Heading north from Toccoa, we could've followed the new four-lane Highway 441, but elected to take Old Highway 441, which winds and loops like a ribbon through the Appalachian foothills. Either road takes you to Tallulah Gorge. The gorge is 1000 feet deep, two miles long, and a half-mile wide and includes five waterfalls so spectacular they could lead you to believe you were on the threshold of the Grand Canyon. We walked to the bottom on a system of stairs (531 in all) built by the Georgia State Parks department. The view from the bottom is awesome, but regardless of what Sir Isaac Newton had to say about gravity, what goes down here must come back up--it's an invigorating hike out.
Some of the scenes from the movie "Deliverance" (starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) were filmed at Tallulah Gorge. This is also where (circa 1970) Karl Wallenda stretched a tightrope (cable) across the half-mile gorge and walked across, setting a record that stands to this day. The special platforms built to hold the single cable for his epic walk are now part of the park's history. One last but important note is that, twice a year, water is released from the dam above to create some of the wildest whitewater kayaking on the face of the earth.
As we mentioned, northeast Georgia is the land of grist mills, and Sylvan Falls Mill near Clayton is one we stopped to visit. Owned and operated by Mike and Linda Johnson, Sylvan Falls Mill is the cornerstone of a cottage industry the couple has helped revive. Using the energy of the waterfall and a giant 150-year-old water wheel, Mike and Linda grind organic corn and rye twice a week, marketing it in specialty shops and restaurants across the South, at the grist mill, and online. They also operate a bed and breakfast where, every morning, Linda fixes an excellent breakfast consisting of these organic products.
The region has always been moonshine country (still is), but today there is a parallel (legal) spirits industry where folks who are into viticulture and the art of making fine wines are winning international awards. A couple really good ones can be found near Clayton--Persimmon Creek Vineyards and Tiger Mountain Vineyards--and we'd also recommend Habersham Winery in the town of Helen. The microclimates here are perfect for producing excellent reds and whites, and that's exactly what they do.
Toccoa Falls is but one of the natural jewels that adorn northeast Georgia. This beautiful
For the experienced equestrian and the novice rider, Dillard House Stables (Highway 441) in the town of Dillard offers excellent guided horseback rides. Also in town is Dillard's Restaurant, a family-style eatery that overwhelmed us at dinner with the many entrees and huge quantities served on platters and in large serving dishes. They keep refilling the bowls and platters until you tell them to stop.
If you'd rather ride inflatables on whitewater, travel 20 minutes east of Clayton on Highway 76 to Wildwater Ltd. It's located on the Chattooga River, the dividing line between Georgia and South Carolina, and provides whitewater rafting and canoeing through a designated scenic wilderness. Two-hour, half-day, and full-day guided river trips are available as well as overnight adventures with all gear and food furnished.