Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hakser's Kash Ready for 2009

With the recent addition of bassist Rob Beardsworth, the Clarkesville based Hakser "brothers" are excited about what the new year will bring. We recently caught up with guitarist/vocalist Stephen Hesse, who shared this outlook: "We are excited for the New Year and all it has in store for Haksers Kash. With our new lineup and direction we feel that our sound is maturing and our fan base is growing." "Our focus is to continue writing new music and play bigger venues that cater to original bands...We feel the magic is with us, the opportunity is in our hands, and we are blessed for the friendship and musicianship that is Haksers Kash."
I was able to catch Haksers Kash at the 2008 Eco-Fest in the mountains where they put on a good show-I look forward to seeing them perform with the new lineup and songs. "The Kash" will release an EP in the near future and will be hitting the road in support. We'll keep you updated on shows and venues as the 2009 schedule takes shape.

Hiking Around Dawson Forest

Winter is a great time for exploring the outdoors in north Georgia. The weather lends itself to hiking, the barren trees allow you to see things you might miss in the summer, and many times you will have a large area all to yourself. Such was the case on a recent weekday trip to the "Atlanta Tract" of Dawson Forest near Dawsonville. I hiked 3 different areas of the forest and did not see another soul in the process.
The area I was visiting is less than an hour from downtown fact, this 11,000 acre tract is owned by the city of Atlanta and was originally purchased in 1972 to give the city an option of building a second major airport north of the suburbs. The plans for the second airport have never materialized, and the property is now under the stewardship of the Georgia Forestry Commission. A large trail system for hikers and equestrians has been developed along with a waterfowl preserve and wildlife management area.

Dawson Forest is a transitional landscape. The southern area of the property is a foothill area that rapidly changes to a mountain environment as you move north. It is interesting to notice the transformation as you hike through-you enter into a flat, swampy terrain with longleaf pines and as you approach Amicalola Creek you start noticing small coves with mountain laurel and rhododendron, more rock outcroppings, and a rapid change in elevation. There are numerous areas that invite you to leave the trail you are on and explore if you like, and plenty of small spur trails that have been created by hikers doing just that. The different types of environments available make Dawson Forest a good hiking destination for all ages and experience levels. You can stick to wide, mostly flat trails or wander through dense vegetation and boulders if you like-some or the rock formations are fun for light climbing or bouldering.

Some of the more interesting areas of the forest are the remains of Air Force Plant 67, which once housed a nuclear reactor. We profiled the history of the plant in the May 2008 edition of Mountainfreak. net, the achived article can be found here. The ruins of the plant seem very much out of place now, with cars and trucks with horse trailers parked just outside the barbed wire topped fences that keep visitors from getting too close to the decaying concrete structures...and a quarter of a mile past the fences you enter the waterfowl preserve with a beautiful little lake. Odd, but interesting all the same.

For those wishing to check out this sprawling and interesting recreation area, it is very easy to find. The main southern entrance is located at the end of Dawson Forest Rd, which intersects Georgia Hwy 400 just south of Dawsonville. From either direction on 400, turn west on to Dawson Forest Rd.. There are no costs for admission or parking, and plenty of informative signage concerning rules and directions.

"The Pool Room" what the locals call it. The combination cafe/pool room/Nascar shrine/local gathering spot known offically as the Dawsonville Pool Room is situated just off the square on East First St. in downtown Dawsonville.

"The Pool Room" gained wide notoriety during the glory years of local Nascar legend Bill Elliott, when owner Gordon Pirkle would sound the loud "si-reen" mounted outside to celebrate an Elliott victory. The famous "Bully Burger", named after a long time and now deceased Pool Room employee, became part of a required stop for visitors to this mountain gateway town.
The Pool Room is literally wallpapered with news clippings covering the entire span of Elliott's career, along with car parts from his race cars and assorted racing memorabilia going back to the days of moonshine running that was once common in the area-and turned out to be the training ground for early stock car racers.

I stopped at the Pool Hall for lunch during a recent visit to downtown Dawsonville. It had been a few years since I had last visited, but other than a little expansion and updating it looked much the same as I remembered.
I ordered the house specialty-Bully Burger with fresh cut fries. The combo is still a great bargain at $4.75. The Bully Burger is a little lettuce or tomatoes..but rather cole slaw, onions and pickles adorn the hand made patty. You can get lettuce, tomato or chili on request for no extra charge.
It isn't the best burger for miles around, although better than most ..and the fries could have been a little warmer, but the price and the atmosphere along with the friendly service left me satisfied with my stop. The menu goes well beyond just the Bully Burger. No breakfast is served (hours are 10 am to 10 pm, till 11pm on Fri. and Sat.) but lunch and dinner is well taken care of. You can get a ribeye steak or fried shrimp if you desire..a selection of salads are offered..and appetizers/sides range from fried pickles and green tomatoes to onion rings or a baked potato and more.
Everyone should visit this landmark at least once when in the area, most folks will probably return for seconds.

The Dawsonville Pool Room

Mark of the Potter

The first article that I penned for was a report on the annual Christmas shopping trip my son and I take to north Georgia and Mark Of the Potter to purchase a gift for his mother. It is now a year later and once again we took the first school vacation day to head up to Grandpa Watts old mill on the Soque River.

It was a frigid day in north Georgia, and we joined other visitors inside the old mill taking turns around the wood stove as we browsed the great selection of pottery thrown by the 4 resident potters along with 20+ others from around the southeast. The bowl we purchased came from a North Carolina potter. I could spend a day and a thousand dollars in the place-but settled for 45 minutes and $40.
No trip to Mark of the Potter is complete unless you feed the pet trout in the river out back. Food pellets are sold from a gumball machine on the back deck for that purpose.

These are very large and well fed trout and they seem to enjoy the chow. The tradition is said to back to the days when the mill was still grinding corn..and the trout would hang around the mill to feed on the meal that spilled into the river.
The mill house was built in 1930, and operated until a flood inundated all of the machinery in the mid 1960s. It was sold and re opened as Mark of the Potter in 1969.
I would recommend visiting, even if it is just to look around, soak up the history..and feed the trout. If you enjoy great looking, functional pottery..I suspect you will go home with some, it's hard not to.
Inside Mark of the Potter

For more information check out their website:

Wonderful South Carolina Waterfalls

Because of the relatively small area of mountainous terrain in northwestern South Carolina, our mountains are usually not mentioned in the same breath as the Blue Ridge in North Carolina and Georgia. South Carolina does have an abundance of beautiful waterfalls within that small area, primarily due to the location of the Blue Ridge Escarpment where the elevation abruptly drops 2000' from the Blue Ridge to the upper Carolina Piedmont.
The King (or Queen if you wish) of Carolina waterfalls is the result of Matthews Creek tumbling over 400' down the escarpment to form Raven Cliff Falls. This stunning waterfall lies within Caesars Head State Park and requires a difficult four and a half mile hike to view. As seen in the photo above-it is well worth the effort. This is a rugged area and the hike to view the falls is not recommended for the very young or those not in excellent physical condition. A series of trails can also form a seven mile hike that will take you to a suspension bridge near the top of the falls. Hikers are advised to do their research and bring a companion or companions.
Closer to Georgia and much more accessible, Spoonauger Falls is located near the Chattooga River bridge on Burrell's Ford Rd., not far from Clayton, Georgia but on the South Carolina side of the river.

The parking area and trailhead are just past the Burrells Ford campground parking area. After walking northwest along the Chattooga for a couple hundred yards and crossing two small creeks, look for a sign on the right leading to the falls. Spoon Auger Creek will serenade you with numerous cascades along the hike the switchbacks up to the main falls.
Don't forget about South Carolina when looking for beautiful places in the mountains, you might be surprised..and we would love to have you visit.

Delores McKenzie- Spartanburg, SC

Legacy of the American Chestnut in North Georgia

The majestic American Chestnut once occupied about 25% of the Appalachian forest, including the coves and valleys of the north Georgia mountains. Growing rapidly to heights of over one hundred feet and diameters of six to fifteen feet, the Chestnut was truly the king of the high forest and upper Piedmont. The chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was accidentally introduced to the United States via imported trees somewhere around 1900, and in the course of 40-50 years virtually wiped out all of the mature American Chestnut trees from Maine to Georgia.

The importance of the Chestnut to the people living in north Georgia made it's demise very painful. Chestnut was the timber of choice for the construction of houses, barns, fences and furniture. The abundant yearly nut crops were gathered for livestock feed and for sale and export as a valued food source, providing much needed income. The nuts were also a prime source of food for wildlife- populations of deer, turkey and bear suffered for years from the sudden lack of chestnut mast. On a personal level, I wonder what the mountain forests must have been like with these huge, imposing trees as part of the landscape.

Today, there are remnants of the American Chestnut to be found-mostly sucker growth stubbornly clinging to what life remains in the old stumps from half a century ago. The blight finds the vast majority of saplings before they reach 12-15' tall, but there are some isolated pockets with some larger trees. There is a American Chestnut on the top of Fort Mountain in northwest Georgia I have seen that is around 30' tall and in seemingly good health so far.

Hope for the Future

While is is unlikely that we will ever see the Chestnut return to it's former glory, there are efforts underway to bring the trees back. The 30 year old American Chestnut Foundation has sponsored a backcross breeding program that is producing blight resistant seedlings that carry 15/16 of the pure genetic material from native trees and 1/16 from the Chinese Chestnut, which is able to better ward off the blight. Scientists at the University of Georgia are using pollen and genetic material from pure "Mother" and "Father" trees that survive in Virginia and Georgia in hopes of further breeding and genetic engineering that may produce disease resistant trees.

It would be a great testament to the determination of the scientific community and the many volunteers working on these projects if the Chestnut could once again get a foothold in the land it once dominated. If you would like more information. please click on the American Chestnut Foundation logo just below.