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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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›°

Creepy (and adorable) Crawlies I’ve Found This Spring!

Since I’ve been slacking on posting lately… Here are a few critters I’ve managed to find so far this spring!! 😍

 

True Story. βœŒπŸ’š

During this hike, I had the opportunity to watch a crow and a raven battle it out in the sky. (This was only the second time I have ever seen a raven.) If you look close, just below the sun you’ll see the raven. I was super excited to have managed to snap this pic!