Guest Blogger: Matthew Boucher
I first heard about Big Canoe through a social media photo contest co-sponsored by Big Canoe and Atlanta Trails. Atlanta Trails is an online magazine that inspires outdoor adventure; I often consult atlantatrails.com for advice and inspiration on where to hike in Georgia. Through the social media outlet “Instagram,” the photo contest called for our best #GeorgiaSpring pictures, which would be judged on originality, composition, color and beauty. At the end of the 10-day contest, I was overjoyed to find out that the photo I took along the Chattahoochee River was chosen as the best (photo left)!
There was a brief description of the contest prizes on Instagram, which included a weekend stay at a mountain home in Big Canoe. Beyond that, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The day following the announcement, Katie Wercholuk, Director of Marketing at Big Canoe Company, LLC, contacted me about the prizes. Katie’s generosity, candor and kindness were very apparent, and gave me a great first impression of Big Canoe. I came to find that I had won a two-night, three-day stay on top of Sanderlin Mountain with three guests of my choice, a triple waterfall hike with the Atlanta Trails crew (Eric Champlin and Rob Sollie), pontoon boat and paddle board rentals, dinner at the Clubhouse and exclusive gifts!! I was completely overwhelmed with happiness, and could not wait for that June weekend to arrive.
My guests and I are young professionals in our early thirties who live and work in the greater Atlanta area. Of course that meant we had to travel from the Perimeter area on a Friday afternoon to get to Big Canoe. I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy the drive was; there was very little traffic and many travel options including both highway and back-roads. As we passed through the Big Canoe main entrance, through winding roads, forests, lakes and mountains, my excitement was building. Katie, Eric and Rob greeted us at the Big Canoe Realty Office which is in the heart of the Community. They made us feel at home right away! Before we even checked into our house, we were presented with an amazing bag of gifts to use for the weekend and future adventures (photo right). Katie gave us a rundown of the 8,000 acres within the Big Canoe property, they wished us a great weekend, and we were on our way.
The drive up Sanderlin Mountain was absolutely breathtaking. We entered our house to find a beautiful cabin-like interior with so much character (photo left). There were two sunrooms, a back patio, a fireplace, and rustic furniture throughout the house. The view of mountains from the back porch was more stunning than I could have possibly imagined. We settled in with a hot cup of coffee after a long workday and gazed out from our back porch in anticipation of a memorable weekend to follow.
Our next stop was Lake Petit. Katie reserved the company pontoon boat for my friends and I. Another scenic drive took us to the boat docks at the Lake Petit Marina. We were again greeted with candor, generosity and kindness. The two gentlemen at the counter asked if we were Katie’s guests. They said, “You guys are celebrities here this weekend! Boat number six is yours for the afternoon,have a great time!” One of the gentlemen recognized the camera strapped over my shoulder. He asked me if I was going to take any pictures. I responded that I had hoped to take some pictures at sunset. He took me out to the dock, pointed into the distance and said; “You see those two mountain peaks over there?” I said “yes…” He said, “If you go to the side of the island, the sun sets right between those two peaks.” I looked at him with a big smile, said thank you and we hopped on the boat. We cruised around for a couple of hours, had a refreshing swim, and soaked in the panoramic views. Just after 8PM I noticed the sun starting to settle right where the gentleman at the Marina said it would. We kicked back and watched the sun drop right between two mountains, bursting out onto the lake (photo right). The sun reflected off the lake like an orange beam that ran directly to our boat; it was gorgeous. As the sun set we took the boat in by the dock, gathered our things in headed to the car. As we walked away from the dock, I turned back and noticed the sky lighting up with purple and orange hue. I stopped to take a picture to remember what had been an epic first night at Big Canoe (photo left). My expectations were already far exceeded, and we had only just started our trip. My friends were ecstatic.
We headed back to our house atop Sanderlin Mountain, got settled in, and played a card game on the back patio while crickets chirped in the background. The weather in the patio sunroom was perfect. As we turned in for the night, I recalled Katie mentioning a perfect place to watch the sunrise, on top of Oglethorpe Mountain. She showed me a photograph that the Atlanta Trails Crew took at the same spot. I set my alarm clock for 5AM; I did not want to miss that sunrise! After a lovely night’s sleep, I woke up to my 5 o’clock alarm. I looked out the window and saw clear skies, perfect for a sunrise. I gathered my camera and tripod and drove up to Eagle’s Rest on Oglethorpe Mountain. Words cannot describe the horizon that I saw that morning. The sky was bright red and orange, and there were deep blue layers of mountains that seemed to go on forever (photo right). It was the perfect start to my second day at Big Canoe.
The second day at Big Canoe was our long awaited hike with the Atlanta Trails crew. Being an avid hiker and big supporter of Atlanta Trails, I could not wait to hit the woods with them. We met Eric and Rob at the trailhead and headed off on our trek. The hike climbed through forest covered by a bright green canvas of leaves. Our first stop was at the Lower Falls; we rested there and listened to the falls glide over the rocks (photo left). The hike continued up the mountain past two more waterfalls. Eric and Rob knew every twist and turn of the trail. On the way back to the car we passed an old moonshine still next to a cabin in the woods. I loved seeing something historic like this on the trail. As we trekked back down to the car my friends and I were sad to leave the trail, but we knew we would be visiting again. Our second day ended with another sunset cruise on Lake Petit and another wonderful night nestled on top of Sanderlin Mountain.
On Sunday morning we sat out on the sunroom patio one last time. We drank our coffee and watched out as the mist filled clouds passed over and endless sea of mountains. My guests and I agreed that we had an amazing weekend, and that we were sad to leave. We went around and said what our favorite part of the trip was; the answer was unanimous, “everything!” I can say with all sincerity that I will return to Big Canoe for another weekend adventure with friends. Being an avid hiker living in Georgia, I was surprised that I had never heard of Big Canoe; especially considering its wealth of trails and breathtaking landscape. I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to its beauty by Atlanta Trails and Katie Wercholuk. I cannot thank them and the entire Big Canoe Community enough for making this trip a reality. I have already recommended Big Canoe to all of my friends that enjoy hiking and the outdoors.