Our first vacation of the year was a long weekend last month, and so the challenge was to find something fun and cheap to do. After searching the Georgia State Parks website, I found a cool place called Unicoi State park. I had heard of Helen, but I couldn't remember from where. We decided to drive to Atlanta after work on Thursday and then drive the rest of the way up Friday morning. Good idea, but when it's midnight and you're still not at your hotel and you've been up since 5am, it seems like a really dumb idea. After some NOS energy drink we made it to the hotel (which didn't have a king size bed like it was supposed to, and midget pillows instead of normal ones).
We got up and decided to find out something to do around Woodstock where the hotel was. According to Google on our phones, the coolest sounding thing was Tanglewood Farm. The attraction of a petting zoo full of miniature animals was pretty high, so we made the trek out to Canton on the way to Helen. From tiny head butting goats,
that had an escape plan...
but we caught them...
to tiny but loud donkeys,
big oinkin' pigs,
and mini jersey cows,
we had a pretty fun time feeding them bread and getting assaulted in the process.
The place was really clean and cute, highly recommended if you're in the area.
After we left there we made our way to the campsite at Unicoi. Driving up into the mountains through the winding roads, crossing little streams and bigger rivers, it was really picturesque. When we arrived at the lodge to check in, we pretty much had the run of any of the campsites, as out of season there aren't many people there. We picked a good location, and set the tent up,
unpacked our stuff and used some of our great new camping gear, thanks Kasey!
then went to the trading post
to get stuff we forgot (matches, lighter, fire wood, paper towels, etc) before it got dark. At the trading post they advised us that the ranger was doing a free s'mores thing at the lodge that night, so once we ate we headed up there to check it out. There we met Smith, an Interpretive Ranger. I'm not sure what he interpreted, but he was our buddy for the weekend. We were the only people at s'mores (remember, out of season, nobody is at the park).
So our first night of camping wasn't too cold. We had two blankets on the bottom (Jemma had a foam roll on her side), then two Coleman sleeping bags zipped together, and then we had our own sleeping bags inside that. Probably overkill for 40F, but we were prepared for sure. That morning, Saturday we got up and figured we'd go to NOC, as I was under the impression it was only about 30 minutes away. Not only was it closer to 2 hours away, but it was closed for the season. Good thing Jemma figured that out before we went out there. So instead we went to Anna Ruby Falls, the highest falls east of the Mississippi!
They were really pretty on a cold February morning, it was just very serene. As serene as a waterfall can be I guess. Too bad we didn't have on our best hiking shoes,
but we still enjoyed the walk.
We got back and were excited to use the fire wood and camp fire for lunch to make some hot dogs which was pretty tasty.
We walked around the park's many miles of trails and took some pictures.
It seems like Unicoi would be awesome if you had a mountain bike, and we probably would have rented some if we were going to be there for more than a couple of days.
At that point we were definitely feeling a nap, so we slept for a couple hours. We got up and checked out the knick knack shop and didn't buy some of this stuff.
Jemma beat me at ping pong.
Since we were some of the only campers in the park, we figured we'd try to go to all of Smith's programs throughout the week. Saturday afternoon was Nature Bingo, which somehow Jemma won all three times.
We figured she was cheating, but she got some sweet prizes anyways. We grabbed dinner at the lodge and a beautiful sunset.
Then, that night we went to the Black Bear informational program. Did you know that Black Bears don't truly hibernate, they only sleep for a week and then come out and eat and hang out, then go back in for a week? Or that Black Bears in South Carolina commonly have a white blaze on their chest? Me neither. A few other people showed up halfway through, so it wasn't just Jemma, me and Smith.
Once we were done learning about Black Bears and eating the good grub at the lodge, we made it back to our campsite to discover some new neighbors. At the end of the row we were on, about 100 yards away, somebody had set up a camper sometime during the day. These are the people who set up the direct TV outside their camper so the don't miss the latest episode of Top Model or whatever other garbage is on TV these days. Unfortunately, they felt it was good to play loud music after 8pm when we arrived back at the campsite. "They'll stop by 11," I say, knowing that's kinda the universal quiet hour for camping. Nope. Try after 2am.
The inconsiderate neighbors, rocky ground under the tent, and few degrees colder weather made the prospect of camping another night not quite as appealing. We had talked about splitting the trip back to Gainesville into chunks by stopping by Atlanta, so we decided to cut the camping portion of the trip a day short and spend the night in Atlanta. I called my cousin who lives in Atlanta with his wife and we stopped by.
They invited us to stay with them, which we graciously accepted. We had a good time with them, playing guitar hero, eating some good pizza at a local restaurant,
and just hanging out. Monday morning we went to IKEA, which was a pretty cool store.
They have breakfast, for super cheap, how cool is that? The girl behind the counter was really, really rude to Jemma when she picked up a plate from the big stack at the front of the line, but otherwise it was a good experience. We saw some really neato ideas for decorating a house (if we had lots of money) and had a pretty good time making fun of ugly/weird stuff.
Then we went to REI, which is a cool outdoor store with all kinds of fun stuff.
After the fun day in Atlanta, we said our good byes to Clay and Elizabeth, grabbed some Starbucks, and got on I75 heading south. It was a fun mini-vacation, everything from campfires to IKEA, got to see some family, overall a good time
check out all of the photos here: www.davidandjemma.com/images/gallery/helenatl