Enota Mountain Retreat is an environmentally-friendly resort located near Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highpoint. Working with guests to reduce their environmental footprint has become a hallmark of the Enota Retreat.
Dr. Suan Freed near the circa 1935 dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
Meet Dr. Suan (pronounced "Swan") Freed and quickly you will see that Enota Mountain Retreat is not only her life, it is her dream. Her energetic, vibrant personality was apparent from the warm greeting I received at the 1930's era lodge that is the centerpiece of the Enota complex, throughout the afternoon until she dropped me off at my cabin some four hours later. She is happy and relaxed, and loving her life.
Being avid hiker and dog lover is what drew me to Enota Mountain Retreat because it advertises itself as a "pet-friendly" resort. I knew it was true the moment I met Suan because within the folds of her light jacket was Willow, a squirrel, and Willow seemed right at home. It was a cool October afternoon when Suan told me the story of Enota.
The Cherokee Nation called this land home until it was ceded to the United States in 1819. A Cherokee village once stood on the land on which Enota stands. With all the available water power the land became the site of a mill and farm for 100 years. Then, in the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps built the beginning of the present-day facilities, which they used as a staging area while building the lookout tower on Brasstown Bald.
The YMCA then used the property for nearly 50 years as a camp in the north Georgia mountains. When the 500 acres adjoining the Chattahoochee National Forest came up for sale, Dr. Freed organized the purchase of the land to preserve the natural beauty of the setting and share it with the people who, as she does, love the mountains of north Georgia.
Hiawassee, Blairsville and Helen share a common thread - the Chattahoochee National Forest. Almost equidistant from each of these three towns, Enota is at the center of what any outdoor recreation fan would call heaven. Less than a two-mile hike from the Appalachian Trail, through-hikers regularly walk down from Clay Gap along an unmaintained but well-traveled trail. Brasstown Bald is nearby, with a stunning 360 degree view of the area. The retreat itself is within the what the Cherokee called "The Land of 10,000 Drips," a reference to the numerous area waterfalls. Within the 500 acres that comprise Enota there are plenty of things to do, including four different waterfall trails, two of which end in dramatic views of large, free drop falls.
Sitting in front of an impressive large stone fireplace that was crafted by the CCC is a surprising common activity for the lodgers who journey to Enota. The lodge serves as a welcoming point for guests as they arrive for their stay, with a small store in case visitors have forgotten something essential. For more esoteric items, a drive to Hiawassee may be required. The lodge also serves as conference center, retreat, or workshop for up to 150 people. Breakfast and dinner, when available, are served here as well.
As Suan began our tour of Enota, she took me to the environmentally friendly water-powered turbine housed in an attractive outbuilding. Water from a nearby waterfall plummets down an iron pipe to the turbine, which produces electricity for the community. Enota has added other sources of energy to drive the community's power needs.
Next stop on our trip was the camping area. Enota has some excellent choices for campers, whether you are just putting up a tent or want to back up the Winnebago. The lots are large and wooded, with plenty of space between each. Many are riverfront, for those who like to fall asleep creek side. A great idea might be to let the kids spend the night in the wild while Mom and Dad spend a relaxing evening in one of Enota's up-scale cabins.
Indian teepee at Enota Mountain Retreat
Elsewhere on the property Suan showed me a set of four teepees that are visible from the road. These can be rented by the night and the kids love them. These are constructed just as the homes of the Western Native Americans would have been before the start of the 20th century. This is a trip back in time.
In addition to a bed and breakfast on the property there are some wonderful, up-scale mountain cabins that are beautiful. I stayed in the Senaca, a short distance from the road that circles through Enota.
These cabins are simply wonderful! The Seneca is a lavishly furnished wood interior cabin with an indoor hot tub. What a great way to relax after a couple of days hiking (I had just completed an overnight hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail). This was heavenly. I returned to the lodge and rented a movie from a surprisingly large collection, then climbed in the hot tub to enjoy the warm water swirling around my tired body.
One of the great things about Enota is that there is so much to do right on the property. Whether the kids want to rent a bike and take it for a spin on the back road connecting the cabins and campsites, ride a horse or just watch the fish in the pond, there is a number of activities available to them. Mom and Dad can use the free time to go fishing, hiking, or just relaxing in the cabin.
Hiking is a favorite pastime of mine, and there is plenty of hiking within Enota itself. There are trails to the waterfalls and the unmaintained access trail to the AT at Clay's Gap. In addition to this, Georgia's high point, Brasstown Bald, is within a few miles of the resort. Brasstown is a hiking "hub," with 3 major trails heading in different directions. No trip to Brasstown is complete without a climb to the top along the short, paved trail. At the top the National Forest Service maintains a museum that tells the story of the mountain.
Small Joel Falls
If you enjoy water sports, Lake Chatuge is a 15-minute drive, or you can hike to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River if you have the better part of a day. If you want to visit the popular Alpine village of Helen for an event or just to browse some of their shops, its down the road through Unicoi Gap.