It was a crisp, cloudless autumn day in 2004. My son and I set off on mountain bikes from a trailhead in rugged north Georgia. We climbed gradually on an abandoned logging road. It led up through beautiful old hardwood forest to near the summit of a stately mountain. We leveled out, then began the descent toward Lake Blue Ridge. We glided downhill on perfect trail, hugging the contours, coasting through the fall leaves.
After a few minutes, we veered across the back of the mountain. Ahead, we spied an odd notch in the slope, cut by heavy equipment. Arriving there shortly, we found ourselves at a cul-de-sac in a new vacation home community: A half-dozen half-million dollar homes were spread across the mountainside, rustic timbers, green lawns, and white driveways beckoning. The houses were furnished, but this was a ghost town: The driveways were empty, the homes were uninhabited….