The constant praise of spontaneous weekend getaways has always intrigued me. Deciding to cash in on the craze, I did some digging, and settled on a quick jaunt to Amicalola Falls Lodge in North Georgia. A little over 70 miles north of Atlanta, this state park and lodge rests in the crest of the mountains in Dawsonville, GA. Amicalola (which means “Tumbling Waters”) boasts a 729-foot waterfall, lots of trails—and during the fall season—foliage that’s cartoonish in its multicolored beauty.
Beginning my trip right before dusk, the drive started getting a bit lonely and creepy about halfway through. By the time I’d reached signs for Amicalola Falls, I breathed a sigh of relief until I realized that my journey had just begun. I spotted a small cluster of lights perched high into the sky: The Lodge. Prayer, and a really strong transmission allowed me to reach the parking lot at the top of the mountain.
I must admit that the paranormal enthusiast in me did a little research prior to my arrival. Aware of several haunted locations in Georgia, I wondered if Amicalola Falls was one of them. Indeed, it’s made a few lists. But unless you’re friends with the guys from TAPS, you’ll only be sure if you’re a firsthand witness. (Author Nancy Roberts describes her experience at Amicalola Falls in her book,“Georgia Ghosts.”)
The place itself has a very homey feel, without going overboard on the kitsch. Though Christmas had passed, holiday trimmings still adorned the lobby, in full-throttle Winter Wonderland mode. However, the off-season calm made it seem as if I was a guest at someone’s private estate for a slumber party. The rooms are very clean and well appointed, no frills with a few character pieces thrown in for whimsy. After settling in, I headed downstairs to The Maple restaurant for dinner. The on-site eatery boasts a succulent buffet for all three meals with floor-to-ceiling windows that give the dining room an ethereal vibe.
A few naysayers on TripAdvisor weren’t too fond of the buffet choices. But my juicy steak and crisp veggies said otherwise. The breakfast options were equally appealing (particularly the raspberry/cream cheese stuffed French toast-thingy). However, it was during dinner that I hit up Christine the waitress for an impromptu interview. I asked her about whether anyone had witnessed strange activity at the hotel. She agreed – even mentioning another staff member who’d heard things in the kitchen area. A few more tales from Christine of sightings and sounds at neighboring parks, further whet my appetite.
It also didn’t hurt that the lodge’s long hallways reminded me of the hotel from “The Shining.” (Morbid, yes.) On a lighter note, I enjoyed feeling at home with “strangers.” One young woman lounged in a hallway wearing her PJs and socks and it didn’t even seem weird. A man and his little boy (in similar attire) took advantage of the lobby’s cozy, living-room feel-- a slumber party indeed.
Besides the great eats and the local lore, I got exactly what I wanted—fantastic mountain views. A change of scenery can do wonders for one’s perspective, whether you’re an outdoorsman, a thrill-seeker or stressed commuter. At night in my room, I pulled back the curtains to reveal the wide landscape. The shadowy terrain against the purple sky, dotted with lights was breathtaking. I felt as if I’d walked into a giant screensaver. Mission accomplished.