Monday, October 18, 2010

Brasstown Bald with the Dames

This weekend, I led a trip for the Trail Dames to go see the leaves changing at Brasstown Bald, the tallest peak in Georgia (4784 feet).  We hiked the Wagon Train Trail, which follows a ridge north from Brasstown Bald all the way to Young Harris, a college town.  This hike is all about the journey, rather than the destination-- especially the views along the ridge and watching the trees change as we drop elevation and go through different forest types.
Down the Wagon Train Trail.
Eleven Dames met at the large parking area early in the morning.  We had a wonderful mix of women- it was one woman's second hike ever, while others had been hiking for years.  We started down the wide, relatively flat path, and reached a viewpoint after an hour.  We stopped for a break and marveled how far we'd come.  The tower at Brasstown Bald, near where we began our hike, looked so small in the distance and it was hard to imagine we'd so easily traveled all this way already.
The tower on Brasstown Bald appears tiny.
After a very long and hot summer, the crisp fall air was quite a relief.  The leaves were spectacular red, orange, and yellow, contrasting against deep blue sky.  As the sun shone through the red leaves, it gave everything a rosy hue.  Leaves crunched beneath our feet.  Though most of the time we were walking through forest ablaze with red leaves, we passed through one part of the trail was all golden yellow.

The Dames that went with me on the Blood Mountain hike recognized the turtleheads clustered around small springs.  We also saw quite a few striped gentians.
After getting back to the trailhead, some of the Dames still had enough energy to climb the remaining 6/10 mile up to the observation tower and visitor's center at the summit.  Stepping off the Wagon Train trail, where we'd seen very few other hikers, was quite a culture shock, because the summit area was crowded with tourists.   At first, I felt annoyed that this summit had been "ruined" by all the development.  But then, we met a woman in a wheelchair that was 95 years old!  She had visited this mountain many years ago, and was excited to make this return trip, even though she couldn't walk anymore herself and had to take the shuttle bus to the top.  Of course this made me instantly appreciate that this mountain was accessible to everyone, and I smiled looking around at all the different people, up there, enjoying the fall day.

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