Two hours north of Atlanta, Rabun County, Georgia, and the surrounding areas offer a variety of activities from whitewater rafting to unique dinning.
My son and I spent four days packed with activities in Rabun County last summer. Our base was the Tallulah Gorge Campground. Located on the north rim of the Tallulah Gorge, this campground offered wooded campsites, hot showers and a reasonable price. An added bonus – it is dog friendly. The campground also provides access to the gorge rim trails.
On the first day in camp my son headed down the 620 steps to the gorge floor and back up – in flip flops. It’s a good thing the Lord looks after the innocent. His reaction was a testament to the beauty of this place. Over and over he commented on the scenery and sounds of the river plunging through the gorge carved in granite.
The next day we rafted Section IV of the Chattooga River. For this we headed to Southeastern Expeditions on Highway 76 near Clayton. I have rafted and kayaked with them five times and never have been disappointed. Our guide reminded us to keep our “nose and toes out of the water” if thrown from the raft. “This is known as the whitewater swim position,” she explained, “there is a risk of foot entrapment in the rocks however; there has never been a case of butt entrapment.”
Exhausted but ready for more, my son signed up for a kayak clinic the next day. He and his guide ran Section III of the river while my son learned some kayaking basics. Meanwhile I headed out to one of the many hiking trails in the area. I chose the Raven Rock trail which leads down to the river near the cliff which bears the same name. Knowing this is the same place where the movie Deliverance was filmed, I felt a bit apprehensive driving miles down a dirt road to the trail head. “Keep driving – you are not hearing banjos,” I told myself.
This area is home to the Bartram Trail, Chattooga River Trail and is near the start point for the Appalachian Trail. Besides these well know long trails there are numerous shorter options for day hikes and loops. Just over the SC state line, the Andrew Pickens Ranger District has just published one of the best maps of the area covering both the Georgia and South Carolina sides of the Chattooga River.
After all of our hiking and kayaking we were ready for a big dinner. The Dillard House Restaurant is famous in this area for its all-you-can-eat family style meals. My teenage son’s eyes popped when he watched the waiter fill our table with a wide variety of meats, sides and breads. In the end it looked like we hadn’t touched the food yet we were stuffed.
Wanting to master his kayak roll, my son headed back to the river for another day. I went about exploring Main Street in Clayton. My first stop was Prater’s Bookstore. Greeted by a cat and a thoughtfully stocked store I was in heaven. Then I noticed that they serve coffee too. Angels were singing…
Having busted my budget buying a stack of books in Prater’s, I set out to find a new restaurant called Zeppelins Pasta House. The first thing I noticed was the funky color scheme and the album covered walls. Classic rock played – but not too loud. The menu is all homemade and organic featuring flat bread pizzas, pasta and grilled items. I had a great lunch. Full and impressed by this new addition to Clayton’s cuisine I vowed to return. The owners, Mark and Cappy Taylor, have done a great job from concept to performance with Zeppelins.
Occasionally an area has so much to offer I find myself planning the next trip even before I get home. This is one of those places. Years ago, I backpacked my way down the river for four days and I hope to do it again. I also suspect that my son’s new love of kayaking will bring us back regularly.