High Point Hike #6 – Brasstown Bald, Georgia

Brasstown Bald is the sixth trek in my Hike America series. I’ve always wanted to visit every state, but I’ve only made it to about half of them. What better way to see the country than to hike all across it. I plan to hike a major trail in each of the 50 states, typically to the highest point in each one.  Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end!

After downing a few too many chocolate peanut butter balls on Christmas Day, it was time to burn off a few calories. I thought I may as well cross off another state high point in the process.

Not a creature was stirring in my parent’s house, as I headed out just before sunrise on December 26th for Brasstown Bald, Georgia. As I hopped on the I-75 south, the fog gave way to purple and orange hues behind the beckoning Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Oh how I took this magnificent scenery for granted throughout my 25 years in Knoxville.

This is the third time I had attempted to climb Brasstown Bald. In 2013, my first attempt thwarted by the federal government shutdown. And back in October, a deluge soaked my plans. With Georgia on my mind this day after Christmas, thankfully nothing but clear blue skies awaited.

After a 2 hour, 45 minute winding drive through the middle of nowhere to the mountains of north Georgia, I met up with my good friend, long-time Trail Reflections reader, and fellow hiker Michael Wright. Many of you may recognize Michael through his regular engagement here. It was quite an honor to share this hike with him.

Brasstown 1

The view atop Brasstown Bald

From the parking area, the hike up to Brasstown Bald – elevation 4,784 feet – is a fairly short, albeit very steep, paved trail. The state of Georgia has done a fantastic job celebrating and maintaining this prized possession. At the top, a visitor’s center and lookout area offer unbelievable 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains in four states. The air was so clear that you could view miles-and-miles of peaks, valleys, lakes, towns, and farmland.

I asked one of the rangers on duty where I could find the exact high point, and he led us to a locked portion of the visitor’s center and showed us the marker. To demonstrate the achievement of reaching each high point, I make sure to place my foot on the marker and take a picture. The ranger stated that people have stolen markers in other states, which is why they keep it under lock-and-key.

I randomly asked a stranger to take our pictures atop the observation deck, and he asked for the return favor, pulling out a sign that read “1000in180.com“. We discovered his name was Krish, and that he was running, biking, hiking, and kayaking 1,000 miles in 180 days to raise awareness for childhood cancer. Talk about inspiring. You just never know who you will meet along the trail if you take a few minutes to stop and listen to someone’s story – something that tends to happen regularly on a hike.

Descending back to the parking area, Michael and I hiked about 4 miles out-and-back along the Arkaquah Trail. With the leaves off the trees, the mildly strenuous trek along the ridge line provided stunning views. We stopped at an outgrowth of flat rock for lunch. Afterward, we descended below the Brasstown 6sunlit ridge, as the chill in the air became evident as we passed moss-covered rock outcrops with icicles dangling in mid-air.

As is so often is the case on hikes in the wilderness, our conversation turned to the deeper questions of life calling, purpose, and where we sensed God leading us in the present. While my bucket list of hiking the state high points offers an incredible challenge, it’s the connections with allies and meaningful conversations along the trails that call me to return.

The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed. —Howard Macey

For it’s in these moments that I get to better know the both heart of God and the heart of an ally.

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  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Very cool, Chris. I’m a little jealous too. What a beautiful hike and great way to connect more with God. Inspirational.

    • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

      Thanks Kari. Not that I’m biased or anything, but hiking is one of the best ways I know how to connect with God.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Looks like a beautiful (but cold) trip. And I never really thought about the conversation aspect – I can see that being very bonding. Nature and time tend to do that to us. Maybe I’ll have to start hiking more!

    • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

      It was beautiful indeed. The photos make it look deceitfully cold with the icicles, but it was actually in the low-40’s up at the summit. Quite pleasant in the sun. I’ve often found hiking to offer a great bonding experience. I would highly recommend it, especially down in North Carolina hiking country!

  • http://www.fatherofone.com/ Michael Wright

    What a great time we had, Chris! It was the catalyst to do more hiking this year. We hiked the Appalachian approach trail last Saturday – now that was a burn and sweat, even with a high at 47 degrees.
    You know you can always call me up for the next hike!

    • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

      It was an awesome time, Michael! I’m impressed and a tad jealous – you’ve hiked more than I have in the new year. I’ll definitely be in touch next time I’m down that way. Karen’s uncle mentioned that he has a cousin who owns a cabin at Vogel State Park & to let us know when we’re down that way again.

      • http://www.fatherofone.com/ Michael Wright

        I can already smell that BBQ. :)

        • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

          I’d drive back just for some of that delicious smoked BBQ and brisket.