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Tennessee on my mind.......

Joined
Jun 7, 2006
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Exit. Stage West.
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If there's one place east of the Mississippi I would live, it would be Tennessee. Allergies and coldphobia prevent me from pursuing that, so it will remain my most favorite place to visit and ride.

My third trip here to this lovely state: the first on the Whee-strom (and an absolute nightmare trip it was), the second and third on the little naughty 250, both latter times staying at the humble encampment of friends Lori and Jack Hunt: Hunt's Motorcycle Lodge. Jack, a native of TN, knows these roads -paved and unpaved- around Tellico Plains like the backs of his weathered hands. Their campground is a labor of love; painted with hospitality and generosity. They've done a fine job of turning a hillside into a welcome comfortable place for motorcyclists to stay.

After 24 hours on the road (with a 4-hour nap in a truck stop in Alabama and stocking up at a grocery store), we set up camp and chatted a bit with Jack and Lori. The son of a visiting friend had high sided on the Cherohala Skyway on his SV650. Jack loaned his car and trailer for the Dad to retrieve the bike and son while Jack donned his gear and rode his ST1100 to his night-shift at work.

The son is fine but sports large raspberries on one arm. The bike weathered the crash well with a flat tire and broken shifter. Dad, on his Wee-strom, miscalculated a spot passing a parked car and discovered that his new Wee-strom, like all the others, suffer narcolepsy. I told him that his Wee-strom is now initiated and christened; carry electrical tape on the bike; he'll need it.

Our camp and looking down toward the cabins, the office/showers and pavilion:

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After relaxing a bit, Ed and I drove the truck to the Tellico Biker Rally to meet up with a fellow adventure rider from Sweetwater. Python has shared with us routes in the neighboring national forests and we hoped to catch up with him there. We wound our way nearly three miles down a narrow and barely paved country road in a likewise narrow and lushly green valley. Surrouning the road on both sides were lush green pastures with horses, mules, donkies and cattle happily grazing, ponds with fish jumping, log cabins, old barns aged with silver boards, all towered over by tree-blanketed mountains.

It's just plain beautiful. Living poetry. I can't wait to ride in amongst it.

We never did find Python, so we headed back to Hunt's, unloaded the bikes, and now are relaxing. Ed's visiting with several riders checked into the cabins on a variety of cruisers, a KLR, a GS and this awesome old Moto Guzzi. I'm sitting at a table under the pavilion enjoying the setting sun and the birds. Glad to be here and looking forward to a week of riding, exploring and just 'being'.

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I'll post off and on during the week.
 
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Love that Pink Tent. ;-). Sounds like an interesting place. Will be waiting for more on the trip report and pictures of the area. I do far western Tennessee North Georgia and North Carolina about once a year. But, moteling it now. ;-)
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
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Exit. Stage West.
Love that Pink Tent. ;-). Sounds like an interesting place. Will be waiting for more on the trip report and pictures of the area. I do far western Tennessee North Georgia and North Carolina about once a year. But, moteling it now. ;-)
Pink Tent?!?!?!? It's not pink. Burgundy and beige. Must look pinkish from the late light conditions. :doh:
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Exit. Stage West.
Tennessee Putt-putt Day

Or
"My Gyroscope is Broken!!!"


Now I really know how much internal balance is required to ride a bike.
Safely, that is; aka without falling down.

It started yesterday and worsened through the day. I thought a good night's sleep would take care of it, but I was wrong. When I opened my eyes in the tent and looked outside, the tree limbs and leaves weaved back and forth, my head was spinning sideways inside. Uh oh. It didn't go away.

Every time I turn my head sideways or look down, everything spins and I lose my balance. When I turn my whole head, the world keeps spinning. Or so it feels.

Hoping this would just disappear, I suggested we start out with tame roads this morning. I wasn't sure how well I could ride. So we rode south about a mile or so returning to the country road where the TP Biker rally was. I found out real quick on the first curve that my internal gyroscope is broken. My proprioception is way off kilter.

Proprioception is feeling where your body is in time and space - spatiotemporal body awareness. We all practice that when we walk, jump, run, sit down, and especially, ride a bike - all without knowing we are doing it. Because it is subconscious.

Maneuvering corners requires an orchestration of 'knowing' where the bike is in respect to angles to the road, movement (acceleration and deceleration) and knowing where all the parts of your body are in relationship to the bike, road and time. it's a ballet of time, space and motion. Sometimes we think about all this when we are doing it, sometimes it just occurs naturally. Because parts of it are subconscious: how we respond and know when to respond.

When that internal sensor is broken, it can all fall apart. Knowing my equilibrium was dysfunctional, I rode slowly. But when I rode slowly around a curve, I found I couldn't respond accurately; I couldn't lean. So I wobbled and flailed, uttered "Whoa!!!" and set myself up as straight as a pogo stick. I was going to have to putt-putt around curves (about 10-12 mph).

We rode down a beautiful narrow country road that wound around the side of the mountain and along creeks and through the forest. It was like a paved forest road. Uneven ground, like gravel, threw me off, too. That also requires that internal gyroscope. Then we decided to head back to straight flat highway and go into town for lunch.

I felt bad for shortening the ride and restricting it to pavement, but I wasn't in any condition to ride anything else than straight smooth tarmac.

On the way back we stopped at a cemetery out in the middle of the forest. It was well taken care of and, from the abundance of flowers, visited often. Azalea bushes were in bloom, flowers I haven't seen since leaving north country.

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Ed pointed out a pair of babies that had died within a year of each other, in the same family, and in childbirth. Childbirth mortality was common until the last 100 years with the advent of modern medicine. But these two babies were born only within the last decade. This is something you don't see often in modern times here in this country.

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A few graves were very modest and unassuming compared to many others that were marked with large stones and flowers (plastic and real). This particular site was marked by with a small flat stone -born in 1908, died in 1980, involved in Korean and Vietnam wars- and covered with soft green moss.

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On the way back, we rode down into the field where the biker rally was. Nearly all the campers and eventers were gone by that time, but the orange porta-potties were still there. I had to use one. I took a quick photo of the main event area across the brook that separated it from the campers' area.

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We rode into town (Tellico Plains) to find a place for lunch and iced tea. We found The Prospector's Place, a relatively new establishment (it wasn't there last time we were there in '07).

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We sat outside in the covered porch and ate good sandwiches and iced tea. When the young waitress came to our table, I was astounded: here was my daughter. Well, it wasn't really, but this young lady not only looked just like her, but also had the same mannerisms! It was very weird. The only difference between her and Tanaya is that she has brown eyes (Tanaya has blue) and Tanaya is a bit taller. Our waitress was very personable and friendly, stopping by to chat quite often.

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After lunch, I suggested we take a quick little spin through the small town square. It is a VERY small town square, but very quaint. The main road loops off the beginning of the Cherohala Skyway and several small shops line a narrow offshoot road.

One of those shops is Tellico Plains Motorcycle Outfitters owned by Mike (Dursel?) and his wife. They are BMW riders and also ride in the nearby forests; Mike is a participant on ADV and TNAdventureRiders forums. I didn't expect their store to be open on a Sunday, but Ed noticed they were, so we stopped in to say Hello.

Claire (if I remember her name right; I have terrible name amnesia) was very friendly and we chatted about local happenings, riding off road, maintaining the single-track trails in the national forest (those two have almost single-handedly maintained them) and other things. I tried on Oympias one-piece Stealth suit, their mesh version of the Phantom, and was greatly impressed. Jack raved about his, so I wanted to see how they were. They are more comfortable and vented than my two-piece mesh gear! This fall I plan to order a neon yellow all-weather Phantom to replace my worn out and leaking winter jacket.

We saw a new ice cream shop across the street and had to try that out, too. While we sat outside and ate our wonderful ice cream, a local came sweeping into a parking spot on his Husky 510. What a neat machine that is! And it's only as tall as my waist :doh:

They day turned out to be hot, we were hot, so I took a shower (what a great shower facility they have here!). Even Wiley took a shower!

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So, I'm hanging out here for the rest of the day to get my gyroscope back in working order. I want to get out on those forest roads soon!!!!!!!!
 
Joined
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Exit. Stage West.
Kinda hard to keep up when riding all day :rider:
What day is this??..... I've lost track already. :mrgreen:

All but one of the five cabins were full. A group of retired military riders gather every year for a ride. This year it was in TN and based at the lodge here. Last year they rode to Alaska. In fact, they were there when Bill, Graeme et al were in Alaska and they mentioned meeting up with a group of riders, two whom were on Stroms. Small world, aye? Two of these guys were on Harleys, two on KLR's, and don't recall what other bikes were in their group. Their only real complaint was the constant rain on that trip,

One of the gentlemen is Dad to a Bonneville rider in Carrolton. He told us he would tell his son to check into TWT and perhaps join the Tarrant Co. M&Gs.

We also had a retired military man from Holland in our midst: Louie. He was by far the most colorful character I've met on the road in a long time. A long-time Moto Guzzi fan and involved in the European/International MG group, he bought this gem in Arkansas and loaded it up to ride around the Eastern US until he flies back to Holland at the end of this month.

He is a veteran (in both senses of the word) to riding in the US. He and several MG buddies from Europe have several times shipped 15 bikes to a container, overseas to Houston, flown in, and loaded the bikes to tour the US and Canada. This time he was riding solo on his new-to-him MG California and will store it in Arkansas, available for any time he takes a whim to ride in the US.

Here is Louie rolling a morning smoke,

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and getting advice over a map from a fellow camper.

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These two riders rolled in late, set up camp and were getting ready to roll the next morning. They are on a quest for waterfalls.

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Speaking of waterfalls.....

We geared up and got ready to roll. Today we would be hitting the fire roads in the national forests south and north of the Cherohala Skyway. We turned south off the Skyway and rode along the Tellico River (FR210). I love this road, even if it is paved up to the falls. The narrow road winds along the river under tall tree canopies, under jutting ledge and babbling river. Ed caught sight of a beaver hiding in the ferns that border the road and the river. First thing I noticed was the water level was much higher than when in '07 (when we were here last).

We came to the bridge that spans the river and overlooks Bald River Falls. Lot more water there, too! Here is where Bald River converges with Tellico River.

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I climbed down the ledge to get closer to the river and falls.

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This is a favorite spot to visit, and because the road it paved (but narrow) to here, many bikes are usually here, too. We ran into this group and met a woman on a BMW cruiser. I've never seen one before; it was beautiful!

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We exchanged chit chat and then geared up again to continue on east where the road turns to gravel and the fun starts.

But first, I've got to get ready to go ride more gravel. Jack has his DR ready to roll after putting on another (the third?) larger gas tank.
 

voyagerrider

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Burleson, TX
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Marty
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Elzi,
Great report as usual. :clap:
We stopped at the same resturant in Tellico Plains, Prospector's Place, last year when when we made our trip to the Dragon. The food rocked.:eat:
Can't wait to see the next installment of your report.

:popcorn:

Marty
 

Tourmeister

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Wouldn't you much rather live where you are right now than in Terlingua?
:tab I don't know about her, but I am torn in that respect. I love the Appalachian Mountains. I love Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri. I love Colorado and the Rockys. But there is also something about the desert SW that calls to a spot deep down inside me. The Four Corners area has that same tug on me. If I could clone myself but share a collective consciousness it would be great because I'd send one of me off to each place and we could all enjoy them! :-P
 
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Exit. Stage West.
I've had a love affair with the SW desert since before I realized it. Like Scott, that goes much deeper than casual. It's not just psychological, but physiological as well: no allergies, no arthritis aches and pains. My long term plan is winters, spring and fall in Big Bend, summers in the mountains (NM or elsewhere). I think I can handle being on allergy meds for a few months rather than an entire year that way. Regardless, both areas have great roads to ride.

Also, I grew up in New England. I've had my fill of living in cloistered forested mountains. To do so full time again would drive me crazy; I need wide open spaces. It is there where my spirit soars. :mrgreen:
 
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Getting Whiggy With It

(couldn't resist....)

A mile or so after Bald River Falls, the paved road veers south to the right, gravel to the north. We took the 'high road'.

The gravel forest road becomes North River Road and, as the name implies, follows the river for some distance. Only a slim line of trees separate the river and the road. Eventually the road turns away from the river and meanders deeper into the forest and mountains.

A grader's blade had ditched the left side of the road. Rains here have washed leaves and silt into the ditches and flooding roads, in some areas washing away edges and gouging ruts. Like any forest roads, they need spring maintenance. A smudged swath of leaves, rocks and debrid covered most of the road; riding on it was like going through an obstacle course. A slippery one.

Except for a poorly attempted come-back to riding off-road in Big Bend last winter, this was the first time since the ankle injury/surgery I've been back off-road. It's been over a year. I soon discovered I had to relearn most everything and overcome that "Ohmigod!!!" factor (family-friendly expletive). I had a few pucker moments on that section, and a few later on the next two days. But they decreased as technique and confidence slowly crept back. My biggest hurdle now is maneuvering corners. Realize that all corners here -well, almost all- are either on inclines or declines. Some are sharp 90-360 degree. We've been doing a lot of switchbacks and hairpin turns. Many quite steep. It's getting better.

We left the gravel road and wandered into the 'Yellow Sea', as I call it. That's what shows up on my GPS. That little black triangle wandering around in a sea of yellow with no lines. The gravel road became a two-track as it switched up and up the mountainside to Whigg Meadow.

Finally we made it, I could breathe.

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Whigg Meadow is a mountain 'bald'. What is that? The tops of many of these mountains is a bald spot: shallow soil, few trees, green grass, ledge outcrops. Soil is too shallow for trees to take hold against the wind and snow, so many of these mountains are topped by a 'bald' meadow. Hence, many 'XXXX Balds' are on the maps of this area.

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The views were hazy. Couldn't see the distance as before. This 'bald' doesn't provide a 360-degree view like the others we visited afterwards, but here's a perspective:

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It was very different from when we were here in October. Green, green, everywhere. Even found azaleas in flower.

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And butterflies.

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After a nice relaxing reprieve, we geared back up and rode down the mountain, back to North River Rd. and headed north again.

To be Continued....... (cabins, roads and rivers)
 

Tourmeister

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:tab North River Rd., is fun. Last time we were out there, I took a day off from riding and Beth and I drove TxRider's 4Runner for a day with Sarah in the backseat. We went all over those roads back in that area, stopping at lots of creeks, waterfalls, swimming holes, etc,... Great place!!
 
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Also, I grew up in New England. I've had my fill of living in cloistered forested mountains. To do so full time again would drive me crazy; I need wide open spaces. It is there where my spirit soars. :mrgreen:
I guess I am just the opposite, even though I also spent most of my life in the North East.

I find the desert South West landscape absolutely spectacular to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
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Terlingua
That country looks LUSH! (not the kind I am!) So much green makes these old desert eyes of mine kinda hurt from unsquinting.

Randy
 
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Exit. Stage West.
That country looks LUSH! (not the kind I am!) So much green makes these old desert eyes of mine kinda hurt from unsquinting.
heheh. I sat this morning looking around me on this hillside and realized I can't see the horizon. I'm surrounded by round forested green mountains. I would feel claustrophobic living here. I like visiting here, but not living here for any extended period of time.

And the humidity is choking! :mrgreen:
 
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Cabins in the Woods


Back on North River Road, we came across a trail to Donley's cabin. The authentic two-room, 19th century log cabin was the home of Jack Donley (1846-1941), a gold prospector working the creeks that are now a part of Cherokee National forest land. The trail to the cabin begins with a wooden bridge across the creek, winds up the mountain for a mile, then enters a clearing where the cabin sits quiet as if it slumbers.

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According to Jack, an old logging road branched off that trail; he and his folks used to ride horses and mules along that old road. Now it is all overgrown with trees and shrubs. Only the trail to the cabin remains.

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Back on the road, we headed north and rode underneath the Cherohala Skyway at Stratton Meadows. Taking the left turn, we left Tennessee and Cherokee National Forest and entered Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.

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The gravel road hugs Santeetlah Creek for many miles east. Soon we came to a beautiful clearing on the right side of the river, a small cabin nestled on the side of the hill and underneath tall pines. This is the historic Stewart Cabin.

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The Stewart Cabin is part of a larger log cabin that was originally built about one-half mile downstream and closer to the creek than where it now stands. A flood in July, 1895 changed the course of Big Santeetlah Creek, flooded the log cabin, and destroyed a water powered corn grinding mill. After the flood, the cabin was dismantled and rebuilt on its present site.

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James Stewart (1831-1909) and his wife Catherine Ashe (1833-1 913) were born in central North Carolina. Prior to the 1850 census, they moved to Union County, Georgia, and later to Monroe County, Tennessee. They lived there for four years and moved to Graham County, North Carolina, in 1876 and built their cabin.

After the death of James and Catherine Stewart, their children sold the land to a lumber company and moved away. Some time later half the original cabin was torn down. The property later sold and Tom Patton moved into the cabin and made whiskey nearby for many years. Today, the cabin is part of the Nantahala National Forest and is on the National Historic Register. Many descendants of James and Catherine Stewart now live in Graham County and elsewhere and hold an annual family reunion at the cabin.

Just down the grassy clearing, on the other side of the split log fence and across the gravel is a wonderful babbling creek.

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On the side of the clearing is another wide expanse of green meadow upon which camping sites reside.

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One of the things I like most about these forests is the prevalent rhododendrons. Only in Oregon have I seen these grow so thick like they do here.

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This little fellow showed up and nicely posed for his photograph.

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Joined
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Trails Through Time

Our first real day of dirt riding (Monday) was fantastic: miles of gravel road along the south and north bases of the ridge upon which the skyway was built. Whigg Meadow (and Buck Bald) are pilgrimages each time we come. It was satisfying in many ways. We returned to Hunt's Lodge satisfied and tired.

The next day we rode an ancient trail known by four names: Wachesa Trail -the main path from the Great Indian War Trail and the Overhill Towns to the Valley and Lower Towns, the Unicoi Turnpike - built mostly on the same ancient Indian trail in 1813-1816, and the Joe Brown Highway - a section of the first two trails connecting Coker Creek area in Tennessee and ending in Murphy, NC. The former two span from Georgia, through South Carolina and North Carolina, to Tellico, Tennessee. This area was the heart of the Cherokee nation where thousands lived.

The fourth name is Trail of Tears. Along this trail traveled three thousand Cherokee in 1838 as they were forced from their homes and marched thousands more miles to Oklahoma.

We started out from Hwy 68 in Tennessee, a few miles south of the campground, turned down a rough paved road and headed east down Joe Brown Highway. A real misnomer.

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To be continued......
 

Tourmeister

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Mmm... Hwy 68 :drool:

I look forward to hearing about Joe Brown "Highway". I've been eying that for years but have never managed to check it out in person.

I am totally with you on the stifling humidity thing... I struggle with that even here at home. That is one of the things that REALLY calls to me about the desert environments! I love the feel of the evening air in the desert.
 
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Andy
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My last trip through the desert. Heated gear on in the early morning, heated gear stored away about 9:AM , enjoyable riding to about 11AM. Cool vest on under vented jacket. Really hunting for an air conditioned motel at about 4:PM ;-).
But I still love the wide open spaces and the greys and browns of it.

Thanks for all the great pictures and the trip report. I've run a lot of Tennessee in my BMW Rally days , but, I've missed a lot also.
 
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Jun 7, 2006
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....still on my mind.

Back in town; had four hours sleep. I'm sleepwalking through the day.
I wrote up the day's ride on the Trail with Four Names while on the road, but will have to wait and post it up tonight. If I have the energy.

I always feel like an alien in a strange land when I get back here. Like I don't belong here. I think that's a sign.;-)
 
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Unicoi Highway and Trails of Tears

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For hundreds of years the Cherokee Nation covered large areas in four states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and three-quarters of Tennessee. Most of the Native Americans east of the Mississippi were semi-agrarian; they lived in centralized villages –referred to as ‘towns’- consisting of hogans and planted fields. The land surrounding the towns were communal hunting grounds shared with other communities.

The Unicoi Mountain Range runs along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern region of the Appalachian Range, the oldest mountain range on this continent. The Unicois are directly south of the Smokey Mountains and west of the Cheoah Mountains. The Southern Appalachias were home to the Cherokee people for thousands of years.

The name "Unicoi" comes from a Cherokee word which means "white." It refers to the low-lying clouds and fog that often drape the Southern Appalachian mountains in the early morning or on humid or moist days. We saw (and even rode in) this several times while we were there.

Native Americans used for centuries a footpath in the southern Unicoi Mountains to travel from one side of the southern Appalachian range to the other. Known as the Wachesa Trail, the path stretched from modern Murphy, NC to a point near Beaverdam Creek and descended through Unicoi Gap to Coker Creek. Present-day Joe Brown Highway roughly follows the ancient trail.

By the time Euro-Americans arrived in the region in the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Cherokee had established many villages in the outlying areas of the Unicoi Mountains. The Middle towns were located in the Robbinsville, NC, area and included Tassetchee, Elijay, and Nequassee. The Overhill towns included Tallassee, Chilhowee, Citico, and other villages in the Little Tennessee Valley. At the range's northern extremes, Great Tellico along the Tellico River in modern Tellico Plains, and Great Hiwassee along the Hiwassee River at the western base of Starr Mountain. Excavations at a Citico site (at the mouth of Citico Creek) revealed periods of occupation stretching back thousands of years.

Topographical features such as rivers and mountain ranges separated clusters of towns. Like most civilizations, geographical and demographical areas had a centralized town where the chief (or ruler) and his people lived with smaller satellite towns nearby. These were called ‘chiefdoms’. However, lacking European-style political structure, the central town moved with the current chief; chiefs did not move to a specific town established as a ‘capital’ or ‘seat’ (such as our concept of county seat town).

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Trails were established between towns and clusters to enable visiting, trading, hunting, war, etc. The Unicoi Turnpike was the major route. Cherokee transported furs along the route for trading on the eastern seaboard in the early 1700s. During the American Revolution, the trail was used for raids between colonists and Cherokee. The trail was used to move livestock, mined minerals and rock, wagonloads of produce, and armies. Some sections were as wide as a modern two-lane highway; some were as narrow as one person.

The trail was widened in the early 1800s, closely following the old Wachesa Trail, and became the Unicoi Turnpike. A toll was charged on sections making the Unicoi Turnpike the first toll road in American history. The route was also the first leg of the Trail of Tears. In modern times, highways took other routes through the mountains and the original trail, of which more than 50 percent is located in the Cherokee National Forest and Nantahala National Forest, was forgotten except for occasional use as farm roads.

In 1838 many of these mountain trails were used to march around fifteen thousand Cherokee people from their homes and towns to various emigrating depots at forts and temporary stockades. At some of these locations, hundreds of people were crowded into fenced pens like cattle or horses for days or weeks, and sometimes, entire seasons. From these depots they were herded by federal military on a long journey to foreign land called Indian Territory: modern-day Oklahoma.

Some groups of Cherokees were allowed to take a wagon crammed with family or neighbors, pulled by a horse, mule or ox. Most walked and carried very few personal possessions with them except food and water. Everything else they had was ordered left behind. Some had nothing but the clothes they wore or carried upon their backs.

These trails upon which they traveled –by water and land- are referred to by the Cherokees themselves ‘the trail on which we cried’. Now they are known as the Trail of Tears.

Old trails literally crosshatch the land here in southeastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. On any of these trails or roads stories and stories through time layer their use. The Wachesa Trail, now known as Unicoi Turnpike, was a major route for traveling between the Lower and Overhill (or Upper) Towns. The section we rode on is referred to by locals and on maps as Joe Brown Highway and extends between Hwy 68 at Coker Creek, TN, through the Cherokee National Forest and to Murphy in NC.

Joe Brown Highway is a misnomer. It is certainly not a road that we now associate with the word ‘highway’. It begins as a roughly paved road with patches of asphalt and potholes, giving way to packed gravel and dirt (still with potholes). Yet, in places it is indeed ‘high’. Not one person whom I asked knows the derivation of ‘Joe Brown’. Maybe I’ll discover that answer some day.

Soon after we turned off modern Hwy 68, small houses with vegetable and flower gardens gave way to tall trees crowding sides of the gravel road. Soon we came upon an intersection, if you can call it that, of three intersecting trails. This was the historic Unicoi Gap.

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To the left was a long trail that winds through Cherokee National Forest and the mountains for miles and miles. To the right was a small marker for a single-track trail: hiking, mountain biking and motorcycles. The beginning of the trail was a steep ascent up the bank with a sharp right hand turn. Of course, Ed had to see if the KLR would fit through the trees on this. As he rode the bike up I heard one of the panniers scrape something. I thought it was a tree, but he later ascertained from the scrape on the pannier bottom corner that it was a boulder. I still don’t know how he turned that tractor around on the trail.

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From there on we rode many miles on winding, swerving, up and down packed gravel, missing a few potholes, avoiding looking down steep mountainsides to our side, marveling at the shady tunnels created by tall pines while the sun lit the mountain tops to our sides. All we heard was the purr of our engines with an occasional grunt as we climbed and the crackle of gravel stones under our tires.

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The miles and time had no units, wasn’t even measured, as we rode over mountains and then threaded down into the river valley in NC. As we neared the river, little quiet clusters of small farms and hamlets littered the roadside and the road once again wore a hard mantle of tarmac. These are residual homes that were once Cherokee villages and towns. Gravel roads threaded off on each side, again snaking into the mountain sides or down towards the river.

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Newer and larger homes announced close proximity to Murphy. Soon we rode down into town with a familiar sight that suggested a courthouse. Sure enough, as we rode closer, the courthouse loomed. We pulled in front of the building and parked our bikes in the only spot available. What was most odd about this courthouse was its location; kiddy-corner on a sharp triangle of land and bordered by narrow streets. The stonework appeared relatively new, but I was unable to find any information about it.

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Of course, to me most courthouses elicit an association with a friend and fellow rider back home: Chuck (aka Gilke). Since he is a courthouse aficionado, I took a few photographs for him.

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While I was doing so, an older local gentleman came up and said, “Well, this is the modern courthouse after the first three burned, and……”

Judging from the hanging sentence and the laughter on his face, I knew that his comment was a satire on the typical life of a courthouse.

I replied, “Well, that sounds just like a Texas courthouse!” and we both laughed.

Now out in full sunlight along with eastern humidity (and covered with dust), I had a strong desire for something cold and refreshing. Cold coffee was my first choice. I asked a tall young smartly-dressed young man exiting the courthouse with reams of legal papers in his hands, “Excuse me, can you direct me to a coffee shop in town?”

With a smile and nod, he proceeded to annotate two small coffee cafes in the town’s square(s) where people like to stop, sip coffee, chat, tap on their wifi laptops and enjoy a visit. I discovered quickly after arriving in this area of TN and NC that his friendly manner and easy conversation is so very typical of people living in the small towns and rural communities. They will stop whatever they are doing to visit and chat with a genuine interest in who you are, where you are from, and to share their local communities with everyone. It was so welcome and refreshing compared to where we live in Texas.

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We walked the three blocks to a street lined with shops and found the Daily Grind. Ordering a coffee and scone, we sat outside at a small table on the sidewalk and watched the town. A DR650 whizzed up alongside and parked a few spaces down from where we sat. The rider wore white shorts, white T-shirt, white socks and sneakers, and white helmet with black stripes. After removing goggles and helmet, he donned a white visor over his long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.

On the luggage rack was a long orange milk carton, with black canvas bags hanging over the sides of the carton. From that he withdrew a messenger bag which, judging from the size, probably contained a laptop. We complimented his luggage setup as he walked by us.

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We decided to walk up the street a bit after finishing our coffees and check out a historical marker at the intersection. I chuckled as I read it; it was a ‘He did it here’ marker. The inscription on the sign claimed De Soto’s expedition traveled by here in the 1500’s. Like the generic “Washington slept here,” “Goodnight’s cattle drank here,” and “Coronado’s men camped here,” this one was a ‘De Soto did it here’ sign.

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I wondered about the authenticity of the sign’s claim and asked Jack about it later. As I suspected, no one can accurately say where the route was that De Soto’s men traveled. It reminded me of the same in regards to Coronado’s route through Texas. And I bet Washington slept in many, many places, so why not here or there?

At the end of the street stood a building looking very typically colonial. Not obvious at first, but we discovered it was a church. And like the courthouse, it was situated on an angled plot, like the tip of a triangle.

Next to the parked bikes was a brick building housing the police headquarters. It was then I saw the Trail of Tears logo and sign. Here was one of the certified historical points on the National Trail of Tears Trail.

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I paid a donation for the two of us and we proceeded to the ground floor where a series of displays presented Cherokee history and life in the local area and as a Nation, even up to modern times on the Eastern and Western reservations. The details and first accounts by Cherokee members, early colonists and military individuals were incredible. It all became so much more personal. I would have like to have had more time to read it all but time was slipping away and I had to be back to camp soon. My sister and Tom were on their way.

Refreshed, we were ready to head back, again on the Joe Brown Highway. On the forest map I had noticed a symbol for a falls. We agreed to take a detour and see if we can find it. About three-quarters of the way back, we found the forest road turnoff and wound down a series of tight turns looking for a sign or turnoff that might be the falls. Soon the road narrowed to almost a two-track, still a ways up on the mountainside, but no falls. After a while, pulled off and decided to give up. Who knows where it is?

We turned the bikes around and headed back up the gravel road. A flicker off to the right caught my eye; I slowed, turned my head and there was a rocky stream through the trees. And there it was: a waterfall. A whole series of falls. At this point, we were both tired and didn’t see an easy way to get down to the stream which was almost straight below the right side of the road through the trees. We laughed and wondered how we had missed it riding up the road.

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We had to stop a few times for pit stops.

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Soon we reached the end of Joe Brown Highway and back on Hwy 68 at Coker Creek. At this point and late in the day, we barreled north on the smoothly paved Hwy 68 and into the campground; tired and happy after a long day of riding dirt.

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Next: Jack leads us on a ride through the forest
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Mmm... Hwy 68 :drool:
You would love OLD Highway 68, aka Kimsey Highway. It snakes through the mountains (Little Frog, Brock Mnts, etc) between Hwy 30 and New Hwy 68 just south of Harbuck. Where it snakes through Little Frog Mnt is a gap called Cold Spring Gap. This is where a few Cherokee families hid from the militia.

It was a footpath crossing the mountains/forests from west to east, then widened to accommodate wagons. For years this WAS the state highway! If you ever ride this road, you'll wonder how the heck traffic traversed this. Some of the hairpins and switchbacks are really steep and tight.

This road is more narrow than the other forest raods we rode on and often just a two track for sections. It reminds me so much of the back roads in Maine I sometimes forgot where I was. ;)

I love this road. My favorite is a long narrow switchback called Horseshoe Bend; it's like a pilgrimage.

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Jack told me that if I get the teacher position with summers off, I should consider living there for a month and lead guided DS tours through the area. I would love sharing these places and their history with others that appreciate it. It is truly like stepping back in time and history.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Green Marshmallow, Buck Bald and single tracking

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Monday, Janet and friend Rob rode down from Sweetwater to visit at the campsite. It was good to see Rob again. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), and was one of the several riders I met up with for four days in Moab, Utah. We still joke at how he and Janet have been buddies for many years. Rob invited me to go white water rafting with their crew on Thursday and, as much as I hated to, I had to decline the offer. My sister and Tom were driving down from NY with their bike. I haven't seen my sister since she and Tom joined us in Moab (September 2006). I wanted to spend time with them.

Now Tuesday evening, when we returned to base camp, my sister and her significant other, Tom, had arrived from Warsaw, NY, and were setting up camp. Apparently we have different ideas about camping. Although we were both 'truck camping' (hauling bikes on a trailer with truck), I'm still of the 'less is more' idea. Granted, the extra room allows for several amenities of comfort that are impossible in bike camping. Yet, Cathy and Tom's campsite was dubbed the 'Taj Mahal'. At least a TV and radio were nowhere to be found. :mrgreen:

The Taj Mahal:
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The Cottage:
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After they were set up and the bike unloaded, we coerced (didn't take any effort) Jack to join us on a ride into town for ice cream. The four bikes with the five of us took the back road into the town square, parked in front of Mike's Motorcycle Outfitter's shop and crossed the narrow street to his wife's ice cream shop.

Tennessee area has it's locally-made ice cream brand (can't recall the name) that might just push the limits beyond Texas' Bluebell. And I pointed out to Ed why that is: the Ice Cream cows. Jersey cows dot pastures all over the place here. Their milk makes the best ice cream and butter; it wins, hands down. :eat:

After we closed the shop (they waited patiently for us to leave ;-) ), we walked out and around the corner to a parking lot where a wide ditch cut the lot in half. According to Jack, a stream runs under the road, parking lot and shops along the street. After all these years and all the recent rains, pavement started caving in. I was told that the shop floors are also 'moving'. So the pavement in the parking lot has been dug up and is being rebuilt to direct the stream through new concrete conduit. Old meets new. Old sometimes wins.

We returned to camp and visited until the day's ride caught up with me and steered me to my bag in the tent.

The next morning, Jack finished putting his DR250 together for a day's ride. He has been working on that thing for months now, replacing the leaking stock tank, changing chain and sprockets, new tires and fixing the throttle, in anticipation of our visit. Otherwise he rides a ST1100. A parts bike he picked up (wrecked) -DR350- serves as an 'organ donor' for his 250. He asked me again to thank the fella here on this forum that sent him a used aftermarket tank, so I'm passing that along.

The first leg of our ride was familiar Whitt Rd, a gravel forest road that meanders through four streams. We had ridden the same road in '07, but this time, there was a lot more water. Jack led the way and we followed his lines; he knows these roads and crossings like they were his backyard. Well, they are his backyard, come to think of it. He grew up here.

The first three crossings were crossed just fine even with at least a foot deeper water. The last one was the tricky one. Ridges of ledge run perpendicular to the water and this time they were submerged. No way could someone pick a line through them. So the choices were right of the ridges or left. Jack entered the water to the right of them and exited the water through a narrow gravel bar, requiring a fast left turn. As he rode up, he pushed away several branches that overhung the gravel bar.

Jack's choice of crossing surprised Ed. He wondered why he didn't go to the left. I mentioned that we should trust Jack's judgment; he knows these streams and crossings. Ed followed Jack's line and I saw how deep the water was: deep. I watched for cues and entered the water in first gear and on the throttle, lifting off the seat and weight down through the pegs. I plowed through. But when the front tire got on the short gravel bar, it wouldn't turn left like I tried to ask it to. The wheel and bike went straight and a instantaneous "Holy #$@@!" went through my head. I was on a course for a big tall green boulder covered with moss.

In that same instant, the front wheel pierced the 'boulder' and stopped. It had speared a huge soft mound of moss, leaves and green stuff all the way to the forks. The bike stopped, I put my feet down and proceeded to laugh my head off. The bike had just pierced the Giant Green Marshmallow. And I couldn't get it out. Jack and Ed pushed the bike out into the water and I was laughing so hard, it took me a short while to get in motion out of the water. Soon the throttle was wide open and I sprinted up the gravel to the road and out of the water, still laughing. Looking down, moss and organic debris coated the tire, rim, axle and forks. Green Marshmallow Goo.

When Ed asked Jack about his preference for left of the ridges, Jack explained that the left side is deceptively deep. Once while crossing in his truck, he almost buried it in the water by crossing to the left.

Whitt Road follows a creek for several miles, then exits into a small community called Epperson. At an intersection of four roads is a small church and one house. That's the town, folks. We rode to Hwy 68 on a lovely paved and winding narrow road.


From Hwy 68, we took a gravel road through the forest, climbing in an easy ascent and turned onto another more narrow road that climbs to a favorite spot: Buck Bald. Not sure how high it is, but the views are phenomenal: 360 degrees of hazy mountains. We dismounted and took a short break.

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Mounting up, we proceeded to a taller mountain that Jack pointed out to us from Buck Bald. But first, we took a side 'road': FS82. A single-track trail that I love. It had changed a bit since we rode it in '07. Rather than a relatively smooth path, it now had a narrow but shallow rut from bikes riding on wet ground. At one point, my front tire jumped out of a mud hole and up on the higher shelf above the rut. I stopped the bike for a photo or two, but they didn't turn out well. I am still learning the temperamental idiosyncrasies of this new camera and later realized that when in landscape mode, the default is ISO 80. In a dark forest, that high speed does not lend well to low light conditions. So many of my photos in the forests are blurred and useless.

I am posting the two better of the three anyway for a perspective of the trail.

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The trail plops riders down and out onto the side of Hwy 68. On a curve. So it's like playing chicken when getting back on the pavement. Soon we were on our way to the 'big mountain'.

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Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Wacheesi Mountain, Green Cove and Trout

We rode some winding tight forest roads, climbing higher and higher. Sometimes on the ridge, sometimes on the mountain side. We stopped for a view and photo opps.

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Here you can see the road that climbs the mountainside. The hazy valley in the background is Tellico Plains.

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Finally, after several switchbacks (the kind where you can see your own tail light), we made it to the top. Here's the top of the road as it levels out from a steep climb.

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At a bit over 4,000 feet, a fire lookout tower used to stand here on Wacheesi Mountain. Jack told us stories about the fire tower and the men that manned it. Sometimes the forest ranger would stay up there for a week or month at a time. Once a ranger got bit by a snake and had to get out for medical attention.

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Now the fire tower is gone and only radio and cell phone towers remain along with a cement block building for equipment. I didn't take many photos because I had to eat something and take a potty break. Also, the sky was looking really ominous. We could see a storm coming our way. Jack called Lori from the top and it was already sprinkling at the campground. Time to find some shelter.

We rode down the same mountain top and ridges, riding switchback after switchback. I trailed behind watching the other two ride below me and in the opposite direction, all through the darkness in the trees. It was neat watching that. I liked it a lot and wished I could have caught it on video. It was steep as all getout, but putting the bike in lower gear and just letting it coast down the roads and around the turns was effortless. It was like a feather falling, slowly and going side to side. I could have done this all day and been content.

We turned off another forest road and rode northeast, headed for Green Cove. Jack had mentioned this earlier as a memorable place to visit. And it was. After several miles, we left the dense forest and entered a clearing:

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A shelter stood on the side of the clearing. It's an old 'tabernacle' built decades ago for gatherings and church. Most of the old church pews had rotted and been replaced by simple boards nailed onto stumps.

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Jack explained that this was once a good-sized logging community. People would build little shacks to live in wherever they found a spot they liked. And like nearly all ghost towns and long-gone communities, a cemetery was left behind. We parked the bikes next to the shelter and followed a two-track road up to another clearing on a hill.

Most of the headstones were old, but a few newer ones could be seen. New burials are still permitted here, it seems.

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And like most older cemeteries, many infants and children were buried here. One headstone was for both a mother and infant; both died in childbirth.

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Notice the nondescript slabs. About half of the headstones were these unmarked slabs. We tossed around ideas of what they meant: slaves? Native Americans? We didn't know for sure, but Jack confirmed what I suspected. Colonists didn't erect inscribed headstones for slaves or the Native peoples. So they could have been both.

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And then there is the easiest and cheapest way to erect a headstone.

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As we began walking back towards the shelter, darkness descended and the sky opened up. We ran the rest of the way and dove inside while it proceeded to pour. Jack ran out and brought in his DR to fix the idle; it had been idling high. Ed and I ran out and brought our bikes under cover, too.

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When the rain finally decreased to sprinkles, we geared up and headed back out again. We stopped at Green Cove Pond where only veterans and disabled retirees can fish! What an awesome privilege. Moving on, we exited onto paved Tellico River Rd (FS210) and pulled into the Tellico River Trout Hatchery.


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All around us was heavy mist and fog. It was eerie and neat at the same time. Fog blanketed the tanks of trout. The netting over the tanks challenged taking photos but I was able to get a few. They were HUGE!!!! And so many of them!

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The water from the rive next to the hatchery is pumped into the series of tanks and back out into the river.

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Across the river is the road that winds through the forest. It's a beautiful spot.

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Leaving the hatchery, we rode north on FS210 towards Bald River Falls and then onto the Skyway. By that time, we had worked up an appetite. And I was dying for some trout to eat. We stopped in at Tellico Cafe for dinner where I had........trout. :drool:

We returned to camp and watched as a huge storm cell grew into several. Lightening lit up the cloud formations overhead, but it didn't connect with ground where we were. Later we heard that the center of the storm was just north of us. I think Janet experienced that one.

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Wiley said Goodnight to all and we went to sleep another night away.

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Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
You Can't Get There From Here!

We had all planned to ride the Dragon on Thursday: Ed, Janet, and Tom with Cathy. Me... I needed some Elzi Time alone. So I took the high road.

The morning after the storms left the entire area blanketed in fog. The air was so humid it was almost misting. Jack advised everyone to stay off the Cherohala Skyway; it would be swamped in fog which makes for some treacherous navigation. The Skyway snakes along a ridge at several thousand feet; many times it is in the clouds. So when Janet arrived at camp, the Dragon riders chose a route north of Tellico and entered the Dragon from the north. It was also a more direct route. Me... I rode the Skyway.

I agreed to meet them at an intersection north of Robbinsville, NC, and east of the southern-most end of the Dragon. They seemed to think they would be there before me. But that proved wrong.

I left on the Sherpa while they were dilly-dallying around the camp site. Taking the back way through town, I stopped at parking lot to put my ear plugs in; I had forgotten that I was not riding dirt today. (I don't wear them riding off-road) Then I headed east on the Skyway.

Only a few miles on the road, the mists began to drift in and out from the tall trees. Normally at this time of the day bikes are going both ways on the Skyway. Not today. As I rode on, scattered mists turned into dense fog. And still no sign of any other riders or drivers. I had it all to myself.

Riding the Skyway in the fog required acute concentration and conservative speeds. I didn't mind. I was in the mood for an easy-paced ride anyway. At a few thousand feet I was now getting chilled from the moisture-laden air. A pull-out offered a chance to stop and don my rain jacket. I wore my regular motocross pants rather than the mesh pants today, so between those and the big Monster Boots (aka motocross boots), my lower body was relatively warm.

The fog was too thick to afford any views from the mountains side.

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Still no signs of anyone else on the Skyway. Now with the rain jacket providing me warmth, I grinned ear to ear and crawled through the fog. The summit (5300 feet) was packed in with fog; I just meandered along at a conservative speed and kept going. The descent showed that the fog and mist was breaking up, even some spotty sunny spots here and there.

I pulled in another viewpoint for a break to see two sport bikes. The two riders were laying on a cement picnic table in all their gear: helmets, gloves, everything. They were taking a break and waiting for the fog to lift a bit more. I warned them that the summit was swamped in with fog but it should start to thin out soon. Pulled out the camera to take a shot. A small section of the Skyway can be seen in the far upper right.

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Descending down the ridge, the skies cleared and the air got warm; steamy warm. Now more bikes were riding up the Skyway. No longer did I have it all to myself. I pulled off into Thunder Mountain, a small store and gas stop, where KLRs can be rented, too. After peeling off the rain jacket (much to my relief), I went in for a pit stop. Outside I drank some water and stretched some cramped back muscles. Then checked the map for Hwy 143 in Robbinsville.

I soon discovered you can't get there from here.

To be continued: Lost and Flat Tire Mountain
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Flat Tire Mountain

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I almost didn't get there from here.

According to the map I had, Hwy 143 split shortly after Thunder Mountain: veer left (N) and it intersects with 219, Tail of the Dragon and Deal's Gap. Veer right and it goes into Robbinsville. I wanted to do the latter because:
1. get a cup of iced tea or coffee,
2. look for a POI associated with Cherokee
3. just wanted to see what Robbinsville is like.

So I veered right and 143 just plain disappeared. I wandered around several rural backroads looking for SOMETHING! Anything that would steer me in the right direction. Nadda.

I pulled off the third time to check the map and my GPS. I followed the map; okay, the map is useless. On the GPS screen was a network of red broken capillaries of roads, like someone's bad case of broken veins spidering all over the place on their leg. *Sigh...*

I gave up and back tracked to the 'Y' near Thunder Mountain and took the left leg. We'll see where this goes. Oh look! There are highway signs with 'Hwy 143'! And 'This way to Deals Gap'. That's not where I wanted to go. But at this point, I had no recourse but to follow the Magic Signs. At least I knew what road I was on.

Miles, many miles, down the road I saw a directional sign. Hmm.... the arrow pointing ahead reads 'Deals Gap'. The arrow to the right reads 'Robbinsville 1 mile.' Well, Goooooollllly! I think we can get there from here!

I turned right and soon descended into a small mountain town with several streets going this way and that. And no signs. I rode slowly down the street scanning right and left.... Ah, there's a sign for Hwy 143 East! Yea!

I turned and rode on again, now with a bit more confidence in where I was going. Now I needed to find the way to Hwy 28. Wait, now where am I? This signs reads 'Hwy 143 West'. Huh? How did I get turned around?

I turned around and backtracked. I thought. And looked for the Hwy 143 signs going east. Found one, rode on and I was back on a road going west on 143. How the heck did this happen?

Okay, time to be stupid and ask for directions. I rode down a hill, back into town and looked for a likely place to ask for directions. I found a tiny gas station with three people sitting outside gabbing and smoking. I pulled in, flipped up my helmet and shrugged my shoulders, "Help!"

The woman took one look at me with my hands up in the air and laughed, "Are you lost, honey?"

"Yes! For the third time! I'm looking for the intersection of Hwys 143 and 28, called Stecoah."

"Honey, you're not far from there. Go down this street, turn left at the signal, then turn right at the next signal. It right near there."

Whew..... I was relieved to know I was back on track. However, I quickly learned that 'right near there' is entirely and indubitably relative. After my last turn, I found the relieving sign of Hwy143 East. That's northeast, of course. No matter, I was back on track. But I was worried that all this lost time made me late and the rest of the crew would be waiting for me, tapping their boots on the pavement and planning what to blame on me.

'Right near there' can be interpreted in so many ways: 1/2 mile, 1 mile, maybe even 2 miles. But many many miles, climbs, descents, windings and sweeps later, one has to wonder what she had in mind when she said that.

The weather was looking ominous again and I was hoping the rain would hold off. It had rained at least once every day, so I knew it was going to at some point. I was right, but I didn't know then how right I was. Or underright, if that is a word. If not, I'm using it anyway.

I finally reached another hill and a sign that read "Stecoah Gap 3,165 feet'. Wow, I was higher than I thought. And what goes up,must come down, including motorcycles. Rounding a curve and there was a looooooong way down pavement, and a dead end into another road. Luckily, a sign warned of junction Hwy 28. Yea! I'll be there soon and they won't have to wait anymore!

Wrong. I reached the bottom of the hill in second gear (it was that steep) and saw.............nothing. Road and trees that way, road and trees the other way. Shoot. Where can I pull off and wait? Another motorcycle behind me passed and shot off to the left....towards Deal's Gap. I spotted a meager gravel pulloff a few hundred feet on the other side of Hwy 28. Anyone coming from the west around that curve will see me. I'll pull off there.

Pulled off, removed helmet with relief, layed gloves on the handlebar, sat on the bike, and waited. Zooooommm........ cars, trucks, bikes went by. I watched with trepidation as long semis literally crawl up the steep mountain side going back the way I had just come. I hope those drivers know how to double clutch.

(The road is much steeper than it looks here)
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Got tired, got off the bike and waited. It got dark. Started sprinkling. Pulled the raincoat back out and stood underneath a tall pine tree. I had to pee. No place to pee. Drank some water and ate a protein bar. It was now an hour. Bikes passed, waved, and went on. Three cruisers stopped across the road on another gravel pullout to check maps. I heard them discussing where to go, and something about "There has to be a town up ahead. My map is wet; I can't read it. 'Ryson' I think is the name."

I yelled across the highway, "Bryson City" Cherokee is just beyond that."

"Oh! Thank you!!"

They left and I took off the rain jacket again, stuffed it in the tail bag. An hour and 1/2. Now I'm getting worried. What if....? Should I.....? thoughts streamed through my head. I was now worried. A woman in BMW gear stopped in front of me on her BMW sport tourer, asking if I was okay. "Yes, I'm waiting for friend who were supposed to meet me here. But I'm getting worried; I've been here for nearly two hours," I said.

"Maybe they got caught behind a truck," she replied. She nodded and sped off west. Towards the Dragon.

Two hours. Now I'm thinking maybe I should call Jack. My heart is beating fast. And I still have to pee. And it looks like it's going to rain again.

Then I see a black touring bike with rider in black, followed by a cruiser and.... it was the KLR that confirmed for me who this pack was. They pulled in across the road and chattered. Meanwhile, I clamped my mouth shut.

"Man, I'm hungry! Let's get something to eat!"
"Wow, did you.... blah blah blah"

"Um, where the **** have you guys been? I was worried sick! And I have to pee."

The plan at the beginning of the day was for me, Ed, and whomever else wanted, to continue east on to the town of Cherokee, the central main town of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. I've been wanting to do this for years. Cathy and Tom voiced their participation and I think Janet was ready for anything. So we all geared up and I fell in behind, mouth still clamped shut.

They pulled into a small cafe about a mile down the road. I headed for the bathroom. We sat down and had a very good lunch and relaxed. I don't know how it happens, but I was worn out from waiting. I enjoyed my BLT and iced tea. Then the sky fell.

It didn't just fall, it was driven down. The rain was horizontal and the wind was furious as it pelted the little diner and its windows. Two other riders came in, soaked to their skin, to take refuge. We had finished our meals, but sat there and waited. And waited. It kept coming, now with thunder and lightening. This was a doozy!

The rain finally let up some and we decided to brave the elements and head back to base. The day was growing short and we had no idea what was in store for the weather. No Cherokee for me afterall. We debated the route to return: either the Skyway, which was probably being pelted hard in this storm, or a long southerly route, then west and north. The only straight-ish shot was the Skyway. So we decided to brave it and see how bad it was.

The rain was still falling and the wind was blowing. We ran outside and put on our rain gear, what little we had. I had the rain jacket and that's it. The MX boots kept my feet dry in the water crossings, I hoped it would keep me dry until we returned. I hoped for too much.

I warned the others about the steep hill and a few tight curves at this end of Hwy 143 and we headed back in the rain. We found a gas station with a roof in Robbinsville and most of us gassed up there. Then on we went. My feet were already wet then.

Back on the Cherohala Skyway and we could see how bad the storm was before we got there. Bad. Branches, leaves and debris were in the road and the newly paved section at the east end was slick as can be. We were all very conservative in our speed and curves. As we climbed the skyway, it got worse. More wind, rain, debris, cold, time to go into autopilot mode.

We finally approached the highest part of the ridge -over 4,000 feet- and the wind tossed me side to side, driving rain into my helmet. Everyone seemed to be doing okay, otherwise, and we rode on slowly and cautiously. I was the rear, following Tom with my sister on back, and they followed Ed, who was behind Janet. Janet did an excellent job of piloting the wet mopped crew through the storm until......

Ed swerved off the road to the right ahead and the two of us followed him onto a pullout. Not until I got off the bike and walked up ahead did I realize he had a flat tire. It blew on a curve. He proceeded to quickly remove the wheel and assess that it needed a new tube. Tom helped in is own way while the rest of us made jokes to keep everyone alert. We all kept our helmets on to keep the wind and rain out of our faces and off our heads (except when I shot photos, which I can't do with helmet on); I sang a song about my head being in a fishbowl.

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And then I saw the sign, "Santeelah Gap 5,390 feet'. We were at the highest point on the Skyway.

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"I dub thee 'Flat Tire Mountain'!!!!", I yelled. Glad I could get some of them to laugh in this meltdown. Man, it was windy........

I was amazed to see two other riders come around the curve from the west. 'So we aren't the only crazy dudes up here!', I thought. They waved, we waved. 'Carry on, Bro's.'

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Ed got his tire back on, we settled our weary wet butts on our saddles and pulled out to head west once more. I settled my chest on the gas tank behind the windshield and occasionally swiped my face shield. There's no way I can keep myself dry in this, so I calmly accepted the wet and cold and gave in. "Autopilot, take me back."

The weather broke up as we descended the Skyway and into Tellico Plains. We all were bushed and wanted something hot, to sit on something that didn't glide on scattered leaves and rain, and to removed our soaked gloves and gear. We pulled into the Tellico Cafe again for coffee, tea or whatever felt good. I had a plate of spaghetti (a one or twice/year treat) with coffee.

We laughed, told stories, related moments we had just passed through and tossed around anecdotes. It was a good day, an adventure and we all made it through just fine (except my feet now in an inch of water). Janet headed back to Sweetwater and the remainder of us returned to camp to take hot showers and dry our gear/clothes/boots. Luckily, Jack and Lori stock boot dryers in the cabins, so I borrowed one to put my boots and Tom's on to dry overnight. Then we proceeded to retell stories to Jack and Lori, and we told him about the new Flat Tire Mountain.

I slept like a log that night.
 
Joined
Mar 9, 2009
Messages
94
Location
McKinney, TX
First Name
Damien
Last Name
Snavely
Great write up...

Having grown up at Deals Gap and living in Knoxville for a while there-after, I can assure you that while you hit many of the great roads of the immediate area, you missed ALOT of them as well... guess another trip is in order :)
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
5,171
Location
Terlingua Tx
First Name
Ed
Last Name
Hegarty
That is understood, and embraced. It means that several trips can be made in the future with lots of exploring to do. Pavement is just the tip of the 'burg too.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Mudholes and Snake Roads

Our second to last day Jack led us on another ride. This time we rode the back country north of the Cherohala Skyway. I can't remember all the roads; I was like the fly on a motorcycle: along for the ride. That's all I wanted to do: ride the back country and remove myself from time and space.

We began the day riding a narrow country barely-paved road (the one road for which I remember the name: Rafter Rd.) which followed the creek and snaked parallel to the Skyway.....above us. We stopped at a whimsical building for which his sister is responsible for 'decorating'. I like her sense of humor.

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Like many of the country roads here, they snake in between farms, gigantic vegetable gardens, cow and horse pastures, small humble farm homes and lots lots of very green trees. Some of these roads are barely wide enough for a car or truck and 'pavement' is a misnomer. Invariably, many of them change into gravel roads, especially when entering the national forest land. We rode most of roads like these for the rest of the ride that day.

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If there's anything I miss from the east it is the rivers, creeks and streams. Here they are pristine, clean and pure. We saw and crossed many of these.

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We stopped a few times to just soak it in.

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To be continued......
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
We continued riding on these gravel roads. Contentedly.

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And climbed higher. Stopping for a break and a photo op here and there.

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The storm the day before had watered the gavel down really well. Everything was still moist, if not wet. My nose was inundated by moist earth and leaves. Debris scattered the roads here and there. A few mudholes appeared but nothing unnavigable. Best of all, dust was non-existent. This was the first day off-road I wasn't eating dust; I rode in the rear all the time, which I prefer to do. Then I can go at my own pace. It was only the last day off-road (Saturday) that my speed picked up; I wasn't in a hurry, I felt full of it (playful) for some reason.

Gravel roads snaked up mountain sides as if they were snake tracks in between giant trees. Occasionally a gap would present a view.

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And then we rode the snake roads down. All through the week riding in these forests, I was amazed and enchanted by the dense stands of rhododendrons. Only in the Doug Fir forests of the Oregon mountains have I seen them so large and densely packed. They are easily distinguished by their large broad evergreen leaves, but clusters of their wonderful flowers were elusive. That day, we caught sight of a few, but they were difficult to photograph: either too deep in the forest, down or up a hillside, or way up high in the canopy. Finally Jack was able to bend one branch to his will, offering me an opportunity to capture their large flowers.

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I love these forest roads. These back country roads here, and those in the desert, are really why I ride a bike. It's not the speed, the chase, or to see how many miles I can cover in a day. It is the ability and opportunity to immerse myself in the surroundings. To take the road or trail that is less traveled. To go where few wheels go. It's the stillness, the solitude, the remoteness and serenity; the pastoral and sublime. The only better way to traverse these trails is on a horse. And, in some respect, my two bikes are my horses.

Eventually we rode down near Citico Creek and Indian Boundary areas. These areas were once hunting grounds for Cherokees of the Overhill Towns. Many of the sites upon which those towns stood are now under water. Yet soon we would be riding on an old Cherokee trail, later used by the British and revolutionaries, the Unionists and Confederates, and now spinning wheels from all over the country.

To be continued.....Riding through history: massacres and the largest Cherokee nation-town
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2008
Messages
4,626
Location
Jennings,La.
First Name
Andy
Last Name
Chesley
Great photos and story. Thanks for taking the time and efforts to share the journey. Been entirely too long since I've been in that area.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Blending of Time and Space

One of the reasons -probably the biggest reason- I ride a bike is navigating through time and space -past, present, future- on the landscape. What is 'landscape'? It is the collective overlap of physical environment and cultural environment. Both have multiple layers of time in space. Many times the artificial divide between conceptions of 'past' and 'present' blur. Most of all, being immersed in the surrounding environment can facilitate meaning and place-making.

I've always been interested in how people view places and how people create meaning through places. I try to listen to the voices, the versions and the scenes. I don't restrict meaning to organized tours, glossy brochures and pamphlets, but try to really find and listen to the many voices of a landscape. Even the quiet one of the physical environment, for it is not really silent.

Several things struck me during both my visits to Tennessee; more pronounced this visit than the first. One was naming -names we attach to the physical landscape (called toponyms). They contrast like polar opposites to toponyms in Texas. Another is dominant voices in the past, and the present. The former amused me, while the latter was a source of disappointment. I'll explain why later.

Regardless, the last two days in TN both of these came to a head. It began earlier riding on the Joe Brown Highway, and continued growing to the surface. So my story begins here, at a site in Belltown.

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Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Voices on the land

That's what they get for tresspassing.
:rofl: I nearly spit out my iced tea......

In a sense, you are right. But, as with most human interactions (especially with many divergent concepts of right, wrong, land, values, etc), it's way more complicated that that.

But this is a good example of sequent occupance, the process by which a landscape is gradually transformed by a succession of occupying populations. All the physical environment on this continent has a human imprint at some time or another in space (here's that space and time continuum). Each population modifies the landscape left by the previous group. It's the landscape's dynamic character.

It's like biological genetics: any landscape has roots in a previous landscape and that is linked to it forbear and to its offspring. What interests me are they evolutionary and dynamic nature of the landscape as shaped not only the earth itself, but also by all living things, including successive human cultures and populations. (this reminds me of my studies in forestry and silvaculture)

Many times in Tennessee I found myself drawing comparisons -differences and similarities- to landscapes in Texas and Oregon. Tennessee is too much like Maine to tickle my deep curiosity, but one reminder that surfaced often was that many many settlers that came to Texas were from Tennessee. I often wondered.... why? (I still do)

Another interest was the Cherokee. My great-grandmother was Cherokee. That does not make me Cherokee or Indian, nor do I pretend to be. But I am curious not only about her and her people, but the interactions of the indigenous peoples on this continent and the Anglos. They were a world apart; in some ways, they still are. Like with my German colleague and his own country, the question remains: "Why??" I'm still trying to understand. In looking for answers, I learn more about people, why we do what we do, why we are what we are, who we might become, and our interactions with the landscape.

It all ties in, in various ways.

I learned some time ago that there were, and still are, Texas Cherokees. I thought that visiting the Nation in Oklahoma might enlighten me. Then I realized that they are too removed from their birthlands; the landscape that formed them as a large Nation in the southeast, and upon which they imprinted their culture for hundreds of years. There lies the origins of their mythology, beliefs, values, family histories, their pains and joys. When you want to know the 'truth', go to the source. But that can be misleading, too.

An archeologist/cultural geographer puts it in perspective: "Heritage sites are an organizing medium through which communities remember, consumed as place and experience by tourists seeking "authentic" "reconstructions" of the past. But heritage sites are always inventions, offering for consumption selective versions of the past. Definitions of authenticity and heritage, far from being politically neutral, hinge on who has the authority and power to define the authentic. Those who define authenticity will be able to have their account of history accepted as the public version." (Jakob Crockett)

So can one find the 'truth'? Or instead a construction of a 'less-false' reality? The keys in any landscape -both physical and cultural- are voice, authority and authenticity. A convergence of these concerns helps produce a meaningful history. That is what I sought in Tennessee. It is what I try to find where ever I go; even Terlingua and Big Bend. It makes it more real.

During this trip to TN I was fortunate to spend time with Jack, a Tennessee native boy whose family, and family's family, grew in that area of Tellico Plains. His voice, as well as that of his family by way of his family stories, enriched the visit. I learned more about the area than I could ever have as a typical tourist or vacationer. We rode through areas rich in history: physical remnants of previous occupants, their stories, his stories... voices. This was supplemented with quite a bit of reading before and after the week-long visit and from various sources. And maps. Lots of maps. And that is where the authority and authenticity come in.

I noticed last year and later that historical signs, brochures, articles, books and papers, (even maps) are many times inconsistent, sometimes even contradictory. I notice that here in Texas; a lot. But now I know why. So I wondered if anyone can ever know the 'facts.' But then, are the 'facts' the only important thing in history? In people? (harken back to sitting at your school desk reading about dates and events in history class, wondering why you had to memorize them, and who cares anyway?)

Facts are important, but only to pinpoint an event spatiotemporally; in time and space. The most important is meaning, the ways people have always created meaning through place and time. This develops meaningful history. People create history by things that they do, believe, say, sing, write, create and destroy: social action in time and in places. It engages people, elicits connections and incites empathy. Most of all, it shows people that many aspects of contemporary social and economic life that are taken for granted are neither 'natural' or inevitable. Rather, they are open to question, challenge and even change. As the old adage goes: 'Why don't we ever learn from history?"

So, from that long introduction, I introduce Fort Louden. It was a fort built by the British around 1746 when the southeastern indigenous nations -Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Chocktaw- were caught in the middle of a land lust and political volleyball between the British and the French. Both imperialists played the indigenous nations against the other with the same end in mind: to get their land. The ugly head of imperialism and land-hunger.

The Native Americans and the Anglo-Europeans -and later, the Euro-Americans- had more similarities than differences. (I refer those interested in this discourse to the most complete examination of this topic: A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-century North America, by Nancy Shoemaker, Oxford University Press, 2004.) The only great gap was in the concept of land. And the landscape. We're still far from settling this issue and bridging the gaps. Thus, in essence, Randy; you are right.

It was a time of tit-for-tat. The French built a fort, so the British had to build two forts. Both professed 'friendship' and trade relationships with the tribes. As long as they were loyal to one. Another bait was the Shawnees, who had aligned themselves with the French, and who were sworn enemies of nearly all the southeastern tribes. So it was like an eight ball game on a pool table of thousands of forested acres rich in game, timber and water. Just don't hit the white ball in the hole.

Fort Louden was built near the Overhill towns and north of Great Tellico, once the largest and most powerful chief town in the entire Cherokee Nation, and for a long time, amongst the Overhill Towns. Great Tellico was only a mile or so from the modern town of Tellico Plains. We rode through it, or on it. Nothing remains now.

Relations with the Cherokee were shaky and tense due to the current of power play between the British and French, and the fluctuating loyalties of the various tribes in the region. What neither the French or British understood was that loyalty meant different things to the natives. And loyalty from one local tribe was not loyalty of the entire tribal nation.

The native peoples had no central government or leadership. Each town had two chiefs: the war chief and the principle chief, who was responsible for civil matters. Sometimes they didn't agree on things, either. Regardless, the Europeans, and even the new Americans, couldn't seem to get it through their heads that the native peoples didn't share the same social and political structure that came across on the boats. They continued to see through European eyes. And they ignored the voices from the new lands. Never did the twain meet. Instead, they always clashed.

After a long series of tit-for-tat skirmishes - Europeans killing a group or town of natives, the natives retaliating likewise (another value intrinsic in all the tribes across the continent was clan revenge: tit-for-tat. But then, the Europeans proved to be no different in that respect, they just performed it differently and blamed everyone else)- a fox of a Governor (of S. Carolina) at another British fort, Fort Prince George, captured under ruse an invited delegation of Cherokee peace makers, imprisoned them, abused them and killed several.

A group of Cherokee warriors retaliated, killing a Lieutenant sent to meet with another Cherokee group outside the fort. The English then killed the remaining Cherokee prisoners in the fort. Of course, this incited the rest of the Cherokee nation and a large contingency attacked Fort Louden in 1760. After four days of attacks, the Cherokee fighters appeared to abandon the siege (a common Indian war strategy) and killed two soldiers when they left the fort to look for food.

Two Overhill chiefs agreed upon a truce with the Captain of the fort under the condition that all weapons of the remaining garrison be turned over to the Cherokee and they would be transported to Fort Prince George. The garrison left the compound, after they had buried their shot and powder and throwing most of their guns in the creek. They camped on Cane Creek, in the field behind where the historical marker now stands.

In the morning, the garrison troops found that their escort had disappeared and they faced a contingency of Cherokee warriors. They proceeded to fire on each other. Approximately twenty soldiers were killed. One junior officer who had befriended the local native people was spared and allowed to walk away with his life. In fact, he was escorted to the fort with provisions of food and blankets, in peace.

So, here on Belltown Rd, is one example of where one perspective of the landscape, one in time and space, is exhibited. One voice is heard. The others are silent.

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Across from the now peaceful field and next to the shaded brook is what remains of an old grist mill. Jack told us stories about the mill and the local area.

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We mounted up and rode to a high vantage point that overlooks the Tellico River Valley. It was also another example and perspective of sequent occupance: a subdivision in the mountains.

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Here was the first subdivision I've seen during my stay here in TP. A developer bought this mountain and subdivided it into lots and building houses. There were only about five built, but they looked the same. It took me away from Tennessee and I was transported back to Texas. This is what we all see around here and are so used to it that we don't see otherwise. Frankly, I like the pastoral landscape. This seemed to just stir that old crackerbox-feeling I get when ever I pass by or through sub-divisions. Why? Because my concept and preference of the landscape differs from those living in them. Why else would I currently live in the middle of what was not long ago a large cow pasture? I even have a cow or two visit sometimes.

Regardless, the top of the hill was a vacant lot, and the most beautiful given the almost 360 degree view. We unsaddled, un-geared, opened water bottles and..... I don't believe it. There's an orange Port-a-potty. 'I'm going to use it since it's there.'

Below was a manicured hay field with bales dotting the greenscape. According to Jack, it is part of the estate of an actor, whose name I can't remember (I have name amnesia). (I really like the zoom on this new camera ;-) )

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Turn your head and you are immersed in the waves of green mountains spiked with trees: Cherokee and Natahala National Forests.

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A close (very close) look at the mountain in the middle background will reveal a shallow and narrow notch. That is the Cherohala Skyway on it's snake path through the mountains.

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It was tough to leave this spot. But now we were starving. We planned on meeting Lori for a late lunch (early dinner?) at the Cat Cafe on the western end of the Skyway.

But first, a side diversion through time with an ironic twist.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Ironies

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As we headed back to Tellico Plains on Hwy360 (an old Indian and settlers road), Jack led us off the Cherohala Skyway for a quick historical diversion.

We turned right onto the beginning of a small rural road and stopped. Across the Skyway from us was a beautiful bridge. This bridge has been a siren to me since I've been coming here. I want to ride on it. But a gate blocks my way.

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The bridge spans the river and leads onto a paved road through a green meadow. There's a few houses scattered in the trees and not far beyond the line of trees is Rafter Rd, the very road we began the day's adventure on. It's a colorful and quaint bridge, fairly new to replace an old one that deteriorated (and before that, it was a footbridge). I asked "Why the gate?".

"On the other side is a new 'subdivision'," he replied. I could sense in his voice the same attitude that I have for modern 'subdivision' communities.

Our attention was then drawn to a historical maker and what is left of the Tellico Iron Works. The text on the marker in the photo is pretty much most of the story. Of course, like most origins of industry in this regio and not related on most of the markers, it was operated mostly by Cherokee residents until 1924.

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The large blocks of granite are all that remain of the foundry. The cute little confederate statue is quaint.

What the sign does not tell anyone is that General Sherman stayed in a huge mansion across the road, quite smug with himself and watching the foundry burn through the night. The mansion dominated this location for many decades until several years ago when it too burned, in a blaze of glory through the night.

Irony. In so many ways......

We rode on to Cat's Cafe, run by two charming ladies, and where the menu has creative sandwiches, supplemented by daily specials, and all very very good. And seating outside on the narrow deck over the river, you can watch the fish, birds and turtles.

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Again, we ended another full day of riding just as gloriously as the days before. And slept well.

Next: Last day. A full day of back-country riding.
 
Joined
Nov 28, 2005
Messages
597
Location
Rhome, Texas
First Name
Curtis
Last Name
Johnson
Melissa and I just got back from Deals Gap on the 13th of June.
I would have flipped out had we run into you guys!
We got rained on so bad we gave up and slugged it out home.
But we trailered too as I was in Atlanta on Buisness the first part of the week.
GReat pictures, wish I had been with you guys.

Uh, How did you deal with the vertigo?
I'm still battleing it, but I think mine is more heat related.
Haven't felt well enough to trust myself riding my KLR to work.

Was even off work 3 days last week with it.


Sure do miss my riding.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
Curtis, we probably passed each other somewhere :) We drove back Sunday the 14th. Friday and Saturday we spent most of the days in the forests, but got caught in the big storm on Thursday. The crew rode the Dragon and the Gap that day, I meandered in the clouds on the Skyway and then got lost. We rode the skyway in that storm.

I didn't have vertigo despite my penchant for it with heights. I have learned to keep eyeballs on the road surface and ahead when on high narrow roads. But I did start the trip off with NO equilibrium at all. I think I had a pinched nerve (Oh, the nerve of it!).

Humid there, wasn't it? It reminded me why I vowed never to live in the East again. ;-)

We'll be going back! Not next year (got other trips in mind), but perhaps the year after that. Jack and Lori plan to bring their dual sports here for a visit, that is, as soon as Lori gets herself one :mrgreen:

Don't push yourself with this heat. I remember your history with heat stroke.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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This day's ride was our last in TN. It was one of the best.

Our total mileage for the day was 112 miles; 80 or more was on gravel roads. It was also one one of my favorite roads: Kimsey Highway, aka FR-68. It used to be a major trail for the Cherokee and grew into a major road for everyone. I fell in love with this road, and the area, when riding the eastern part in October of 2007. This time we rode it in its entirety: west to east. (the map below is only Kimsey Hwy, not our entire route for that day)

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We began not on Kimsey, however. We left Hwy 68 south of the river and headed west on McFarland Rd. (all gravel), entering the Cherokee National Forest, then north to the river on more gravel roads. I watched on the GPS where the road parallels the river and slowed down. Somewhere through the trees and down the mountainside was the Hiwassee River and a railroad track.

Finally I could glimpse through the trees something shiney. I stopped the bike, got off and walked the side of the gravel road. Trees crowded the road and it was so quiet, I could hear myself breathe. Searching down over the bank I found what I was looking for. The tracks and the river. Well, parts of it. The road was above both and tree hid each of us.

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I wondered if the tracks were still used and while Ed was talking, I heard something. More like, felt it. It was like a glutteral short moan, loud but muffled, and in rhythmic pulses. My hearing and senses were pulled to the sound because I could feel it more than hear it. My head turned and then I realized what it was: a train. And a bright red train it was!! Chugging and slithering between the mountainside and the river, right underneath us.

I tried to catch the beautiful red and black engine but the light was too poor and I wasn't prepared in time. All I caught was the cars as they moved below, a spot of sun shining on the red side of a car. Next time we are back there, I want to ride the train!

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We followed the maps to Lost Creek Campground, which is on, guess which creek..... We found it nestled under large trees on the side of a creek and found a campsite we liked (#12) right on the bank. Everything was still wet from the storm two days ago and that musky smell reminded me of so many years ago living and hiking in the forests. We decided to take a break here.

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Only two campsites were full, one with a small RV. We chatted with an older man who was retired and spending most of the summer here. He's been coming here for many years. This is like home to him. While they were chatting, I went exploring.

The campground and most of the creek were in deep shade, but sunlight filtered through in a few places. Where it did, light glittered off the rocks and water, and the reflected trees turned the water green.

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I could have spent several days there happily. Next time, we're camping here for a night or two on the bikes.

Then it was time to move on again. We would be riding west some more, crossing Hwy 30 and up on some big mountains, riding along a few ridges.

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Joined
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Now I can breathe a bit and finish this thread (I hope....).

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Our route for the day continued east and connected several ridges. The views were brief because of the dense tree canopies, but the relatively easy ride on those gravel roads permitted me to sightsee and hunt for vista opps as well as enjoy the road.

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We rode most of that day in the far eastern area of the Cherokee National Forest, south of Hiwassee River and north of the Ocoee River. The area is covered with steep ridges and even an ancient volcano that has worn down like an elder's molars, ground down by weather, water and wind. This area is also rich in history as it was favorite hunting grounds of the Cherokee and other nearby nations (Creek). After deposits of copper and other minerals, even some gold, the Europeans and New Americans forced the Cherokee from their homes, ironically, after many of the Cherokee were conscripted into building roads and foundries. Many of these roads that the Cherokee built were the same that they were marched on during their displacement to Indian Territory.

Oswald Dome Rd (aka FSR 77) runs south-north on the east side of Oswald Dome, a flat mountain that peaks at 2200 feet with McCamy Ridge. The road follows the edge of the dome at 2000 feet, then heads down the edge of the dome through a gulley (a rather big one) on Benton Springs Rd. Which ends up in Benton Springs. A few miles before the turnoff is a national park campground and recreational area on a reservoir. From that point the road is paved. The campground was absolutely packed with kids and weekenders playing in the water. The closer we rode the bikes there, the more the line grew to enter the campground. We decided to do a U-turn as fast as possible and get away from that.

On the ADV threads (and Jack's recommendation) I had read of a special place to stop where the views were pronominal: The Benton Springs Gazebo. I kept a look out for it and nearly passed it; no signs warned passerbys of its presence. I did a quick right turn into a pull off when I spotted the stone form that looked like it might be a gazebo hidden under trees. I found it!!!!

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After stopping to ohhh and awe, we geared up and continued on, winding our way down the side of the ridge towards the highway. Pulling into a lookout area we were treated to magnificent views of the Ocoee River and the lakes below. The ridged undulated with velvet verdure; I wanted to reach out and stroke it like the back of a stretching cat. Birds soared on the thermals below and in front of us. It was an absolutely awesome view.

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We reached Hwy 314, the eastern most paved road along the edge of the national forest, going north and south. Turning left we headed south to the Ocoee River and the Ocoee Lake. Turning left heading east on Schizophrenic Hwy (aka Hwys 40, 64, 70 AND also known as Old Copper Rd [the old historic Copper Rd, which the Cherokee constructed for copper miners, runs alongside the new modern highway]). This highway follows the river; many many rafts, canoes and kiyaks dotted the clear blue-green water. It made me want to go in to the water myself.

We then turned north again on Hwy 30; a paved but narrow and very winding road that begins the climb back up into the mountains and national forest. We were looking for the head of my favorite road, Kimsey Mountain Highway, another one of those misnomers. The road is gravel, winding and spiraling up, down and through the mountains and forest. It is so sweet that I wish it was all mine. Again, another road full of history, it used to be an ancient Indian trail that connected the western towns with the middle and eastern settlements. It became a trading trail and road, wagon road, and was even a state 'highway' before the modern highways were built. It used to be State Highway 68 (and is now Forest Road 68).

Kimsey Mnt. Rd has two access roads: the most southern access is Greasy Creek Road. A small gas station/general store sits nestled into a bank on the corner of Greasy Creek Rd and Hwy 30. We decided to find some lunch and ice cream there. I just knew they had ice cream somewhere in there. ;-)

Folks were very friendly inside and outside and traded greetings while we sat outside to eat. After we regained some of our energy, and me with a lot of excitement, I was itching to move on and find my road.

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To be continued.....
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
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Re: Tennessee on my mind.......The End

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We began the ride on Kimsey Mountain Hwy fed and happy. The road quickly turned into not more than a two-track with tall grass on the sides and middle of the gravel. Sunlight filtered through the leaves on mostly deciduous trees and wildflowers sneaked in and out of view as we rode.

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This is what I remembered most about riding in Maine and it took me back decades to doing just that. I found myself snapping the throttle wide open and backing off, bouncing and bucking like a zesty pony in the pasture. I was chuckling and giggling with a wide sunshine-eating grin plastered on my face. Like I was a kid again. I rode behind Ed, but sometimes I felt like he was just in my way (though I didn't let him know ;-) ), and like a teasing colt, I would rush ahead and fall back, repeatedly. The only way I know how I can skip down the road on a bike instead of my own two feet.

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The road widened and narrowed, sometimes getting a bit rough, more rough than most of the wide forest roads we rode with Jack. Occasional ruts and mud puddles, switchbacks, hairpin turns, ferns caressing your boots, and branches that slap your helmet.

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As we gained elevation, the tree population switched from predominantly deciduous to mostly pine and the sun was more hidden. Shadows blanketed the road and soon my riding matched the somber mood of deep mountain shadows. Rhododendrons became dense thickets with their thick large leaves, ferns and moss covered the roadside rocks and ledges. I slowed down, assumed a quiet respect and puttered through the Elders, listening for 'voices' of the past and present.

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Up on a ledge to the side was a sign for a cemetery. What I couldn't figure out was where the heck this 'cemetery' is or was. The ledge was at least 50 feet tall and topped with thick dense tree cover. On the other side of the road was another ledge the dropped below, again in thick dense pine and rhododendron growth. Was it just one grave? or several? Some time, I'd like to go back and explore.

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The area of Frog Mountain intrigued me. It was this area, high atop the mountain and near a spring, that a group of Cherokee families hid from the soldiers to avoid the forced emigration to Indian Territory. They were so well hid that soldiers never found them. Long after the Trail of Tears, and politics settled down a bit, they began traveling down into nearby settlements to trade for provisions. Slowly and quietly they began to resettle themselves into these towns -Turtletown, Ducktown, Coker Creek, and others- blending into the communities. They chose to be 'white'. It was their only way to survive and avoid persecution.

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Years later, when it was okay to be Native American, and Cherokee, they became more active in communities, working and living alongside their neighbors; building schools, churches, stores and local government offices. Finally they were accepted for whom they were. Many are still there, in their descendants, in the names of the landmarks and towns, in the roads and buildings they helped build, and in the cemeteries where they finally rested.

Somewhere -in that area, in North Carolina, in some small community- is my great-grandmother. Possibly laid to rest next to her German husband. I only hope that her life was full and finally happy. It was this trip that I commemorate to her. Her spirit seems to be there covering that entire area.

We navigated my favorite Horseshoe Bend and soon descended back into civilization and Hwy 68. Riding north toward Tellico Plains area, this all now felt so familiar to me, as if it was at one-time my home. Maybe part of me does live there.

I'll just have to go back and visit myself every other year.

I rode up the hillside to our camp; tired, but satisfied. A day's worth of 112 miles total with 80 miles of that on back roads and gravel/dirt. It was a grand way to end a week-long visit there.

I hated to leave, but the humidity and allergens made me glad I was going back to open land and sky with drier heat (but with the same allergies). I know I'll be back.
 
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Exit. Stage West.
Epilogue

We weren't in a big hurry to get up and pack up. After all, coffee is first on the agenda.

Loaded up (finally), we were ready to head back to Texas.

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We took a few last minute photos. Wiley, of course, was his usual charming self.

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And a few of our fellow campers and fellow ActualRiders: Ed, Bruce from Georgia on his Connie (Concours) and Tom from Michigan (rode his BMW GS down). The others were still in their cabins sleeping.

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We shared driving duties. Not long after I assumed the wheel, the daily rain showers hit. This time, it was a doozy; much like the storm that hit the area a few days earlier. Traffic was slowed down to a crawl and the wipers couldn't keep up with the rainfall. I headed for an exit and took refuge in a parking lot until the rain let up a bit.

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Next year we plan to meet in the mountains near Taos, NM. :trust: We're hoping that Jack and Lori will be able to load their bikes up for a visit to Texas this fall or winter. I think Big Bend is on order for that visit. :trust:

We pulled into DFW around 1am and I had an uneasy 3 1/2 hours sleep before getting up and dragging my sorry butt into work. As I entered the great city of Dallas, I knew again I didn't belong there. :mrgreen:

Till then..... tornerai presto.
 

Janet

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Re: Epilogue

Next year we plan to meet in the mountains near Taos, NM.
Your kidding, Elzi. Right?

My group that I was in Tennessee with has already voted for the Red River / Taos area for next year. Same time.

Pretty cool.
 
Joined
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Exit. Stage West.
Re: Epilogue

Your kidding, Elzi. Right?

My group that I was in Tennessee with has already voted for the Red River / Taos area for next year. Same time.

Pretty cool.
You haven't talked to Bob lately, have you. ;-)

Yup. It will be tagged onto your group meet. Care to take the Chama train with us? :mrgreen:
 

Janet

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You know I spent years snowmobiling all of those forest roads and old mine roads. I know them like the back of my hand (when there is snow on them. Don't have a clue what they look like in the summer time because it's been 30 years since I was up there in the summer ;-) :rofl:

:rider:
 
Joined
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Terlingua
He always is; he's retired! :mrgreen:

Maybe you can help me find some of those on a map :trust: I'll be looking for a cabin for all of us, too.
I'll get you guys my maps of some of our DS routes in the Chama area next time I'm in Tyler. I'll also send you the contact info on where we stay when I have a little more time. The unpave portions include NFS, BLM and Indian Reservations.

Randy
 
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Messages
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Terlingua
Thanks, Randy.
Care to join us? :trust:
Thanks for the invite, but it's too early for me to tell. More than likely I'll be back out at the ranch, but if I go to N.M. I'll likely be staying at the ranch in Mora with Rod. If I do that we could still hook up for some rides! Chama has been my absolute favorite area to ride for quite a few years now. I'll pass on the train ride though, once was enough for me.

Randy
 
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