We drove to Almond, North Carolina, little more than a post office situated at the southern end of the Smokey Mountains, in order to see a high school classmate and his wife.
If you have read much of this blog, you know we prefer back roads. Not having as much time as we would like for this trip, we did take I-75 to Lake City. But when we reached exit 301, we had to take a ten-mile diversion west on Route 50 near Brooksville to visit our first old friend, the Deep South Barbeque.
Clay Green, a Marine Viet Nam veteran, converted an old real estate office into the Deep South Barbeque when his wife passed on from cancer. He titled the property in the names of his young daughters to provide them a college education and said operating it would give them time to be together as a family. It became a local success, and when destroyed by fire, their friends banded together to rebuild it.
The daughters sold out to a new man and his son last September, but the food was as good or better than when we first tried it years ago. The barbeque is excellent (maybe 2nd best ever). The fried green tomatoes, lightly battered and fresh and hot from the pan are the best I have ever had, but I am not an expert. Bar none, however, they make the best baked beans I have ever eaten. I remember the first time when we detected several types of beans in this stew, but there is almost as much pulled pork in with them as there are beans — just great!
From Lake City north, we drove U.S. 441. When we first used to drive this way, it was all two-lane back country road. The first miles into Fargo, Georgia are almost all through pine forest. Fargo is just outside the Stephen Foster State Park, where the Suwanee River begins its course to the Gulf from the Okefenokee Swamp. Gradually, much of the route north of Athens has been made four-lane, but it still retains its charm.
We have visited far too many interesting places along 441 to list this time, but here are a few. Georgia Power and Light’s reservoir has been developed as a great recreation area. We once enjoyed Douglas’ Fourth of July Celebration. Eatonton, was home to Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories. Madison’s many antebellum homes were spared by the Union armies. And other interesting towns like Taccoa and Helen are not too far off the route.
But we could only stop on this trip to see another old friend, Hillside Orchard Farms. After first tasting their preserves from a roadside stop on an early trip that way, we subsequently tracked them down. They have lots to do like finding one’s way through a corn maze, seeing a real ethanol still, and looking at the animals. But we go there for the food. If you are lucky, you will catch one of their cider donuts fresh out of the oven. And they have shelf after shelf of jellies, jams and preserves (with signs to explain the difference). We buy the traditional cherry, blueberry and peach preserves, but we also like several of their own recipes. In particular, we like FROG Jam, made from figs, raspberries, oranges and ginger. The name is fun, and it is remarkably good.
And finally we reached our true old friends, Pat and Doug. We love seeing them and enjoying their homes – yes homes. Neither is a mansion, but both offer priceless rewards. From the deck of their main house, one looks out over the valley to Smokey Mountain National Park – and on a clear day, to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Down below is Fontana Lake, a wonderful place to boat and swim.
But for many years, they have also owned “the ranch, ” which while it has lake access, is exceptionally private. It has a barn which has housed horses and now parks ATVs. But the recreational features aren’t what attracts one most. When you drive down the long lane into the bowl where the house nestles, you immediately relax. This is a very peaceful place.
We love seeing new places and meeting new people, but nothing is like seeing old friends.