Fall colors beckoned and Wild Mama answered the call ... 

October 11th: Blast Off into the early morning blue came early today. We filed IFR even though the local weather was good because there were IFR airmets through southern Georgia and Northern Florida. There were low wispy clouds as we crossed north of Brooksville then sheets started to form that soon broke into cloud waves. The cloud waves ebbed and flowed over the northern Florida landscape until the waves vanished into a solidgabr3.jpg sea of clouds by the time we crossed the Georgia line.
We were happy, however, and were not concerned about the clouds. ATC gave us direct SRB (Sparta) about 12 miles to the south of Cross City. Big whoo-hoo until we realized that "direct" took us just west of Atlanta International. Fat chance we keep it. I know they are going to send us back to the original route so we can cross "HEFIN" intersection - you seldom go west of Atlanta without crossing HEFIN. Sure enough, just south of Atlanta came the dreaded call: "N614WM, advise when you are ready to copy..." Here we go. Now gabr1.jpgthis was annoying as we diverted way to the east only to fly back into a headwind to the west. This is not right - time to fight back. We know we cannot cross Atlanta so we requested TIROE to RMG then direct. This still takes us out west but not nearly as far as HEFIN. We are granted our request - a small victory.
The clouds below have given way to haze while the blue skies above have now become overcast. As we edge closer to TN the blue above returns but the sea of foamy white clouds envelops the hills below. It is not looking good for a visual approach. No sooner do we contact Memphis Center than we are told to expect a hold at Sparta. The Air Ambulance is waiting for departure so we will hold to let them out for an emergency run. We enter the hold over HEM, taking 2 spins around the loop before being cut loose for the procedure turn and the ILS 4 into Sparta. The AWOS reports 800' broken. I set the autopilot for the auto-descent and call out the altitude. Our decision height is 1230'. 2000 ... 1900 .... 1800 .... "I have the runway in sight," Vern calls out. I look out and see the lights shine through a light haze. The runway soon comes clearly into sight and we touch down to a nice, cool day. Good to be, well, "home" in TN.
The destination for the day is Blue Ridge, GA. There is a Scenic Train that runs from Blue Ridge to Copper Hill, TN and that is the plan for tomorrow. But we have to get there first and there is no public airport in Blue Ridge. The next best option was to land in SRB, grab our car and drive down to Blue Ridge. We took the scenic route down highway 30 and 60 passing the Tennessee River and Ocoee River and Dams and the Chattahoochee National Forrest. How beautiful. Fall is still gabr2.jpgcreeping ever so slowly into the Blue Ridge mountains. While the greens of a wet summer still dominate, some yellow, orange and rust hues have mixed and mingled their way inside to transform the forrests into fall from the inside out.  We arrive in Blue Ridge early evening, in time to grab some GA BBQ and kick back to rest.

October 12th: Scenes from the Scenic Railway:  I turn on the weather channel to see what is in store for us for the day. It was forecast to be brsr2.jpggorgeous. "... beep, beep, beep ... All residents are advised that there is a flash flood warning in effect for our area from 8:30 this morning until 2:00 this afternoon."  Great. Just what we wanted to hear. We look outside at first light to see sheets of brsr3.jpgwater falling from the sky. We cannot even see the mountains behind the hotel.  So much for the forecast; but we are going on the train anyway. www.brscenic.com
The depot opened around 0900 and there were already people standing out in the pouring rain to get tickets. Vern had ordered ours early so we hopped over to the "will call" guy, got our tickets and headed to the coffee shop for a little cinnamon coffee warm-up. Although it was in the low 60's, with the clouds and rain, I was a small icicle. They boarded the train early. We were in car 549 - an enclosed rail car about midway through the line of open and closed rail cars and concession cars on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train.  We brsr5.jpgsettled in for the hour long journey to the north.
We soon departed and attained warp speed - about 10 m.p.h. - in a few miles. Most of the journey we meandered through the woods along the Toccoa River northward toward the town of Copper Hill. The river was severely swollen from the rains that apparently started late last night and continued heavily through mid morning. Our conductor wasbrsr4.jpg commenting on the rains and that this might be the best that leaf season had to offer as often times the leaves will fall off early before reaching full color when the rains are so heavy.
Shortly out of Blue Ridge we pass several cabins dotting the shores and the mountain side: cozy retreats welcoming weary travellers to the serenity of the area. Along the side of the railway, signs of yester-year still remain: the old telegraph poles still standing century over the rail lines; an ancient indian fish trap said to be over 500 years old; old mile post signs from the original length of track. This track has been significantly shortened now and only runs this scenic route.
brsr7.jpgAfter an hour, we arrive 13 mile north in the town of Copper Hill/Macaysville. It is actually only one town split in two by the GA/TN state line: a line that is literally painted in blue across the town dividing streets, neighbors and buildings! We Stop at the Iron Horse Restaurant for some home made chicken pie then meander about the town in search of treasures. We are told to keep a watchful eye for "Magic Mine" doors. The first to locate and open the Magic Mine door for that day will discover the treasures hidden within. We leave GA and head to TN to the Christmas is Here Shoppe containing all hand made Christmas ornaments and decorations. While browsing the trinkets and treasures I look down to see "Elf Magic Mine". brsr6.jpgOooo. Could it possibly be? I pick up the small box and look for a tag to see if it is the real thing or just a for sale item. No tag. I tug at the little door as Vern walks up, telling me to put it down before I break something! The door opens and reveals a beautiful lady slipper orchid ornament and 2 candy canes. I put them in Vern's pocket - he is convinced that I am trying to have him arrested for shop lifting when a sales clerk comes up and congratulates us for finding the treasure. How cool is that?!?
The town is full of little antique and craft shops containing all sorts of fall leaf peeper items, including home made pumpkin fudge. Now, as I can not longer eat chocolate, pumpkin has become a favorite and I purchase a small chunk of the creamy sweet delight. We come upon the river cuts through the town; and, similar to the town name, the river name changes from Toccoa in GA to the Ocoee in TN. The train whistle blows, giving us 10 minutes to get back to the train before departure. We scurry down the hill and across the street back into TN, or was that GA, again, snapping the photo of the state line painted on the building.
The trip home is peaceful and fast. We switched sides so we were looking at the mountain side of the view instead of the river side. There are more houses perched on the top of the mountain high above the train tracks and the tree line. Although there is still a bit of drizzle, the rains have nearly ended now as we pull back into Blue Ridge. The remainder brsr8.jpgof the day is to wander through this quaint little town. It seems that the rail business is kind to both towns, bringing passengers and much needed retail traffic through the heart of these cities that are otherwise rather isolated from the busier part of the world. The isolation is nice and makes the vacation a relaxing one. This is our last day here. Tomorrow, we venture deeper into the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains for extended leaf peeping activities.

October 13th: A cabin in the woods:The rains have finally come to an end but the fog was thick this morning: too thick to see the mountains again. citw7.jpgWe laugh as we paid extra for the mountain view from the hotel room. No worries – we are heading to the cabin in the woods this afternoon after we make the final few stops in Blue Ridge.
Yesterday, we had stopped at Merciers Apple Orchard and made a note to come back for either breakfast or lunch today.  Vern opted for lunch; I opted for breakfast but, then again, breakfast consisted of an apple scone and pumpkin ice cream. We stocked up on a few local goodies here – most notable Cameo apples. While the clerks said the Fuji’s citw3.jpgwere the sweetest variety, I had to respectfully disagree as the Cameo’s had a much better flavor and were much sweeter to me. We purchased a small bag along with some pumpkin scone mix and an assortment of sauces and dressings to take home. It was time to leave Blue Ridge.
The scenic route was the only route to get to Ellijay and the location of the cabin in the woods. As we neared the turn off to Ellijay, we spied a sign directing us to Amicalola Falls State Park. This park is said to be one of the most beautiful in the area due to the 729’ waterfalls that runs through the park and is the focal point citw2.jpgof the park – all trails lead to the waterfalls.
We entered the park and headed toward the base of the falls trail and started walking. The grade was quite steep and we turned off at a platform along the lower and less steep portion of the falls; but before we got to the 175 steps leading to the “base of the falls”. I was done – steps and I are not the best of friends. We elected to take the ADA trail to the base of the falls. 
We drove up the 25% grade winding around the mountain until we came to the trail head. I liked this trail much better citw4.jpgand was pleased to see that we ended on top of the 175 steps that led to the base of the falls’ only to see that there were another 425 steps to the top of the falls. I pass! The falls was breath taking. It was much larger and gushing much more than I had ever seen Fall Creek Falls run; but, then again, there was over 3’ of rain in the area yesterday – any waterfalls in the area should be running. The falls had a sheer drop to the area where we stood then cascaded down to the bottom of the mountain to the reflection pool. I am not sure where the measurement started but it certainly seemed like a bigger drop that the claimed 729 feet.
It was getting time to head back up the mountain to Ellijay and to the cabin in the woods at Wilderness View Cabins at the edge of Fort Mountain State Park in the Cohutta Mountain Range.  We had a long drive out from Ellijay; in fact, the cabin web site advised a grocery stop before check-in as it was another 20 miles back to Ellijay for groceries. They were right and we heeded their warning.
citw6.jpgWe checked in at the Overlook Inn, got the keys and headed slightly back down the mountain to get to the cabin. We turned off on to a gravel road that wound around the side of the hills. In many places the gravel road was washed out and quite badly rutted. We slowly made our way to the Bear Dancer cabin on the edge of the mountain with a view out over the valley. The cabin was nicely appointed with a real fireplace and a hot tub – that’s all I need. I could care less about anything else. I check out the hot tub and work on getting the fire started while Vern finishes unloading the car citw1.jpgand putting the groceries in the kitchen. The fire was quite a chore to get started as the wood was wet from the recent rains and kindling was hard to find. I did manage to get enough to get a raging inferno after a 3-1/2 hour fight with the logs. The fire sizzled and the water was oozing out from the ends of the logs but I had a good beg of hot coals to keep citw5.jpgthe logs going with ease. 
The sun set through the hazy blue sky. It was nice to be able to see the mountains and the changing leaves, if only for a day. Tomorrow we are forecast to have flash floods again. We will head into the Fort Mountain Park to wander around and get internet coverage. We have no phones and no internet here in the cabin in the woods. It is peaceful and pretty – a good time to rest.

fmp8.jpgOctober 14th: Fort Mountain State Park:I am glad that I fly; otherwise, I would have missed the majority of the fall colors and the mountain views in Northern Georgia. We were awakened this morning by the lights sounds of rain on the roof. The forecast was for steady rain all day today; but it seems as if it started late last night and got the bulk of the steadiness out of its system. We were, however, left with the fog.fmp4.jpg
The hot tub beckoned this morning: it was 58 degrees outside and 108 degrees in the hot tub. Hot tub wins. I ducked down in the water with just my head above the waterline to breathe in the cool mountain air that was quite refreshing against the heat of the hot tub. The view from the hot tub is supposed to be quite breath taking but the morning fog has obscured all but the fmp2.jpgnearest of the trees. 
We hung out around the cabin for quite some time this morning giving the fog a chance to lift before heading to the Park. By noon, we decided to head into Chatsworth and Dalton to see what those towns had to offer. While there was nothing to speak of in Chatsworth, Dalton offered a nice restaurant called Dalton Depot. This was an original depot built around 1850. Most of the train depots were destroyed during the civil war; but this one remained with little damage. The building was restored to its original architecture and was later converted into the restaurant featuring train décor (duh). Lunch was quite delightful: Vern had New Orleans chicken, stuffed with crab meat; and I had the Santa Fe Salad with chicken and fmp7.jpgcheese bread.
By 2:30 p.m., with bellies full, we headed back up the mountain to Fort Mountain Park to get the much anticipated grand vista of the surrounding valley. The top of the Park sits about 2800’ msl while the cloud remained about 2600’ fmp1.jpgmsl. We were shrouded by the cloud at parts as we meandered about the trails. The State of Georgia has done a fabulous job marking these trails. All are color coded with a little splotch of pain on the trees and rocks along the way. There are few directional signs but the markings are so good as to not really require any.
We went toward the top of the park to see the ancient wall, the tower and the overlook. The legend of the wall is still a mystery – why is this wall here. I could not imagine; but after seeing it, I was fmp3.jpgconvinced that there was no TV at the time and there was lots of spare time to fill. I am sure that the real reason is somewhat more substantial; but considering the fmp6.jpgrather haphazard design, the real motivation for the wall escapes me. After a nice little hike we were ready to come back to base camp, the hot tub and the fire place for the remainder of the evening.



October 15th-16th: Still in the clouds: Ever since coming off the Blue Ridge Mountains, we have yet to see much more than the inside of a cloud. The ceilings have been quite low here on Spencer Mountain - elevation about wf1.jpg1800'. We were lucky to see our own water falls - but it sits down in the valley below the cloud so we were priviledged to see it. We are supposed to fly to Gatlinburg for the Heritage Log Home Mill tour tomorrow but flying is a no go for certain. The news forecast just said that if you are going to Gatlinburg to see the leaves - don't bother as the fog will persist through Saturday.

The Heritage Open House was this afternoon - a day  full of Heritage Log Home owners enjoying fellowship, good company and great food. We all gathered in the wf2.jpglocal model center in Spencer with the owners of the local dealersip, Peter and Rachelle. http://www.heritageloghomesinfo.com/ They have more than dealers - they have become our good friends and we always look forward to seeing them when we visit. There was a great turnout in speite of the dismal weather conditions.

We drove to the airport today to pick up our new fuel cap. It seems that we had a fuel cap failure on the trip up here. The right tank cap had a minor leak - to the tune of about 10 gallons over 4.5 hours. We had a new cap shipping in and installed the cap today. We also got a hangar for the next couple of days to keep Wild Mama safe and warm for our departure on Sunday morning. 

October 17th: Our Heritage: An early morning flight to Sieverville to tour the Heritage Log Home Mill did not "fly": the ceiling was low and thewf6.jpg freezing level met the ceiling. We were grounded so we made the 2.5 hour drive (as opposed to the 40 minute flight). The drive was well worth the effort.

Both of our cabins there in Spencer, TN www.tennesseelogcabinforrent.com are Heritage Log Homes. wf3.jpgWe plan to build a third when the economy picks up at bit. It was nice to see the "birth place" of our cabins. The mill tour was quite amazing. The whole plant is fully automated and computerized. The logs are precision cut, precision drilled, precision inspected and the "seconds" are culled out so all the logs the make up the home are the top quality heartwood pine. The cut sheets for each model and custom home are mastered on the computer and the log cuts are all made from that master chip to assure that there are no missing parts and pieces nor ill-fitting pieces to the home.

The seminar that followed our barbecue lunch was informative as well. We learned of design ideas that are cost savings:  it is cheaper towf4.jpg build a 1-1/2 story home than it is to build a single story; manufacturing costs start mounting exponentially past a certain point; rectangular houses are more cost effective than additional angles; shed dormers add space with wf5.jpgminimal addition of cost. We left the afternoon even happier than ever that we have chosen Heritage. We were so happy, in fact, that we celebrated with ice cream!!!

A favorite from Oklahoma City was the Marble Slab Ice Cream Company; and to my delight, they had had a store in Sieverville and it had pumpkin ice crean with granola and graham cracker goodies inside. Mmmmmm. With a smile on our faces and ice cream in our bellies we made the 2.5 hour drive back home. The clouds were still hanging low but we did get a glimpse of the blue skies. The easter part of Tennessee has a bit more color in the leaves, too, so the fall colors - now that we can really see them - were quite spectacular even for the early part of leaf season.

Tomorrow we fly home after a nice week. We are promised cold, clear skies and tailwinds. I hope the forecast is accurate on both counts!

October 18th: Home at Last:  The stairs to the cabin were covered with ice this morning as the temperature plummeted to 32 degrees last night. So far, the cold part of the forecast held true. We loaded the car and cast off for the airport, the heater blazing all the way. It was just past 0500 local. We wanted wheels up by 0600 local so we could make it back to the Paradise Coast 99s barbecue at Page Field at 1130 and the trip is usually around 4.5 hours.

The morning was crystal clear - the second part of the forecast held true. We could see stars fort he first time since we had left Florida; but the cold had gone through to our bones. Wild Mama had been hangared overnight to prevent the frost from delaying our departure. While she was not warm and toasty, she was not frosty so the morning flight was a go. We filed IFR just because it was dark and we did not know if we would hit any small layers of clouds. We thought it prudent to be talking to ATC - just in case. We were wheels up on time.

Through the climb-out we knew that the final part of the forecast was a go as well: the climb-out was nearly 150 kts ground speed. We had a kicking tailwind!!! By the time we leveled at 7,000' we were cruising at 185 kts ground speed. Sweet! We settled in through the darknesswf7.jpg then witnessed a most glorious site: a sun rise. It had been a week since we had seen the sun; and this morning, it seemed more radiant than ever. The orange glow through the early morning haze was truly a sight to behold.

Our arrival at Fort Myers was uneventful for us, although Fort Myers approach was overworked. We had requested the ILS 5 at FMY to get in a practice approach. Approach control set us up for the approach then forgot and dumped us on top of Page Field at 2,700' when we were cleared to land. Becky was on the tower and called back to us when we made a much longer than usual downwind and a nose dive for final. We had to get down and get our speed under control. With a chirp, we made the turn-off to "Foxtrot" Hangars, there in time for a very yummy barbecue and our welcoming friends. Good to be home.