Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2017 - 34
Get Up-Close With Joe Tennis
Blue Ridge Country Contributing Editor Joe
Tennis shot video of many of these visits. To
watch, please go to
Jason Hawkins didn't shy away from
the Hell's Hollow name during our
family horseback adventure in Blue
"A lot of people come out here and
hear the name 'Hell's Hollow' and
think, 'Oh, my gosh,'" says Hawkins,
a guide at Blue Ridge Mountain Trail
Rides (706-408-7433). "But, actually,
this is a beautiful community. It's
very family-oriented. We're all like
a family here, and we like to have
families come out and show them a
Is Hell's Hollow where the devil
went down to Georgia?
Hawkins smiles. "It got its name,
back years ago, in the early 1900s,"
he says. "This area used to be famous
for moonshine-and all that implies
with it: backwoods, country people,
rough living, just the old country
way of life."
Saddling up at the 182-acre Hell's
Hollow marked the start of our Labor
Day weekend at Blue Ridge, where we
booked ourselves into a pet-friendly
retreat through Southern Comfort
Cabin Rentals (706-258-3737).
Among the highlights: We feasted
on pasta for Sunday supper at Masseria Kitchen & Bar (706-946-1511). We
also took the four-hour journey on
the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway (877413-8724)-a rail-ride that is certainly no "Georgia on a Fast Train." It's
more like a leisurely "Slow Ride," taking it easy to Tennessee. And it's even
a little like "Hee Haw," counting all
the corny jokes told by car-hosts as
the train passes cornfields en route to
a lunchtime layover on the GeorgiaTennessee border.
Back in Blue Ridge, our cabin for
the weekend was spacious, handsome and very much a woodsy retreat, with bedrooms tucked into
three floors. The wraparound deck
offered a view into the treetops like
being at your own state park: a perfect place to begin each day with
We savored Saturday night supper at the Blue Ridge Brewery (706632-6611) on Depot Street, tasting
lightly-breaded, farm-raised trout
and ribeye steak. Here, you can bring
your dog and hear live music on the
patio. And, of course, try the beer.
"We have six right now on tap," says
the head chef, Mike Hurn. "We are
restaurant plus a brewery. It's a split."
Wrapping up, we spent Labor
Day Monday at the Toccoa Valley
Campground (706-838-4317), where
owner Gina Golden's family has
been tubing the Toccoa River for half
"We call it a tubing company
that just happens to be on a campground," Golden says. "And the water? It's just good, flowing water."
Golden's tube-run floats through
a forest that could mirror the imagination of a great landscape painter-
with towering evergreens, big boulders, and the ruffles of a river that
apparently never grows tired of sharing its sweet song.
At nearly 74, Joe Bowen has found
himself. Yet it seems like he may be
finding himself over and over again.
He keeps walking. He keeps talking.
He has plans.
Meeting this man over a 19-hour
period in Powell County, Kentucky,
I discover what dreams can be-and
that sometimes the beginning of a
new chapter might come in the middle of another.
Bowen draws inspiration from
the dreamy landscape of the Red
River Gorge. And that includes the
tiny Angel Windows-a rock-arch
formation discovered by Bowen at
age 15. "We named it Angel Windows," Bowen says. "And the reason we called it that is if you walk
through it, and walk another eight
or 10 feet, you will meet your angel,