4 Day Mountain Getaway- Social Distancing Style

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I decided to do a trip report on our recent quick getaway.. hopefully this is the correct place to put it.

Over the past 2 months, we’ve started hiking often, and geocaching. These have been nice outings during the pandemic.

We all get Groupon emails in our inbox, right? So, about a week ago, I see one labeled “getaways you may be interested in”. Open it, scroll quickly, see an option for a mountain cabin in Georgia. I’ve never spent time hiking in the mountains, only quick ski trips to Colorado. I’ve never spent time in Georgia outside of Atlanta. I’m intrigued by the offer- a few days of nature and trails- sounds like just what we need! Perfect Mothers Day. I call and ask if they’re really open, they say “Yes! Come on down!”.. They inform me of what their protective measures are, including contactless check in/out.

I book a 2 bedroom barrel cabin at Unicoi Lodge
57AB53AA-148E-4E3A-801B-274D9B2D5274.jpeg



The park is located just outside of Helen, Georgia. Excited to see an adorable little town, even though I know almost everything will be closed.
038306FE-50F8-44C6-9EA2-E69BA1CE5354.jpeg



Then, I come to chit chat and ask if anyone knows of the area and has any tips. @epcotisbest comes thru with some fabulous recommendations! (and his consistent good advice on how much to plan in a day ;) )


Fast forward to Saturday night at 10pm- car is packed, we’re ready for a social-distancing mountain getaway.. hoping that restrooms will be open during our drive. Armed with paper towels, a box of disposable masks, Lysol, and 6 bottles of hand sanitizer, 5 travel, 1 large, our own sheets, pillows, blankets, cooking utensils, a coffee maker purchased specifically for the trip, Chinet plates, disposable cups, . —- all things that I’d never thought I’d pack for a road trip, excluding 2 bottles of sanitizer. All were provided at the cabin, but I felt more comfortable bringing our own.

We drive..
 

MinnieM123

Well-Known Member
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I decided to do a trip report on our recent quick getaway.. hopefully this is the correct place to put it.

Over the past 2 months, we’ve started hiking often, and geocaching. These have been nice outings during the pandemic.

We all get Groupon emails in our inbox, right? So, about a week ago, I see one labeled “getaways you may be interested in”. Open it, scroll quickly, see an option for a mountain cabin in Georgia. I’ve never spent time hiking in the mountains, only quick ski trips to Colorado. I’ve never spent time in Georgia outside of Atlanta. I’m intrigued by the offer- a few days of nature and trails- sounds like just what we need! Perfect Mothers Day. I call and ask if they’re really open, they say “Yes! Come on down!”.. They inform me of what their protective measures are, including contactless check in/out.

I book a 2 bedroom barrel cabin at Unicoi Lodge
View attachment 470678



The park is located just outside of Helen, Georgia. Excited to see an adorable little town, even though I know almost everything will be closed.
View attachment 470679



Then, I come to chit chat and ask if anyone knows of the area and has any tips. @epcotisbest comes thru with some fabulous recommendations! (and his consistent good advice on how much to plan in a day ;) )


Fast forward to Saturday night at 10pm- car is packed, we’re ready for a social-distancing mountain getaway.. hoping that restrooms will be open during our drive. Armed with paper towels, a box of disposable masks, Lysol, and 6 bottles of hand sanitizer, 5 travel, 1 large, our own sheets, pillows, blankets, cooking utensils, a coffee maker purchased specifically for the trip, Chinet plates, disposable cups, . —- all things that I’d never thought I’d pack for a road trip, excluding 2 bottles of sanitizer. All were provided at the cabin, but I felt more comfortable bringing our own.

We drive..
Gotta admit, I've never even heard of a 'barrel" cabin before. Very cool !! :joyfull:
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Apparently there’s a few different routes to get there.. I used the Nav in my Jeep for the ‘quickest route’.. looks easy enough.

Here’s a screenshot from a Google Maps, which is what I probably should have used

6203CBE5-D318-45E8-855D-C6417B8BE165.png

So we go thru Kentucky, then Tennessee-I see a sign for Rocky Top, had to play the song 🤣
14DC33BF-63DA-4DF5-BCDD-D81F90B1E150.jpeg all

A little while later, I’m instructed to exit the highway onto a two lane road. Dark road, surrounded by woods.., I have a fear of hitting a deer, ever since moving to Ohio.. decided that although the speed limit says 55, I’m going to drive 40mph, sometimes 35... this is the first point which started to lengthen the drive.
Then, that road turns into a mountain road.. serious, serious, twists and turns, pitch black outside, surrounded by forest.
My kid, “T”, is awake at this point, says “Wow, this is creepy, mom.”
“It is, but I’m driving slow, let’s sing along to some Beatles music.“
All the sudden we see this random homemade painted sign in the middle of the trees, it says “Seven Sisters”, I’m trying to take our minds off of the crazy road and say

“Oh, hey T, I wonder who the 7 Sisters are”

“Probably sisters who were all murdered in this creepy place.”

“T!! That’s a horrible thing to say!”

“Yeah, but probably true. Mom, I‘m a city kid, this place is too weird for me.“

“Well city kid, you’re about to be a mountain kid for the next few days... although I do want to get off of this road too.”

“Can I go back to sleep?”

“Sure, T”

So I keep driving, 2 hours now on this crazy road off of 75. Then my car says “Turn Left”

Left? Where? This can’t be right. I didn’t even see a road.
I find a little pull off area to turn around in, drive back, turn right in front of someone’s house (which are very few and very far between) , then realize it’s a dirt road. Wait, what??? I’m in a Wrangler, but I’m still not taking some dark dirt road up another mountain.
I turn back and keep heading straight, this must be wrong, it will redirect me in a moment or two..
20 minutes later I’m directed to turn again., but this time a “right”. What?? But the road is paved, so I take it.
Check our ETA, now pushed back 90 minutes.
I’m tired. I’m tense. I want to see civilization.
Nothing.
Then, like a beacon of light.. I see a gas station!! An open one!! I stop. Mask up, leave T locked sleeping in the car.., and hope the cashier can help me.
“I think my Nav is taking me in the wrong direction. Can you tell me how to get to Unicoi Park, or Helen? Without taking any more crazy and narrow mountain roads?”
She says “I’m not sure where Helen is. But if you drive to Blairsville, someone there can probably help you. “

We go to Blairsville, and I find a Dunkin Donuts on the way there, finally, coffee!! & civilization!!

The sun is starting to come up now, thankfully... I pull over to take this photo.,
03E15A8F-99F4-4E89-912B-391A6EFBD726.jpeg

The coffee, views, and sun are rejuvenating, helping me shrug off how tired I am., our ETA is now 2 hours later than the original arrival time.

I stop in Blairsville, they told me I’m the right path now but did take a strange way. I showed my phone (which now has service for the first time in about 2 hours) and described the path we took, she showed me where we went. How we got there? Still a mystery. 🤦‍♀️
Here’s that creepy road-

2159BD1B-13E1-4737-A0EA-4D8A53DF0304.jpeg

That’s over though, caffeine has helped., the end is almost here.. Onward.
 
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21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I have to back up in the story for a second..
As I said, we left around 10pm. I was worried about the rest area or gas station restrooms being closed.. luckily the two gas stations we stopped at did have open restrooms. We wore masks inside, each held a paper towel to open the door..each brought a sanitizer in our pocket.. and I lectured my son to make sure to not touch anything with his hands.
I bought the bottled Starbucks coffee at each, which really isn’t enough caffeine, so added a DoubleShot along with the bottle Frappuccino at the second stop.
At DD, I ordered a large iced latte with 2 extra shots.
To say I was full of caffeine would be an understatement. I was literally running on fumes.
Hoping that our cabin would be ready early so I could take a power nap. I was told that was likely, when I had called on Saturday.

Now back to the drive—I see a sign for “Unicoi State Park”.. we made it!! Sleep is coming!!

Prior to entering, we see this sign.. unfortunately the words don’t show on the photo unless ‘live’, but it says “Social Distancing Strictly Enforced”
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T is awake now, we pull over to admire the fog on the water. The photos don’t do it justice
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As instructed, I called to say we arrived.. prior to going to the lodge to check in. Lobby is closed due to COVID-19. I’m told that our cabin is “not quite ready, but come to the lodge to take care or license and daily fee” ($12 per day, not a bad ‘resort fee’ type charge.)

I do as instructed. Go up to a Ring doorbell, stand back 6 feet, a worker comes to the door, holds out a bin for me to place my I.D. and credit card, then disappears for a few moments.. comes back and says it “should be ready soon”.
It’s now 8am, nearly 3 hours past original eta.

Decide to drive to drive around the park and see where the cabins are, and how close to the trails and lake..
 
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21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Wait, what????????


ADF82181-449D-4D28-9ECA-DD9CB0D1151D.jpegD98CEA2E-F697-4DE5-A820-D0FEB3B5795E.jpeg43B22A8D-8333-4D10-B1D1-7AC67CBC66DC.jpeg374DC512-7B73-44A1-BE21-9A0545DB0E8C.jpeg4816382D-BDC8-47FD-8F4E-33B0268A111D.jpeg


I knew one trail was closed, found out while on my AllTrails app the night before ... but now I’m getting concerned (it was not on the park’s website).
Are they all closed?? Why wouldn’t the reservationist inform me of this??
My stomach sinks :(


I call the lobby again. “Our trails are open, but we also have trails that belong to the National Park Service, those are all closed.”
“Would have been nice if that was explained to me when I originally called and asked questions..but thank you for the information..”

:(

Ugh I’m not happy. Kiddo says “So wait, we just drove all night to hike in the mountains, but the hiking trails are closed? You know what, it’s ok mom. We’ll still have fun. It’s an adventure either way.”

We drive to check out Helen, curious to see if it’s as picturesque as looks online..
 
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21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Prior to Helen, we pass an adorable roadside peanut shop.. both of us say that we wish it was open.
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Now the town.. T says “Woah. It looks like Kings Island.” 🤣🤣🤣
For those who haven’t been to KI, they have an “International Street” when you first enter the park, it’s German themed with white lights lining the buildings.

Welcome Center (closed)
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I have never seen so many flowers. They’re everywhere around town!!
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Windmill
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Now we stop at the only open store. A fantastic place called “Betty’s”
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I have to pick up a few things for the cabin, T needs breakfast, he orders a bagel & cream cheese. We go to a nearby small park to eat.
I’ve been up for 27 hours now, starting to fade.
I can’t drink another coffee, though. I’m on water now.

While at the park, a family of 5 comes up, we’re sitting on a park bench about 30 feet away. The 3 kids get on the playground equipment.. then another family comes and their 2 kids get on as well.
T- “Mom, do you see that?! They’re not supposed to be on the equipment.”

“I know T, but we have to mind our own business. Don’t stare.”

“What if they get the coronavirus?”

“T, it has nothing to do with us, eat your bagel, bud.”

Several minutes go by...he keeps staring intermittently. The kids are laughing and squealing, running all around.

“Hey mom?”

“Yes?”

“Do you think I could go on the slide? Just once, and I’ll sanitize right after.”

“No, T”

“But mom, maybe it’s fine, they’re doing it.. I could just do it one time. Or maybe the teeter totter. We could do that and wear gloves, right?”


“No bud. I’m sorry, this won’t last forever. We have to be safe, right?”

“Yeah, you’re right. Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen kids together and laughing. I miss that.”

“I know hun, I know. But, we’re going to have fun on our adventure, right? Playgrounds will be there in the future.”

“Yes, this is going to be awesome. I just hope we don’t see a bear, unless we’re in the cabin, and it’s far away.”

“Same.”

“Mom, you’re copying me. I always say ‘same’. “

We laugh, though I still see him staring longingly at the playground equipment and laughing children.
I can’t wait for the day when that becomes a normal sight again.., then I sit and ponder, internally, on how much has changed, and how quickly. I’m determined that these few days are going to be amazing, even if our planned trails are closed.
 
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21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
We walk along a creek for a bit..skipping rocks, and T decides that he’s going to start a rock collection.
B317B030-6A2C-4998-867F-CD5AD3D9B678.jpeg

I call the the lodge and ask if our cabin is ready now. They say “not yet”.
So here’s the thing, when I called the night prior, I inquired about paying extra to get in early if available, without booking an extra night. Explained that we would be arriving early in the morning, and I see that check in is 4pm.
The woman assured me that they had several unhooked cabins on Saturday, and there would be no problem with getting us in early on Sunday.

Well, It’s almost 11am.. I’m worried that I’m not going to be able to stay awake much longer...but now I’ll have to stay awake all day. Why? Because I booked a surprise for T last night.
Decided to tell him about it, now, as we’re both getting antsy and running out of places to go, I’m admittedly not being the best conversationalist, I feel like a Zombie at this point.
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Here’s why I was so concerned about arriving several hours before check-in. While at the office on Saturday, I’m on the park’s website and see a banner “Zipline Tours are Open!” I call and ask if this is real.. told “yes- social distance style”. Only 4 allowed per tour, compared to the usual 10. All equipment sanitized in-between tours, only 4 tours per day and spaced an hour apart so not to come in contact with another group, guides wear masks.
Perfect. We’re in! Only available time was 11am though, check in time of 10:30. That’s when I called the lodge back and asked if we could have a cabin early.

Now fast forward to Betty’s earlier, I called the zip-line extension and asked if there was a way to reschedule for a later time. They had a cancellation for 1pm, we could do that. Whew. Thought maybe I still had time to at least shower if the cabin is ready soon, even if couldn’t nap. That didn’t happen, but oh well. Time to tell T.

“T, guess what we’re doing now.”

“Our cabin?!”

“No, but we’re going zip lining.”

“Ha Ha mom. Zip lines aren’t open during COVID-19. Nothing is open.”

“They are, T. We’re going!”

“Really?!”

“Yes.”

“No way!! Yessss!!!! This is gonna be epic!!”


He’s only been on a zip line once (well, several times but same place all in one week), not a tour, just on a cruise ship, the end of a ropes course. I knew he would love this.

We head back to the park to find an open restroom to at least wash up and change before heading to the tour (it’s in the park).

We see that Fred’s is open!!! Must stop.

Parking area for the roadside peanut shop, Fred’s -
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epcotisbest

Well-Known Member
Apparently there’s a few different routes to get there.. I used the Nav in my Jeep for the ‘quickest route’.. looks easy enough.

Here’s a screenshot from a Google Maps, which is what I probably should have used

View attachment 470751

So we go thru Kentucky, then Tennessee-I see a sign for Rocky Top, had to play the song 🤣
View attachment 470752 all

A little while later, I’m instructed to exit the highway onto a two lane road. Dark road, surrounded by woods.., I have a fear of hitting a deer, ever since moving to Ohio.. decided that although the speed limit says 55, I’m going to drive 40mph, sometimes 35... this is the first point which started to lengthen the drive.
Then, that road turns into a mountain road.. serious, serious, twists and turns, pitch black outside, surrounded by forest.
My kid, “T”, is awake at this point, says “Wow, this is creepy, mom.”
“It is, but I’m driving slow, let’s sing along to some Beatles music.“
All the sudden we see this random homemade painted sign in the middle of the trees, it says “Seven Sisters”, I’m trying to take our minds off of the crazy road and say

“Oh, hey T, I wonder who the 7 Sisters are”

“Probably sisters who were all murdered in this creepy place.”

“T!! That’s a horrible thing to say!”

“Yeah, but probably true. Mom, I‘m a city kid, this place is too weird for me.“

“Well city kid, you’re about to be a mountain kid for the next few days... although I do want to get off of this road too.”

“Can I go back to sleep?”

“Sure, T”

So I keep driving, 2 hours now on this crazy road off of 75. Then my car says “Turn Left”

Left? Where? This can’t be right. I didn’t even see a road.
I find a little pull off area to turn around in, drive back, turn right in front of someone’s house (which are very few and very far between) , then realize it’s a dirt road. Wait, what??? I’m in a Wrangler, but I’m still not taking some dark dirt road up another mountain.
I turn back and keep heading straight, this must be wrong, it will redirect me in a moment or two..
20 minutes later I’m directed to turn again., but this time a “right”. What?? But the road is paved, so I take it.
Check our ETA, now pushed back 90 minutes.
I’m tired. I’m tense. I want to see civilization.
Nothing.
Then, like a beacon of light.. I see a gas station!! An open one!! I stop. Mask up, leave T locked sleeping in the car.., and hope the cashier can help me.
“I think my Nav is taking me in the wrong direction. Can you tell me how to get to Unicoi Park, or Helen? Without taking any more crazy and narrow mountain roads?”
She says “I’m not sure where Helen is. But if you drive to Blairsville, someone there can probably help you. “

We go to Blairsville, and I find a Dunkin Donuts on the way there, finally, coffee!! & civilization!!

The sun is starting to come up now, thankfully... I pull over to take this photo.,
View attachment 470753

The coffee, views, and sun are rejuvenating, helping me shrug off how tired I am., our ETA is now 2 hours later than the original arrival time.

I stop in Blairsville, they told me I’m the right path now but did take a strange way. I showed my phone (which now has service for the first time in about 2 hours) and described the path we took, she showed me where we went. How we got there? Still a mystery. 🤦‍♀️
Here’s that creepy road-

View attachment 470754

That’s over though, caffeine has helped., the end is almost here.. Onward.
That creepy road is the Cherohala Skyway, a beautiful, scenic drive through the mountains that I have taken by motorcycle many times. I would never drive through there at night. Beautiful by day, dark, curvy, winding roads at night. Most people travel scenic byways not to get somewhere, but to enjoy the...wait for it...scenery. Wow, glad you made it safely.
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
That creepy road is the Cherohala Skyway, a beautiful, scenic drive through the mountains that I have taken by motorcycle many times. I would never drive through there at night. Beautiful by day, dark, curvy, winding roads at night. Most people travel scenic byways not to get somewhere, but to enjoy the...wait for it...scenery. Wow, glad you made it safely.
The road in my morning pictures was a beautiful scenic drive, we stopped at almost every overlook.
That one at night though, it was rough.. I couldn’t see anything beyond where my headlights hit. Never been on anything like that before. Though, I’m sure it’s a fun motorcycle ride in daylight!
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Here is some of what you missed by driving through there at night.


Wow, that is beautiful!!! I will have to show these photos to T.. he might think it’s less “creepy” now. Lol
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Oh, it is still creepy, but over the years we have gotten better at hiding the bodies! :eek:
Do you have phone service there?
I did not. Not once while on that road. That made me extremely uncomfortable. Basically, I learned that North Georgia, A bit of North Carolina, and parts of Tennessee, are not Sprint- friendly. I’ve only had Sprint for 2 years now..due to work...and realizing that service is horrible or non existent in many rural areas.
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Fred’s was honestly the neatest store/stand that I’ve seen!
2 young men were at the counter, allowed us to sample items prior to buying... I learned that boiled peanuts are disgusting (sorry, southerners) , so we did not purchase those. We did get 2 bags of fried peanuts, spicy and regular. A bag of fresh peanuts. 2 of the most delicious peanut brittle that I’ve ever tasted.. one peanut, the other was a peanut and pecan mix. And, a half gallon of peach cider — also so delicious, first time we’ve had it.

They had adorable signs all over.. we laughed while reading them.
Also had puppets who moved when you walked near them (controlled by strings from the counter area). So cool! Shocked my kid at first 😂

CE31342A-AE48-4666-B254-70F34955A75A.jpeg0F8AD4FF-E953-43DC-8FBB-A7C05CBE7664.jpeg
 

21stamps

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Now... Zipline!!
Yes, I have a GoPro on my head, (which reminds me that I need to upload the photos and videos.)
I’m never going to live down this day.. my son will make sure of it.. explanation in next post..


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Not sure why he told us to look to the left when our left arm was on the pulley. Lol. Oh, and I totally got sap all over my pants from leaning against the tree. 🤦‍♀️
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epcotisbest

Well-Known Member
Do you have phone service there?
I did not. Not once while on that road. That made me extremely uncomfortable. Basically, I learned that North Georgia, A bit of North Carolina, and parts of Tennessee, are not Sprint- friendly. I’ve only had Sprint for 2 years now..due to work...and realizing that service is horrible or non existent in many rural areas.
In the mountains, there are lots of places with spotty cell service regardless of carrier. Sometimes you can go for miles with no service, and sometimes just little spots that drop the signal. You get used to it. Curving in and out and up and down on mountain roads creates the places with no service. I suppose it would be impossible to put up enough cell towers to eliminate all the bad signal spots. And, the mountains would be less lovely if the trees had to compete with cell towers.
We have a no signal spot near our driveway.
 

epcotisbest

Well-Known Member
When cell service first started around here, our house was a poor signal spot, and we had to go outside and walk up the hill to use the cell phone. Still have a land line just because of that, even though the signal inside the house is fine now.
 
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