Located largely in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Chatahoochee National Forest covers a wide stretch of northern Georgia and offers a summer haven for those looking to beat the heat of lower climes. Within the Chattahoochee Forest, you'll find beautiful waterfalls (including Amicalola and Toccoa), ample fishing and hunting, a dramatic ravine (Tallulah Gorge), the state's highest point (Brasstown Bald, at 4,785 ft/1,455 m) and extensive walking trails (the Appalachian Trail begins there and runs north all the way to Maine).
In Spring Place, near the National Forest's western sections, you'll find the Vann House State Historic Site, an 1804 mansion that was home to the Cherokee chief James Vann. Vann pushed for Cherokee assimilation into U.S. society, and the house he built combines Cherokee motifs (carved by Moravian missionaries) with Federal-style architecture. Vann's son was forced to vacate the house in 1834. His father's dream of integration into mainstream culture ended with the Trail of Tears, in which 16,000 Cherokees were forced to march to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-39—a journey that killed 4,000 of them.
Just north of Summerville is Paradise Gardens, the outdoor museum of folk artist Howard Finster. Finster began his artistic forays in the mid-1970s after receiving a divine vision in a drop of paint. A number of his works have wound up in high-profile places, like on album covers by such bands as the Talking Heads and R.E.M. Some of his creations also grace the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. His 3-acre/1-hectare museum is paved with paths of colorful tiles that lead visitors through a maze of strange and wonderful sculptures and paintings incorporating all manner of found objects. Don't miss the Giant Cement Shoe (the name says it all). A gallery showcases works by Finster and dozens of other local artists. You can even spend the night in Finster's guesthouse. The Chattahoochee National Forest is approximately 60 mi/95 km north of Atlanta.
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