Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2017 - 52
Kentucky's Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade is a popular site during late summer and fall.
around a campfire. And we cruise
Lake Chatuge with Michael Kennedy, the general manager of The
Kennedy cranks up country music on his pontoon. Then he beaches
his boat on Brown Island to show
off a sandy shoreline near the North
"We do a fall lake cruise at The
Ridges every year," Kennedy says.
"It's a 13-footer pontoon, and it
holds 25 people. It's usually around
the first to the middle of September
to the end of November."
Back on land, I begin craving fish.
So I order mountain trout for lunch
at Mary's Southern Grill (706-8961048) in Young Harris then crabstuffed flounder for dinner at the
newly-opened Sundance Grill (706896-4745) in Hiawassee.
Spending another night at Young
Harris, we splash in the indoor-outdoor pool of the plush Brasstown
Valley Resort (706-379-9900), a casual-yet-upscale retreat that offers luxurious rooms with private porches
plus made-to-order omelets on the
You can also ride horses with
the must-meet Jerry Hamilton, the
friendly manager at The Stables.
Leaf-looking is popular at
Brasstown, says general manager
Charles Burton. "You get the cooler temps early, like in September,
so the evening cools and people
like that. But our main draw is that
fall leaf color changing. October is
our busiest month."
Aurilla Lesley runs rings around the
Red River Gorge on her bicycle, netting 20-some miles at a time. She
follows a road-biking loop here each
spring in Kentucky "for the flowers"
and later "for the fall leaves."
The fall is especially pretty, says
a friend and fellow cyclist, Joe
Bowen. "The thing that brings the
people here, and I love it, too, is the
Bowen, in his 70s, and Lesley,
in her 80s, may rank among the
most avid athletes going through
the gorge-a wonderful wonderland of arches, stone bridges and
"When you're on a bike, you can
see everything because you're close
to it. You stop and take pictures,"
Lesley says. "It's a tough ride, but the
whole time it's pretty."
Red River Gorge Geological Area
(606-663-8100) contains a milelong loop trail to see the Sky Bridge,
an arch spanning 76 feet. The gorge
is also part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. And it's close to Natural Bridge State Resort Park (606663-2214), where I spend a night at
the Hemlock Lodge and then most
of a day hiking the park's trail system in Slade.
I feast on the all-you-can-eat
breakfast buffet in the Sandstone
Arches Restaurant. Then I head
straight-up on the Original Trail,
gaining about 420 feet in elevation,
to stand below the sandstone structure of the Natural Bridge.
"It looks too good to be true,"
fellow hiker Jack Perlette tells me
while scanning the bottom of the
78-foot-long bridge. "You would
think it was constructed this way."
Perlette laughs, and so does
his wife, Arlene. Both take pause
at the 65-foot-tall bridge: a vacation destination for this couple
from Gainesville, Florida. The
Perlette pair celebrated their 50th
wedding anniversary with a crosscountry RV trip that pinpointed
this stop for a Monday morning
"And it's just so relaxing and rejuvenating to be out here in nature,
and so beautiful," Arlene Perlette
says. "And I love the leaves starting
to change colors."
Hiking is the biggest draw to the
Natural Bridge State Resort Park,
says park naturalist Brian Gasdorf.
But even on the half-mile-up Original Trail, it's not exactly easy to see
its namesake arch.
So take the Skylift, which provides almost-universal accessibility,
dropping off passengers only 600
feet from the bridge. Since 1967, the
Skylift has shuttled passengers on a
What's more, it starts at a parking
area where you may see "The Purple
Lady"-reportedly a ghostly vision
with "a purple hue," says the Skylift's owner, Judy Shaw.
"My understanding is that she
was killed in one of the campgrounds, and her ghost is apparently still here," says Shaw. "Quite
a few people see her. I haven't seen
her. I've watched for her. I feel spirits, but I have never seen her."
Operating the Skylift is a family affair for Shaw. These days, she
is assisted by her granddaughter,
27-year-old Bree Curtsinger.
"The fall is our busiest time of
year because of the leaves turning,"
Curtsinger says. "And this is a great
vacation for anybody. In the fall
time, it's very pretty."