A Southern Six-Pack
(Highpointing the Easy Way)

12-16 Jun 1997 - by Alan Ritter

Wednesday, 11 June

Left St. Louis, drove to Corinth MS for the night.

Thursday, 12 June: Woodall Mountain, Mississippi

Drove from Corinth down to Woodall Mountain (806'), the Mississippi high point. From Corinth, take US72 east to MS state highway 25 south, 1.3 miles then right on Tishomingo County route 187 northeast 0.6 miles and left on county route 178 east. Follow 178 0.6 miles to a gravel road on the right, through the open gates, and wind up a mile or so to the summit of Woodall mountain. The high point is marked with a large sign, and the fire lookout tower is still in place but is ill-maintained and looks dubiously safe to climb, although there is no gate or barrier preventing access.

Drove on down to Anniston, AL for the night.

Friday, 13 June: Cheaha Mountain, Alabama; Britton Hill, Florida

Left Anniston on US431, turning right on Alabama SR281 about 3.5 miles south of I-20. SR281 leads directly to Cheaha (rhymes with "yee-hah") State Park, which contains the Alabama high point, Cheaha Mountain (2,407'). Park charges $1 per person entry fee on the honor system if no-one is in the entry station (there wasn't...we did pay). There is a CCC building at the summit of the mountain, built of what appears to be local stone with walls about 3' thick. The climb up the stairs is made more interesting by the fact that the walls are a bit porous and rainwater creeps in and drips on the metal stair treads. The view from the top is worth the three-story climb.

Leaving Cheaha State Park, we continued south through Montgomery and on down to Florala, on the Alabama/Florida line. We left US331 in Florala onto Alabama SR54, turning right onto county road 1087. Britton Hill (345', pass the oxygen tank, please) is now marked with a county park and the high-point marker. As we continued down US331 toward Defuniak Springs, there were also signs pointing to the high point up a Florida county road a couple of miles south of Florala.

Spent the night in Defuniak Springs before heading on to Mecca for this trip, Walt Disney World.

Saturday, 14 June...Tuesday, 24 June

(The narrative will thankfully remain silent while we tour Florida's tourist destinations...suffice it to say we were "theme-parked" out!)

Wednesday, 25 June: Brasstown Bald, Georgia; Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina

Left Athens, GA, heading north up US 441 to US 76 west toward Hiawassee, GA. Then 12 miles south on GA 17 to GA 180. 5.3 miles west on GA 180, then 2.5 miles north on "Spur 180" to the Brasstown Bald parking lot. From the parking lot, you can either hike a 1/2-mile paved trail or take the van up to the summit (4,784') for the princely sum of $2.00 each. We rode up, walked down. There is a visitor center on top with a museum and overlook, but you are not permitted to go up into the fire tower which is yet another 20 or so feet above the overlook balcony.

From there, we headed east on US 76 toward Seneca, SC, picking up SC 183 between Richland and Seneca and going north from there. In Pickens, SC, we turned north on US 178 and went 15.5 miles north to Rocky Bottom, turning right onto the "F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway", which leads 4.7 miles NE to Sassafras Mountain, 3,560'. There is a parking lot and a short (100-yard) walk up the gravel road to the high point. There is no sign posted at the high point, and it appears that the USGS benchmark is near, but not at, the highest point of land on the summit of the "mountain".

By the time we had wound through the twisting mountain roads in Georgia and South Carolina, we were out of time and did not try to make it up to the North Carolina highpoint that day, stopping, instead, at our planned overnight spot in Sylva, NC.

Thursday, 26 June: Clingmans Dome, Tennessee

Left NC via US 441 which goes over the Smoky Mountains and into Tennessee via the Newfound Gap. At the crest of the ridge, a well-marked road winds south about 7 miles south to Clingmans Dome, 6,643', the Tennessee high point. As we approached in the morning, the clouds closed in on us, and visibility was down to less than 100 yards as Nathan and I walked the half-mile paved path to the highpoint. There is an observation tower with an impressive handicapped- accessible ramp to the observation platform. Various plaques described the landmarks we could not see in the clouds. Clingmans Dome is the second-highest state highpoint east of the Mississippi River, with only North Carolina's Mount Mitchell (6,684') being higher.

Friday, 27 June...Sunday, 29 June

We meandered our way back home through Tennessee, having completed our "Southern Six-Pack", although missing the "Southern Lucky Seven" that was our original plan.

Woodall Mountain (806'), the Mississippi High Point


The Mississippi high point is marked with a Forest Service sign. The mountaintop is reached by a good gravel road, and the abandoned fire tower is accessible, but the stairs look of questionable quality at this point.

Cheaha Mountain (2,407'), The Alabama High Point


Cheaha (rhymes with "yee-hah") Mountain is within Cheaha State Park and is accessible by paved road. At the summit is an impressive sandstone CCC-built observation tower which affords a view worth the three-story climb. The walls are impressively thick, making the tower's interior more like a cave than a building, complete with stalactites growing where the rain water has seeped in through the porous rock walls.

Britton Hill (345'), the Florida High Point


Britton Hill is named for the retired postmistress of the Lakewood. It is located in a county park and marked with a high point sign. Be sure your car is tuned for these extreme altitudes before attempting to drive there!

Brasstown Bald (4,784'), the Georgia High Point


Certainly one of the fancier high-point structures...we are standing on a balcony above a very nice museum showing Indian (oops...Native American to be politically correct) artifacts and a history of European settlement of the area.

Sassafras Mountain (3,560'), the South Carolina High Point


The highpoint itself is not marked as such, with the geologic survey benchmark perhaps 100' from the apparent high point up in a cluster of trees. There reportedly had been a fire lookout tower on the summit at one point, but it has been dismantled.

Clingmans Dome (6,643'), the Tennessee High Point


The high point of our trip (altitude-wise), Clingmans Dome was thoroughly socked in when we arrived in mid-morning...not an unusual condition in these parts, as I have driven through the clouds several times in the Smokies. Thus, the view was non-existent but the plaques insisted on telling us what we could not see. The dead conifers were killed by an infestation of European aphids which spread from Maine down the east coast.

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