Blood Mountain.

I started ascending a narrow path between thick woods, just after sunrise. Thick clouds drifted across the slopes, limiting my chance for a decent view of the majestic mountains. It was late July. My back was slicked with sweat, and I wasn’t halfway to the summit. The view that was to come once the sky cleared was motivation for me to push up the steep and rock-strewn ascent. But I had witnessed many views and had hiked a number of mountains. The main reason for choosing to hike Blood Mountain was for its rich history of the Cherokee and Creek Indians. I tried to block the thought of the murder that occurred on the very mountain I’d be hiking.

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The Smoky Mountains are known for some of the oldest hardwood forest and wild flowers, and for the various wars that occurred on the blue and misty slopes. For example, parts of the Civil War happened in the Smoky Mountains. The Cherokee Indians had many fights with both American military and other Indian tribes. Moonshiners have called the mountains home, and as far as I know still do. The Cherokee Indians and Creek Indians engaged in a number of battles. And it so happened I was hiking a mountain of one of their most famous and gruesome battles. Hence the name Blood Mountain.

Clouds cleared as I hiked into a canopy and followed a river. My goal was to reach the summit where there were 360 panoramic views and the location where most of the fight between the two Indian tribes took place. It was also going to be my camp for the night. And man, would sleep be wonderful after the hot and leg burning climb.

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The soft sand collects the evidence of the inhabitants. In this picture was a black bear’s paw print. Though I hiked solo, I knew in the wilderness I wasn’t alone, despite there not being a single hiker near. Life of animals and plants surrounded me. Solitude, could be both frightening and exhilarating at once. Finding more paw tracks and the scent of bear crap hanging in the air, I did not waste time pushing on.

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Is anyone home? A lonely, stone shelter set near the summit, waiting for a weary hiker. But I had a tent and a ways to go.

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Back out into the open, I enjoy a 360 view as my mind imagines the fierce, bloody battle between the Cherokee and Creek. Some admit to finding arrowheads and other remnants from the tribes. However, I did not find anything but  a 360 view. It made the tiresome hike more worth it. My camp was around the corner.

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Imagine waking to this view every morning.

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I look through the valley before hiking back into the dense woods.

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Some places were so overgrown it was difficult to make out the trail.

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The bridge had crossed the creek for ages. On the other side, I’d be making my descent back to my vehicle.

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My experience hiking the historical mountains brought a diverse range of emotions. It was exciting to capture the views, hike through the hardwood forest, and enjoy being out in nature and away from the everyday noises in the city and attachments. And boy it was exhausting. It was one of, if not the hardest hiking I had ever done. Most of it involved ascending steep paths, which had roots and rocks to trip over. Parts of the trail was hard to see. Despite loving the one-on-one time with Mother Nature, I did get lonely. But those experiences were outmatched by the beauty and peacefulness of nature, and the history I learned about the mountain. Knowing I was traipsing across former territory where the Cherokees and Creeks fought, my imagination carried away. Sadness set in as I recalled the solo hiker who was murdered on the very mountain I climbed.five years prior to my exhibition. Backpacking alone was a dangerous choice. But it was something I did and would do it again. Taking precautions by telling people where I’d be, when I was leaving and when I expected to return provided a sense of comfort. A tall can of bear spray was my only weapon, in addition to using my brain. Nonetheless, I understand the danger I was putting myself in by going solo.

I was glad to have learned about the mountain’s history before backpacking it. It made the adventure more intriguing and the sweltering and exhausting climb worthwhile.

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