The final leg of my northbound journey had just one planned stop, at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Davis, WV. Already, I had stretched a journey that can be made in 18 hours into a three-day excursion, and too many more diversions would add a fourth day. While I would not have minded an additional day, I found my desires at odds with my wallet. After all, being unemployed necessitates a weekly visit to Connecticut as the state does not offer direct deposit. So, after ending the second day of my trip at an I-79 rest area in Servia, WV, I continued north to US-33, which would take me into the Monongahela National Forest before delivering me to WV-32 and this day’s destination.
After spending the night in Cleveland, TN, I set off on US-64 for the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, and ultimately, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With hundreds of miles of roads crisscrossing these forests in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, I planned to spend the entire day wandering through the woods. Just before sunrise, my first stop along the way found me at Ocoee Dam #1, part of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) system. This dam, the first of three, impounds Parksville Reservoir and is one of the oldest hydroelectric dams in the TVA system. US-64, portions of which are marked as the Ocoee Scenic Byway, follows the northern perimeter of the reservoir, affording many views of the Parkville Reservoir and the river that feeds it. The Ocoee River, home to some spectacular rapids, was the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics’ canoeing, kayaking, and slalom events and is now home to the Ocoee River Whitewater Center. As I continued along the Ocoee Scenic Byway, I encountered numerous scenic overlooks and an assortment of recreation areas that provide access to the river and its famed rapids. Stopping for pictures along the route can be treacherous in some places, however, as an overlook may be no wider than a car, placing one very close to traffic along this two-lane byway. After exiting the Cherokee National Forest just shy of the Tennessee-North Carolina border, I headed north on TN-68 out of Ducktown.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first half of my recent trip to Georgia. I headed south to visit my brother and, suddenly finding myself with unexpected free time, I decided to visit the Gulf Coast. Then, after spending a week touring Fort Benning and the surrounding Columbus, GA area, it was time for me to head north again. Thankfully, I wasn’t in much of a hurry.
In light of my obsession with federally-protected areas, I planned my return trip with an eye towards visiting as many National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, and so on as was feasible. To that end, I set out for Macon, GA and the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. As it turned out, however, my visit coincided with the refuge’s annual hunting season (bizarre, I know), which meant that without a special permit, I could venture no further than the parking lot. After taking a few pictures to prove that I had at least made an effort to visit Bond Swamp, I found my way to Interstate 16 and set off towards Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, on the other side of Macon. My plans were interrupted, though, when I noticed a familiar green mark on my Google Map.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit my brother in Georgia, where he is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus. Departing New Hampshire on a Wednesday, I planned on arriving in Georgia the following day. As such, I had no plans to stop at any attractions as I headed south, instead saving those sightseeing opportunities for my return trip. As the Army is wont to do, however, my brother was placed on a last-minute detail, giving me an extra, unplanned day of travel. Being that I was already in Georgia, and that I’d never seen or swum in the Gulf of Mexico, I set out on Thursday to extend my journey southward. In a manner similar to that which began my obsession with federally-protected areas, as I headed south on US-431 through Alabama, I stumbled upon Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.