By Regina Lynch Hudson
After vacationing like royalty in five-star resorts and onboard luxury cruise lines and glamping in quaint log cabins — it was time to experience a truly unusual lodging adventure. Channeling my inner Sacagawea (unlike Lewis and Clark’s trusty guide I have a pathetic sense of direction), I navigated a map through mountainous backroads and eventually collapsed in a teepee in rural Lula, Ga. The rustic setting at North Georgia Canopy Tours features authentic Native American teepees equipped with beds and contemporary conveniences such as heating and air conditioning and electrical outlets for charging iPads, iPhones and laptops. Sacagawea never had it so good.
North Georgia Canopy Tours offers 15 conventional camping sites for more traditional campers. Thankfully, all campers and teepee-dwellers enjoy modern shower/restroom facilities. Zip-lining is the highlight of the stay.
Teepee for Two: Since childhood, I had dreamed of snoozing in a teepee and connecting with my Native American roots. Seven teepee sites are named after the seven clans of Cherokee Society and painted with symbols and patterns that correlate with each clan. Eyeing the front of our distinctive dwelling took me back to the mid-1800s and the oldest recorded family photo of my great-great-great grandmother. I imagined her kneeling and reciting a Cherokee prayer as tears slid down her cheekswhile her black hair brushed the ground. The pride and pain of Native American history overcame me as I peered up at the soaring conical ceiling of the teepee and fantasized about my ancestor’s life.
The teepee is where she and other members of the Cherokee tribe would have slept, dined, worshiped and mingled. A roaring fire and cook pot would have been centered in the teepee with a hole at the top, allowing smoke to escape. In our case, no food preparation took place. Hubby and I snuggled, star-gazed, surfed the Internet and pulled up directions to nearby restaurants (Catered breakfasts are included at check-in for a nominal fee). We weren’t up for campsite grilling — an option for those who desire a bona fide back-to-nature existence.
Flying High: If you think that sleeping in a teepee is an exciting ground activity, then you’ll find flying at hair-raising speed on a zip line to be nothing short of exhilarating. Few leisure pursuits compare to traversing the treetops, suspended in harnesses and pulled by gravity along cables strung high above the hills. While hubby was accustomed to jumping out of airplanes as a pilot and airborne ranger, admittedly the most daring plunges I’d ever taken were into cold lap pools at one swanky spa destination or another. Nothing prepared my limps for the balancing act that transpired.
But, there I was, sashaying across more than one mile of steel wire, over steep slopes and the North Oconee River. I wanted to scream and shout, but instead I gritted my teeth and smiled, then gracefully waved at fellow zip liners who were awaiting my touchdown on landing platforms built into the trees. Racing my husband and losing the electrifying grand finale, a mad dash down a 695-foot dual zip line, busted my bubble. Then a kind tour attendant halted hubby’s gloating by announcing that ‘lightweights’ tend to glide slower than heavier zip liners.
RESERVATIONS: 1-888-394-7944; 5290 Harris Road, Lula, Ga. 30554