Alpine Helen, Georgia

Mountain Retreat

This has been a tough year on everyone, but not equally tough. When we first got fitted with a tailored lockdown, several people were saying, “Looking for ideas on how to pass all this extra time you’ll have? Here’s a list of books, studies, and movies.” Nice thoughts, but the people in my party were wondering where they could get some of this extra time.

Our days had only gotten more intense. Our work had been growing more earnest, maybe more hectic, since February, I think. Everyone began working from home March 20, and until early May everyday felt like a crossway. Would we continue this direction or turn?

Even after the intensity lessened, I worried we couldn’t take a vacation, because taking time off could be a problem, and if we did, would the right things be open? But I got approval for time off, and the kids were also feeling the stress of their work and school responsibilities, so we rented a cabin on the edge of Helen in the Northeast Georgia mountains.

The picture above is from the city park, facing one of the main shopping areas and the town clock tower, I think. (I heard a clock chiming the hour several times but never identified the source.) The town took on a Bavarian style in 1969 and has leaned into it as much as it can with European food stores, German restaurants (I had a brat with kraut for lunch), and a few nice stores, like Lindenhaus and Wildewood, mixed among the regular tourist fair. It will celebrate its 50th Oktoberfest in a couple months (in a subdued fashion). The town has a bit of a beer-drinking feel, but we found enough to hold our interest, such as the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen. I finished my chocolate and caramel-coated pear tonight.

We didn’t entirely avoid crowds. On Tuesday we went to Alpine Mini Golf and Ice Cream Parlor, where there were 17 groups on 18 holes. I’m glad the whole day wasn’t that crowded; people tended to emerge as the day burned. On Monday we floated down the Chattahoochee River and enjoyed it so much we returned the next day. I must have thought I was an experienced seaman the second time down, because I fell in the river three times trying to negotiate the rapids. Didn’t lose my glasses though.

We avoided the crowd our first day by visiting the marvelous Hardman Farm historic site. They open at 10:00; we took the 10:00 tour and had the run of the place. We also visited a couple art centers and the nearby folk pottery museum before heading home. I hope the year will go much smoother now that we’ve laid back for a bit.

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