We traveled south out of Tennessee along US 411, which we have traveled many times in the past visiting my sister in Tennessee, whenever we wanted to miss the traffic on the Interstate between Chattanooga and Atlanta. It is a nice highway, 4 lane for the most part, but slow with the many towns you pass through. We pulled into McKinney Campground on Lake Allatoona by early afternoon and proceeded to our campsite. McKinney Campground is one of the many Corps of Engineering campgrounds around the lakes north of Atlanta, but one of the few that are still open in October. After spending the spring and summer in commercial campgrounds, it was nice to be back into the COE campgrounds in the south. Not only are they less expensive ($22 versus over $40 a night!) but the sites are very large, wooded, and with a view of a lake. Our site in McKinney Campground was no exception. It was a pull-through site in the center of a circle that goes around a spit of land extending out into the lake. We had views of the lake in three directions and a “private” drive in the center of the circle for our use. We could see other campsites, but they were far enough away that we had a sense of privacy that we had been missing all summer with other RVs less than 20 feet away. Of course, you don’t always have sewer hookups in these campgrounds, but with staying only a week at a time, we can make it using their dump stations on the way out.
The weather was foggy with light rain and drizzle on the trip to the campground, which only got worse over the next two days. Therefore, we spent Tuesday in the campground doing laundry and cleaning the RV and Wednesday just taking it easy in the campsite working on this blog. The weather improved by Thursday which still had low clouds and fog during the morning. Since we only had a couple of days of nice weather, since it was suppose to rain again on Sunday, we headed out to one of the two remaining National Parks we wanted to visit in Georgia. Nestled within the urban sprawl of Atlanta, near Marietta, is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. This is the site of the main battle between General Sherman and General Johnston following the siege of Chattanooga and leading to the Union capture and destruction of Atlanta in 1864. It is completely surrounded by urban sprawl even though the National Park does own most of Kennesaw Mountain and the chain consisting of Little Kennesaw, Pigeon Hill, and Cheatham Hill to the south. To access most of the historical sites of the battle you have to navigate busy urban streets and highways, but it was still worth the visit. The Visitor Center is located on Kennesaw Mountain, which is actually north of nearly all of the fighting, but provides access to the main mountain. It is interesting that while this is the site of the main battle for Atlanta, it was not the only battle. Sherman and Johnston met each other a number of times between Chattanooga and Atlanta between early May to mid-July with Johnston trying to stop the Union advance and Sherman flanking his position forcing Johnston to withdraw to a new position towards Atlanta. The Union outnumbered the 50,000 Confederate soldiers by 2:1 and used this numerical advantage to keep Johnston from stopping them. By June 19, the Confederates had established a very strong defensive position with Kennesaw Mountain as an anchor. After failing to outflank the Confederates again at Kolb’s Farm on June 22, partly due to the days of rainy weather and partly due to being attacked by General Hood, General Sherman decided to change tactics and attempt a frontal assault on the Confederate center that he believed was very thin. On June 27 they tried a two prong attack at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill, both of which were short and bloody battles. The Union dug in and traded shot with the Confederates for the better part of a week, before the Confederates once again withdrew to the defenses around Atlanta. When we got to the Visitor Center the weather was still very foggy with the top of Kennesaw Mountain in the clouds. So we spent a couple of hours in the Visitor Center, which has a great movie about the battle and a very good museum.
After an early lunch we took the 1.5 mile hike at the Visitor Center, called the Environmental Trail that winds through the north Georgia woods. It was an easy, enjoyable hike. By this time the clouds had cleared and we drove up to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. At the summit there are a number of Confederate cannon platforms with a few cannon that were used to anchor the Confederate line.
From here we took on the urban traffic and visited the other two main battlefields at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill. While the trail up to the Confederate earthworks on Pigeon Hill is only about a quarter of a mile, it is quite steep and Kal was questioning whether it was worth the hike. You can still see the remains of the Confederate earthworks near the brow of the hill. The hike along the earthworks along Cheatham Hill are more extensive and better preserved and the trail is much more level. The trench line bowed out at one point, creating an angle that is inherently a weak point and generally concentrates the attacks. The Union attack at this location was especially fierce and ended with hand-to-hand fighting before the Union soldiers retreated down the slope about 20 yards to a small fold in the hill where they were less exposed to Confederate fire then if they attempted to retreat back across the field at the bottom of the hill. So they dug in. A grass fire was started from the cannon explosions that began burning the wounded Union soldiers between the lines. The Confederates called a temporary truce, in an humanitarian act, to assist the Union soldiers in removing the wounded and putting out the fires. After two days the dead on the battlefield were rotting and the wind was primarily towards the Confederate trenches, so another two hour truce was agreed to in order to bury the dead in mass graves on the battlefield. In both cases the soldiers then returned to their positions and commenced shooting at each other. Truly amazing stories. The walk down to the location, called the “Dead Angle” by both sides was along the Confederate earthworks. At this location is also the Illinois monument. There are a couple of other historical locations on their “Driving Tour”, including Sherman’s headquarters and Kolb’s Farm, but both of them are outside the protected boundary of the park and surrounded by urban sprawl with no parking, so we decided to skip them and head back to the campsite.
Friday was by far, the best weather of the week and we once again headed towards Atlanta to explore the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. This Recreation Area is scattered in 15 separate units along a 48 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River, so we started out at the Island Ford Visitor Center to figure out what we wanted to visit. Although it is a small Visitor Center, since most of the building is the Park Headquarters, they did provide us with good information. Most of the sites to the north leading up to Lake Lanier are primarily boat landings and we were interested in hiking and not rafting, so we decided to stay to the south of Island Ford. It turned out that one of the best trails along the river is located at the Visitor Center, so before lunch we set out on a mile hike down river. Along this stretch the river is relatively slow moving, although there were a number of nice rocky shoals to spend some time at and take some pictures. At the one mile mark we headed off the river to loop back to the Visitor Center. However, we missed a turn and ended up walking an additional half mile up to another parking lot before we realized our mistake. The hike itself was fairly level winding around the sides of the hill along an intermittent stream and was very pleasant. However, we had to turn around and hike back the half mile to the river with still 3/4 miles back to the Visitor Center. Where we thought we would be taking a hike of about two mile turned in to over three miles and a late lunch, which we were both ready to eat by the time we got back.
They had a nice picnic area behind the Visitor Center where we at our lunch before getting back in the truck to explore some of the historical ruins along the river. Our first stop was the ruins of a textile mill along Vickery Creek in the town of Roswell, Georgia. Both of the mills at this location were burned by Sherman during the Civil War, one was rebuilt and remained in operation until the 1970s. This is now a city park along Vickery Creek and along with some historical markers made an interesting stop, even though it was a busy location with visitors and traffic in the small town. From there we proceeded further south along the river to the ruins of a pulp mill along Sope Creek. This turned out to be a half mile walk from the parking lot down to the creek where we found the ruins. It would have been a pleasant walk except for the fact that most of the trail was along the busy city street of Paper Mill Road. The Marietta Pulp Mill was also burned by Sherman during the Civil War, but was never rebuilt. Only the stone foundations remain, however, they still gave a number of opportunities for interesting photographs with the sunlight coming through the fall foliage.
Saturday was another opportunity to find a sports bar to watch the Auburn football game. However, the game was at 11:00 in the morning, so even though we had lunch watching the game from the bar in an Applebee’s in Cartersville, I was not much interested in taking advantage of the bar. There was another patron rooting for Auburn at the bar and along with the bartender and other customers coming in for lunch, we had a very good time. Although Auburn lost to Old Miss, it was still a good game that was close throughout the game with both teams playing well. Auburn’s defense played their best game of the year and if the offense had been able to score from the red zone instead of having to settle for field goals, we would have won the game. In any case, I did talk Kal into letting me have a couple of beers after we ate lunch in the second half and we both had a very good time.
The weather on Sunday had turned back to rain, so we stayed in the campground all day taking it easy.