It's the middle of July and the temperature at Banning Mills near Whitesburg, Georgia is barely scraping 80-degrees. My husband and I have been assigned to a sweet little cabin - Cabin 49 - overlooking the Snake Creek Gorge.
Banning Mills holds the Gunniess Book World Record for the tallest freestanding rock wall, and it's home to the workd's longest and largest eco-canopy tour. But non-adventurists enjoy the pool and day spa. There's also kayaking, horseback riding, skeet shooting and a pistol range.
Though people retreat to Historic Banning Mills from the modern grind, the modern south began on this property. The water power supplied by Snake Creek turned this middle-of-nowhere place into one of the first industrial parks in the south. The town of Banning, all but gone save for a few ruins still visible, had a cotton mill, a paper mill, two wood pulp mills, two saw mills, three flour mills, two cotton gins, a shingle mill and a tannery. The industrialization of Georgia traces roots to here.
We hiked out to the abandoned paper mill today. It wasn't a stroll. Don't attempt the trip unless you're okay with trekking rocky outcrops, climbing over and under fallen trees, and continuing even when the path doesn't. From experience, I can tell you that the water bottle you're carrying in your right hand will become a despised hindrance. If you make it, however, you'll be treated to this:
In 1889, this paper mill developed a process for making paper from ground pine pulpwood. The technological advance made the mill so successful that it was the first paper mill to install electricity. In 1890, the mill began operating day and night. Folks from the surrounding area would arrive at dusk to see the miracle of the lights turning on.
And now it sits in a forest, forgotten. The trees and vines have sealed the fates of the school, church, store, and other buildings.
And they are swallowing me, too, as I escape the modern grind.