It was another glorious morning to be out exploring Northern Georgia. Today, we headed ½ hour west of Amicalola Falls State Park to historic Dahlonega; site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush. We couldn’t wait to learn more about it so we headed directly to the highly-rated Consolidated Gold Mine for a tour.
After purchasing tour tickets, we watched a brief introductory film on the history of the mine. Armed with this information, we followed our tour guide into the mine itself by descending metal stairs into the gloom. Once inside, there were sounds of water dripping and odd echoes. As we followed our guide through the tunnels, we learned that miners would search for quartz veins. By blasting along the veins, miners hoped to uncover gold deep inside. It was interesting to see that quartz veins are still visible today in the walls of the mine.
We also learned about the difficult and dangerous life of the miners. There was a brief demonstration of a mining drill that Drake was chosen to operate. It was so incredibly loud it made my teeth hurt! It’s truly hard to imagine working long days in these dark, wet conditions with the deafening noise of equipment and blasting dynamite.
Click Here to watch Drake demonstrate the power of the mining drill.
Once our group was back above ground, each tour participant was given a tray of sand to try gold panning. After a brief introduction to the best technique to get a “good pan,” we swished, swirled, and dipped our pans until only a little sediment remained and there were the gold flakes! These flakes were extracted by the staff and placed in little souvenir bottles to take home. Mia’s pan netted four gold flakes; the best of all of us!
Click Here to see Mia’s gold-panning demonstration.
We had one more activity to try; gem mining! We had seen places throughout our trip offering this thrilling activity and couldn’t wait to get started. We purchased the $30 Gem Cutter’s Special bucket (Consolidated offers buckets starting at $15 and up to $1,000) and found a place along the water-powered flumes. Troy and I scooped the sand into the trays while Drake and Mia swirled the sand away to reveal our bounty. We were surprised to see so many rough stones/gems!
Click Here to watch Drake & Mia demonstrating gem mining.
After we had exhausted our bucket, we made our way to the Lapidary Studio where we had a free consultation with a gem expert. We learned that we had garnets, quartz, amethyst, emeralds and garnets! The most valuable stone of all was a rather large emerald that could be made into a piece of jewelry. We opted not to move forward with getting a piece of jewelry made and I am still kicking myself for not just doing it.
We had worked up quite an appetite so we searched Yelp and found that Pueblo’s Mexican Cuisine was within a few blocks from Consolidated Gold Mine. We were seated promptly and were happy to see that lunch specials were offered. Troy and I indulged and ordered one of their famous margaritas. It was delicious with the right balance of sweet, tart and tequila. Everyone enjoyed their lunches; especially me with my scrumptious beef fajitas. Since we were all feeling rather full, we agreed a nice walk around the historic town square sounded perfect.
Downtown Dahlonega is listed on the Historic Register and is very quaint. The centerpiece is the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site which is housed inside the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse. Although the kids voted to skip the Gold Museum this time, I have added it to our “To Visit” list.
Personally, I was most excited to have some unique shops to browse and ended up finding a few different items to purchase for myself and as gifts. Before heading out, we made a quick stop at Connie’s Ice Cream Parlor. Not only do they offer 24 flavors of ice cream, but they also had coconut cake – Drake and my favorite!
On the drive back to our campsite at Amicalola Falls, I asked Troy to stop at a roadside farm stand called Nature’s Creek to pick up a few items. As soon as we exited the truck, we were warmly greeted by owner, Susan Meier.
I was eyeing the watermelons but knew that even sliced, it would never fit in our small trailer refrigerator. Susan surprised me with an option of purchasing a quarter watermelon. Now that would fit! So thankful I bought some as it was super sweet and crisp; seriously, the best watermelon I have had in years! I also purchased a basket of sweet Georgia peaches which made great snacks and ended up in some salads. Before we left, Susan asked us to sample her boiled peanuts. I had tried this Southern delicacy before in Charleston and never really liked them, however, she was determined to change my mind and boiled up a fresh batch in her kettle. She was right! I actually enjoyed her version. Delicious!
We arrived back in camp early enough for some outdoor play, book reading and relaxing before dinner. We will pack up in the morning to head to our next North Georgia destination: Unicoi State Park outside of the Bavarian town of Helen.