HAZLEHURST, Ga. -- Atlanta. June 1936. A few patches of the horse-and-buggy Old South remained as the once slow-moving city first named Terminus and then Marthasville began emerging into the glass-towered mega-metropolis that it is today.
But during that summer, a big book titled "Gone With the Wind" was published by a little lady named Margaret Mitchell -- she stood just under 5 feet tall -- and perhaps for one of the first times the Civil War was told from a woman's perspective.
Three years later, in 1939, the silver-screen version of the book heated up movie theaters with scenes such as the burning of Atlanta and the smooching between Scarlett O'Hara and her rascally beau, Rhett Butler.
Even today, plenty of Southerners have never really considered the book or the movie as fiction. Some would even call it, in the Southern lexicon, the gospel truth.
But no matter if it's partly fact or mostly fiction, today you can follow the recently designated Gone With the Wind Trail through Georgia on a voyage to discover the history, legacy and legend behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and complex life of its author.
From Kennesaw and Marietta north of Atlanta and then to the heart of the city and finally south to Jonesboro, home of the fictional Tara, the trail identifies an established route of key sites connected to "Gone With the Wind."
"The lure of Southern belles, dashing gentlemen and antebellum architecture act as a magnet to countless numbers of national and international tourists each year," says Theresa Jenkins, executive director of the Marietta Visitors Bureau.
The Gone With the Wind Museum in Marietta is a personal favorite stop on the trail. Located in an 1875 former cotton warehouse, the museum is a veritable circus of memorabilia from the private collection of Dr. Christopher Sullivan of Akron, Ohio.
Among the items, the pièce de résistance is the original Bengaline honeymoon gown worn by Vivian Leigh and one of only eight original costumes still known to exist. It is, says Connie Sutherland, director of the museum, "the most talked-about item" in the collection.
Near Marietta is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park that pays homage to the tumultuous 1864 battle where the Rebels temporarily stopped the Yankees' advancement toward Atlanta. The park is a peaceful place for a hike and is most beautiful in the spring and fall. Leave your metal detector at home, though, as relic hunting is strictly forbidden.