I’ve been wanting to make this “northern” trek of the the Unicoi Turnpike for a couple of years. Every time I would pass a certain road that turns off Highway 17 north in Stephens County, I would think: One day I will stop and hike that pathway. Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to do this with Kelly Vickers and a group of friends.

The Unicoi Turnpike actually predates written history! Over the years, it has been called by several different names—the Unicoi Path, Tellico Path, Overhill Trading Path, and Unicoi Turnpike. It was a major trade route for early settlers and Cherokee Indians. That is the “romantic” part of the trail’s history. Good friend Sharon Morden poses for the camera as we continue to hike the Unicoi Turnpike.

Sharon is a leaf collector, and Kelly said this one looks like it is a Sassafras. I listened as he told her this so casually and wondered if he was right. Later, I looked the leaf up and “bingo” he was! I know that during the Depression many people in the area would drink Sassafras tea. They would dig up the roots and boil them. Even Dr. and Mrs. Forrest did this. There just wasn’t enough money to purchase coffee, but they found a way to have a cup of hot tea!

We stopped several times along the way, and Kelly told us more about the history of the area. I love stories and history and imaging what life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was also fun to think about the families who built homes and bravely faced living near the Cherokee.

The road is pretty much impassible now. You would have to have a very tall four-wheel drive vehicle to travel along some parts. The camera really doesn’t show the depth of the erosion. Anne Shurley is trying to capture this with her camera. She’s a neat photographer and a good friend.

Kelly leads on and we follow.

Until we hit the creek and then we had to decide whether we would get our feet wet or not! Evan helped some of us stay dry. Pat accepts a helping hand on this one!

Fall continues to prevail! I love the “yellow” woods in and around the Stephens County area.

Seems like we always end up taking a group shot at the end of our journey! This was just a four-mile walk and I think this group still looks pretty good. Maybe we should head out again in a couple of weeks!

Hey, a photo of me taken by Anne Shurley at the bottom of one of the really rutted areas on the Unicoi Turnpike. I believe the trail/pathway/turnpike could be easily graded and developed into a historical/recreational area for Stephens County and the state of Georgia. Just dreaming . . . .