2015 Trip Six, The Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 25-26

Dalton, GA Oct. 26

The deceptive path that sucked us in Fort Mountain State Park GA

The deceptive path that sucked us in

The smooth path of mulched wood chips along the trail sucked us in. We were at Fort Mountain State Park in northern Georgia. The park is noted for its overlook views and for a mysterious stone wall built around 500 AD. No one knows for sure who built the wall or why. But the path looked so nice that it seemed a great hike, sure to be easy on the feet and with few tripping hazards.

The view from Fort Mountain overlook

The view from Fort Mountain State Park in GA overlook

But we were wrong. Within a few hundred feet the mulched path gave way to the usual beaten down path littered with rock outcroppings and tree roots. Not that it was any different from so many other paths, it was just that the first hundred feet were so comforting and inviting. The mile long trail goes up and then down 200 feet in elevation, nothing dramatic. The overlook provides vistas of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the valleys down below. The fall colors were still vibrant in many places, going brown and bare in others. The weather continued as Saturday, overcast and cooler.

One view of the stone wall at Fort Mountain state park in GA

One view of the stone wall at Fort Mountain state park in GA

The stone wall runs east and west for 850 feet and ranges in height from two to six feet. It is constructed of loose stones without mortar or other sealing material. Most theories consider the wall built by some tribe of Native Americans but that is as unknown for certain as is its purpose, defensive or ceremonial.

We came to Fort Mountain as we are wrapping up this traveling road trip. Hayesville North Carolina was left behind Sunday morning with warm memories of another Evergreen couple who took us in and provided friendly lodging and conversation. The far western portion of North Carolina and Georgia continued the forested mountains of the Appalachians. Our journey continued on the Ocoee Scenic Byway in the Cherokee National Forest and, before Fort Mountain, brought us to the Ocoee National Whitewater Center in southern Tennessee.

Ocoee Olympic Whitewater course

Ocoee Olympic Whitewater course

The Whitewater Center began as part of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games to host the canoe and kayak slalom competitions. It is the only Olympic whitewater course built on a natural riverbed. The river was “enhanced” with man-made rocks and re-arranged stream beds and channels. The course is 1/4 mile long and was built by the U.S. Forest Service. The water comes from the TVA dams on the river which still provide power and flood control. On days that the dam releases water for recreational whitewater adventurers, the TVA is reimbursed for lost power revenue by a surcharge on the whitewater adventurers. When we were there on Sunday, the water was relatively low and kayakers were only doing their thing on a lower stretch of the Ocoee River past the Olympic course.

The Ocoee River has a sorry past. It is the drainage river of the Copper Basin in Southern Tennessee. Copper was discovered here in the 1840s and smelting and mining continued until the 1980s. The mining and smelting process resulted in forests being clear-cut, heavy metals deposited into rivers, and acid rain produced which furthered the devastation of the environment until almost a moon like appearance was the result. Some called the Copper Basin the largest man-made biological desert in the world. Revegetation and reclamation began in the 1930s and still continues to this day.

The Chief Joseph Vann House in GA

The Chief Joseph Vann House in GA

Our third stop was on the Trail of Tears, that forced removal of the Cherokees from their lands to reservations in Oklahoma in the 1830s. The house of James Vann is a restored GA Historic site. Vann was an influential and wealthy Cherokee. He sponsored the Moravians to come to the area, settle, and help educate Cherokee children. His son Joe Vann inherited the bulk of his father’s estate in 1814 and grew it even further. Joseph Vann evidently had a total of 8 consorts and 9 children. Cherokee life was matriarchal and women and men did not consider themselves bound to one spouse forever.

In 1832, the state of Georgia passed new laws that resulted in the loss of Cherokee lands which were given to white settlers through a lottery system which Cherokee were not allowed to enter. Joe Vann moved to Oklahoma, continued as a successful businessman, and eventually died, along with 60 others, in a boiler explosion on his steam riverboat, the Lucy Walker, in 1844. There are still Vann descendants in the area, along with others scattered throughout the U.S.

Interior room with original paint colors restored at Chief Joseph Vann Historic Site in GA

Interior room with original paint colors restored at Chief Joseph Vann Historic Site in GA

A wonderful state park ranger gave us a tour of the restored Vann estate. At one time, Vann controlled 800 acres, owned over 100 African slaves, and ran several taverns, sawmills, a grist mill, orchards, etc. His home was restored and still has its original woodwork in many rooms. No original furnishings exist.

This is likely to be our last post of this trip. Originally we planned to visit two Civil War battlefields. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefield Park to be visited on Monday and Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park on Tuesday. Chickamauga was the first national battlefield site, created five years before Gettysburg. Chickamauga was a Confederate victory in 1863 but not decisive enough to stop the Union march to Atlanta and then to the sea. We did make it to the visitor center today (Monday Oct. 26) and toured part of the battlefield before calling it quits.

Last night, after dinner, Chris tripped and fell in a parking lot. It resulted in five hours in the emergency room, a broken bone in her wrist, a temporary cast and sling. While not so serious as to make us fly home immediately, it meant we really are not in a mood to spend extensive time visiting historic sites. This is our third trip to be affected by some sort of injury or ailment. Tuesday we will be driving to Atlanta and then flying home.

Ed and Chris Oct. 26 7:15 PM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “2015 Trip Six, The Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 25-26

  1. How is Chris’ wrist? I hope you heal quickly. I hope your flight home was uneventful. So sorry you did not get to visit my neck of the woods (even though I was not there). The Chickamauga/Chattanooga area is great!

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