And the Highest Point East of the Mississippi is…

HyiLast weekend we set about another short road trip. I stumbled upon an article about Mt. Mitchell a year or so ago while reading up on hiking in North Carolina. I mentioned it to my dad at the time and he told me that he and my uncle had visited there a few years back and that the view was really, really good. I decided then that I wanted to go there BUT convincing J to go there with me simply to hike wasn’t too likely… And convincing my dad and brother to go and stay over night was not likely either. So, what did I do?

I convinced all three of them to go with me on a 3+hour (one way) road trip to climb this mountain (and others) on one day. Thankfully, they all went for it. Yay! We even brought my little man (Peanut) along for the adventure again. We left Sunday morning around 7 o’clock and the ride there seemed to have went much quicker than I expected. We traveled through Nantahala and Maggie Valley, both of which are GORGEOUS. I want to visit Maggie Valley again soon. I would love to spend a few days there in a cabin on top of one of the many mountains through there. I bet there is a lot of hiking to be done there as well.

After getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped at an overlook before continuing on to Mt. Mitchell. The view was amazing. I can’t really put it into words, so I’ll share a couple pictures from the overlook instead.

Once we snapped a few pics there and took it the view, we traveled a bit further to the Mt. Mitchell parking lot. We headed up the paved road to the top of themountain. Elisha Mitchell (who Mt. Mitchell is named after) is actually buried there. We followed the little walk way on up to the top of the overlook and the view was breathtaking. 360Β°of mountains. They even had little paintings of the mountains set up and marked so you could look into the distance, spot a mountain, and find its name. We spent 30 minutes or so up here and then started the trek back down. I talked the guys into taking the long way back down (Balsam Nature Trail) and though a bit rocky, it was a neat little trail. Giant rocks were all along the way, which was interesting. It reminded me a lot of the trails we went on in Arkansas last summer honestly. Did I mention how beautiful the red spruce and Fraser firs were? That was my first time seeing those… And the weather was perfect for hiking considering it was about 20Β°cooler on the mountain than in downtown Asheville!

When we left the park, we stopped in Asheville for a little bit. It was a nice little town. We didn’t spend much time there. Next time we are up that way I’d like to check out the Biltmore House (and forest. Mostly the forest πŸ˜‰).

Overall, the trip was wonderful! It’s nice to spend time with those you love doing the things you love. Summer is almost over for me, so while I can still enjoy it, you can bet I’m going to!

πŸ’š

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Roadtripping Along the Cherohala Skyway

A couple weekends back myself, my boyfriend, my dad, my brother, and my smallest pup decided to venture into North Carolina and drive the Cherohala Skyway. We went there a couple years ago and did a short hike and loved it. I’m not sure why we waited so long to go back.

Not long after we turned onto the skyway a bobcat jumped into the road in front of us, crossed, and made its way up the steep rocky back on the other side. I REALLY wish I could have gotten a picture. It was beautiful! It was also my first time seeing a live bobcat in person. We get them on our trail cameras a lot, but to actually see them out and about is almost impossible.

Our first stop along the way was at Huckleberry Knob. It is the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District that covers 120,500 acres of the Nantahala National Forest. At the highest point (5,560 feet) you have an amazing view of the surrounding Unicoi Mountains.

The trail itself is fairly simple. It is only about 2.5 miles round trip. The hardest part for me was adjusting to that altitude (which really wasn’t that difficult either). The trail is an old road that travels through a huge open field to Oak Knob. You continue on the road and eventually you’ll reach Huckleberry Knob. There is a slight incline, but it isn’t difficult by any means.

At the top of Huckleberry Knob there is actually a grave. No, I’m not kidding. An actual grave. According to the stone at the base of the grave on December 11, 1899, Andy Sherman and Paul O’Neil left the Tellico Creek logging camp (TN) where they worked in an attempt to reach Robbinsville (NC) by Christmas. Unfortunately, neither of the men made it home. The following year, on September 6, 1900 a man by the name of Forest Denton was deer hunting on Huckleberry Knob and found the two bodies… along with multiple empty whiskey jugs. Andy Sherman’s grave is marked by a large metal cross on the knob, while Paul O’Neil’s skeleton was used as a medical exhibit by Dr. Robert J. Orr. Tellico and Robbinsville are right at about fifty miles apart. FIFTY. Is it possible to walk 50 miles in fourteen days? That’s an average of less than 4 miles a day, so technically you could easily cross that in less than 2 weeks BUT right in the middle of winter? Not too likely. I guess it would mostly depend on how harsh/mild the winter was…and how much whiskey you consumed along the way.

We also stopped at Hooper Bald Trailhead (5,290 feet). I was the only one of group that wanted to hike this trail (mostly because according to the clouds a hellacious storm was coming… and it did. Oops). Anyhow, it was shorter than Huckleberry Knob (just over a mile). Another gorgeous field and wild flowers with spectacular overlooks. I had a couple pictures taken at one of the overlooks when it came a literal downpour. I didn’t mind getting wet honestly, but everyone else was not happy. We ended up huddled under my emergency blanket under a tree at the edge of the field. After a few minutes of that we trudged back down the trail to the car. I would do it again, too, even knowing the storm was coming. Oh and there was some interesting info about an old hunting preserve that used to be on the top of Hooper Bald with a huge variety if animals. I had never actually heard of this… I’ll attach a picture with more information if you’re interested.

From there we made our way back to Tellico and stopped by Bald River Falls, which was amazing as always. I snapped a few pics from the bridge and wanted to hike to the top, but no one else seemed to like that idea. 🀣

In all, we were gone just over 8 hours and made one big huge circle from Georgia to North Carolina to Tennessee and then back home to Georgia. It’s days like these that I never want to forget. I am blessed to have an amazing family and the luxury of being able to go on adventures like this with them.

Until next time! πŸ’šπŸŒ²πŸŒ»

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Rough Creek Falls in the Cherokee National Forest

A few days ago, my Dad and I decided to visit a place we had not visited in a while. He took me there for the first time last spring and I fell in love. Why we waited so long to come back, I’m not sure.

We didn’t drive my Jeep (Dad insisted on driving this time), so we ended up parking at the end of the little road and walking to the camping area, crossing the creek, and on up to the falls. I remember going there as a kid and standing on the old concrete bridge (it has since been torn down) and looking over it and into Rough Creek. I’m not really sure why they took the bridge down. My guess is because it wore out over the decades and wasn’t safe any longer. Either that OR they wanted to try to preserve the area and keep people from driving up in there and destroying it.

Speaking of destroying… If you’re a hiker (or climber or trail runner or hunter or just a person in the woods) PLEASE PACK YOUR TRASH OUT. If you were able to carry it to your destination, I promise you can carry the trash out. Nothing infuriates me more in the woods than seeing beer bottles, cans, or other random trash lying around. No one cares if you’re drinking (edit: I don’t care if you’re drinking) but please TAKE YOUR EMPTY CONTAINERS WITH YOU.

End litter rant.

Anyway, we were able to make it from the truck to the falls in about 30 minutes. Last time we were there it wasn’t near as grown up (or summer), so the trek down the bank to the top of the falls was a little tricky. I did just fine holding onto Rhododendron limbs on the way down to brace myself. From the top of the falls we slowly made our way down the far side to the bottom of the falls. (Please use caution if you do this… it is easy to slip in pine needles. Watch for snakes and yellow jacket nests as well.)

Once we made our way down the falls I noticed a REALLY deep hole at the base of the falls. I would love to know how many hundreds (thousands?) of years it took to make that. My dad ended up getting in it and then I finally did too. On the edge I could barely touch the bottom. In the middle and up under the rock it was easily 8 feet deep. The whole layout of that falls is interesting. You’ll see at the bottom once you reach the pictures. The only thing I regret is not taking my hammocks and making the day out of it!

Overall, I love this little spot. I really debated on publishing this post because I don’t want it messed up. So please, do me a favor and if you go keep it nice and clean. 😊 That’s all I ask. Enjoy your visit and be sure to share pics!

Notes:

**I do NOT suggest taking children here. (They will be fine at the camp ground, but I do not suggest taking them down the steep incline to the falls.)

**While 4WD isn’t a necessity to the road, it is necessary to the camping area if you don’t want to walk from the end of the road, across the creek, and to the falls. I have taken my Honda Accord to that point before (probably should not have), but my Jeep does much better because of the 4WD. I’ll attach a picture of one of the mud holes you have to drive through if you decide to drive that road instead of walk it to give you an idea of what to expect.

**Have fun & be safe! Watch your step. I saw a water snake on our visit but copperheads and timber rattlesnakes are in the area, too. If you them alone, they’ll leave you alone I promise. Remember you are in their home, they’re not in yours. Black bear and wild hogs are around this area as well I’ve never seen them in this particular area, but I have seen their sign.

(Directions at bottom of post)

Non-venomous northern water snake
Crawfish I found under a rock in the creek!
A small minnow I managed to catch. He was returned safely to the creek.
The falls at a distance. Below this are a couple more swimming holes that are bigger than the swimming hole at the base of the falls.
Side view of the falls
View of the falls from the little rocky area where I laid my stuff
The base of the falls on the same side as the bank you have to climb down
The giant hole I was talking about! (Hole isn’t really that big… just deep!)
I didn’t take any of my dogs on this trip, but I took my “nephew,” Chief πŸ˜‰
Huge salamander I found in the creek!
One of the mud holes on the short road to the camping area from the main road.
Top view of the falls before we crossed the creek and climbed down it
Another side view

Directions:

(For those of you who are directionally challenged like myself, you’ll appreciate these detailed directions…For those of you that are not directionally challenged like me, sorry for the excessive details. I am a very detailed person. :S)

From McDonald’s in Blue Ridge:

  • You will take GA-5 North (Blue Ridge Drive). Travel approximately 10 miles on this road until you arrive at a 4-way stop (Hometown IGA Grocery will be straight ahead of you.)
  • Take a left onto Toccoa Avenue/Ocoee Street (the name changes as you cross the state line at the 4-way stop–HWY 68)
  • Stay on HWY 68 for 3 miles and then you will use the right lane to take US-64/US-74 ramp, turn left onto HWY 64
  • You will stay on this road for approximately 7 miles. Around mile 6 you will see the Whitewater Center on your left. Continue passed it and take the second left toward Thunder Rock Campground (about 1 & 1/2 miles passed the Whitewater Center. There will be a sign for Thunder Rock Campground showing you where to turn.)
  • You will cross the bridge and pass the Ocoee # 3 Powerhouse. The road will split once you have passed the powerhouse. You will stay to the left (if you take the right you will end up at the campground.) There will be a sign with arrows pointing toward Sylco Campground and Tumbling Creek Campground, which is the direction you need to go.
  • You will stay on this road for 2.7 miles. When the road splits, you will take a left toward Tumbling Creek (7 miles)/Copperhill (14 miles).
  • After traveling approximately 1.5 miles there will be a road on your right. (There will be a small brown post with the #22 printed on it. If you see this post, you’re in the right spot.
  • If you have 4WD you can continue on out this road. Around 1/2 mile the road will end at the creek and you will see a camping spot on your left. If you do not have 4WD or would prefer to walk a little further, park at the end of this road. Just be sure you pull off to the side and don’t block the road. There is plenty of room to make sure your vehicle is out of the way.
  • Once you have arrived at the camping spot/dead end where the creek is you will have to cross the creek and continue on that road for about 1/2 mile to the falls. You will hear the falls, so it would be difficult to pass it by. You will have to climb down the bank to the falls. It is STEEP. Nothing that isn’t manageable, but I would not suggest attempting this with young children. The bank is a bit grown up as well, so watch your step. (Snakes and yellow jackets are out and about. Just use caution. Don’t step somewhere that you cannot see what you’re stepping on or in.) Have fun and be safe! I would love to see your pics if you visit! πŸ™‚
  • **If you have time, be sure to check out the Ocoee Whitewater Center! There is a small gift shop as well as several hiking trails. The Rhododendron Trail is the shortest and easiest. It begins at the bridge below the Whitewater Center. It is 1.25 miles to the end (ends at the #3 powerhouse you drove passed on your way to the falls) for a round trip total of 2.5 miles. The Old Copper Road Trail travels up the Ocoee. It is a bit longer and ends about 3 miles up the river at the #2 powerhouse. Bear Paw Loop Trail is just across the bridge at the Whitewater Center and to your left. It travels up Chesnut Mountain and loops around and back (approx. 2.5 miles). I’ll eventually make a blog post for each of these trails and come back here and hyperlink them. If you have questions, let me know!**

    Hemp Top Trail Hike (Cohutta Wilderness Area)Β 

    Spent Thursday morning/afternoon with my dad hiking Hemp Top Trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The weather was gorgeous! Hot of course, but the cover of the trees helped keep us cooled off. The majority of the trail was an old forest service road, which was nice.

    About a mile up the mountain we just-so-happened to wander upon a rather large, defensive Timber Rattlesnake! I LOVE snakes, but she spooked me. However, I was so glad to finally see one! I was watching 9my step (like usual), but I was only looking about 3 feet ahead. We saw each other at about the same exact time. I froze in my tracks and threw my arms out to keep Dad from running over top of us both. I might have even let an expletive or two slip out.

    Anyway, she immediately let out a loud puff of air (I don’t know how else to explain it) and went into a defensive coiled position in the middle of the trail. Once the initial shock wore off after a few seconds, I immediately turned on my camera and started taking pictures and making videos. She never offered to move until Dad attempted to get her to strike the walking stick I had. She had no interest. She tried to hide in the weeds on the edge of the trail against the bank. (The video I will attach below this post is her trying to hide in the weeds and us moving her across the trail and off the bank.)

    She continuously rattled the entire time. We were with her at least 10 minutes and she never once stopped. If you’re interested, check out the video to see what happens. Pay extra close attention to the last few seconds. As she crosses the trail and disappears off the bank, watch how FAST she darts through the leaves. It amazed me. It is very clear to me that had she wanted to bite us when we first encountered her she could have easily.

    I guess you’re wondering why I keep referring to it as “her” and “she.” Maybe you haven’t thought anything about it… but to answer the question anyway, I spoke with a somewhat local snake expert who is very experienced with most all snakes, especially venomous snakes. According to her, the Timber Rattlesnake we encountered was a gravid (pregnant) female! I knew she was really thick but didn’t realize she was going to be a mom!

    I’m just thankful it was my dad and I that came up on her and not some asshole or coward whose philosophy is “the only good snake is a dead snake.” (Those people drive me INSANE.) I posted a picture and video to the local Facebook page and had a few “why didn’t you kill it?” “Shoot it!” “A dead snake is good snake!” responses… If your first response is that I will automatically assume you’re an idiot. Don’t try to justify your feelings on the matter. You’re WRONG. Plain and simple. I was respectful, but made sure to point out I was in HER home, she was not in my home. Also, I don’t believe in the senseless killing of anything. If you hunt and eat what you kill, I have no issue with that. BUT if you’re one of those people that kill creatures just because you’re a coward and scared of them, we will not get along.

    Going to get off my snake/critter soapbox now. Hope you enjoy the pictures. Be sure to check out the video. The rattling sound is pretty amazing to see/hear if you’re like me and never experienced it before now.

    Also, I was curious as to why the mountain was named Hemp Top. I asked Dad and he didn’t know (but he did know why they called Penitentiary Branch its name.. that’s for another time though!). I did a little research and found this little bit of info I thought was interesting.

    Hemp Top – Translation of Cherokee word β€œgatun-lti-yiy,” or literally β€œhemp place.” This community in Fannin County was probably so named because of wild hemp (Apocyunum cannabinum), which apparently grew there. This species of hemp was used for bow strings.
    (Source)

    Cool, huh?

    Oh and here is the snake video: 🐍🐍🐍

    Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

    (I originally wrote this post at the end of July/first of August 2017… But for some reason I didn’t publish it?! So, I’m publishing it now… Almost a year later. Enjoy!)

    A map of our venture!
    Cohutta Wildlife Management Area! (We came in through the Tennessee side. In Tennessee the section is known as the Cherokee National Forest)

    One of the many gorgeous flowers we saw! I will look up what kind it is soon and update the caption.
    Dad took me up to the highest point of Hemp Top. From there he showed me what was left of the foundation of the huge tower that used to be up there. I found this little piece of metal on one of the giant slabs of concrete that the tower previously sat on. I have no idea what its purpose was, but I thought it was neat so I kept it!
    Another pretty flower! 😊
    This was the first time I had ever seen a tree with a limb thicker than its base, so I had to snap a picture.
    I have no idea what this creepy fungi-looking stuff Is, but I thought the color was really pretty! No editing. It was THAT bright.
    A giant millipede?! (I grew up calling these turkey worms because that’s what my dad has always called them.) I usually hold them, but we were in a hurry. Don’t worry, they can’t bite but they have a defense mechanism where they spit on you. It REALLY stinks and will stain your hands for days. Been there. Done that. MANY times.
    This is the position she immediately went to when I stumbled upon her!
    Trying my best to guide her off the trail and away from any possible traffic.
    I cannot get over those gorgeous markings!
    This mushroom was huge. HUGE. Like if you cut a basketball in half. No, I’m not kidding!
    We did not venture down Penitentiary Branch this time, but probably next time!
    Benton Mackaye Trail (Section 10) & Hemp Top Trail sign
    I took this standing on the top of Hemp Top!
    Another snapshot from the top!
    Dad said he thought this was the old septic tank but was not certain.
    Another first. Apparently this tree’s limb decided to grown down and into the ground instead of up in search of the sun.
    Another critter we shared the trail with. I love toads!!
    This… I don’t know what this is but I know what it reminds me of. (I plead the 5th.)
    Wanted to take a quick picture of the old forest service sign!
    Lots of long entertwined vines intrigue me. No, I don’t know why. I just like them.

    βœŒπŸ’šβ›°