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Road trip: Brasstown Bald September 8, 2011

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians, travel.
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Georgia's contribution to state high point architecture---pretty nice

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.

It reminded me of forests in the Nantahalas

I passed through ferny glades, which I always love.

Sunshine splashing over ferns

I passed a couple of trees that had an interesting haunted appearance, as in an enchanted forest.

Haunted tree #1

Haunted tree #2

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!”)

Parking lot, with summit looming majestically in the distance

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.

The paved summit trail

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Comments»

1. AdamB - September 8, 2011

Thanks for taking us along on this road trip Jenny. I have really enjoyed the Civil War battlefields and Brasstown bald. I visited Petersburg battlefield once and loved it the most especially since it was known for such elaborate earthworks many of which you can still find and are very distiguishable when bushwhacking through the forest.

Jenny - September 8, 2011

Glad you came along for the ride! I’d like to tour Petersburg some day. I’m thinking about doing the SMHC trip to Chickamauga September 17. It will be the anniversary week of the battle, and they are going to have reenactors.

2. Thomas Stazyk - September 8, 2011

Very nice. All great vacations end on a bittersweet note. A corner of my desk is covered with stones I’ve picked up from favorite places as a reminder.

Know what you mean about the Patel motel phenomenon. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about it.

Jenny - September 8, 2011

Yes, considering that the trip represented a dramatic departure from my original plan of going out west, it turned out amazingly well.

3. brian - September 9, 2011

Jenny, I was on the edge of my seat reading about your conquest of Brasstown Bald via the infamous “bit steep” route. “I saw only a handful of people ” Well no wonder! It must have been nerve wracking with those loose rocks laying along the edge of the pavement. You could have easily stumbled if you’d wandered off. I always

I always search out the cheapest, dumpiest looking motel possible, being a real cheapskate about travel, and yeah there’s a pretty good chance there’ll be a Ganesha statue when you walk in the office. My strategy is that most Interstates have a parallel highway that they replaced. The motels built along there in the 50s and 60s all got bypassed and ended up low end places where construction workers especially stay. One of my buddies in Florida is an Indian guy who works the desk at a Patel Motel on the old Dixie Highway. I always figured inkeeping must have been a traditional occupation of the Patel caste, but he says no, his boss has not admitted to any of his relatives in India he runs a motel even after 20 years. They consider a low status occupation for some reason.

Jenny - September 9, 2011

Yes, your strategy of going to the parallel older highway is excellent. My problem when I was driving up to Massachusetts (which I don’t consider part of the road trip—more of a goal-oriented drive), because of time constraints it was difficult to avoid the Hampton Inns and such that lie adjacent to the interstates. They are ridiculously expensive and completely lacking in character. I’ve found some interesting information about the Patels and will share!

4. brian - September 9, 2011

Enjoyed your tour of Civil War battlefields, especially Gettysburg. You picked out some interesting details. I saw the Cylcorama as a kid but had forgotten all about it and didn’t know it had such a long history. You ever see the film of the 75th anniversary reunion at Gettysburg?

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2009/02/rare-motion-pictures-show-civil-war-veterans-75th-gettysburg-battle-anniversary-reunion

Jenny - September 9, 2011

I looked at that clip. Very moving.


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