Into the wild : Yogi who camped and hiked

There exist several well documented examples demonstrating that one week of camping sans electronics, not only resets our biological body clock but also synchronizes melatonin (hormone) production with sunrise and sunset.

camping in north GA Armed with the knowledge of these studies, I decided to undertake a camping trip, in the midst of wilderness and in the very lap of nature. Although, the move was prompted by a very dear friend of mine, Andrea, coupled with my own notions of the universe, and its role in every life, was compelling enough for me to take up this challenge.

We decided to camp at The Desoto Falls located off Highway 129. The drive itself instigated me to surrender to the bounty of nature and the wilderness which nourished my soul. I believe that camping is a silent form of adventure, which brings clarity to mind as well as allows the soul to soak in the positivity around. For me, it is a stress buster, wherein, I can be myself and enjoy my surroundings without worrying about the every day mundane tasks.

Divya Sarin

Deciding the campsite, setting up the tents, arranging food and starting the camp fire, requires immense strength. Yet, despite the strenuous tasks, our bodies oozed energy like never before and our quest for adventure grew by leaps and bounds. When at last, we did start to feel at home, we spent time making smores and talked our hearts, not mention that some of us were also strangers for one another. By the time, the day lapsed into night we had cemented that awkward relationship into a budding new friendship – our hearts were lighter, the summer became cooler and our energies were higher. We had the best sleep in years with just the sounds of crickets and the nearby creek as lullabies. To further quench our thirst for adventure we started our day-two with yoga in the company of trees by the creek, followed by a staggering 4.8 miles hike from Neel Gap to Blood mountain- the Appalachian trail.

yoga camp north Georgia

It rained while we hiked, which was soothing, and the majestic view from the top raised our spirits to an unknown level of ecstasy and elation. The trip concluded three days later with quality time spent with friends and most importantly nature. Our zeal for adventure has reached a pinnacle, not to mention our inquisitiveness to know more about nature. I now know that mountains are my calling, for I have left a piece of my heart there.

Every year Andrea from You Yoga Me Yoga  take the interested yogis amidst nature to make them disconnect from the daily routine. Camping once in an year helps in relaxing the mind. It sets the natural alarm clock for the body, helps with mood-swings, and also engaging with nature by turning off the mobile phones/laptops lowers the stress levels and is believed to be equivalent to meditation. I urge each one my reader to camp once in life and I promise you will not be able to stop yourself from camping again. Let loose and for a change, party with nature. Smell the moist earth and take home the fragrance you would love to wear.

~ By Divya Sarin, a yoga enthusiast who can’t sit idle, and wants to create some magic in each person’s life. Follow her on her blog on happiness and life. 

160 years in memories with Clent

“It’s a beautiful love story with a lot of powerful women” kept saying Clent Coker, the historian, museum director and author at Barnsley Gardens Resort in Georgia. While visiting the gardens this past weekend, Clent gave me a personal tour while sharing his own personal obsession with the property.

Clent’s great-grandmother was born in one of the cottages adjacent to The Barnsley Manor in the early 1800s. He grew up playing in the gardens listening to her fairy-tale stories about Godfrey Barnsley and his beloved wife, Julia. Since then he has dedicated his entire life researching, collecting and documenting every event that took place on the property. Clent’s family was friends with the Barnsleys’ so he has a mental biography of each of the family members as told over time. With hundreds of letters, pictures, furniture and personal belongings, Clent now maintains the Barnsley museum and is overjoyed to talk to whoever is interested in listening to his story.

Clent is the author of “Barnsley Gardens At Woodlands”, a 260 page, photo filled hard cover book that narrates the history of this majestic estate and its owners over the last two centuries. Cotton lord and Englishman, Godfrey Barnsley built the gardens and manor for his young wife, Julia. Clent told me that although she passed away at the age of 35 before seeing the great manner completed, it was her strong influence that later guided Godfrey through the final construction of the estate. It would become one of the greatest love stories of the south.

Surviving a tornado, the civil war, a murder, and a few owners, today the 2,000 acre Barnsley Resort stands as one of the most beautiful places in the south. By the mid 1850’s the Woodland’s gardens were completed from the manuals of the renowned landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing (aka The Father of American Landscape Architecture.) Downing is famous for his cottage style residences surrounded by symmetrical gardens. As we walked out of the ruins into the Woodlands gardens, I got a beautiful view of how rows of shrubs, trees and flowers had been strategically placed creating a pristine oasis within the lush grounds.

Clent drove me around the property in his all-terrain golf cart, speeding away through grass and dirt trails. He showed me the place where the Barnsley family is buried, the beautiful orchards, lakes and picnic areas. Apparently, Clent has also been working as a strategic advisor, overlooking the construction of the resort that opened in 1999.

He guided Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria (previous owner) in restoring the gardens as he remembered them as a child.  He shared his vision of a peaceful resort representing an old English village, inspired by which the rows of neatly placed cottages were built. During the 1990’s Clent handpicked several other historic homes from the north Georgia area and had the moved to the premises, creating the outpost for adventure sports, an original Cherokee Indian cabin and the Rice House restaurant. However, we were not trying to create another “Dollywood” Clent exclaimed. He said that he and Prince Fugger and the developers agreed they would maintain the natural beauty of the place offering people a relaxing family friendly atmosphere were they could hike, bike, golf, kayak, horseback ride and swim while also touring the historic ruins and museum. In 2005 the Barnsley Gardens Resort was purchased by Julian Saul and associates and the Barnsley dream continues on.

Clearly, Clent is more than passionate about his own love affair with Barnsley. Everyone I talked to at the resort had the same feeling about him. He knows a lot about everything, they told me. His legacy is going to last with Barnsley. I couldn’t resist bringing home an autographed copy of his book and feeling the presence of a great storyteller in my own library.

To read more about Clent Coker or his book, click here.

Where to find the best grits in the south?

Grits are a favorite in the southern US. It’s mainly eaten for breakfast, similarly to porridge, although it has made its way on to the dinner plate as well. You will frequently find grits served as a side with seafood (shrimp, catfish or scallops). Cheese, bacon, fried onions or butter may be added to dress it for an upscale entrée. Another interesting dish I have come across in the south is grit balls, which is essential hush puppies made with grits. They are soft and creamy inside with a crispy fried crust on the outside. Delicious!

I first heard about Logan Turnpike Mill when my friend, chef Nancy Waldeck cooked a breakfast for Atlanta’s Food Bloggers at the Cook’s Warehouse. She made some shrimp and grits which were really yummy! I remember her mentioning that she bought the grits from Whole Foods, but they were a special kind, the ones that need to be refrigerated. They were made by Logan Turnpike Mill, a 27 year old mill located in Blairsville, GA (about 2 hours north of Atlanta).

What’s special about the stone ground grits, corn bread mix and pancake mix from Logan Turnpike is that they are kept in their natural form. Therefore, the flour has a coarser texture.  The oils and grains derived from the corn are kept intact when milling, so the need to be refrigerated or frozen. Other over the counter grits are essentially de-germinated commercial flour that does not perish quickly.  You will find that Logan’s grits have more richness, flavor and nutrition.  Even Paula Deen endorsed them when she used Logan Turnpike in her shrimp and creamy cheddar grits recipe published in the magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen.

George and Cecilia Holland have been running the Logan Turnpike Mill for 27 years now. They have a little mill and store in Blairsville, GA where they stone grind dry corn to make grits and flour. With only a couple of heavy duty equipments, George does everything himself, the old fashioned way.  He will be more than happy to show you his collection of mills of all sizes and ages. (I asked him to create a museum next door and he agreed.) The couple spends a lot of time on the road, hosting booths at festivals and shows. They have been working alongside for three decades now and still keep the spark alive!

The products are supplied to many restaurants in Atlanta and some grocers, including Whole Foods. You can also order directly from their website. If you can get your hands on a bag from Logan Turnpike Mill, try out this recipe that George shared with me…

George’s Favorite Grits Casserole 

Measure 1 cup grits and 4 cups water in a heavy saucepan. Add 1 small chopped onion and 2 gloves crushed garlic. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup margarine or butter, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 lightly beaten eggs. Mix well, and then pour into a 2 quart greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon paprika and bake at 275F for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Logan Turnpike Mill is located on U.S. 19/129 5 miles south of Blairsville GA at mile marker #8. The store is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm except for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.