Great Day Of Exploring!! – Thursday, August 14, 2014

We came to Rivers Edge RV Park near Blairsville, GA completely unprepared.  I usually have done my research and know where things are that we want to see and do.  This time I had nothing;o((  However, when we arrived, Karen and Al presented us with a wonderful stack of information they had collected at the Chamber of Commerce!!  We spent last evening making a plan for today.

First on our list was Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Second on the list was Mountain Crossings at Neel’s Gap on the Appalachian Trail.  We explored both of these and added two more along our route: Helton Creek Falls and Sunrise Grocery.

00 - Travel Map for Today
A – Rivers Edge RV Park
B – Brasstown Bald
C – Mountain Crossing at Neel’s Gap
D – Helton Creek Falls
E – Sunrise Grocery
Brasstown Bald with an elevation of 4784 feet it is the highest point in Georgia.
Click on any photo to enlarge or hover your mouse on any photo for a description.
It is only a short 10 mile drive from the RV park to the Brasstown Bald entrance.
00 - Rt 180 to Brasstown Bald01 - start of climb to visitor center
We took our time on the steep winding road to the entrance gate and parking area.02 - The Tower is our destination    03 - Entrance and Shuttle Station
It is a National Park so our Senior Park Pass got us in for free.
However, we decided to pay $2.00 for the shuttle ride to the summit;o))
05 - Lots of room on the shuttle Van
It wasn’t too crowded!!!
06 - Brasstown Bald Plaque
It was a bit cloudy and cool at the top of the mountain.
06b - Us and the firetower at the top of the bald
On the first level, there is a visitor center which has nice displays and a movie.
07 - Visitor Center on first level  07b - Visitor Center - Display and a film
We watched the movie and enjoyed the displays before walking up to the viewing level above.
08 - second level viewing platform
You have access to the views in every direction, but the tower is not open to the public;o((
Even on this cloudy day, the views are wonderful!!!
09a - Beautiful views in every direction   09b - Beautiful views in every direction
You can understand why they are called The Blue Ridge Mountains!!!
10 - Yes, there called the Blue Ridge Mountains
If it had been a bit warmer than 57 degrees,
we may have planted ourselves in a rocker for a bit ;o))
11 - Nice place sit a spell on a warmer day
Instead, we decided to warm up a little
by walking the trail back down to the parking area.
12 - Trail to the parking lot below
It was a steep, but pretty walk down the mountain.
12b - Trail - paved but steep12c - Trail - fire tower above
At the bottom,
we took a little time to explore the Brasstown General Store
12d - Trail - back to parking lot   04 - Brasstown Bald General Store
before heading down the road to our next adventure!!
13 - Rt 180 back towards Rt 129 and Neel's Gap

We headed back the way we came and stopped back at the motorhome for lunch.
After lunch, we headed south on Rt. 11/19/129 about 7 miles to Neel’s Gap.
Neel’s Gap is the location of a historic building along the Appalachian Trail.
Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi00 - Neel's Gap - Mountain Crossing
01 - Mountain Crossing Outfitters at Neel's Gap
From Wikipedia, 

“The Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center is a small stone building located along US 11/19/129 at Neel's Gap, Georgia, United States, on the eastern side of Blood Mountain. It is notable as the only place where the 2,175-mile-long Appalachian Trail passes through a man-made structure. It is currently the first mail-drop available to northbound thru-hikers that does not require one to leave the trail.

Originally a log structure built by a logging company, the building took its present form during the 1930s when it was rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It served as a restaurant and inn until 1965, when it was abandoned. Soon after, the building was rented by an artist group who used it until 1969 when it was again left vacant. By the mid-1970s the building was slated for demolition, but a group of conservation-minded locals lobbied successfully for its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Spared from destruction, the building served as an irregular store to hikers and tourists until 1983 when Jeff and Dorothy Hansen took over management of what became known as Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. In the 1990s the stare was operated by Peggy and Justin. The building was then leased and operated by Winton Porter from 2001 to 2013. It is currently operated by Georganna Morton and Logan Seamon.

Currently, in addition to the store, the Walasi-Yi center offers hostel and cabin rentals. These rooms are at a premium in early spring when the vast majority of northbound thru-hikers are traveling through northern Georgia.”

Bottom floor on the left end of the building is the current hostel.02 - Current Hostel on lower level

The Appalachian Trail (white blaze) passes through the building right next to the hostel. 03 - AT run through the building

View of Appalachian Trail directly behind the building.04 - AT heading north at Neel's Gap 

Looking back at the building as Bill walks through on the AT.05 - Bill coming thru building on AT 

This point on the AT is called Neel’s Gap.  Next point on trail is 5.5 miles to Tesnatee Gap.
It is in Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

06 - AT Trail Signs 06b - AT  Forrest Sign

Directly behind the building is a picnic and viewing area.07 - Viewing and Picnic area behind building 

From here you get a spectacular view of Neel’s Gap!!

07b - View of Neel's Gap

Continuing around the right side to the front of the building,

      you see the Appalachian Trail Sign everywhere:o))
09 - Other end of building love the AT sign 10 - AT sign at Front Entrance to Mountain Crossing Outfitters

Inside is a back-packers or thru-hikers dream!!

11 - Inside - Backpackers dream - old hiking boots on ceiling

They provide all the services, equipment and information needed

 to help them make a successful trek to Maine.

11b - Inside - Backpackers dream - old hiking boots on ceiling

Having hiked a short portion of the AT and meeting several thru-hikers during that hike,

it was fun to experience a place that is part of the Appalachian Trail History!!!


Heading back to the motorhome,
we saw the sign for Helton Creek Falls.01 - Turn to Helton Creek Falls

We still had plenty of time yet this afternoon so we made the right turn!!

The first half mile is on a narrow paved road through a neighborhood. 02 - short drive through neighborhood

Then the road becomes dirt and gravel with huge pot holes. 

There is only room for one vehicle so passing is dicey:o((

 You really should have a 4 wheel drive vehicle to make this trip!!03 - several mile drive on a winding dirt road-really need 4 wheel drive

But, we made to the parking area and headed down the trail to the falls.

04 - Trail Sign to Falls   05 - well maintained trail

No Bill, you don’t look like a tree… more like a bush;o))06 - No Bill you are not a tree...more like a bush

Click on any photo to enlarge or hover your mouse on any photo for a description.

Heading down to the very pretty Lower Falls.

07 - down to view lower falls  08 - Lower Falls

Then we went Up, Up, Up to the even prettier Upper Falls.           
09 - Up to see Upper Falls 10 - Upper Falls10b - Upper Falls

It is a pretty place, but be very careful on the road to the falls!!!

We managed to make our way back the nasty road to the highway without a problem:o))

 Just before we got to our turn to Rivers Edge RV Park,
 we saw The Sunrise Grocery on the left and had to stop and check it out:o))

02 - Sunrise Grocery03 - Rivers Edge Turn is just past house on the right04 - Lots of Fresh Produce05 - Little Bit of Everything
Fun way to end our first full day in the Georgia Mountains.
I’m sure we’re gonna like it here!!!


  1. What a beautiful area! You certainly packed a lot into your first day!

  2. LOL at your crowded shuttle. I had no idea the highest point in GA was a National Park. But David and I are both wondering if Bill lined up those rockers on that porch. Your pictures of the Blue Ridge are fantastic. Just like I remember them. How did you get that one of you two being shot up at you? Having had the AT Through hiker dream for years and having read more than my share of Through hiker books, I loved seeing Walasi-Yi. Thanks! Really looks like a great day all around.

    1. Bill never touched the chairs...really;o)) You really need to visit Walasi-Yi. I imagine it would be even more interesting during April when so many thru-hikers are making their way towards Maine. Have you read "Just Passin' Thru" which was written by Winton Porter, a previous proprietor of Mountain Crossings?

  3. Sharon and I walked some of your same day a few years back when we were in the Dahloniga area staying at a little B&B called Cedar House Inn and Yurts. I can also see Bill adjusting those chairs so nice and tidy. :-) "Just Passin' Thru" sounds interesting. One of our favorite AT book is "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. Thanks for sharing your journey with us :-)

  4. That hiker store looked really cool! What a fun day!

  5. What a shame that expensive shuttle ride was so crowded. At least the hikes made up for that inconvenience. :cD

  6. How neat! I'm going to have to start a file: neat places to go at the "other" Karen and Al's Georgia spot :-).

  7. 57 degrees...that's the Nomadic Newfies sweet spot! It'll be that cool here in Wisconsin every morning this week and we're loving it.