Archive for April, 2012
What’s new with Auraria as of 4/18/2012?
1) Hereward L.M. Proops at Booksquawk posted a nice review of Auraria: “Westover’s English language debut is beautifully written and manages to bring to life the rich folklore of the Appalachians.”
3) If you’re a LibraryThing user, you can enter to win an advance review copy as part of their Early Reviewers program.
4) Advance review copies are still available on NetGalley, too.
On dozens of trips up I-985 towards the north Georgia mountains, I’d passed the signs for the Elachee Nature Center. Two weeks ago, I decided it was finally time to visit. The Lime and I arrived on a wet, warm Saturday morning — the rain had stopped, but the air was still humid, the sort of weather that makes leaves seem greener and the earth smell richer.
The Elachee Nature Center is neither a state nor federal park — it’s built on land donated to the county by Johnson and Johnson. The center hosts three small exhibits: one that traces the history of the area from Mesozoic to prehistoric humans to local settlers, one on space, and one with various reptiles, amphibians, and other delightfully squirmy things in aquariums for visitors to gawk upon.
The protected land hosts two kinds of nature — hundreds of acres of sheltered woodlands comprising the watershed of a creek, and a golf course. Fortunately, these two forms of nature are separated, as one often spoils the other. The woodlands has many miles of trails, but with the Lime riding in her stroller, we stayed confined to a one mile paved loop, which was still a pleasant walk.
Somewhat unusually, the land for the nature center and golf course was preserved not through government intervention or citizens’ action, but through corporate need. Johnson and Johnson opened a textile mill here in 1927. One of the mill’s primary products was bandages, and bandages needed clean water. To ensure a constant supply of clean water, Johnson and Johnson had to protect the entire creek watershed. Once the mill began using municipal water and other sterilization techniques, the watershed was no longer required, and Johnson and Johnson donated the property to the county for administration as a recreational opportunity. The little mill town of Chicopee is still visible in the old houses and winding streets, which are very unlike a modern Piedmont suburb. I was heartened to see this bit of corporate good behavior.
After leaving the nature center, the Lime fell asleep, and I drove as far as I could until she woke up. The place where we found ourselves was Dahlonega, where I’ve been many times before, for pleasure and research. There was an Indian pow-wow happening behind one of the gas stations — I considered stopping in here but decided against it. The inauspicious location did not deter me, but the numerous typos on the signage and promotional materials did. I can tolerate a misplaced comma as much as the next Kudzu-league liberal, but a dozen spelling mistakes in two short paragraphs made me feel uneasy.
Instead, the Lime and I toured the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, a state facility located in the old courthouse in the middle of the town square. It’s a small museum, but one that I love. Downstairs, there’s a safe with rare examples of Dahlonega-minted coins and a diverse collection of locally discovered nuggets. Other rooms have mineral samples, stamps and weights and measures, tools, and implements from daily life. The upstairs, the former courtroom chambers, has the nozzle of a mighty hydrocannon, used to wash tons of rock off the Dahlonega mountains and into the stamp mills, where gold ore was extracted. There’s also a short video presentation of the Dahlonega story, from the Trail of Tears, to the founding of Auraria, to Dahlonega’s heyday and decline as a mining town, to its renaissance as a tourist destination.
The Lime had her lunch on the square, where the weather was perfect. In the later summer and fall, the square is filled with musicians — a giant bluegrass circle that meets every week. Several little venues throughout town make Dahlonega a haven for mountain music.
I hadn’t eaten yet, because I was saving my appetite for barbecue. On Route 60, between Gainesville and Dahlonega, is the Hickory Pig, proclaimed #1 barbecue in the greater Atlanta region by Atlanta Magazine. The building was tiny and ramshackle, barely more than a woodshed wrapped around a smoker. My heart soared — these are all excellent signs, as the quality of barbecue increases as the quality of the surroundings decreases. If there are ever white tablecloths at a barbecue place, excuse yourself politely before ordering.
Upon entering, I found myself in the middle of a family gathering. The proprietor, his wife, friends, and relations were sitting around the four tables in the tiny room, shooting the breeze. But they didn’t seemed particularly disturbed by interlopers, whether adult or infant. In fact, the Lime was very well received. While I ate ribs and brisket, the Lime was passed from arm to arm, making friends. She ate several spoonfuls of Brunswick Stew, which I made sure to note as a key milestone in the annuals of her infancy.
I bought a pound of pulled pork to bring back to my wife. The hour-long trip home, in the company of such a quantity of delicious smoky meat product, was a trial of restraint and self-denial, and I am only a little ashamed to say that it wasn’t a full pound of pulled pork that made it back.