May 29, 2014
Currahee Mountain is one of those trips I’ve had on my bucket list for a while. On paper it doesn’t seem like much–3 miles up and 3 miles down with a 900’ elevation change each direction. It’s on a red dirt forest service road that’s driveable even in a sedan, so what’s the challenge.
The forest service road is also known as the Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail. It was dedicated by members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment who trained at this location in WWII.
For those who know me well they know that I enjoy military history. I’m by no means a history buff, but when something interests me I like to learn about it. Sometimes that’s from documentaries or books, but other times it’s by visiting a location.
According to my family history my dad’s dad trained at Camp Toccoa. If true, I’m following his footsteps through the red Georgia clay. If not true, I’m still tracing the steps of many men who made great contributions in the European theater of the war and affected the outcome of the war.
One of the other reasons is for Ranger, my dog. When I named him I was originally going to register him as my radio call sign at the park where I worked at the time. His call name was always intended to be “Ranger.” I had this name picked out a year before he was even born. When my grandfather, who was in the 101st, passed away in 2007 I decided to name my puppy “Currahee”, the motto of the 506th. “Currahee–We Stand Alone.” In addition to all of this, the 101st includes the Airborne Rangers, hence his call name. (Yes, I’m taking a lot of poetic license with all of this. Work with me).
Heading out from my motel I decided to detour to Unicoi State Park (as mentioned in my previous report) to see if I really could score some swag for Nora. I did and it didn’t put me so far behind schedule that I couldn’t make up time.
Along the way I stopped at Fritchey’s Gardens for my favorite southern snack. It was a boiled-peanuts-and-peach-milkshake-for-lunch kind of day. After I finished my shake I hoped the dairy wouldn’t come back to haunt me on my afternoon trek in the heat.
When I entered the museum one of the women working the lobby asked me what my interest was. I explained that I was looking to see if my grandfather had trained here and, if so, was there any information on what he did.
Unfortunately, I was told, there was no way to look up any information on him without more specifics, including his Unit. I don’t know why I didn’t think to bring that with me given I obtained that exact information for my dad back in 2007. Oops. Well, I guess that’s just another thing I’ll have to collect the next time I’m in this area.
The second woman working the lobby attempted to help me find information, but ultimately it was the same result–there were so many men who trained here that even though they had a list, we weren’t going to find the information I was after without more specifics.
She then asked me if I was in the military as I (as she put it) “have that look about you.” I was confused, but rattled off the list of family members who were in the military in addition to my boyfriend’s service. She said that does explain it. I wonder, in hindsight, how much of how I carry myself (which is what I’m assuming she picked up on) is due to being raised in a family full of veterans and how much is from the past 14 years I spent wearing a government uniform nearly every day (which, tangentially, has resulted in my inability to pick out clothes on my days off, so I end up wearing nearly identical clothing every day. Hooray for habituation!)
She asked if I’d like to go through the museum, which I did–except I have the dogs waiting in the car. I told her their names (explaining Ranger’s name, but not explaining Halo’s) and she laughed. Both are paratrooper-themed names (also telling her that Ranger’s father was named Tomcat), which she immediately picked up on. This was the first time I didn’t have to explain how their names are related and that made me smile.
Since it was now pretty late in the afternoon I decided to buy a few small items and get going. The staff at the Stephens County Historical Society was a huge help in me finding the best route to the trailhead.
Yes, Ingress friends, I did indeed stop and hit 18+ portals in Toccoa on my way out of town. No, I’m not addicted. I’m on vacation and working on my stats.
My concern for the trek up the mountain was water. It was very hot (80+ F), so I knew we’d all three need plenty of water. The problem is that I failed to pack a day pack. All I had with me was my pack for my trip on Springer and an upcoming trip. It’s designed to hold up to 50 pounds. If it’s holding only a few pounds, say 10 or less, it doesn’t ride well. On my way out of town I ended up grabbing two 1-gallon jugs of water. One went with me up the mountain and the other stayed in the van for when we returned.
Also finding its way into my pack was an emergency blanket/tarp combo (a favorite pack item), rain gear, first aid kit, and a few more useful items to get the pack to ride properly. Ranger hauled their water bowl and an additional 2 L of water. Halo got to take this hike without her pack.
As I arrived at the trailhead a thunder storm started blowing over. Justifiably apprehensive about standing atop a mountain covered with communications equipment in the middle of an electrical storm, I checked the radar and saw that the storm would be gone by the time I got to the top of the mountain.
After grabbing a few pictures of the dogs at the monuments at the site where Camp Toccoa is being restored we headed up the Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail.
The report I’d had of trail conditions was that the road was impassable if you didn’t have a 4×4 or something similar due to recent washouts from heavy rains. This didn’t seem to be an issue to any of the people who rolled past me in sedans. On the way up and down I was passed by about 7 people.
The majority of the trail seemed easy to me, most likely because I’d just completed Springer. While it was probably on par regarding the grade of the trail, the surface made traversing the terrain much easier–hiking is faster when you’re not constantly worried about where you’re placing your feet on the loose rocks.
We left the van at 4:30pm and made it to the top at 5:45 pm.
Remember what I told you about being able to drive to the top? That makes the view accessible to those who can’t make the hike up. On the other hand, it makes it easy to carry up paint and other items to deface the rock. According to a sign in the information bulletin board near the trailhead there is an Adopt-A-Crag program going on here that will hopefully address the graffiti problem now and in the future.
I spoke with several visitors who drove up to the top and explained why I had to hike while they drove. The ones I spoke to were about my age or younger, but were still aware of the area’s history. I’ve found that to be a rare thing in most areas, even those areas where the history is what brings people (and money) into the community.
I bid my farewells and made my way back down the trail to the van, arriving a little after 7:00 pm.
Once I got back I took a moment to think about the men and women who served and impacted the lives of so many. To be able to walk this trail and reflect on what they did is one small way I can honor their memory and legacy.