The Golden Isles of Georgia

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St Simon Island, GA

One last stop in Georgia, then we’ll be heading into the sunshine state for the winter.  For our final exploration in the peach state, we ended up near the Golden Isles of Georgia.  On the southern end of Georgia’s scenic coastline is a collection of barrier islands.  With their history, natural beauty and huge variety of recreational opportunities, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons, Sea Island and the mainland port of Brunswick make up the Golden Isles.  The area is surrounded by expansive golden marshes, miles of sandy beaches, breathtaking views, maritime forests and generations-old oak trees draped with spanish moss. Continue reading

A Monadnock and an Olympic Host – More fun in Georgia!

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Pose at the top of Stone Mountain

We left LaGrange and continued our trek up north to Stone Mountain, GA.  This is actually a granite mountain in Georgia, not the city with the same name.  When we arrived we were surprised to see not just an ordinary mountain, but a huge dome-like mass of granite.  As soon as we settled in at the Stone Mountain Park Campground we began learning about activities we could check out there. Continue reading

Gardens and estates – how it all began in LaGrange, GA

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After lingering in the life and times of FDR, we shifted our attention to estates, glorious gardens and butterflies.  Two famous attractions in Georgia are the Hills & Dales Estates and Callaway Gardens, which have strong ties to LaGrange, GA.  In 1911, textile magnate Fuller E. Callaway Sr., who was born in LaGrange, bought the Ferrel Gardens, built his home and renamed it the Hills and Dales Estate.  He had two sons, Fuller Jr. and Carson J. Callaway.  When he and his wife died, Fuller Jr. took over the care of the estate and continued to preserve the historic house and gardens.  Carson Callaway moved to Pine Mountain, GA and started what would become Callaway Gardens. Below are just a few of the many pictures I took of the lush garden.

Hills and Dales Estates

Hills and Dales Estates

The 35-acre Hills & Dales Estates sits on the crest of gently rolling hills.  The centerpiece is the beautiful Italian villa which was completed in 1916, and as I strolled across the lush grounds it looked like a walk through a European garden with closeted green places to sit and just enjoy the view.  The 150 year old garden predates the house and Visitor Center, where the story of the Callaway family traces the development of the textile industry in Georgia.

Callaway Gardens is a man-made landscape in a unique natural setting nestled in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Created by Carson J. Callaway and his wife Virginia Hand, this place is huge at 14,000 acres.  In addition to the gardens, it offers golfing, boating, cycling, and other leisure activities.  There are several attractions to enjoy, and we wished we had brought our bikes to enjoy the 10-mile Discovery Bicycle Trail.  Instead we followed a few of the nine walking trails where we enjoyed the gardens and saw the Azaleas in full bloom.  With or without bikes, you need a full day to really enjoy this place, especially since the entry fee is $22 per person – ouch!

Overlook Azalea Garden

Overlooking the Azalea garden

Mr Cason's Vegetable Garden

Mr. Cason’s vegetable garden – that’s Steve in the chair, not Mr. Cason

At the Day Butterfly Center we were met by hundreds of beautiful exotic butterflies fluttering freely in a glass-enclosed tropical butterfly conservation.  We really enjoyed this attraction.

Day Butterfly Center

Day Butterfly Center

While at LaGrange we enjoyed some good old-fashioned southern home-style cooking (read “fried”).  We had a great meal at a restaurant called A Taste of Lemon that used to be a church.  But Steve would not be satisfied until he got some fried chicken, which we took care of aplenty at Fried Tomatoes Buffet.  The food was delicious and very reasonably priced at both places.  Steve isn’t sure why they call it “comfort food” though, since he wasn’t very comfortable for a while after stuffing himself.  That will take care of our fried food craving for a very long time!

Our home base while here at LaGrange was another US Army COE campground called Holiday Campground.  It is one of several campgrounds on the shoreline of West Point Lake, which is one of the largest man-made lakes anywhere at 26,000 acres.  It is obviously a favorite spot for fishing, with several boat ramps in the park.  Unlike Gunter Hill COE, this park did not have a sewer hookup but the location was secluded and sites were decently spaced apart.  We stayed in #111, which was fairly level with a lakefront view.  The over 100 sites are spread out into enclaves in groups of about 10, and the distance between our site and the entrance is almost 2 miles.  There were a couple of walking trails that we explored, but we mostly used the roads for our walking and biking.  Click here for Steve’s detailed review, if you’re interested.

Update on our Tornado watch: we hunkered down and retracted our leak-prown slide as torential rains, high winds, thunder and lightning gave us a spectacular show on Thursday night.  Fortunately, we awoke safe and sound to a beautiful sunny day.

Lastly, a gorgeous Georgia sunset the day after the storm.

Sunset at West Point Lake

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Greensville and Blacksburg, SC