Just a sampling of the bounty that awaits visitors at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Ga. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. — It is the perfect time of year to hit the north Georgia mountains.
In about two hours, residents in Clayton and Henry counties can be free of metro traffic, concrete and asphalt and be deep into the orange, reds and yellows of the fall leaves that make this part of the state so popular.
Blue Ridge is typical of many of the mountain towns that draw folks from the comfort zones of the suburbs into the wild. They all offer activities to appease every age group, giving the kids as well as grandparents something fun and different to do.
Zip lines are a great way for youngsters to pass the time while moms and dads stroll through shops that feature antiques, gifts and home furnishings.
There are a couple of railroad lines that run in the region, including Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and Smoky Mountain Railway, depending on where the highway leads. Depending on the schedule, riders tour at least an hour to the next depot, through mountains and acres of forest lush in fall colors.
There are plenty of fishing opportunities for the outdoor sportsmen, at Lake Blue Ridge, Toccoa River and Morganton Point, and trout fishing at Chattahoochee Fish Hatchery.
Speaking of rivers, whitewater rafting and tubing are also popular in this area on the Ocoee River. There are also horseback riding, hiking and biking trails throughout the area.
In addition to visiting for the changing of leaves from the greens of summer into the brilliance of fall, people come to north Georgia for the apples. Apple-picking season typically peaks in September but the Mercier Orchards, which started in 1943, is open year-round.
Mercier Orchards is at 8660 Blue Ridge Drive and is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It closes New Years Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The cavernous building with free parking boasts a feast for the senses with a variety of apples and products made from apples that include cider, fried pies, muffins, breads, doughnuts and cakes. They also carry candy, jellies, sauces, preserves, jams, dressings, muffin mixes and fruit butters.
There is also a room dedicated to Christmas with a bounty of ornaments and decorations.
Through October, visitors can opt to ride to the orchard on a guided-tour tractor and pick their own apples for a fee.
Blue Ridge is a great place for a day trip or a week-long getaway. From the blue of the mountains to the colorful fall leaves, it’s a sight visitors won’t soon forget.
Good internet sources for information are blueridgemountains.com, where one can request a free visitors guide, and mercier-orchards.com.