South Carolina – Sassafras Mountain

I’m sitting in the trailer at 3 a.m. awake, got a raging headache, mega thunder claps are echoing through the mountains, every few seconds the whole world seems to light up with lightning, the rain is pounding the trailers aluminum roof – sounds like buckets of glass pellets are being poured on us, Spankster is a little nervous about the whole thing, but………..otherwise life is grand!

Oh well, can’t have perfect conditions every day of the week. After comforting the boy (Spanky) until he managed to doze off again I figured what the hell, might as well do a little writing – tell the tale of the heights of South Carolina and our 7th summit.

We took off from Enota Campground at about 7 am on April 3, 2007. Sassafras Mountain is only about a 100 mile drive from Enota but we wanted to stop at the coffee shop in Hiawassee to take advantage of their wireless access and update y’all with our ongoing saga. Spanky patiently waited in the truck while I slugged down an Appalachian Trail Blend (lots of hikers come off the trail to stop in Hiawassee) with a shot of espresso added to goose up the caffeine and scarfed up a parmesan cheese bagel.

Me and the Spankster figure a couple of hours to do the 100 miles. No, wrong again! Remember we are in the Appalachian Mountains, no interstates, rough mountain driving, slow speeds, spring repairs and roadside vegetation clearing is being done (we had to stop and wait for one way only spots about 4 or 5 times). So it took four hours – oh yeah, I passed our final turn off so a little back tracking was involved also.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really been anywhere in the Appalachians. Most of my mountain traveling in the last 15 or so years has been out west (Rockies, Sierras, Tetons, etc) and I had forgotten that even though there is no comparison (east vs west) in elevations, there are some serious mountains in the east.

OK , bear with me, I must go into a short discourse on the Appalachians (I find this crap interesting – hope at least some of you do also). The Appalachian Mountain Range extends all the way from Newfoundland, Canada down to northern Georgia, Alabama, and even Mississippi (foothills). It encompasses the White Mountains, Blue Ridge, Berkshires, Taconic, Great Smokys, just to name a few (many folks think of these as separate and distinct ranges but they are all part of the Appalachians).

These babies were formed somewhere around 300 million years ago (Rockies about 100 million) so they are old and worn down by the forces of nature (rain, wind, glaciers). The range resulted from major league tectonic plate collisions that formed the super continent Pangaea. The resulting Appalachians being approximately at the center of the continent.

What was my point? Oh that’s right, the driving was rough. Up and down, constant sharp curves and switchbacks back and forth. Poor Spanky couldn’t even catch any zzz’s. The constant turning and bouncing was tossing him around in his seat (the passenger seat of course) like a rag doll, he ended sitting with his front legs held out to brace for the constant turns and braking.

The payoff, however, was that we were constantly bombarded by some of the most picturesque views you could ask for. It is spring and everything is turning bright green – the trees, grass in the valleys, farm pastures. We got to peer down into countless valleys, always with more mountains as a backdrop, the spring runoff is feeding scores of waterfalls cascading over cliffs and huge rock faces, we drove through dense rhododendron forest spotted with moss covered rocks and boulders, around almost every turn we were treated to another postcard image, it was really cool! I know, I should have stopped for more pics but……..when I’m on a mission not much of anything slows me down till I get there. Besides, we have lots and lots of photo ops in our future.

Our route took us out of Georgia, through southwest North Carolina and then to just across the NC/SC state line to Sassafras Mountain. Sassafras tops out at 3,560 feet. So it was kinda anticlimactic. Hell, we’d driven through at least one town, Highlands, NC, with an elevation of 4,100 feet. But, Sassafras is the South Carolina summit so it is significant to meeting our goal.

I must mention that somewhere along our journey to Sassafras, in the middle of nowhere, we saw a combination country store, bar, video store, tanning salon, and if that’s not enough for ya, they have karaoke! I don’t know about you but that just sounds like almost too much of a good time. Spanky and I decided to try and make it back there someday. With all that stuff going for them that business should last a long time.

Anyway, we finally get to a small parking lot which is a short walk from the top. Spankster is itching to get out of the truck. There were some young folks (two couples – I think – college age?) having lunch at the edge of the parking lot. Spanky immediately ran over to them to introduce himself. Spanky loves people but the fact that they were eating made his mission all the more important. He figured that the lunch had been prepared for his arrival. Spanks and the kids had a nice visit. Turns out they were also on a mission to hit several state summits. Yes, there are other yahoos out there that do this stuff.

We made the short walk, all of about a few 100 ft, to the top. Summit number seven completed! There is really not a lot going on the top of South Carolina – which quite frankly is the way we like it. No fanfare, no observation tower, no visitor center, no hot dog vendors. All that poor old Sassafras has to tell us she’s there is the USGS marker set in concrete. The top is well rounded and heavily treed so there really isn’t much of a view. But, there is tons of room for Spanky to do the now famous, often imitated, soon to be copyrighted Spanky Mountain Top Boogie. The boy just loves to run around, seemingly without purpose, nose to the ground tingling from an overdose of olfactory delights, tail going a mile a minute, smiling all the way.

Don’t get me wrong, Sassafras is a pretty spot. Me and the Spankster thoroughly enjoyed stretching our legs and chilling out in a nice quiet natural setting. We took a moment to partake in a little of our favorite traveling snack, beef jerky, drank down some water, did a little exploring and headed back to the old truck.

The young folks were still having lunch down in the parking lot. Spanky took a moment to wish them a safe and prosperous journey (he was still trying to grub some food – I can see through his act). Upon bidding farewell to the mountain we set forth on our journey back to our temporary home at the Enota Campground in Georgia. We took a slightly different route on our return. Won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that nature treated us well.

One thing I will add. Most of the area that we drove through today is extremely rural. As a matter of fact, the word wilderness comes to mind. However……..and that is big however, one is confronted unexpectedly, in the middle of nowhere with big ass new houses, no, mansions, lodges, what ever the hell you want to call them. I’m no rocket scientist but I’ll bet property values are spiraling out of control. It’s a shame but I guess that’s progress, or is it?

Spanks was happy to be back, happy to get the hell out of the truck, happy to see his new friends at the campground, and most importantly happy to see that I was starting to cook up some chow on the old grill.

Another good day!

Me and Spanks On The Summit

The USGS Summit Marker

View From The Summit Marker


Anonymous said...

Hey Spanky-
Isn't Hwy. 64 in North Carolina a great road? Did you do any trout fishing?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dude- are you wearing any bottoms?

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