Friday, December 17, 2010

A Georgia High Point (but not the highest)

November 27, 2010.  It was a cold morning -- about 32 degrees F -- so I did not think it was a good idea to go up onto the Blue Ridge Escarpment, in case there might be ice or slippery leaves on the twisty roads.  I elected instead to go west to revisit a couple of places I enjoyed near Toccoa Georgia.

I have already installed my Hippo Hands for the winter, and my heated grips are at the ready to keep my tender little hands warm inside them.  I dress warmly, as is the usual case, and I am ready to go.

Toccoa is about fifty-five miles from home, and I take one of the quicker roads, US-123, to get there.  I detour a bit on SC-93 into downtown Clemson South Carolina, since I have not been there in a long time.  I find that the tailgaters have already started setting up at 9:00 AM, despite the fact that the football game is at 7:00 PM.  Devoted, those Tigers fans.  As I leave town, I note that there is a Norfolk Southern freight train heading in the same general direction as I am. Maybe I'll see it again along the way.

Oh. One good place to go to eat while in Clemson is Sardi's Den Restaurant.  They make some mouth-watering ribs there.  I had some that last time through.  They're located at 520 Old Greenville Hwy, Clemson, SC 29631, 864-654-7427. 

I continue south (actually more west than south) on US-123, through sweeping curves, and finally reach the town of Toccoa.  I cruise through town, spotting the railroad station I visited the last time, and run toward the Trestle Falls housing development.  From there I can view the North Broad [railroad] Trestle, also known as the Wells Viaduct.  As an engineer, I am intrigued by the structure, built in 1919, which spans 1500 feet and is 202 feet above the North Broad River.

It can be seen from the location at the end of the court that starts at Pushpin "B" on this map.

View Larger Map

I go a little beyond the place where I can view the trestle because I want to find the waterfall that is also here somewhere.  (That's why they call this Trestle Falls.)  I go to the very end of the road, but only find a pair of aggressively barking dogs there.  I don't stick around since one of the dogs -- a pit bull looking thing -- is nipping at my leg.   ATGATT helps many situations. I hurry out of there, so I never spot the falls. 

I go back to the place where I can see the trestle, set up my camera, and wait for a train.  The one that I have been pacing since home finally arrives, heralded by its horn before I can see it or hear the rumble of the locomotives.  I didn't think I had been riding that much faster than it has been traveling: Maybe the train stopped somewhere on the way here.

The track is upgrade to the west, so the locomotives are laboring a bit here.  I get a few shots, and after the train passes, I hear dirt bikes snarling somewhere in the hills on the far side of the trestle.  I heard them the last time I was here and had walked down to the base of the trestle, so there must be some good places to ride. In fact, the last time, I had hoped that they would give me a ride back to street level from the base of the trestle.  (They didn't show, so I had to hoof it up.) 

I later looked at a Google satellite view, and found several trails over there the dirt bikers might have been using.  

Here is a panorama of the trestle, made using PixMaker Pro.   
It is not such a good time of year to take a photo, as the trees are not very colorful.  I'll have to come back again in the spring or fall.

Here is an aerial photo taken by Joe Pusey and posted on the website. It shows an Amtrak passenger train pulled by a GE P42DC locomotive on February 26, 2006, viewed from a Cessna 152 about 1500 above grade level.
That's quite a view. My vantage point today is from about the eight o'clock direction. 

I pack up my camera, remount, and then head to my other destination today, one that I have not visited previously, but wrote about last time. 

That place is Currahee Mountain.  Technically a part of the Georgia Piedmont or "foothill" province, Currahee Mountain rises abruptly about 800 vertical feet (240 m) above the local topography and is the highest peak in Stephens County. Part of the mountain is in the Chattahoochee National Forest. On clear days, the peak's 1,735-foot (529 m) summit is visible for many miles and is a prominent landmark to the southeast of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountain crest.

My view approaching the mountain.

The name Currahee (quu-wa-hi), given by the Cherokee Indians, is translated "Stands alone." During the Indian Wars the famous Indian fighter, Andrew Jackson, engaged the Indians at Fort Hill near Currahee Mountain in the "Battle of Currahee".

During World War II, the mountain again became a part of a war. The U.S. Army selected Currahee as the site for its first Parachute Infantry Training Center to be named Camp Toccoa.

You may recall that the mountain was still again made famous more recently by Tom Hanks' and Steven Spielberg's television miniseries Band of Brothers, in which it was featured as a training site of the Paratroopers at Camp Toccoa.  They ran up and down Currahee as part of their training. The name of the mountain became the motto for these paratroopers, including the famous quote, "Three miles up, three miles down".

The last time I visited Toccoa, back in March 2010, I rode right past the road to the top of the mountain, but this time I find it and check it out.  It is at Pushpin "D" on the map above.  I park at the bottom, and walk a few hundred feet up the packed dirt road (puff, puff) to see if it might be passable on my Kawasaki Ninja 650R with street tires.

I decide that it is [you've heard that before, right?], so I walk back down (much easier, so less puffing) to the bike, and start to ride up. 

The road is known as FS65, or the Colonel Robert Sink Memorial Trail.  It is marked by this sign at the bottom:
Colonel Sink was the first Commanding Officer of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Camp Toccoa, the “Five-O-Sinks”.  He was born April 3, 1905 and died December 13, 1965.

Just above the beginning of the road, I spot the only remnant of Camp Toccoa; a block building that was the mess hall.  It sits behind a fence on a corner of the Milliken and Company textile plant property, so it is not accessible. 

I continue onward and mostly upward.  There are a few roads branching off but I stay on the main road. Even though it rained a couple of days ago, the road is nicely packed dirt and gravel in most places.  There is occasionally some loose stone and many washboard sections.  At 0.5 mile there's an open gate. At 1.4 miles there's a sign saying, "closed 10 P.M. to 7 A.M.". At 2.8 miles, there's a good place to park near some large rocks with graffiti covering them.

It's possible to ride slightly further, to very near the summit.  There are several communication towers and buildings at the top, all with chain link fences around them, making the area somewhat unsightly.  Pushpin "C" is at the summit. 

The best view is from near the graffitid rocks, so I go back down there and stop again.  As I do, I note two men and two boys -- maybe a grandfather, his son, and grandsons -- standing and peering outward.  As I approach, the smaller boy -- about ten -- turns, his eyes become wide, and he nudges the other boy to look at what is coming.  I find a reasonably level place to park, turn off the engine, and dismount.  I don't bother taking off my helmet or gloves, since I am only going to take a few pictures.  I dig my camera out of the tank bag, then say hello to the group, and walk over to absorb the scenery.  As I do, I explain to the kids the importance of all the protective gear when riding a motorcycle.

After a few minutes, the group of gents piles into their car and go off toward the summit, the boys watching continuously out the rear window.  I notice this and give them a thumbs up.  They return it eagerly with wide smiles.  I hope I made their day -- as they did mine.

Here are a few pics from the graffiti rocks.

A view to the right.  

A view to the left.  That is a rock quarry on the far left.  The trestle is further to the left, though it is not visible from here. 

And a panorama.
That is my bike on the far right hiding behind some tree branches.  

After taking in the view from this point on the mountain, I start back down.  I feel a bit more sure of myself in the few places where there is loose gravel, so I travel at a higher speed on the way down.  The washboard sections nearly vibrate my fillings loose, so I stand on the pegs like a dirt biker to reduce the potential dental bill.  For the engineers amongst us, here is a website that shows how washboarding begins

The road at the base of the mountain, Dick's Hill Parkway, is smooth and a little curvy from the base of the mountain to the intersection of US-123 and GA-17.  It is fun to ride it.  In fact the Parkway toward the northwest from the base of the mountain is nice too, and it intersects again with US-125 a little further on, so you can easily get back to Toccoa that way if you wish. 

As I pass through Toccoa again, I spot a mural on the side of a building.  You know that I like public murals, as I have written about the ones in Piedmont, and in Donalds and Iva, South Carolina.  

This one is painted on the side of the Royal Crown Cola Bottling Company. They also bottle Nehi, the drink of Radar O'Reilly on M.A.S.H
(That is a pile of cast iron pipe in front of the mural.)

After I returned home, I made a few calls so I could report to you, loyal readers, about this mural.  I connected with the artist, one Pat Wise, and spoke with her on the phone.  She was happy to relate the story to me. 

She said it is a whimsical piece showing several local attractions and historical sites including Toccoa Falls (with some artistic license applied), Travelers Rest east of Toccoa along the old Unicoi Turnpike, Lake Hartwell complete with sailboats and a biplane in flight over it, some whimsical houses and a church, and a golfer who some say looks a little like Ms. Wise's mustachioed husband.  I wrote about some of these places in my blog entry, Two Trips to Toccoa

Here is a closeup of the golfer's form., unique.  (I am not a golfer, however, so who am I to say.) 

As an aside, her hubby broke his leg (ouch) just after she started painting this mural, causing a delay in work while she helped him convalesce.  Ms. Wise also spoke warmly about inscribing the name of her then newly born granddaughter on one of the sailboats on the lake. 

The final brush strokes were applied on July 4, 2003.  Another notable and nearby mural done by Ms. Wise is located in the Toccoa Airport terminal.  I'll have to visit there some time in future. By the way, I don't think she had anything to do with the "artwork" on the rocks at Currahee Mountain that I saw earlier today. 

Since 1999, Ms. Wise has run her very own Laurel Hollow Decorative Art Studio, not far from Travelers Rest, where she conducts classes.  (She says she has good intentions of updating her website soon.) 

I explore Toccoa a bit more, discover the forbidden motorcycle test course, then head back on US-123 to Westminster, take SC-183 to Walhalla, and eventually reach SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, then take US-178 home. 

I have come to like the section of US-178 between SC-11 and Pickens, as a mildly curvy, well-paved stretch, with curves not nearly as tight as on the same road north of SC-11.  The sportier bikers like the latter better, and so might I one day, but for now, I'll go south. 

My route of 167 miles today:

View Larger Map

It has warmed up to 57 degrees by the time I reach home, and it has been an enjoyable day out seeing some old and new sights on an easy route. 

Nose Bleed Info:

  • Elevation of a peak is the height of the peak's summit above sea level.
  • Prominence of a peak is the height of the peak’s summit above the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit. If the peak's prominence is P feet, to get from the summit to any higher terrain one must descend at least P feet.

Nearby Peaks of Interest:
  • Currahee Mountain is the 23rd highest peak in Georgia, at 1735 above sea level with a prominence of about 800 feet.  Here is a video of a car trip from bottom to top
  • The highest point in Georgia is Brasstown Bald at 4783 feet above sea level with a prominence of 2107 feet. 
  • The highest point in South Carolina is Sassafras Mountain at 3564 feet above sea level with a prominence of 754 feet.
  • The highest point in North Carolina (and the highest point in the eastern United States) is Mount Mitchell at 6684 feet above sea level with a prominence of 6089 feet.
You can ride to the top of all of these mountains.


No comments: