One afternoon a few weeks ago Charles and I took a short trip from north Georgia up to Highlands area in North Carolina. Pictures I snapped that afternoon take me there again when I get homesick for the distant blue slopes and the splash of waterfalls. South Georgia is beautiful with its live oaks and pines, its meandering roads between fence rows, its great fields of corn and soybeans, its sudden showers and heart stopping sunsets. And, contrary to when I first moved here, I now recognize rolling hills here in southwest Georgia. But I still miss the mountains. To change an old saying just a bit–“You can take the girl from the mountains but you can’t take the mountains from the girl.”
Folks used to ask me “How could you leave the north Georgia mountains to live here in the flatlands?” I would laugh and say this is where Charles Graham was, and that was answer enough.
But I do love to go the mountains when I can. Charles’s dad didn’t have much use for mountains because he wouldn’t be able to plant his nice wide fields there. In fact, after one trip we took him on he said of the mountains, “I’ve done that now. I don’t need to do it again.” But, whether he ever thinks that way or not, Charles wouldn’t dare express himself that way in front of me in other than pure jest. It would be highly disloyal, unpatriotic, almost a sacrilege. Instead, he takes me there when he can.
So when I asked to drive on up from Clarkesville, Georgia to Highlands, North Carolina his response was something like “Have we left yet?”
It was a sunny afternoon with drifting puffy clouds casting shadows on shoulders of the mountains. We drove up through Clayton and Dillard and Mountain City into Franklin spotting signs to Sylva, Cashiers, Bryson City, old familiar names. As we climbed higher up the winding road towards Highlands our ears popped with the changing altitude. We pulled over at every lookout to absorb the beauty of sky, mountains, a butterfly hunting its favorite nectar, springs trickling down rocky banks. Unlike my brothers, I never learned names of all the peaks we were viewing but they had such a sweet familiarity, like faces of dear old friends.
We came upon the sign to Dry Falls, a place rich with memories for both of us. As a child, my family (as many as would fit) piled in the 1934 Packard at least once a year and took a mountain trip (from way before dawn to deep dark) sometimes all the way to Mt. Leconte in the Smokies, sometimes rambling around these very roads including an hour or more at Dry Falls. It was absolutely amazing to me as a child that you actually could walk behind that very vigorous falls and only feel a cool mist in your face. Last time we visited it with other family members we found you cannot walk behind it any longer because of the danger of falling rock. On this sunny afternoon recently we decided against even attempting the steep descent to Dry Falls because of my temporary dependence on a walker. But we wouldn’t miss another much slighter falls named Bridal Veil.
The old road still winds behind the graceful falls but the new road now passes it by and a sign warns anyone from taking that behind-the-falls adventure. We parked and took pictures. I’m sure there are other bridal veil falls elsewhere but this one has to be the prettiest and most appropriate for that name. The filmy slip of water catches a gleam of afternoon sun as it ever splashes from black rocks like liquid lace. Again, memories flash for both of us. I remember riding behind the fall in the Packard, remember brothers jumping out to feel the splash. Charles and I together have visited it a number of times and it never loses its beauty, just changes with different times of day, weather, and seasons.
We took Road 106 back down to Dillard without going into the quaint little town of Highlands. The mountains and the waterfalls were our priority. In remembering that afternoon excursion I find the song about the Scottish Highlands singing in my head to the tune of “On Top Of Old Smoky.”
My heart’s in the Highlands,
My heart is not here.
My heart’s in the Highlands
A-chasing the deer.
A-chasing the wild deer
And hunting the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands
Wherever I go.