No matter how welcoming and civilized it is in reality, to a large segment of the population Rabun County (www.gamountains.com) will always be known as Deliverance Country. Oh, well. As the saying goes: No press is bad press.
Occupying the very northeastern corner of Georgia a two-hour drive from Atlanta, Rabun County may be infamous as the setting for James Dickey's 1970 best-selling novel and the hillbillylicious 1972 film starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds, but it has plenty else to warrant a day trip or mountain getaway.
Here's two words: Tallulah Gorge. At the turn of the last century, the 1,000-foot chasm was north Georgia's top tourist attraction and was lined with resort hotels. But then Georgia Power killed the golden goose by damming the river that fed the spectacular Tallulah Falls to generate electricity to run Atlanta's streetcar system. The gorge regained fame in 1970 when it was crossed by 65-year-old German tightrope-walker Kurt Wallenda, who performed without a net.
It wasn't until 1993, however, that the floodgates were reopened, the falls roared again and Tallulah Gorge State Park (338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive, Tallulah Falls, 706-754-7970, www.gastateparks.org/Tallulah) was created. Visitors can enjoy miles of hiking trails or white-water rafting down the river.
For those seeking calmer waters, Rabun is also home to Lake Burton (www.georgialakeinfo.com/burton) along U.S. 76, with shoreline in Moccasin Creek State Park (3655 Ga. 197, Clarkesville, 706-947-3194, www.gastateparks.org/Moccasin), and the upscale Lake Rabun (www.lakerabun.com) off old U.S. 441, which is ringed with resort homes.
Known for its mountainous terrain, the county boasts two of the state's three tallest peaks, Rabun Bald and the intriguingly named Dick's Knob. Bet there's a story behind that.
It's quite possible, though, that Rabun County lures most of its visitors these days with the promise of an all-you-can-eat Southern spread at the celebrated Dillard House restaurant (768 Franklin St., Dillard, 706-746-5348, www.dillardhouse.com). A feed bag is essential when the waitress brings out platters of fried chicken, country ham, barbecue, biscuits and gravy, glazed carrots, peach cobbler and the like, often to the accompaniment of a live bluegrass band.
The tiny town of Dillard (www.dillardgeorgia.com) has also grown into a formidable destination for antique shopping and, nearby, the slightly larger county seat of Clayton (www.co.clayton.ga.us) also has a few spots of interest.
Besides competitive dining and its natural wonders, Rabun County is largely visited as a pass-through on the way to the mountains of North Carolina. And a lovely pass-through it is.
One more thing: You got a real purty mouth.