Helen, Georgia and Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park

We stayed at the River Bend Hotel in Helen, Georgia; a tourist trap located in White County.  All the buildings are mandated to look like Bavarian village houses.  Few, if any, German immigrants settled here.  Instead, the whole town was dreamed up as a gimmick by Pete Hodkinnson in 1969 because he happened to like the look of rural German architecture.  I got bored with Helen after about an hour.  I did find a store specializing in exotic jerky.  They sell beef, buffalo, goat, elk, venison, kangaroo, marlin, tuna, salmon, and python jerky.  They also sell smoked rattlesnake in a small can for $20.  I bought a package of elk jerky.

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We stayed at the Riverbend Hotel.  This is the view of the Chattahoochee River from our hotel room.  The poor manager looked overworked.  I asked if he was hiring.  He admitted he was doing the jobs of 8 people.  Only a few hundred people live in Helen.  It’s hard to find people willing to drive from out of town to work for minimum wage and tips.

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This was the only bad thing about our hotel…the slick steep wheelchair ramp.  I dreaded pushing my wife up and down it every time.  I had to take my shoes off for traction.

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This hemlock tree has had the top removed but all of the other hemlock trees in Helen and Unicoi State Park look healthy.

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View up the Chattahoochee River from Helen.  It’s a good trout stream.

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We ate supper at the Old Bavaria Inn.  Overpriced and no better than my own cooking.

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George Costanza wasn’t joking.  There really is a jerk store.

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The whole town is mandated to look like a Bavarian village.  What a gimmicky tourist trap.

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Daphne and I went tubing down the river.  We saw a common water snake.

I was more interested in the nature in and around Helen than the faux German façade.  My daughter and I floated on tubes down the stretch of the Chattahoochee River that flows through town.  We spotted a common water snake.  I thought fish density was low in this part of the river–I looked through the clear water for fish and saw just a few darters.  But 1 morning I saw some serious trout fishermen with a string of 24 small brook trout.  I told them I didn’t think there were any fish in the river because I didn’t see any. The older fisherman said, “you can’t see them, but they could catch their limit of 8 in an hour or two.”

The most common birds in town were chimney swifts, robins, catbirds, and city pigeons.  The chimney swifts nest under bridges and hunt mosquitoes and flies.  I saw 6 chimney swifts mobbing a crow–behavior I’d never seen before.  On the way to Helen I saw a kingbird chasing an hawk at great speed, and the hawk turned in the air and tried to catch the kingbird to no avail.  Turkeys were visible in the fields and woods north and south of Helen.  Common trees along the Chattahoochee River here include silver maple, sycamore, sweetgum, hemlock, black walnut, river birch, tulip, and cottonwood.

The Old Bavaria Inn serves $21 entrees and $10 sandwiches, and of course, beer ranging in price from $3-$15 a glass.  I ate an 1/2 reuben sandwich with a cup of goulash.  It was the best reuben I’d ever had because the sourkraut was seasoned with bacon.  Their goulash was good but not as good as mine–I prefer more paprika and less salt.  The Rib Country Restaurant serves baby back ribs, pulled pork, and grilled hamburgers; all for $10 or less.  Their ribs are excellent, and their potato chips are made from scratch.  At the Bohemian Bakery and Café I had a delicious bratwurst wrapped in a flaky pastry, like pigs-in-a-blanket.  The side was even better–cooked red cabbage dressed in a creamy horseradish sauce.  Good luck trying to find a restaurant in Helen that serves fresh vegetables and fruit.  Just about all of them throw potato chips on the plate and offer no vegetables aside from slaw.

We visited Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park located about 15 minutes north of Helen.  The trail to the falls is a .4 mile hike up a paved but steep trail through a beautiful shady forest of tulip, hemlock, mountain chestnut oak,  hickory, maple, and mountain laurel.  The hemlock trees here appear to be healthy.  These are impressive falls.  I thought the forest around the falls was virgin because of the rugged terrain, but apparently after the Civil War some men  cut the original forest down.  They went broke–those despoilers of nature sent the felled timber down the rapid stream, and the wood was smashed to smithereens against the rocks.  Served them right for ruining such a gorgeous spot.  The forest now must be  over 120 years old.  At the beginning of the trail tourists can feed the trout congregating in a rocky pool.  I did see a few small ones, maybe 6-8 inches long.

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This chestnut tree in Unicoi State Park shows evidence of blight damage but the specimen next to it is twice as tall and still healthy.

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The bottom of Anna Ruby Falls.  It was nice and cool here in the shade by running water.

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The top of Anna Ruby Falls.

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The other side of Anna Ruby Falls.  The falls are bisected by dry rock covered by vegetation.

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Mountain laurel.

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Rock shelter.  Signs warn of rattlesnakes and copperheads but I didn’t see any snakes here.

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Great clouds of pretty blue butterflies fluttered throughout the trail to the falls.  Here are some drinking from a mud puddle.  They look white in the photo. I think this species is known as the spring azure (Celastrina ladon).

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Lake Smith in Unicoi State Park.  We picnicked and swam here.  I was on the look out for hot chicks in bikinis but kept seeing fat people instead.

We picnicked at Smith Lake.  It’s manmade and full of bass, bream, and obese Homo sapiens.  The water is clear enough to see the fish.

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2 Responses to “Helen, Georgia and Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park”

  1. Wanda McGuire Says:

    While a lot of what you said about Helen, GA being full of over-priced restaurants and “phony” facades, you really should spend enough time in the area to get to know the hard-working, kind hearted people who live in the area. I was a resident of the area for 10 years and though I was not a native, it didn’t take long for those who were, to accept my family warmly. Being of German descent, I was welcomed into the German community there, invited to experience cultural dishes and traditions, etc. Helen is much more than just a tourist trap, it is a warm, friendly village where you can experience a multitude of cultures, soak in a clean river and enjoy gorgeous mountain vistas. Next time, rent a cabin and stay a week and experience the REAL Helen, GA.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    I didn’t say anything negative about the people who live there. I stayed there 3 days and that was long enough. I doubt I’d meet many people who actually live there, even if I stayed in a cabin for a week. 95% of the people there are tourists.

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