the main business these days is breakfast and lunch.

I've had a couple of sandwiches for lunch at the store over the years, and they were good..but the special thing to me at the Batesville General Store is breakfast..even if it is lunch time. A generous breakfast menu is available-eggs, bacon, sausage,grits, etc..but the stars of the show here are the freshly baked biscuits just like your (if you are from the south like me) Grandma used to make. These are big, fat laden biscuits begging for sausage and an egg or a big dollop of sorghum syrup to encase... the perfect energy food to prepare for you for a day of hiking or fishing in the mountains surrounding the Batesville area.

Plenty of room is available for inside dining, or you can pull in and pick up your breakfast or lunch to take with you. Service has always been prompt and friendly on my visits, and the folks are more than willing to answer questions you might have about the store or area attractions. Dinner is served on Friday and Saturday nights and from the reports I've heard it is very good, though I haven't sampled dinner at the store myself. Batesville General Store is located at 11801 Hwy. 197 N...12 miles from both Helen and Clarkesville. Their phone number is 706.947.3434

Greenstone Soap Company

When I first launched back in January, I asked new readers to send me links to their favorite places in the north Georgia mountains for the page we have devoted to those links. One of the first responses was from a reader who raved about the Greenstone Soap Co. in the Sautee village. I added the link and honestly didn't think much more about it. On a recent trip to Sautee I was doing some shopping and noticed the store, pictured above.

I'm a guy. Soap is a pretty high priority in my life, but the kind of soap has never been. I usually go for the cheapest 12 bar pack at the discount store that has brand name I might recognize. Despite my lack of soap sophistication, I decided to check Greenstone Soap Co. out and introduce myself-since they were one of our first links on the site-and see this part of the soap world that had eluded me up till that point.

I fully expected to open the door to air laden with the floral perfumes I had come to know as a young child going into people's bathrooms where they kept those little round soaps you were warned to never wash your hands with, but that wasn't the case. It smelled good and fresh, not overpowering at all. I was immediately drawn to the "Shampoochie" dog soap, advertised to help dogs with itchy skin. Bob the Mountainfreak Dog (pictured below) has such problems so I bought a seems to have helped. I also got a bar of human soap, "Appalachian Wilderness", which I have tried and really enjoy. It has a fragrance like spruce mixed with herbs and is very refreshing.

It would take a lot of space to list all the offerings available at the Greenstone Soap Co., but there are lotions, bath salts and a wide variety of other handmade, organic products available. If you are in the Sautee area, stop by and check them out for yourself-if you can't make it up any time soon you can browse their website online - The Greenstone Soap Company.

Ghost Town with a Golden Past

Not much is left of Auraria. If you blink twice you might miss the remains of what was once a gold rush boom town. Woody's Store and the crumbling remains of what was once the Graham Hotel, both built around 1830, are most of what is left now.

Gold was discovered in Lumpkin County in 1828 by a fellow named Benjamin Parks while hunting in what was then the domain of the Cherokee Indians. Word soon spread of the discovery and over 1000 miners converged on the area in search of their fortunes. Two separate towns emerged from this influx of citizens, Dahlonega and Auraria. Auraria was the county seat of Lumpkin County for four years beginning in 1828. The main street in Auraria was lined with saloons, dry good stores and other businesses that catered to the needs of the miners.

Dahlonega became the county seat in 1832. Gold production was heavy for the first few years, leading to the establishment of the Dahlonega Federal Mint. Over $20 million in gold was mined in Lumpkin County between 1828 and 1849, when most of the mining and miners mover to California to join the famous west coast gold rush.

Auraria remained a viable town as hydraulic mining was introduced in the late nineteenth century, but the lack of a railroad and the growth of Dahlonega caused Auraria to become less important and a shadow of it's former importance. The old store last known as Woody's continued to operate until the 1980s, when the last vestige of commerce ceased to exist in Auraria.

Today, people pass Auraria on ther way from the nice subdivisions and homes north of Dawsonville to Dahlonega. A mile from the old store, Castleberry Bridge Rd. crosses the Etowah River which is popular with canoeists, fishermen and kayakers. Subtle remnants of the gold days are evident along the river but go unobserved for the most part.