Blue Ridge: North Georgia's 'Mayberry on steroids'

Blue Ridge: North Georgia's 'Mayberry on steroids'

September 18th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Glimpse 2011

Tim Griffin, operations manager of the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, exits the engine after returning from its four-hour round trip to Copper Hill, Tenn., and McCaysville, Ga. from Blue Ridge, Ga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

From crisp apple pies to even crisper Appalachian autumns, Blue Ridge, Ga., is an outdoor enthusiast's treasure trove nestled in the heart of the picturesque mountains of Northeast Georgia.

"People come here for the full mountain experience," said Jan Hackett, president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center. "It's a great place to live, if you love the outdoors. There is no -- zero -- traffic. I live in the woods on a dirt road 16 miles from my office, and it's a gorgeous drive."

In addition to those attracted to outdoor fun, a burgeoning downtown scene has helped sweeten the pot for other visitors as well. Increasing numbers of art galleries and eateries have sprung up to cater to the many "second home" residents who rent mountain homes and cabins to visitors, Hackett said.

"We have a mixed population of people who have lived there their whole lives and people like me who come here and proselytize because they love it," she said while laughing. "We call it 'Mayberry on steroids.'"

AT A GLANCE

• Best things to do: Hike in the southern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains. Ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway from downtown along the Toccoa River to McCaysville, Ga., on the border with Tennessee. Visit Ocoee Whitewater Center, the site of slalom, canoeing and kayaking events at the 1996 Olympics. Purchase apple-based eats and drinks at Mercier Orchards.

• Biggest employers: The school system, Fannin Regional Hospital, Home Depot and local government.

• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 81.

• Landmarks or geographic features: Lake Blue Ridge, Toccoa River and Chattahoochee National Forest. Within easy driving distance of Mount Springer, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

• Date founded: 1887.

• Historic info: Blue Ridge is the seat of Fannin County, an area originally under the control of the Cherokee Indians. The earliest white settlers arrived around 1790. Mining and agriculture, especially cotton, were mainstays of the county's economy until the early 20th century. Blue Ridge was founded as a railroad town.

• Most-famous residents: Country singer Mark Wills and Kirk Kirkpatrick, CEO of wireless telecom MDS America Inc.

• Unique traditions: Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race every April features 100 teams of bikers, runners and kayakers navigating a treacherous course from a secret location through Chattahoochee National Forest to downtown.

• Unique characteristics: The Swan Drive-In Theatre is one of three drive-in theaters still operating in Georgia.