Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sautee Jamboree 2008

What a great time and great show! This was my first year to attend the Sautee Jamboree on the SCNA grounds and it was a real treat. It is a very family friendly event with a special vibe and some special music. I missed the all bluegrass Friday session but was able to attend a good deal of the Saturday lineup, which included Scott Baston & the News Architects from the Macon area, the world famous Tommy Talton and his band, Sol Driven Train from the South Carolina low country, the enigmatic Col. Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance, and Sautee native sons, Big City Sunrise.

I was greeted upon arriving by the soulful sounds of Scott Baston and his band, the News Architects. Kind of a dreamy, funky way to get started. The Tommy Talton Band took the stage next and all I can say is that the man is a seamless professional. He co-founded the Macon group Cowboy back in the 1970s, and signed with Capricorn records at the urging of Duane Allman. He's been a revered studio player, band leader and word traveler in a career that spans more than 4 decades-and every facet of his experience shows in his playing. He has some great players with him in this band this go around and their southern tinged R & B is like comfort food on a pretty day in the mountains.

Next up on stage was Sol Driven Train. These guys are amazing and very talented as well. I was talking to a friend yesterday about the Jamboree and was asked how I might describe them, I pondered for a moment then responded "Calypso Bluegrass"...that may not be the best description, but Sol Driven Train definitely draws from a number of genres and the result is inarguably original. This is a fun band I will make an extra effort to see again. They have been at all three Jamborees to this point and I hope they come back in 2009.

I had to leave about halfway through the Big City Sunrise set due to a prior engagement, but they were obviously primed for this event and showed why they are the crowd favorite and have been one of the most popular local bands in North Georgia for the past 5 years. BCS "gives 110%" every time they hit the stage and I look forward to seeing them back together before too much time passes.

I really regret missing Col Bruce Hampton and his band, the Quark Alliance. Col. Bruce, as most everyone knows, has been a fixture in the Georgia music scene for a loooong time. The last time I have seen him was with The Aquarium Rescue Unit many moons ago, so it was time...I do find some solace in knowing he will be back in the North Georgia Mountains next month for the Hemlockfest in Dahlonega..and I plan on being there for

The Sautee Jamboree got bigger this year..a couple of Jamboree veterans I spoke with said it might have gotten better as well. I just know I have next year marked on the calendar already. A bonus in addition to the fine music and idyllic setting is that the Jamboree is a fundraising event that raises money for the Sautee Nacoochee Community Center, particularly the renovation of the property which is a treasure in it's own right. Expect to start banging the drums early next year in anticipation.

Fall Foliage Drives in North Carolina

One of our readers from North Carolina sent me a list of her favorite drives for taking in the spectacular displays of fall color during October. The leaves reach their peak color a little earlier at the higher elevations of western North Carolina than they do in Georgia, and there are some great vistas for viewing. A great way to spend a weekend not too far from home.

1. From Interstate 40, take exit 53 to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the Parkway north to Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak in the Blue Ridge (5,946 ft).

2. Hendersonville to Franklin on Hwy. 64. 83 miles of varied elevations and beautiful river valleys.

3. Franklin to Highlands on Hwy. 64 following the Cullesaja River. For Georgians, once you reach Highlands you can make your way back to Sky Valley on Hwy 106. This will take you over Scaly Mountain and offers some great views to the south and east.

4. From Shelby, NC...take US Hwy 221 to Linville Falls (78 miles).

5. Cherohala Skyway- With 8 overlooks at elevations over 4000 ft, the Cherohala Skyway is one of the prettiest drives anywhere, especially in the fall. From Robbinsville, NC- Take Hwy 129 N to Hwy 142 W...Continue on 143 west to the Cherohala Skyway sign on the left.

6. From Gastonia, take US Hwy. 321 north through Hickory and into Blowing Rock.

7. Hickory Nut Gorge to Black Mountain- From Asheville: Take I-26 S to US 64 E to Bat Cave and NC Hwy 9, which has great views of Lake Lure and will take you to Black Mountain. Chimney Rock Park is in this area and makes a great side trip.

8. US 19 from Maggie Valley to Cherokee- Many great leaf viewing sites and overlooks.

Many thanks to Laura Mitchell for this List!

Helton Creek Falls

Just a mile south of Vogel State Park on Hwy. 19/129, there is a small green and white sign pointing to Helton Creek Falls. If you see it, turn. These are some of the prettiest and most easily accessed falls in the North Georgia Mountains. Helton Creek Rd. is a gravel road that leaves the highway at the road sign and eventually winds it's way over to the Richard Russell Scenic Highway near Hogpen Gap. The parking area for the falls is about .7 miles from the turn off from Hwy. 19/129 and it's easy to spot. A well maintained trail leaves the parking area and gives you the option of taking stairs to either the lower falls (pictured below) or the main, upper falls shown above. The total length of the trail is about 300 yards-very easy-but the area around the lower falls can be a little slick and dangerous.
The stairs to the upper falls will take you to a wooden observation deck that gives you a great view. A lot of folks leave the deck to cool off in the pool below the falls-there are signs warning against this however, and there is some damage to the flora in the area from foot traffic. The photos in this article where taken with pretty low water conditions in September. I'm sure you can imagine how impressive the falls are when freshly charged with some good rains!

Deep Hole Recreation Area

Just north of Suches and south of Blue Ridge just off of GA Hwy 60, Deep Hole Recreation Area is situated on the banks of the Toccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest in the north Georgia mountains.
Deep Hole is the put in point on the Toccoa River Canoe Trail, a popular trout and bass fishing spot, and a small but nice nice camping area with restrooms and drinking water for 8 campsites (no electricity/showers). I've noticed it is also popular with bicyclists coming up on weekends to ride and explore.
One unique aspect of this area is the improvements included for folks with disabilities. Restrooms, the canoe launch, and a special deck made for fishing are all handicapped accessible. A few of the campsites are accessible as well.
Deep Hole is open all year and is open 24 hours a day for campers. A fee ($12) is required for camping. Campsites have gravel tent pads, grills and picnic tables. The Toccoa River Canoe Trail runs from Deep Hole to Sandy Bottoms, 13.8 miles downstream. This is a calm to moderate canoe run with some class I and II rapids. Fishing on the Toccoa is seasonal for trout, but rock and smallmouth bass can be caught year round.

For More Information, Contact:
USDA Forest Service
Toccoa Ranger District

9th Annual Wildlife & Nature Art Festival and Expo

The annual Wildlife & Nature Art Festival and Expo took place on September 20-21 in downtown Blue Ridge, Ga. Blue Ridge was bustling as visitors descended on the art exhibits and downtown merchants. The festival features fine art with a wildlife or nature theme, and there were some really nice pieces and displays. I'm no expert by any means, but the prices looked pretty reasonable as well.
Art is not the only attraction. The Expo included an appearance by the legendary Okefenokee Joe, herding dog and fly casting demonstrations, bluegrass music and booths for outfitters and food. We had a good time just looking around and spending the day in downtown Blue Ridge.
The festival is organized by the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association. They also sponsor the Arts in the Park Festival on Memorial Day weekend in Blue Ridge and Heritage Days in August. Blue Ridge is a great little downtown area, find a parking spot and the entire business district, park and depot areas can be easily walked and enjoyed. We will have more about the neat shopping spots in Blue Ridge on this page as we get a little closer to Christmas.
Put the Wildlife & Nature Art Festival on your to do list for next September-it's a great way to spend a day in the North Georgia Mountains.

Angelina's in Blue Ridge

Angelina's was quite a surprise for my son and I on a recent trip to Blue Ridge. Located a block off the main drag, I may not have found this very neat market/deli had it not been for a recommendation from a reader. Angelina's is a testament to the continuing evolution of the culinary offerings available in the north Georgia mountains. A nice selection of imported and domestic wines, cheeses, pastas and meats are available for shoppers in addition to a great selection of prepared items to eat in or take out.

The menu is dominated by hot and cold sandwiches along with a decent selection of salads and soups. I ordered the Italian Classic Hero, featuring Sweet Cappicola, Proscuitto Di Parma, Genoa Salami and Provalone Cheese. It was very simply one of the best "subs" I've had anywhere. The meats are high quality (Boar's Head)and the white spiral roll was perfect. My son decided on the Cajun Pannini sandwich on Ciabatta bread. We traded bites and his sandwich was equally as good as the Hero. The Cajun style roast beef with horseradish sauce and cheese made for a great hot sandwich. We had chips, but potato salad, olive salad or green salads are also available as a side.

I will definitely return to Angelina's. There are many more offerings on the menu that looked tempting. Add good, friendly service and reasonable prices (sandwiches run between $6-7) to the equation and Angelina's Italian Market & Delicatessen is hard to beat.

Angelina's Italian Gourmet Market & Deli

3640 East First Street
Blue Ridge, Georgia