Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

For the second year in a row we made a fall trip to River Vista Mountain Village in Dillard to explore the beautiful north Georgia mountains. Last year we explored Black Rock Mountain State Park, visited waterfalls in North Carolina and wandered around Tallulah Gorge State Park.

This year we had adventures in two new places. One day we went to the top of Brasstown Bald. Another day we drove an hour and a half to Blue Ridge, Georgia to take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

Our seats were in an open air car for the hour long ride beside the Toccoa River. The train departed the station right on time at 11:00.

As we traveled along at a whopping 10 mph we were able to enjoy the scenery and snap a few photos. A few trees were starting to show signs of autumn but we were too early for the brilliant oranges, reds and yellows that will come later in the season.

Our destination was McCaysville, GA/Copperhill, TN. There was plenty of time to explore the town before the scheduled 2:00 departure. It’s hard to tell which town is which since the state line runs right through the middle of town.

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GA/TN state line

As we wandered around the town we crossed back and forth between Georgia and Tennessee several times. The state line even runs through the middle of some buildings. “Dine on the Line” is the motto for the Copper Grill restaurant where we had lunch. Their address is Tennessee but the state line goes right through the restaurant.

It was nice to sit back and relax on the return trip to Blue Ridge. Before driving back to Dillard we walked across the street from the depot for some fried apple pies from the Mercier Orchard downtown restaurant and store. These pies have been featured on the Food Network and are melt in your mouth delicious!

What’s not to love? A scenic train ride, cool mountain air, beautiful scenery, fresh trout and catfish for lunch, going back and forth between two states just by walking through town, and delicious fried pies! A great day!

Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s Highest Point

Located in the northeast Georgia near Blairsville, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 feet.

Just getting there is quite an adventure. We drove west from Dillard on beautiful Georgia mountain roads. The last few miles we drove on narrow Georgia Spur 180 with sharp turns, switchbacks, and steep grades before arriving at the parking lot for Brasstown Bald.

The parking lot is located .6 miles below the top of Brasstown Bald. We could either hike up a steep trail or take a shuttle. We chose the shuttle.

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The observation deck as seen from the parking lot

After the shuttle dropped us off at the top we walked up a few steps to the observation deck where the views were spectacular in all directions. On a clear day visitors can see 4 states. It was cloudy that day but we were able to see three states – Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. We also toured the museum and watched a short film about the mountain.

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Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia
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The tower is closed to the public
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View from top of Brasstown Bald
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View from top of Brasstown Bald
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Wandering Dawgs at the top of Brasstown Bald

Florida Vacation without the RV

For the first time in many years we took a vacation without our RV. Instead, motels and a condo were our home for the week.

We decided to break up our trip to Orlando and spend a night near a beach to take a drive along A1A. Flagler Beach sounded like a perfect place. It’s a small beach town on the Atlantic Ocean that still has that old Florida feeling. Driving down A1A the Atlantic Ocean is on one side of the road and beach houses and locally owned restaurants are on the other. Heaven! After a walk on the fishing pier we ate fish sandwiches with an ocean view at the Funky Pelican next to the pier.

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Flagler Beach Fishing Pier

Our home for the rest of the week was a condo in a resort in Lake Buena Vista. We enjoyed the screened porch with a view of the fountain and pond.

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Our home for the week

We had the condo to ourselves for the first three nights. We celebrated my birthday at Bongo’s, a Cuban restaurant at Disney Springs.

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We started off with a mojito at the bar at Bongo’s
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Birthday Dinner at Bongo’s at Disney Springs

On Wednesday we picked up our two oldest grandchildren at the airport. After a long travel day they enjoyed a dip in one of the pools.

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Pool at the resort

Going to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter attractions was at the top of their wish list so the next morning we got up early to be at the park as soon as it opened.

Universal is made up of two separate theme parks with Harry Potter attractions in both parks. We purchased the park hopper tickets so we could ride the Hogwarts Express train between the parks. The train ride was fun and when we disembarked we were in The Islands of Adventure Park in Hogsmeade. We cooled off with a Butter Beer before riding any more rides.

The kids loved the two Harry Potter thrill rides. Henry liked the Escape from Gringotts. Our 14 year old grandson said the Forbidden Journey was his favorite. Our granddaughter liked them both. I’m not a fan of thrill rides. The train was more my style.

After our epic day at Universal we took it easy the next day. While it rained all afternoon we played some games and enjoyed hanging out with our grandkids.

One evening the kids enjoyed the pool while I enjoyed the evening sky.

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Sunset at the pool

On our last day we put on our bathing suits and went to Blizzard Beach, one of the Disney water parks. We were able to enjoy a few rides before the afternoon thunderstorm came through. Just as predicted, at 1:00 the lightening was so close they closed all the rides.

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The Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizard Beach is on the right where the flags are.

One thing that is almost guaranteed if you travel to Orlando in late June is the daily thunderstorms. The only day we didn’t get rained on was the day we went to Universal. How lucky was that?

What a great week making memories with our two oldest grandkids!

Mosley’s Wiregrass Junction

When was the last time you were driving down the interstate in the state of Georgia and saw a camel or a buffalo?

The first time we saw a buffalo from the interstate as we were traveling east on I-16 towards home we knew we were going to have to stop. Ever since then Moseley’s Wiregrass Junction has become a favorite stopping place when we are traveling along that route.

Usually we just watch the animals from the parking lot but the last time we were there we opted to pay the $2 per person fee to see them up close. We also bought a bag of animal food before going through the gate to see animals.

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Mosley’s Wiregrass Junction just off I-16 at exit 98
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Camel at the Animal Exit
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Tortoise
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Emu at the Animal Exit
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Black Swan
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Peacock
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Peacock Feathers
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The goats weren’t shy
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Feed Me!
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Goats waiting for a handout

Next time we may opt for an additional $8 to take a tour of the farm where their zebra, buffalo, cows, pigs and other animals live.

Mosley’s Wiregrass Junction Animal Exit Farm is located on Georgia Interstate 16 at exit 98 in Aline.

You can connect with them on their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/wiregrassjunction57

 

 

Historic Silver Springs

Tourists have been traveling to Silver Springs to see the crystal clear water since the early 1800’s. One of Florida’s first tourist attractions, the first glass bottom boat tours began in the late 1870’s. During the 1900’s the attraction grew to include a jungle cruise and animal exhibits.

Silver Springs was a popular filming location for Hollywood during the 1900’s. Some of the films shot there include several Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller, the 1954 version of Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Moonraker (a James Bond movie). It was also a location for the TV series Sea Hunt. Some of the sets still exist around the property.

In 1971, Silver Springs was named a National Natural Landmark. Today, Silver Springs State Park is owned and operated by the state of Florida. The state operates the famous glass bottom boats now but there are no more jungle cruises. Visitors can walk beside the springs or sit in one of the rocking chairs to enjoy the view. There are boardwalks and trails as well as a boat launch area with canoe and kayak rentals.

This is one of our favorite Florida state parks and we wanted to spend a few days there to unwind after the excitement of the Daytona 500. We were able to reserve our favorite campsite and I was glad to see it hadn’t change much. There was gopher tortoise hole right next to the campsite just like I remembered and the resident tortoise paid us a visit our first night.

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Gopher Tortoise by our campsite at Silver Springs State Park

One day we drove over to the main entrance of the park for a ride on one of the famous glass bottom boats. Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s and had lots of interesting stories about the park.

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Entering Florida’s Silver Springs park
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Glass bottom boat at Silver Springs
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Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s

After the boat tour we wandered around the path next to the springs before taking a walk on the boardwalk trail.

Another day we rented a kayak for a beautiful paddle on the Silver River.

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Kayaking the Silver River at Silver Springs
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Although there are no more jungle cruises, this fort built for the attraction is still standing
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Quiet and peaceful along the Silver River

I felt like I was in one of the old Tarzan movies as I walked along the river trail near the campground.

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Back in the 1930s during the day of the Jungle Cruise boat ride, the operator of the ride brought in a group of wild rhesus monkeys to use as part of the attraction. Not knowing they could swim, he left them on one of the islands beside the Silver River. When he later returned to the island he was surprised to see they were gone. The monkeys are still living in the area and are often seen by visitors.

Although we didn’t see any of the monkeys on this visit, we saw many of them when we kayaked down the Silver River in 2009.

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Wild Rhesus Monkey along the Silver River in 2009
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We spotted this baby Rhesus Monkey beside the river in 2009. He must be all grown up now.

The monkeys can be very aggressive at times. All around the park are signs warning about the danger of feeding the monkeys. Now where else in the United States would you see a sign like this?

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Monkeys in Florida?