Fall is my favorite time of year along the eastern coast of the USA, with a change in temperature, foliage and festivities. I took a week to admire and appreciate this yearly change of seasons in the northern Georgia mountains. A hike in nature revealed its beauty after a day of chilly deluge with radiant earthly colors and cool crisp air. The trail was soft and spongy from pine needles and the previous day’s rain. Yellow, red, brown and unturned green maple leaves scenically littered the path while other leaves endlessly floated in the wind. Sourwood and dogwood trees were equally colorful and abundant. Soggy chocolate-brown pine cones and sturdier acorns appeared on parts of the trail, some broken, others in tact. I imagined squirrels stockpiling for the winter, but I didn’t see a single animal large or small. A burbling creek ebbed and flowed, sometimes growing louder, other times just whispering in the distance. I crossed over the creek via wooden tree planks on a few occasions, paralleling it during the most of my walk while meandering past boulders and tranquil valleys. Ancient tree roots sprouted through the organic trail, well-worn and glossed over like a penny rubbed too much for good luck. The air was fresh, clean, oxygenated, and slightly petrichor. The trail ends in a grand finale, a hill of slippery boulders flanked by a gigantic granite rock split in two with a waterfall splashing and cascading to the bottom. I cautiously climbed the smaller rocks to the top of the waterfall, admiring for a brief moment its magnificent beauty.
Fall in the alpine village of Helen means Oktoberfest, one of the longest and largest Bavarian festivals held in the United States. Crowds flock to the quaint town to celebrate from September 17 to November 1st. Weekends are packed with beer drinkers sporting traditional Bavarian hats called Tirolerhüte, many exhibiting pewter pins based on personal interest and cities they have visited. A man with many pins is either well-travelled, very active, or just a tourist collecting pins for Oktoberfest. Woman also wear these hats in the United States, but it’s not traditional garb. If you want to stick to custom, their outfit consist of a tight-fitting white Dirndl dress and blouse showing ample cleavage. An apron wrapped around the dress with a bow tied on front and flat shoes complete the outfit.
The festhalle housing the main event was full of people, beer, bratwurst, pretzels and dancing to live music. First on our minds was buying a stein full of Oktoberfest Warsteiner which we accomplished immediately. After securing a seat at the common long tables, food was next on our agenda. For a vegetarian that means a pretzel at this event and a bratwurst for my husband. Beer would be my nourishment for the evening since the pretzel was dry and less enticing and flavorful than the beer, although the beer cheese dip helped the dehydrated dough. Apparently fine cuisine was not the strongpoint of the popular festhalle, but music and socializing was the highlight. The band, people watching and making friends beat out the lack of flavorful fare, but well worth it. Although I love a good meal , it’s not always my top priority. At the end of the night I was singing and dancing to Rocky Top and doing the chicken dance thanks to Warsteiner and a lack of vegetarian options.
The next few days we explored the many pop-up tents housing beer gardens and festivities surrounding Oktoberfest. Every major venue had their own personal tent and talent for the occasion. One thing that stuck out in my mind was the ubiquity of boots among females, an appreciation I held being a lover of a good pair of boots. My husband and I made a game of it, him not noticing the Northern Georgia boot culture until I pointed it out, and then he could not stop noticing it, almost becoming obsessed. We started taking pictures of the various boots and he approached one couple.
“My wife loves your boots. Can I take a picture?
The boyfriend almost fell over, “Your wife loves her boobs?”
“No, Boots. Not boobs. Don’t get too excited.”
We laughed and took a picture along with photos of ten other boots. Oktoberfest in Helen, the boot culture. I better find a good pair.