Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Old Lookout Tower on Mount Mitchell

A few years ago they decided to tear down the old viewing tower on Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern USA. I'd always liked that structure, but apparently it wasn't handicap accessible and so it was ordered destroyed and rebuilt. These days it's a much shorter platform, more like a big concrete table than a tower. And there's a ramp leading to it so that those who are in wheelchairs can get up there. Plus a paved pathway from the parking lot to the platform.

The old lookout tower on Mount Mitchell. Gone, now.

I know I must have taken more photographs of the old tower, but I can't find any. Just the long-distance shots I made of the summit, generally taken from nearby peaks. This one I took from near the top of the East's second-highest, Mount Craig. Craig is just a tad shorter than Mitchell and, to my way of thinking, is a more spectacular peak by just about any standard other than height. Because Craig is not the highest, there's no road to the top, no buildings up there, no restaurant, no bathrooms, no paved access, and--best of all--no crowds.

I snapped this one near the top of Mount Craig, with Mitchell and the old tower looming on the horizon.

This is Ridgepole Mountain. Ridgepole Mountain is located just barely north of the NC/GA border. If not for a bit of interesting history, this mountain would have ended up in Georgia instead of North Carolina. Since Ridgepole Mountain is over 5,000 feet above sea level, it would have easily displaced Brasstown Bald as the highest peak in Georgia. If that had happened, Ridgepole Mountain would--like Brasstown Bald today--have a paved road leading to the top, along with a museum and visitor center and bathrooms and who knows what else. But because it ended up being just another 5,000-foot peak in a state packed with mountains that tall, Ridgepole sits in the middle of a huge wilderness area with no roads whatsoever and only a couple of trails on it (including the Appalachian Trail), providing habitat for a vast population of wildlife. Mile for mile there are more bears in this area than even in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, happily for those of us who love wilderness, it didn't end up being Georgia's highest peak and instead is just one more 5,000-foot summit in North Carolina.


Kent Tankersley said...

I'm guessing the bit of history you're talking about is the border dispute between Georgia and North Carolina. I know someone who recently hiked to Ellicott's Rock (I had always thought it was a mountain top), which caused me to read up on that whole affair. Like you say, it is some interesting history.

HemlockMan said...

The various states would sometimes argue with one another over territory. Sometimes actually fighting over it. Weird history.

I've done a little hiking in the Ellicott's Rock Wilderness, but mainly along the river. Did a little bushwhack there to see a truly impressive waterfall that has no trail access. Amazing to see such a waterfall and no way for the tourists to get there--it was great!

I have yet to see the actual Ellicott's Rock. Too many places to hike. Not enough time.