Cheaha Mountain, Alabama, 2,407 Feet
"Oh, I wish I was in Dixie! Hooray! Hooray! ..."
Alabama is called the heart of Dixie and this day marked the first time I ever visited the state and to celebrate the occasion I decided to bag its highest point, Cheaha Mountain.
Cheaha State Park is easily accessible from I-20. I brought my Zumwalt and Holmes books with me for reference and directions. I didn't need them. The way to the park is so well marked that you cannot possibly miss it.
Like the day before, when I bagged Brasstown Bald, I was day-tripping from Atlanta. I left my hotel at 9:20AM and got on I-20. I-20 is a classic Smokey and the Bandit highway. There were truckers galore, including one that was hauling an NASCAR racing car to Talladega Motor Speedway for the race on April 26.
The drive was great fun because I was jamming to World Party's Goodbye Jumbo album.
When I got off at the exit for Cheaha State Park, I was taken aback by the change in road quality when leaving the Interstate. I-20 is well maintained and excellent for high speed cruising (70MPH is the legal speed limit). The county road, though, is a different story. It was rough and pockmarked. Still, I made good time to the State Park. The drive to the park entrance provides visitors with lovely vistas of the Talladega National Forest. There are three laybies on Route 281 where one can stop and enjoy the view (they also happen to be the local lover's lanes, as I soon discovered).
I got to the park entrance at 11:10AM. Cheaha State Park has a hotel and restaurant on the mountain. Like Brasstown Bald, Cheaha has a ranger gate which operates on an honor system if no ranger is on duty. It costs a buck to get in and you're on the summit in less than a minute. Again, like Brasstown Bald, the park doesn't really come alive until after Memorial Day. The summit area was totally deserted when I got there. The CCC museum was closed. It was eerily quiet as I got out of the car. The only sound I could hear was the electronic hum of the microwave tower that marred the beauty of the summit.
Unlike Brasstown Bald, Cheaha is dotted with microwave, radio, television towers, and power lines. This was unfortunate in my eyes because Cheaha is a beautiful place and I considered the presence of these monuments to mass media technology as an intrusion to the natural beauty of the area.
Again, like yesterday, the weather was overcast and chilly. The sun literally played hide-and-seek in the clouds all day long. When standing atop the summit tower one could see portions of the valley below bathed in sunlight while the rest of the area was obscured in the gloom. I was forever putting on and taking off my shades.
It was strange being alone amidst all these electronic installations. I felt like Steven Seagal in the movie On Deadly Ground. I kept wondering if someone was going to come up and accuse me of trespassing or something. I walked up the summit tower and contemplated the valley below me. The summit is heavily forested with maple and oak trees. I didn't wander too much around the area. Finally the peace and quiet got to me and so I drove down a short way to the restaurant where I composed my notes for this report and took some pictures.
If you want unobstructed views of the countryside, the restaurant area of Cheaha offers much better ones than the summit tower area. I didn't stay long. I put gas in my car at the park entrance (the park has a gas pump) and left the park at 11:22AM (CST).
If you're looking for other attractions near Cheaha Mountain, the Talladega Motor Speedway is close by on Exits 173 or 168 on I-20. Talladega offers tours of the speedway (except the week before, during, and after the race at the Speedway) and houses the International Racing Hall-of-Fame. Thus ends the story of bagging my fifth high point. Ken Jones. The order for my first patch is on its way!
I want to thank the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower for introducing the Interstate Highway system in 1957. I-20 was one of the Interstates constructed under Eisenhower's program. It sure made my journey to Cheaha Mountain that much easier.
I want to thank World Party for making the Goodbye Jumbo album.
My next highpointing journey should be in October when I will bag the high points in Connecticut and Rhode Island. The south slope of Mount Frissell will be interesting for me because it will be the first time I will bag a high point by going on an honest-to-God hike instead of merely driving up to the summit. It will be a key step in my development as a high pointer. The Rhode Island trip will even be more adventurous for reasons known to every person who has bagged Jerimoth Hill in recent years.
See you at the high points!