Road trip: Brasstown Bald September 8, 2011Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians, travel.
Tags: Brasstown Bald, Georgia state high point, state high points
For the last day of my road trip, I wasn’t sure which of my two themes I wanted to pursue. Would it be a Civil War battlefield or a state high point?
After visiting Shiloh, I drove east on US Highway 64, continuing my quest to avoid interstates. That evening I reached Winchester, Tennessee, west of Chattanooga. As I had the night before, I found an inexpensive but perfectly nice motel ($35/night) run by an Indian family, most likely with the last name of Patel. (I will discuss the Indian-run motel phenomenon in my next and final Road Trip installment, “A long-attention-span experience.”)
Dinner was an elaborate conglomeration of items from the local supermarket salad bar—one of my preferred dinner solutions. It is possible to get quite a hearty meal that way, if you add grilled chicken pieces in with the tomatoes and cucumbers. As I ate in my motel room, I pondered my choice. The Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park lay a short distance away. On the other hand, I could visit Georgia’s state high point!
Brasstown Bald is situated in the very northern part of the state. I did a little googling on my Blackberry and found that I had three main options for reaching its mighty 4,784′ summit: easy, medium, and hard. I could drive up the spur road and do the short paved trail to the summit. I could go up the Jack’s Knob trail (6 miles, 1780′ vertical) or the Arkaquah trail (11 miles, 2500′ vertical). Because of traveling time, I opted for medium. And at any rate, due to its basic dimensions, Jack’s Knob would feature a steeper climb than Arkaquah.
My only regret was that because of the spur-of-the-moment decision, it wouldn’t be practical to coordinate with my friend Chris Sass, who has taken a position teaching math at Young Harris College, very close to Brasstown. And what’s the deal with the name Brasstown? Turns out it’s a corruption of a Cherokee name, and there is no town of tuba players, trumpeters, or trombonists.
The Jack’s Knob trailhead is located right where the spur road to the summit turns off from Route 180, and it parallels the road. I was pleasantly surprised to find that after the very bottom section, the trail climbs to a ridgetop and feels quite separate from the road. It was a typical Southern Appalachian forest of oaks and laurel.
I passed through ferny glades, which I always love.
I passed a couple of trees that had an interesting haunted appearance, as in an enchanted forest.
I reached the parking lot and saw that there was actually a super-easy option as well as an easy option: you could take a shuttle bus to the top. Most visitors were availing themselves of that choice—I saw only a handful of people climbing the paved trail, which is actually a bit steep. (A sign situated between the shuttle bus stop and the trail warned, “Very steep!”)
I climbed up the paved trail and conquered the summit. The observation deck offered views across the Nantahalas and all the way to the Smokies. After enjoying the grand vistas, I returned the way I had come. I actually managed to get in close to 2100′ vertical: I had a 200′ climb back over a knob on the way down, plus when I’d started, I’d left my camera and had to go back down 200′ to get it so that you, my readers, could have the benefit of these breathtaking photos…
It was with a distinct feeling of sadness that I continued on my way back to Asheville and at last concluded my trip. In my final installment, I will discuss my personal philosophy of road trips.
To see all of the posts about my August 2011 road trip, type road trip: (with the colon after “trip”) in the search box at right and scroll down.