We were excited to be heading to our next destination, Unicoi State Park just outside the Bavarian town of Helen; GA. It was a quick one hour drive from Amacalola Falls State Park, however, we encountered quite a bit of traffic coming into Helen. On the edge of Helen, I noticed an old building called Nora Mill Granary and was intrigued. Since we were at a crawl anyway, we decided to make a stop to check it out.
Nora Mill Granary has been grinding corn and wheat since 1876 with the original 1,500 pound French Burr Stones that are located in the store. Walking in was a walk into the past. Here, you can purchase all kinds of corn and wheat based products such as grits, cornmeal, pancake & waffle mixes, flours, biscuit & bread mixes, pioneer’s porridge, and the like. There are even samples to try!
Tip: Nora Mill Granary has an online store! Click here to check out their selection.
Next door to Nora Mill was JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters. As soon as you walk in you can smell the aroma of coffee beans. It smelled like heaven! Tasting stations are everywhere so you can find your perfect brew. After tasting a few, I decided to take home a bag of German Chocolate Cake flavor coffee. Absolutely delicious and no artificial flavor!
Tip: JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters offers coffee beans, ground coffee, loose leaf/sachet luxury teas and gourmet hot chocolate. Click here to visit their online store!
Finally, we arrived at Unicoi State Park and we got all registered. We made our way to the Laurel Ridge Spur to Site 44. We were delighted that we had been assigned a buddy site so we had a lot of room to spread out.
Tip: Traveling with family or friends? See if the campground you are visiting offers Buddy Hook-up Sites which accommodate more than one RV.
Once we had our campsite set up and the truck unhooked, we headed back into Helen to find lunch. After a Yelp search, we opted to try Bodensee, a German restaurant located in the center of town. As soon as we walked in, we were warmly welcomed and shown to a table.
Drake and Mia were a little overwhelmed with the lunch choices as it was their first time trying German food (except the Bratwurst that we cook for Oktoberfest). I was proud when they selected Pork Schnitzel (breaded pork loin) and Spaetzle (German mac-n-cheese) over the fish stick and chicken tender options. I also had the Pork Schnitzel and Troy opted to try the Garlic Wurst (sausage). All meals were delicious! With our bellies full, we were ready to take a stroll around quaint Helen.
Tip: Bodensee offers lunch and kid menus. Don’t forget to ask about their secret menu item; a giant German pretzel served with mustard. It looked delicious!
Helen is quite a treat to visit. Charming German buildings lend the feeling of being in Europe. The highlight of the town is the Chattahoochee River, which winds through the center of town. Rafting is the most popular activity on a hot summer day and the river was teeming with people enjoying themselves. Drake and Mia really wanted to try it, however, it was late in the day and crowded so we added rafting to our “To Do” list the next time we are in Helen.
When we returned to camp, a gentleman came by with a flyer letting us know about a free concert in the park amphitheater. It was a beautiful night so we made the family decision to go check it out. It was a 5-minute walk from our campsite to the amphitheater and we were surprised to see the Visitor Center and communal fire pit. We heard a rumor there would be s’mores for purchase after the show.
We made our way along a tiki-torch lit path to the amphitheater right when the show was about to start. The performers were a family group called The Band of Kelleys, rising stars in the in the world of Bluegrass. The performers, all siblings, ranged in age from 24 to 11. They were amazingly talented for their tender ages and had some really good original music. Mia was particularly mesmerized by Bethany, the 17-year-old fiddle player. Bethany has won multiple awards for her fiddle playing including second place in the Georgia State Fiddle Championship.
Click Here to view a clip from The Band of Kelleys performance!
Click Here to view Bethany’s fiddle solo
A new day broke and the weather was outstanding. Troy and I enjoyed some time outdoors hanging out and watched our kids ride scooters up and down the street. It was delightful to just enjoy the morning without an agenda. I think secretly we were all just patiently waiting for our zip-lining appointment time to arrive. Around noon, clouds started building up and I was a little worried that our zip-lining adventure would be cancelled. Thank goodness there wasn’t any thunder – we were a go!
Our group was first taken to the equipment hut where we received easy to understand instructions and got suited up. This was when I started to get a little nervous. I was talking up the calm game, but could I go through with it? Time would tell.
The kids’ excitement was at a fever-pitch as we mounted the stairs to the first zip-line. Troy stepped up and said he would go first so he could catch all of our maiden voyages on video. Next up was me! As I stepped up to the platform, I looked down. Ugh, why did I do that? The kids were chanting behind me so there was nothing I could do except just go for it. What a rush!
Click Here to see my zip-lining debut!
There are no words to describe the rush of flying through the air! Each of the 11 zip-lines were incredible, especially the longest zip-line. If was the only one that I was comfortable with looking around!
The other cool part of this experience is that there are seven suspension bridges throughout the course. These too gave my heart a little start. Nothing like walking on a single rope suspended high up in the air! Thank goodness for being hooked in! I did stumble once and it was good to know I wouldn’t fall.
That leads me to safety. These folks are not only personable, but know their stuff. Safety always comes first and the checks and balances they use with each persons’ lines made me feel incredibly safe. Honestly, the staff made the experience what it was!
Before you go: Participants must be at least 8 years old and a minimum of 50 lbs for the Level 1 tour only. Other tours, participants must be 10 years old and weigh at least 90 lbs. The maximum weights allowed are ladies: under 250 lbs and gentlemen: under 285 lbs. All participants must be able to climb two 65-foot towers and a 100-foot tower. You need to have good balance capabilities, be able to walk on uneven terrain, and have full range of motion in your upper and lower extremities. Click here to learn more about Unicoi Aerial Adventure Park.
Too soon, we were back on the ground and ready for our next Unicoi adventure, 3-D Archery!
We were met by our aptly named guide, Bo and he drove us from the lodge to the archery range. Each of us were provided a compound bow and target arrows based on our strength and arm length. After some safety messages and instruction, we got started!
The kids and Troy have done archery many times and really enjoyed shooting at paper and animal-shaped targets (those that were standing after a real bear had come through and took a few bites out of them). I shot for a while, then was content to sit back and watch the family. It was a wonderful moment to reflect on how much I love watching my kids’ world grow each time we try a new activity or adventure.
Before we left, Bo offered up a challenge. He placed a plastic cup filled with water on one of the furthest hay bales. He said is anyone could knock it over, he would give them a candy bar. That was incentive enough for Drake and Mia to let their arrows fly! There were several close ones, however, no hits. Bo mentioned that no one had ever hit that cup and that got Troy fired up. Yep! He hit it alright. It was the perfect end to our archery adventure.
Before you go: Children under six years old are not permitted. Children 6-14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All participants must be able to pull back a bow string set for 40 lbs.
Wow! Our family had quite a busy and extremely fun afternoon! It felt so good to get back to camp and put our feet up for a while before having to prepare dinner. It ended up being an early evening as we were all bushed.
Another beautiful day in Helen, Georgia greeted us. After breakfast, the kids put on their swimsuits and we set off for a lovely walk on the Unicoi Beach trail. This peaceful trail meanders through forest hugging the edge of the lake. Birds and squirrels provided us with pleasant nature sounds as we walked along.
Soon, we had arrived at Unicoi Beach, a protected (and shallow) swath of water for some cooling off. Troy and I were content to sit in the shade for a while and have some time to ourselves while the kids were off making friends.
Tip: Unicoi State Park offers stand-up paddle-board instruction, kayak rentals, and fishing instruction. Our time at Unicoi was coming to a close so water activity rentals were added to the “Next Time” list.
We continued our walk around the lake, across the dam and back to camp. While walking I saw interesting rental cabins perched on the hillside overlooking the lake and I had to see inside. When we returned to our campsite, I jumped in the truck and went to inquire at the Lodge. They were happy to let me take a look inside and they were awesome! Well designed, spacious and with all the amenities of home. I especially liked the fireplace which would be welcome in the cool evenings of spring, fall and winter!
We finished out our last evening at Unicoi with a fire and marshmallow toasting. Unicoi State Park proved to truly be a one-stop vacation destination. We were so grateful that we had three days to really enjoy many of the activities offered with more to try on our next visit!
Click Here to see Drake and Mia’s Twins View on our time at Unicoi State Park!
Next up: Greenville, SC