Explore the Unexpected


If there’s a thread that runs through our ramblings over the last few months, it’s a mild sense of adventure. Even now, in our “approaching middle age” time of life, we enjoy just taking off for a day and riding wherever we wind up.

by Zip The Usa via wikimedia commons

While our travels these days are usually closer to home, there’s still the opportunity to explore the unexpected. Not too long ago, we took a road we hadn’t traveled before, enjoying the quiet of the trees waving in the breeze and the occasional passing car or truck. It was a two-lane highway, on most maps, but in a direction we hadn’t taken before.

We started seeing signs for something called Banning Mills. Curious, we followed them, and wound up at “the world’s longest zip line.” Now, not being adventure travelers, the idea of any zip line isn’t particularly enticing for us, but we turned in and drove around.

A little internet research showed the area was, of course, once a mill town, eventually containing up to ten mills including two pulp mills, a paper mill, a grist mill and a sawmill, along Snake Creek. Now you can explore Snake Creek Gorge, the Old Ghost Town of Banning, GA, and the ruins of the paper mill.

Although some of the mill houses still remain, it’s mostly a bed and breakfast community now with a Conservation Center and a choice of zip line adventures, sky bridges, towers and tours.

Accommodations range from Lodge Economy Rooms to Tree House Rooms as well as cabins and the historic country inn. In addition to the adventure offerings, there’s mini golf, a pool, tennis and basketball courts, a day spa, sand volleyball and horseshoes, horseback riding, a catch-and-release fishing lake, and historic hiking trails.

So while we didn’t check out any of the adventures offered, we at least got a glimpse of what’s available just a short drive from home.

by GreyHoodieLady via wikimedia commons

We’ve talked before about side trips we’ve taken while we were on vacation. One of those was to a little village in the Shenandoah Valley called Orkney Springs. When we visited, it was like a ghost town with a huge Victorian hotel and evidence of summer fun a few months away.

In those days, the internet wasn’t even a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. But now you can find out that it’s a Cathedral Shrine and Conference Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The hotel has been renovated and is still the site of the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, now in its third decade of performances.

Another time, we were visiting in the Blue Ridge, Georgia, area and took one of those roads that looked interesting and wound up in this seemingly abandoned Williamsburg-like village. The buildings had either been moved in or carefully constructed to mimic the centuries’-old shops and taverns.

Since we have no idea where we were, we’ve never been able to find it again, and even the helpful workers at the Welcome Center don’t seem to know where it is or was. So it definitely makes sense to take photos and make notes if you want to find your “hidden treasure” another time! Now that our phones are constant companions, this is much easier!

by Elaine Allen

Another time, probably a rainy day at Hilton Head, we drove around and wound up on Hunting Island, SC, where we found a state park with a fabulous deserted beach. We felt like we’d discovered buried treasure!

While it’s tempting, and sometimes necessary, to plan every trip, every stop, every outing, sometimes it’s nice to take a break and just let the adventures happen. So the next time you’re looking for something a little different, you might consider taking that little road you’ve always wondered about. Especially now with GPS, you can’t really get lost! And you might be pleasantly surprised at the sights you’ll see and the surprises you’ll experience when you explore the unexpected!

Next: Visit Beaufort, South Carolina

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