I have to start this highpointing experience off with a small tangent, if you don’t mind. Older Son was in our hotel room a day or so ago, found staring at a cup of water very intently. When we asked him what he was doing, he replied, “Marking orange juice.”
“Come again?” we thought.
He pointed to a carton of orange juice on the counter. ”See, it says ‘Orange juice from concentrate.’”
I seriously doubt anyone knows what goes on in the minds of our youth.
Back to our latest expedition – after a disasterous navigation error with our Garmin Nuvi GPS and a lack of concentration on my part (see, the stories do tie together!), we finally found the correct road to Georgia’s highest point, Brasstown Bald. Rising 4,784 feet above sea level, Brasstown Bald is not quite as high as it’s neighboring states. Still, this peak is very impressive and the view from the top is fantastic. We arrived at the summit around 1:00 p.m. (local time), and spent about a half hour walking around and observing the sites. We arrived only after making a long distance trek down a dirt road that probably hadn’t seen another car in the last 100 years. When we passed some scary looking run down houses with large warning signs, we eventually stopped the car, tried to turn around, and made it back onto the correct path to the real summit.
After completing four high points, we have quickly fallen into a routine once we reach the summit. First, I’ll take a photograph of the parking lot, to show others how crowded the summit is on an average day. Brasstown Bald’s parking lot is one of the largest we have seen thus far. The only odd thing was that the parking lot was nearly empty. It could easily hold over 100 cars, but had only 10 spots filled. It was also our first summit that charged us to park our car. Although the cost was $3 per car, we dropped in a $5 bill since this was the smallest we had at the time. The parking area appeared to have a food stand, which may have been closed when we arrived. We walked to the far end of the lot, and found a bus stop for a shuttle that transported those who didn’t want to climb to the summit. We chose the trail instead and started off up the mountain. If you walk, you save $2 on the shuttle fare.
The trail sign warned us that this was a steep climb, and included the text “6/10.” We assumed this must be the distance to the summit, and not a rating of how fun the trail was to hike. Looking back, it was probably 0.6 miles uphill on a paved pathway. This hike was similar to Tennessee’s hike up Clingman’s Dome. Daddy’s Little Girl wanted to walk the whole way, of course, and that slowed our pace to a crawl.
The good thing about walking with a toddler up a steep hill is that you don’t have to worry that your pace will be too fast. We made good time though and finished climbing in about 20 minutes. I did have to carry Daddy’s Little Girl a few times on my shoulders, but she surprised us by walking most of the way.
Once we reached the summit, we were immediately impressed with the size and construction of the summit building. Georgia had invested considerably more in their summit building than Tennessee, and even staffed the building with park rangers. They offered a movie theater to show a film about the four seasons up on top of the mountain, as well as a museum containing information about the local lands and wildlife. The boys were particularly impressed with a robotic man sitting in a chair dressed as an old-time inhabitant of the area. When a button was pressed, he spoke about stocking the land with deer and helping others in the area.
Our second ritual when we arrive at a highpoint is to find the geological marker and get a photograph. We had read before we arrived that this location’s marker was behind a locked wooden door at the base of the building. We spoke with a ranger who was very pleasant and agreed to unlock the door and show us the marker. It was a tight fit for the photograph, but she assured us that one of the previous highpointers had hung upside down from the stairs to get the perfect photograph. So we weren’t that weird after all.
On the observation deck, we were able to see a view similar to that of Clingman’s Dome. On a clear day, we supposedly could see other peaks that we had climbed, which were 70+ miles away. It wasn’t as clear as we had hoped, so we ended up with a few photographs of the area covered in smog. We signed the summit guest book, dropped in a link to this web site, and started back to the car.
The hike back down was much easier than going up, and took only about 5-10 minutes. The road up and down the mountain was typical, a winding curving road that taxes your car’s engine on the way up, and fries your brakes on the way down. I don’t recommend this type of driving for anyone that gets car sick. Lucky for us, none of our family experienced this the entire trip.
A quick discussion in the car on the way home led to the conclusion that this summit was the best summit we have experienced thus far. Not too crowded, and built up enough to give the place some respect. South Carolina could stand to learn something from this peak. As Oldest Son correctly pointed out on the way down the mountain, we have now completed 8% of all the highpoints in the United States. Watch out, here we come!