Georgia is a place I never really had a burning desire to visit, let alone stay for a week. When I discovered one of my favorite bands, Dead Can Dance was playing there in the fall of 2012 , as their first tour since 2005, I had to go. Why not plan a week of wandering, eating, hiking and activities at the same time!
The following is a journal style recount of this trip.
Knowing I had a pricey cabin lined up for myself in the woods later on during this trip, I rented a $30/night makeshift hostel room off AirBNB. This proved to be a good decision, given the friendliness of the host, and people from all over passing through. Like most hostels, I met people from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany, France, etc.
As coincidence would have it, DraconCon was happening the very week I was visiting. For those of you unfamiliar, DragonCon is a huge convention, centered around the Sci-Fi, Anime, fantasy, gamer, comics, literature, art and music crowd. It’s in fact, the largest of it’s kind in the world, spanning over 4 hotels to contain the tens of thousands of cosplayers and fans.
Overall all, I pretty much wandered around, talked to random people, played my Djembe drum here and there, and consumed way too much Tequila. It was a very late night to say the least!
After the chaotic and inebriated throws of DragonCon, a fairly lax day was in order. Wandering around the bohemian inspired Little Five Points area seemed to fit the bill. Getting here was an adventure itself. I took 2 trains on the MARTA and walked about 1 mile in the heat wearing 18 hole Doc Marten boots to finally arrive. I got into an interesting metaphysics conversation with the owner of a Native American Indian shop, due to the Rasputin beer shirt I was wearing, that’s always fun.
Originally I tried the Vortex for lunch, a giant skull covered entrance, but was met with an hour wait. Luckily, I wandered upon Planet Bombay, which served fantastic Indian food.
The interior was really charming, the food delicious and service very friendly. In additional to starting off with a complimentary flat bread and chutney, the meal was finished with Mukhwas. This is a concoction of seeds like fennel and anise, designed to aid in digestion as an after meal snack.
Six Flags theme park was the order of the day. Admittedly it was a shock when I got to the front gate and was asked “Would you like regular parking for $20, or premium parking for $25?” I asked what the difference was, but didn’t get a straight answer.
Most of the rides were out of control and a lot of fun. Among the most extreme was the Daredevil, which takes you into a 90 degree climb and drop. Superman was a first for me, as you are literally suspended in mid air, looking down at the ground. The ride makes you feel like flying the whole time, it was great.
After all of the adrenaline fueled excitement, I went with people from the hostel for Mexican food and margaritas later that night. We finished up with a small bonfire in the back yard and passing around my Djembe for an impromptu drum circle.
Stone mountain. boy oh boy, was this an adventure!!!!
Upon arriving to the park, I encountered a first, the ticket admission gate was closed, in fact, everything was closed. However, the park was wide open to walk into….and I did pay for parking at the gate. So map in hand, off I went to find the first trail into the woods I could.
After taking a couple different connecting trails, I came upon a clearing, complete with wildflowers and the actual trail leading to Stone mountain. I saw a couple deer run by from this very spot!
While paying careful attention to the trail marking on rocks and trees, I ventured up through the rock and woods, almost reaching the top of the mountain. A darkening sky and rumbling of thunder quickly gave way to a torrential downpour.
I could have ducked out into a shady tree lined area, but opted to continue to the top, where the skylift station (closed today) had an internal covered shelter area.
Once the rain let up, I prepared to make the descent. Only one problem, the rocks were extremely slippery.
Stupidly, I tried to do this hike in worn out walking shoes, big mistake. Luckily I ran into some other people and we took a shortcut down. This didn’t prevent me from hitting the ground several times. On the way down, I came upon a beautiful intermingling of rock and water.
Later that night, I headed out to an Industrial music club called The Shelter. While the Tank Girl heavy decor was fantastic , it was a slow night due to other events in town, so about 20 people showed up.
On the way to REI to get some new stable, waterproof hiking boots, I made a wrong turn. When I pulled into a shopping center to turn around, I was greeted with a big sign for Ethiopian food staring me in the face, how convenient! I’ve always wanted to try this cuisine and hadn’t yet done so. As you can see from the Vegetarian platter I ordered, it was very colorful and tasty finger food. You scoop up everything with this spongy type bread, the flavors were terrific.
It was pretty cool going to REI in person, I’ve been building most of my digital nomad travel/survival/bug out bag backpack through their site.
Later that day, with a full belly and new boots, I took a visit to Sweetwater Creek with the hostel host. I attempted to keep up with my hiking partner, this was a fast paced hike along a river, over rock, stone and root. Enjoyable, but brief.
After 8:00pm that night, turned into one of the most satisfying and visceral experiences I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. That pleasure is called Dead Can Dance. This band formed over 25+ years ago and this was their first tour in 7 years, with all of their European venues sold out. The best way to describe this band is tribal, world fusion, apocalyptic folk. Their sound is reminiscent of a tribal opera of sorts, that’s the type of timeless feeling you get when listening to them. From any of you who have seen the film Gladiator, the main theme song is sung by Lisa Gerrard of this band. Their lyrics are timeless and meaningful, this was truly one of the favorite moments of my life.
I packed up from the hostel, and drove over to Helen, GA a couple hours away.
Helen, Georgia is a German alpine village recreation, nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the Appalachian Trail. It was an entertaining town to walk around for a while. A trip to the Hansel and Gretel candy shop was top of list, to stock up on homemade fudge!
To balance out my mattress by a front door hostel trip, I reserved a killer cabin in the woods. It was an A -frame two story cabin, with a Jacuzzi, pool table, wood fireplace, deer in the backyard and a stream!
This cabin was way out there, no street lights, dirt/gravel roads down a hill, nice and secluded. My cell phone had no service inside, but there was a Wifi signal available.
Overall, the town of Helen is a novelty to enjoy, and can be seen in half a day.
After getting some groceries and firewood from a local country store, I lit up the wooden fireplace, enjoyed this new dwelling and called it a night.
Anna Ruby Falls, was one of two hiking trails I wanted to visit while in this part of town.
This was an easy hike, on a paved surface up to two beautiful dual waterfalls. Along the way, I found a great meditation spot to relax at for a while.
Ironically, just the day I was there, a poor woman got bit in the foot by a poisonous snake. Copperheads reside in this area and it was the first time in five years someone was bit!
Overall this was a very easy, safe and enjoyable experience.
Saving the hike I was looking forward to the most until my last full day, I set out to find Raven Cliffs Falls. This trail was exciting, and took about three hours round trip to complete. Lots of stream crossings, mossy roots and turns to enjoy. When I got to the first landing, I took a nice break to the sound of rushing water, and watched a couple dogs running around jumping across rocks. I decided not to climb the rocky terrain to the very top of the falls, where the falls cut through two giant cliffs, as a solo hiker here I was already worn out.
It’s a wrap. Time to hit the road for a long 7 hour drive back home. It was a fun trip, however the only reason I’d head back to Atlanta or Helen I think, is for the hiking and reclusive cabin stay!
Have you ever been to Atlanta, or Helen, Georgia?
Love it, hate it?