For more than 30 years, I have traveled up I-85 and the Cherokee Scenic Highway to my property near Lake Jocassee. On one of the trips several years ago, less than 2 miles from I-85 going north on SC Highway 11 on the right side of the road, I discovered the Spotted Pig. This eatery is a country place with great hospitality and mouthwatering BBQ that is unforgettable and served in hearty portions. Since then, I stop every time I pass this fantastic restaurant!
For an even longer time, in the days prior to super highways, I would drive up old US 441 into the tiny mountain town of Clayton, Ga., before hitting the backroads in search of trout in a multitude of productive Rabun County streams. Just the trip to Clayton back then would take several hours, but times have changed. Even if you abide by the speed limits, Atlanta residents can use I-985 and Highway 365 to Clayton in less than 2 hours and discover a place that offers top-of-the-line wines, great food, unique and historic lodging and beautiful golf courses!
I made it into downtown Clayton just in time to have lunch and quickly discovered that my old South Carolina friend, the Spotted Pig (706-960-4448), had opened a second restaurant on Main Street in downtown Clayton! Just like in South Carolina, the pulled pork was phenomenal, the other food is excellent, service is great, people are friendly and the ribs are some of the best quality I’ve ever had at any restaurant. They have great outdoor seating, and everything is spotless. I sat outside with my service dog, and they brought him treats and a bowl of water. It’s actually a much larger place than the one in South Carolina with the same great food and hospitality, so I would highly recommend this place! They are open Thursday through Sunday.
After a hardy meal at the Spotted Pig, I would suggest doing some hiking at Georgia’s highest state park, Black Rock Mountain State Park, which encompasses some of the most outstanding scenery in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Roadside overlooks provide spectacular 80-mile vistas, and four hiking trails lead visitors past wildflowers, streams, small waterfalls and lush forests.
Visitors enjoy the summit visitor center for its views, gift shop and picnic tables.
Mountaintop cottages surround a small playground, while campsites are nestled under rhododendron and gnarled oaks. Tent campers will appreciate the walk-in sites that allow extra privacy. The park’s small lake is popular with anglers and circled by an easy walking trail. At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is often cooler than other Georgia parks and may close during icy weather.
It is always said that you can never go back to a place of your youth and be satisfied, but in the case of Clayton, that might not be true. The changes are many, but much of it has made the area more attractive to visitors without destroying the best of the past. So, I was impressed and pleased enough that I know I’ll return!
Photos: by Bill Vanderford