Vacation 2021–Dahlonega, Georgia

We chose a close destination for this year’s vacation–Dahlonega, Georgia located in the north central part of the state. My wife and I don’t like to travel and it was just a 3 hour drive. My daughter and I looked forward to nearby hiking trails, and I hoped to find some local wines to bring home with me.

Woody Gap Trail

Woody Gap Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail system. It hasn’t been logged for over a century and is in the process of becoming an old growth forest. Oaks were the most common kind of tree. I was surprised at how common black oaks were because I never thought of that species as a tree that occurs on mountains, but I was not surprised to see the rock chestnut, northern red, and white oaks. Tulip, maple, hickory, and elm were also abundant. Some of the tulip trees were quite large with diameters over 3 feet thick. In virgin forests they can get even get bigger, and I’m sure some of these will eventually grow to be enormous, unless a storm knocks them down. Ferns and tree saplings covered the forest floor. It wasn’t a good time of year to see wildlife. By midmorning, it was already so sultry, the animals were inactive and resting under cover. I saw a gray squirrel, a robin, and a crow, and I heard a bird call I didn’t recognize. It was from a species that doesn’t live in my neighborhood. I searched the internet for calls of bird species that live in deep forests such as wood thrush, white breasted nuthatch, and warblers, but none of their calls matched what I heard, so I suppose it will be a mystery bird. While we were walking on the trail, an 8 year old girl who was hiking with her family loudly imitated the sound of a monkey for 20 minutes non stop. We didn’t have to worry about stumbling upon a mother bear and her cubs. The air smelled good, except for a small area of the trail where a skunk must have passed earlier that morning.

The forest floor alongside Woody Gap Trail is covered in ferns and saplings.
Some of the tulip trees here get quite big–the trunks are over 3 feet in diameter.
Preacher’s Rock. Looks like it would make a good bear’s den, if it wasn’t next to the trail.

The Dahlonega Gold Belt

Dahlonega is located in an interesting geological region known as the Dahlonega gold belt. 500 million years ago, this area of the globe consisted of volcanic islands. Hot magma flowing into deep ocean dissolved gold from the sea water. The gold became concentrated in cracks of quartzite rock that resulted from faulting. Gold is a basic element that doesn’t erode and can be found among rocks that do erode. The discovery of gold here during 1829 caused a gold rush and further contributed to the desire among Europeans to remove Native Americans from the region. Crisson is an active gold mine in Dahlonega where people can pay to pan for gold. This sounded tedious to me, but I did find some interesting artifacts in their gift shop. They sell Jasper arrowheads. Native Americans made this type of arrowhead during the Archaic Age which lasted from about 6000 years BP to 1500 years BP. If I did pan for gold, I’d be more interested in fossils and human-made artifacts.

Jasper arrowheads. They are of Archaic Indian Age. They sell these for $1.50 at the Crisson Gold Mine.

Vineyards and Mead

There are 15 vineyards in the Dahlonega region. Grapes thrive here because of the climate and the sloping hilly land. Most of the vineyards have wineries where people can pay to taste wine, pretend they like it, and buy bottles. The wineries are only open for a few hours, a few days a week, and none were open at a convenient time for us. We did find a place that makes and sells its own mead. Mead is wine made by fermenting honey. My late great-grandfather was a beekeeper who made his living by turning his honey into mead. He would drive to bars in his horse and buggy and sell his mead. He was also a famous poet in Europe, and the Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire invited him to recite his poetry. After the Nazis invaded Poland during World War II, they arrested him and his wife for being Jewish and he died in a concentration camp.

I bought mead at a meadery in Dahlonega. There are also 15 vineyards in the area, but their winerys are open just a few hours a day, just a few days a week.

The Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Forsythe County, Georgia

On the way home we stopped by the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, an area protected by Forsythe County, a suburb of Atlanta. We walked on the Fairy Tale Trail. Girl Scouts decorate the trail with little wooden houses where fairies can live. I was more impressed with the trees. White oak, swamp chestnut oak, southern red oak, hickory, and tulip were the most common trees I noticed. There were a few shortleaf pine but not many. This tract is also in the process of becoming an old growth forest. I heard cicadas and a tree frog, but again it is just not the right time of year for wildlife watching. They did have gold fish and red-eared sliders in a manmade pool.

Aerial photograph of the view from Sawnee Mountain in Forsythe County, Georgia in 1924 (top) and today. There was more agricultural land 100 years ago, but today there are more houses and trees.
3-pronged southern red oak at Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
Grapevines and saplings cover the forest floor alongside the Fairy Tale Trail in Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
There are a multitude of impressive white oaks in the Sawnee Mountain Preserve.

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