Tennessee: East to West
Our route for the day continued east and connected several ridges. The views were brief because of the dense tree canopies, but the relatively easy ride on those gravel roads permitted me to sightsee and hunt for vista opps as well as enjoy the road.
We rode most of that day in the far eastern area of the Cherokee National Forest, south of Hiwassee River and north of the Ocoee River. The area is covered with steep ridges and even an ancient volcano that has worn down like an elder's molars, ground down by weather, water and wind. This area is also rich in history as it was favorite hunting grounds of the Cherokee and other nearby nations (Creek). After deposits of copper and other minerals, even some gold, the Europeans and New Americans forced the Cherokee from their homes, ironically, after many of the Cherokee were conscripted into building roads and foundries. Many of these roads that the Cherokee built were the same that they were marched on during their displacement to Indian Territory. Oswald Dome Rd (aka FSR 77) runs south-north on the east side of Oswald Dome, a flat mountain that peaks at 2200 feet with McCamy Ridge. The road follows the edge of the dome at 2000 feet, then heads down the edge of the dome through a gully (a rather big one) on Benton Springs Rd. Which ends up in Benton Springs. A few miles before the turnoff is a national park campground and recreational area on a reservoir. From that point the road is paved. The campground was absolutely packed with kids and weekenders playing in the water. The closer we rode the bikes there, the more the line grew to enter the campground. We decided to do a U-turn as fast as possible and get away from that. On the ADV threads (and Jack's recommendation) I had read of a special place to stop where the views were pronominal: The Benton Springs Gazebo. I kept a look out for it and nearly passed it; no signs warned passerbys of its presence. I did a quick right turn into a pull off when I spotted the stone form that looked like it might be a gazebo hidden under trees. I found it!!!! After stopping to ohhh and awe, we geared up and continued on, winding our way down the side of the ridge towards the highway. Pulling into a lookout area we were treated to magnificent views of the Ocoee River and the lakes below. The ridged undulated with velvet verdure; I wanted to reach out and stroke it like the back of a stretching cat. Birds soared on the thermals below and in front of us. It was an absolutely awesome view. We reached Hwy 314, the eastern most paved road along the edge of the national forest, going north and south. Turning left we headed south to the Ocoee River and the Ocoee Lake. Turning left heading east on Schizophrenic Hwy (aka Hwys 40, 64, 70 AND also known as Old Copper Rd [the old historic Copper Rd, which the Cherokee constructed for copper miners, runs alongside the new modern highway]). This highway follows the river; many many rafts, canoes and kiyaks dotted the clear blue-green water. It made me want to go in to the water myself. We then turned north again on Hwy 30; a paved but narrow and very winding road that begins the climb back up into the mountains and national forest. We were looking for the head of my favorite road, Kimsey Mountain Highway, another one of those misnomers. The road is gravel, winding and spiraling up, down and through the mountains and forest. It is so sweet that I wish it was all mine. Again, another road full of history, it used to be an ancient Indian trail that connected the western towns with the middle and eastern settlements. It became a trading trail and road, wagon road, and was even a state 'highway' before the modern highways were built. It used to be State Highway 68 (and is now Forest Road 68). Kimsey Mnt. Hwy. has two access roads; the most southern access is Greasy Creek Road. A small gas station/general store sits nestled into a bank on the corner of Greasy Creek Rd and Hwy 30. We decided to find some lunch and ice cream there. I just knew they had ice cream somewhere in there. Folks were very friendly inside and outside and traded greetings while we sat outside to eat. After we regained some of our energy, and me with a lot of excitement, I was itching to move on and find my road. To be continued.....
Labels: dirt, Tennessee