This is the first post in a three-part series on travel destinations in Georgia.
One of the most popular topics we receive comments and questions about here at ABG is travel destinations. Whether it's a day hike or one of our longer road trips, readers seem curious about the locations we choose. The driving force behind our family trips is education. We are all readers and love the occasional lecture on an interesting topic, but we are true believers in experiential learning. A location can often tell a story better than a book or a lecture. So, we go, and immerse ourselves in the narrative. Whether it's natural, historic, cultural or some combination of the three, these sites tell the story.
Georgia has an excellent state park system. Here are five of the many locations in that system that tell the story of Georgia.
1. New Echota State Historic Site near Calhoun is the site of the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 until the removal via "The Trail of Tears". The site gives a unique look into Cherokee life including small farms, the print shop of the Cherokee language newspaper, the buildings of the three-branch government, and a roadside tavern. The influence of Moravian missionaries can also be seen in Samuel Worcester's home.
This park provides a good look at "Georgia before Georgia". Visitors see the lives, the cultures, and the very civilization of the people that inhabited North Georgia prior to the Indian removal. You can see the influence of faith, complex society, and agrarianism, all here before the Americans called this part of Georgia home.
Our favorite New Echota event would be the candlelight tours at Christmastime. Living historians bring the Cherokee and Moravian traditions alive in sight and sound. Preservation and restoration issues forced the cancellation of the tours this past year, but we hope for their return this Christmas. Find more about New Echota's offerings on the web at: http://gastateparks.org/NewEchota
2. Let's go back in time about a century or so.
Wormsloe State Historic Site is located just outside Savannah. In the 1730's James Oglethorpe secured the charter for the colony and led the first settlers from Great Britain to Georgia. And there is no doubt that Oglethorpe is the father of Georgia. But without the work of Noble Jones, it's possible that Georgia would not survive today.
Noble Jones surveyed the streets of Savannah and Augusta. He was an early civic and business leader. He was also one of the few original Georgia colonists to remain after the death or departure of so many others. He made his home on what is now the Isle of Hope and he named it Wormsloe. And now, almost 300 years later, his descendants still call the estate home. While his tabby home is in ruins, a family home on the grounds makes Wormsloe the oldest consecutively held privately owned home in Georgia.
Although the private home is understandably off limits, there is an excellent visitor center, several locations for living history interpretation, incredible views of coastal Georgia marshlands from a Native American shell midden that likely dates back several centuries, and, of course, the tabby ruins of Noble Jones' fortified colonial home.
The site has ties to colonial, revolutionary, and Civil War history. They have excellent living historians and the Colonial Faire & Muster is scheduled for February 6-8. Find Wormsloe on the web: http://gastateparks.org/Wormsloe
3. During the colonial era, The British Government saw the need to defend the fledgling colony from the Spanish in Florida, so several military installations were built. Fort King George was built in 1721 and is the oldest British fort remaining on the Georgia coast. The site is just outside present day Darien. For the purposes of public tours, the old plans for the fort were used to reconstruct an exact replica of the the blockhouse fort. The feel is very different from many of the historic sites in Georgia. This is truly a colonial experience.
Our favorite Ft. King George event is July's Cannons over the Marsh. We ate watermelon and sipped lemonade with His Royal Majesty's Invalid Brigade and mingled with colonists. We even had detailed instruction by the fort's physician who told us about the surprisingly advanced medical care available to British soldiers. Oh, and one of King George's officers gave us a public reading of a portion of the Declaration of Independence while the Union Jack fluttered over our heads. Find the fort here: http://gastateparks.org/FortKingGeorge
4. Franklin Roosevelt was not from Georgia. He might not be high on the list of people you associate with Georgia history, but he had a vacation home in Warm Springs, a site he used for therapy for his disability.
While his politics won't always find accolades on this site, his experiences in Georgia did give him a connection with the farmers of the area. He seems to have developed a true compassion for the folks that broke the soil for a living. His connection with the common people of Warm Springs, his enduring legacy with the Warm Springs Foundation and the people who came to seek the same therapy that brought him to Georgia, not to mention his legendary picnics atop Dowdell's Knob, give him a permanent place in Georgia lore.
Today you can visit The Little White House, where FDR died in 1945. The home is left just as it was on the President's last visit. They haven't even changed the toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms. Just down the street, you can also tour the pools where so many people alleviated their symptoms from polio and similar illnesses. And just a short drive from there will have you in awe of the magnificent view from Dowdell's Knob, at Roosevelt State Park, where FDR's preserved grill and a bronze likeness of the President stand in his memory. The park boasts swimming, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. You can find the Little White House online here: http://gastateparks.org/LittleWhiteHouse and FDR State Park here: http://gastateparks.org/FDRoosevelt
5. We'll finish this list in the far northeast corner of Georgia with a two-for-one listing. Due to proximity and their equal status in my mind, these two sites should be visited on the same trip.
North of Clayton is the highest of Georgia's state parks. Standing at 3,650 feet, Black Rock Mountain State Park offers camping, cottages, fishing, 80 miles of hiking trails and some of the most breathtaking views in Georgia. The views from the overlooks alone would be worth the trip and the altitude usually means cooler temperatures than you would find at other state parks. As hiking is one of our favorite family activities, this park has a secure place among our favorite sites. We especially recommend the Tennessee Rock Trail.
Just a short drive from Georgia's highest park you'll find the deepest. Tallulah Gorge State Park protects the 2-mile long, 1000 feet deep canyon, one of the best east of the Mississippi. The park offers all the amenities of a state park. The Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center gives visitors the feeling of descending into the canyon while learning about the wild life they will encounter during their true descent. 100 permit holders per day will be allowed to walk on the actual canyon floor, while all hikers can descend to the suspension bridge which stretches across the creek some 80 feet from the water below. You'll also have time to learn about the once booming resort town of Tallulah Falls, which is still there and still nice to visit.
You can find Black Rock Mountain online at: http://gastateparks.org/BlackRockMountain And Tallulah Gorge at: http://gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge
This article is not by the curator. No, this entry is from our new managing editor who also happens to be my wife. She is a fantastic cook. I didn't get this physique from suffering through poorly prepared meals, that's for sure. She's sharing what she does with what Sherman left behind. Oh, and you'll see her mention potlikker. For any foreigners, scalawags, or reconstructed Southerners, potlikker is the fantastic and incredibly healthy liquid that remains in the bottom of the pot after the greens are done. Click on her use of the word to get further info from a regional authority on the subject. Enjoy.
All Southern ladies know that there are just certain things one must learn to do and do well. And most of those involve the kitchen. Since I was a young girl I always knew that I'd be making biscuits, dressing (not stuffing), and of course the New Year's Day meal of black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread. This "triad" as it is often called in Southern circles is more like a holy trinity in my neck of the woods. My husband never asks if I'm going to fix this meal, he just expects it. Now, don't think he does this in a degrading or inappropriate manner. He doesn't. He is about the most gentlemanly man I know...but I digress.
My sweet husband asked me to share my recipes here with all of you. I consider that high praise indeed for my humble offerings in our kitchen. So, if you are inclined to read on, you will find recipes for our entire New Year's Day meal and the sources of those recipes.
Black-eyed Peas & Hog Jowl (yes, hog jowl)
The source of this recipe is none other than the "Bible" of Southern cooking in our state, The Taste of Georgia Cookbook. My copy has been passed down through two generations and is well-worn, stained, and missing front and back covers. That makes it about the best cookbook ever. And underneath the title of the recipe, it says, "A New Year's Day MUST!"
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 pound of hog jowl, or streak o'lean boiling meat
Soak peas overnight; drain and sort. Slice jowl or boiling meat to the skin, leaving it in one piece, but allowing slices to season well. Put into water and bring to boil. Add peas. Return to a boil; simmer for about 1-1.5 hours or until peas are tender. Add more water if necessary. Yields 4 servings.
Southern-Style Collard Greens
The source of this recipe is memory. I have no recipe written down or in a recipe book that I can find. This is just something I've witnessed my Georgian mother (and Georgian grandmother before her) make every year of my life.
1-2 large bunches/bundles of collard greens (or turnip greens / or mustard greens)
1 large boiling pot
1 large tablespoon of bacon drippings (or 1 ham bone)
32 oz. carton of chicken stock (or homemade stock if you've got it)
onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar to taste (sorry, no measurements)
Wash and drain greens VERY well to remove any silt or dirt. Roughly chop the greens and place in a large boiling pot with bacon drippings, stock, and seasonings. Add water until pot is 2/3s full and bring to a hard, rolling boil. Boil for about 20 minutes and then reduce to a slow boil for 2 hours. Add water or stock as needed. A splash of apple cider vinegar or green hot pepper sauce is appropriate at the finish. And don't forget to save a few uncooked collard leaves to tack to your ceiling or hang over your front door to ward off evil spirits!
The source of this recipe is The Taste of Georgia Cookbook. I rarely use the recipe because as most Southern cooks, I have memorized and somewhat altered the recipe over time. I wanted to provide the accurate/original here, but I will share my secrets at the end.
1.5 cups corn meal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons bacon drippings (or shortening), melted
Sift together dry ingredients; add buttermilk, egg, and drippings, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into a greased, hot 10-inch oven-proof skillet. Bake in preheated hot oven of 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with butter. Yields 10-12 servings.
Now for my secrets: I always place my bacon drippings in my cast iron skillet and melt in the oven while it is preheating and I'm mixing all the other ingredients. Then, I pour the melted bacon drippings right into the batter and stir quickly before returning to the hot skillet. This process greases the pan, completes the batter, and seasons my skillet all in one step. I also agree with the original recipe that cornbread should be served warm, but not with butter....on New Year's Day you use it to sop up all your potlikker from the greens!
So there you have it. I'm serving the holy trinity with a brown-sugar baked ham this year and I've just pulled a Jefferson Davis pie out of the oven that I will serve with a Bourbon Whipped Cream for dessert. Won't my husband be beside himself?! I'm pretty excited too. Happy New Year!
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire