Saturday the 24th, two friends and I set off for a dayhike in Georgia’s Fort Mountain State Park. Fort Mountain is one of several north Georgia parks I’ve bookmarked for dayhikes or overnight hikes and plan to systematically visit and revisited as time, weather and whim permit. All three factors more or less converged this weekend so off we went.
Joined by Deanna and Cyberduck at the leisurely hour of 9am the park was only about an hour or so drive north of us near Dalton, GA. Deanna is a part-time fitness trainer and while not previously an outdoor enthusiast, Cyberduck has a great spirit and appreciation for the wilderness and photography. I was overjoyed to have both of them make the trip.
We decided to make a short dayhike of the area, using the Gahuti Trail’s east arc to reach the Old Fort Trail Loop. Originally, we had considered returning by the west arc of the Gahuti and cutting across the southern portion of the Gahuti but changed plans after time limitations and other obligations arose.
The east arc of the Gahuti rises and falls fairly gently at first, dipping into some areas riddled with streams and brooks and a few lightly muddy spots, but nothing truly daunting. Prominent orange trail blazes are generously positioned along the trail and we only had the occasional need for reorientation until we reached the Old Fort Loop Trail.
As you approach the Old Fort Loop Trail, its easy to become slightly disoriented, as the area also contains several Access Trails and subloops of the Old Fort Trail. Keeping right and keying into the red (access trail) and yellow (Old Fort) blazes will eventually lead you to the Stone Tower, Overlook and Stone Wall portions of the park. This section of the park is more rocky than the eastern arc of the Gahuti and has a few stone steps and switchbacks but is very much worth the view.
By this point, my companions had expressed some good natured doubts as to whether any portions of the trail were downhill. After much teasing, I finally admitted that yes, Gahuti is Cherokee for “defies laws of physics” and left it at that. Occasional mumbled threats from the rear and pointy sticks aside, I believe they enjoyed the trip overall. Beautiful weather, light traffic on the trail and gorgeous scenery; how could you not? Twenty-four later (when we were all safe in our homes), freezing rain hit northern Georgia. Is that timing or what?
The Old Fort/Wall section of the trail is a curiousity in itself. It features ancient ruins which are little more than crumbling outlines walls and enclosures today but Cherokee Indians claim they were built by the “Moon-eyed” people; a tribe of pale-skinned/haired, blue-eyed folks that dwelled generations ago. These people were supposedly driven into this area in wars with the natives and lingered here in their fortifications until finally wiped out.
Some cite a Welshman, Prince Maddoc and 200 hundred followers in 1170 as the source of this “tribe”, others attribute the ruins to the Cherokee themselves or Ferdinand DeSoto and his Conquistadors. Interestingly some surveys have indicated that the structures are astronomically aligned and may have had ceremonial purposes along those lines. Given the Viking finds in New England of the last century, I find the Welsh theory very fascinating but I’m reserved about embracing it fully.
Leaving the Old Fort Loop area, we decided to follow the park road south for the quickest and least taxing return to the ranger office. This road more or less runs the ridge line between the eastern and western arc of the northern section of the Gahuti. It declines and inclines persistantly but gently until reaching the station. I was slightly disappointed at using this shortcut and hope to return to Fort Mountain Park in the near future and walk the entirety of the Gahuti loop around the site.
Our total mileage was approximately four miles on the Gahuti and perhaps two and a half on various access trails and the Old Fort Trail. Our drive back was uneventful and quiet, except for Deanna’s snoring. ;-)
Fort Mountain State Park Gallery