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.
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 sunlit 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.