"Hang on," the guide shouts. The front of the raft dips down then pops back up, showering me with icy Chattooga River water. Soaked to the skin and very cold, I can’t help but smile from ear to ear. Now I can’t get the song "Splish Splash I Was Taking A Bath" out of my head.
The ten inch native brook trout noses up to my fake Mayfly floating on the tiny stream and studies it. I am thinking of the movie "River Runs Through It" until the current pulls my fly line making the bait move unnaturally and the fish darts away. I now realize I am more like the book "Standing In A Stream Waving A Stick!"
"Twhack." The little white ball sails through the clear mountain air, highlighted against the green hills behind it. Although there is almost no level ground on the course except the greens, and they are far from table top flat, golf courses like this one are a pleasure to play. I keep waiting for someone to yell "Get In the Hole" as my ball sails up the fairway. When it hit’s the water to the right of where I wanted it to go I realize no fan will ever follow me around the course.
The North Georgia mountains near Helen offer all the above and more. Zip lining, rafting, golfing and fly fishing are all fantastic there. And those are just a few of the fun outdoor activities available to the visitor. For the less adventurous, Helen is a shopper’s paradise with all kinds of small shops. You can find anything from local crafts to designer clothes.
Linda and I went to the Wildwater Adventure Center, a complex just over the North Carolina line at Almond. It is in an old school campus and they offer the zip line, whitewater rafting and kayaking and jeep tours. The old school buildings now in use for more pleasurable activities are interesting but much more excitement is to follow.
I hate flying but feel very comfortable on a zip line. The guides at Wildwater are very careful and great at instructing you. When you strap on the safety harness and feel how snug and substantial it feels, you know it won’t fail. Then they take you to a line where your feet are only about a foot off the ground to teach you exactly what to do.
One great thing about the zip line at Wildwater is there are no ladders! On most you have to climb high up a ladder to the first platform. Here they hook your harness to a hoist and you effortlessly rise, dangling from a cable, up to the first platform. From there it is all downhill as you whiz through the treetops on ten zips, getting lower and lower at each landing, until the last one takes you over a lake. Of course I was looking for fish as I sailed over it.
Rafting and kayaking the rivers can be as exciting as you want it to be. Sections of some of the rivers have very tough sections, others are more calm and serene. Companies like Wildwater Adventure Center and Unicoi Outfitters offer you many choices and provide everything you need except your bathing suit.
Golf courses in the mountains are beautiful even if tough due to the uneven terrain. And you get more exercise if you walk the course since it is all up and down. That is why many opt for a golf cart. But either way you will enjoy playing courses like the one just outside Helen at Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club.
Fishing is great and you can catch stripers, hybrids, big spotted bass and largemouth as well as catfish and walleye in local lakes like Burton. But trout are the main draw of the area and miles of beautiful streams are open to the public. Some are easy to access from a road but get higher fishing pressure. Hiking to more remote streams gives you more privacy and a better chance of catching native brook trout.
If you want trophy trout there are streams where fishing methods and catches are restricted. On others you can fish with anything you want, including live bait, and keep what you catch to eat. These streams are stocked with rainbows regularly for your eating pleasure.
Plan a trip to Helen. If you love the outdoors, you won’t be disappointed.