Monthly Archives: July 2016

Track Rock Gap

Looking for a road trip or hike with an added layer of adventure? Head to the Track Rock Gap Archeological site.

The site is located south of Blairsville and is the only set of petroglyphs in north Georgia. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the rock carvings were made 1,000 years ago by Creek and Cherokee people. Although, the discovery of Woodland Indian sites nearby indicates that this group could also possibly be responsible for the petroglyphs.

The carvings can be found on six pieces of soapstone that are near the road in Track Rock Gap. Today, they are covered by metal cages in an effort to protect the stones from vandals. The carvings on the stones include animal tracks, feet, human-like stick figures and grid-like drawings that may be depicting village maps.

To get to the site during your road trip, you can take the Georgia Mountain Parkway 5 miles east of Blairsville, then turn right on Track Rock Gap Road. Follow it for a little more than 2 miles and the rocks will be on the right. Parking is available near the site.

Alternatively, the Arkaquah Trail is an 11 mile hike that will also take you to the rocks. Starting from Brasstown Bald, the trail takes you across a ridge for breathtaking views of North Georgia and ends at the Track Rock Gap site.

Geocaching, a Treasure Hunt in your own Backyard

Looking for an outdoor activity that the whole family can enjoy? Geocaching is a great family fun excursion that is inexpensive and gets you outside. The North Georgia mountains are meant to be explored, so plug in those coordinates and go hunting for treasure!

The creation of geocaching came shortly after the improvements were made to GPS accuracy by the U.S. government in 2000.  GPS enthusiast Dave Ulmer wanted to test the new system, and so he hid a container in the woods and noted the GPS coordinates. He called it the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and encouraged others online to participate and posted his stash coordinates so others could look for it. This was the first instance of what we now call Geocaching.

What do you need?
For this high tech hiking trip, all you need to participate is your own GPS device – a smartphone with a GPS app will work as well. At the Geocaching website you can find geocaches (“caches” for short) all over the world to hunt. The Blairsville list even includes a cache that takes you in and around the Union County Public Library. The container may be hard to find, but keep following the coordinates and clues. The cache may include a log book to write your name in, and some “treasures” to take as a prize. Remember to bring your own small item to leave behind!

Where to go?
You can find geocaches all over the world! But you don’t have to travel far to find adventure. Geocaching is a great way to explore North Georgia, including the areas you might have overlooked. There are trails all over Georgia, including Blairsville’s own Vogel State Park. For an outdoor activity with lots of family fun, geocaching can’t be beat.

Entrepreneur Success: Sunrise Grocery

The Sunrise Grocery has been a beloved local store in Blairsville, Georgia since the 1920s. We talked to the current owner, Jason Clemmons, about the store’s history and his keys to success.

Bob and Christine Clemmons bought the small business in the 1980s after stopping by the store while on a vacation at Vogel State Park. The Clemmons family moved from Florida to Blairsville to run the store and expanded the Sunrise business to include two cabins available to rent on the Nottely River. Jason Clemmons, son of Bob and Christine, has continued the legacy of business success by focusing on selling quality local goods.

What makes Sunrise Grocery a unique small business?
I think what makes us unique is time. We’ve tried to take people back with our store. We have old rough lumber shelving. We trade locally like they once did. The original store has been here since the early 20’s. Families have been coming to Vogel State Park for generations and we have always been their stop for the common goods, camping supplies, and their local apples and peaches. We still boil our peanuts with firewood. Our logo is an old man picking a banjo.  The reason for that is that it represents old Appalachia to me. That’s what I’m trying to pass on. A certain ambiance of how it use to be here. I really think when people pass through our doors they do drift back and think about how things were. I hope so anyway.

What challenges has Sunrise Grocery faced?
The biggest challenge, for me, was about six years ago. Sunrise Grocery used to be the only thing between Vogel and Blairsville. So we would sell a lot of staples. Milk, bread, charcoal, and things like that. Then a large gas station opened near by, Walmart opened, and a Dollar General opened just down the road. We actually had people saying to us ‘What we were going to do?’ because we wouldn’t make it. Well, we decided to localize. We just increased everything local. Jellies, pottery, soaps, honey, syrup, candies, and just brand ourselves as the oldest business in Blairsville. You can’t recreate that! Not only did we make it, we’ve had our best years!

What advice can you give small business owners?
The biggest tip I could give people is the old saying: location, location, location! You have to have a location people see.

What has been the key to your business success?
I think our family’s keys to success here at Sunrise is customer service. I remember my parents going to the house to get things for customers we didn’t have at the store to save them a trip to town. It’s hard to be on top of that all the time just due to getting sidetracked on other goings on at the store, or something like that, but we try to make all people feel at home and part of the Sunrise family.

What makes Blairsville a great community to own a business?
The community of Blairsville is the best there is!  People in town have always supported us. They bring their family to us when they have visitors. Local businesses come to buy gift baskets for their clients. So we have tons of support from Blairsville!

The things I love in Blairsville is the people, culture, and the beautiful mountains. I also have JMC photography where I focus on our landscape.These mountains will talk to you if you listen. It’s like no other place on Earth. That’s my humble opinion, though.

First AVA Designation in Georgia

Locals have known for a while, but now it’s official. There is great wine coming out of North Georgia.

After four years of paperwork, petitions, and substantial evidence that Western North Carolina and Northeast Georgia has a unique natural boundary and growing conditions unlike any other neighboring region, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) known as Upper Hiwassee Highlands was designated to our region.

This prestigious designation includes parts of Clay County and Cherokee County in North Carolina and Towns and Union Counties in Georgia. The Upper Hiwassee Watershed acts perfectly as the natural boundary for the eight wineries that fall into the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA.

An American Viticultural Area designation is not an easy process and they are not freely given out. Regulations require only wine that derives 85% or more of their content inside the boundaries of a designated AVA can use the AVA name.

The majority of AVAs are located in California with notorious names like Napa Valley and Sonoma. The Upper Hiwassee Highlands region makes the fourth designation for North Carolina and the first ever for Georgia!

So, what does this mean to the wineries?

It means that each vineyard in the Upper Hiwassee Highlands has a way to point vintners and consumers to a special characteristic or overall quality of grapes grown in the region.  

Additionally, they have permission to use a tag on their label called an appellation of origin, which proudly states the wine was made in the Upper Hiwassee Highlands region. Having the AVA designation assures wine enthusiasts of a product’s quality and characteristics.

So, take a ride around and get to know the wines of your region. Most vineyards offer tastings and typically have music or other fun events as you sniff, sample, and enjoy each unique vintage. Paradise Hills Farm Winery also has a resort and spa onsite, perfect for a North Georgia getaway.  

For a full listing of wineries or other activities in Union County and the North Georgia Mountains please go to

Vineyards included in the Upper Hiwassee Highlands region:
Clay County Eagle Fork Vineyard
Cherokee County Calaboose Cellars, Valley River Vineyards, Nottlely River Valley Vineyards
Towns County Crane Creek Vineyards, Hightower Creek Vineyards
Union County Paradise Hills Farm Winery, Odom Springs Vineyards