Summiting Cheaha Mt. Alabama, & Brasstown Bald TN

Cheaha Mountain, Alabama
2,407 feet
Brasstown Bald Mountain, Georgia
4,784 feet
April 18, 2011

The Start of the Great Southern Highpoints Tour, 2011

April is a fine time to escape the mud and rain of New Hampshire, so Martha and I headed south to find some relief from “a long cold lonely winter”, and to hit the highpoints of AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, KT, and TN in a hectic week long tour through the mountains of the American South. Of these seven highpoints, only two require getting out of your automobile (GA and VA) thanks to the fine hand built roads of the CCC and the WPA. These guys were really busy, and built roads and buildings all over these hills. The result was the greatest underutilized series of mountaintop hotels, restaurants and related stone built buildings that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Martha at the observation tower on Cheaha Mountain

The Southern Appalachians

The Appalachian Mountains were formed in a couple of mountain building episodes (orogeny events) beginning about 500 million years ago, and ending about 200 MYA. The southern end of the chain has never been subjected to Glaciation, and is quite different than the northern end of the chain, lacking glacial cirques (e.g. Tuckerman Ravine), glacial mountains ponds (e.g. Lonesome Lake) and very much in the way of igneous rocks. The vast majority of the rocks that we have seen are uplifted meta-sediments. The mountains down here receive a tremendous amount of rain (almost 100 inches annually on Brasstown Bald), due to adiabatic cooling of very warm moist air from the Gulf.
Martha on the modest summit building of Brasstown Bald

The resulting haze is legendary, and results in the names Great Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge. For a child of New England like me, the vegetation is almost unbelievable – with a profusion of wild dogwood, mountain laurel and rhododendron. The fauna is about like home, and these Old Boys love to hunt – Turkey season is in full swing and everyone is in full camo.

Indian Names, Linguistically Bent

I had expected that the origin of Brasstown Bald was due to copper mining in the area and related metal fabrication activity. I was absolutely amazed to learn that it came from the failed English translation of the Indian phrase for “fresh green place”. This was all Cherokee country until the forced expulsions of the 1830’s, and about that is all that remains are the names. The sign photographed below gives a clear and succinct description of how this came about.
Itse yi becomes Brasstown

The Great American South

Both Martha and I are fans of the Great American South. These people are passionate; loving country music, football, baseball, America, economic growth, hunting, NASCAR, another small helping and whatever you’re drinking. They go to church, go to work and go bass fishing in preposterously overpowered boats. By and large, they get their exercise through chewing and laughing, and have produced some of America’s greatest literature from a bunch of guys trying to figure the whole thing out.
Spring in the GA hills    
            
 Jasper GA Old Jail 
                  
 Jasper GA New Jail
Evangelical agriculture
Lookout on Cheaha
Wildlife viewing in the parking lot at Brasstown
Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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