In a sense, one of eternity’s grandest wrinkles, rising up in Eastern North Carolina, performs a raging, roaring symphony of blaring silence, of visual impossibility, of enigmatic splendor. This moving score, played ravenously, is labeled Whiteside Mountain.
To understate it so grossly, Whiteside is simply a mountain in Jackson, North Carolina looming comfortably and rather neighborly near Cashiers, Highlands and the Georgia border on U.S. Highway 64. But this geographic beast hosts the highest cliffs in the eastern United States and the highest elevation at 4,930 feet.
We at The Park on Main, the pet-friendly hotel in Highlands, can’t neglect this artistry of landscape in frozen dance stretched wildly across our horizons. Whiteside Mountain is our constant companion – always present, always watching us, always showing off its majesty with comical modesty.
Whiteside Mountain’s cliffs – some 750-feet high and more than 400 million years old – appear as sheets of ice draped delicately across the mountain. A two-mile trail – deemed moderate in hiking difficulty – roams along to the top of the cliffs, giving the adventuresome views to the east, the south and the west, according to RomanticAsheville.com, a travel guide. (Safety railings provide some protection.)
Beside the long, breath-taking views of starkly rolling and wondrously green landscape, the bold explorer will see false Solomon’s seal, white snakeroot, dwarf dandelion, speckled wood-lily and wood betony.
As spring settles in and as summer begins to arrive, hikers may be greeted by peregrine falcons flying high overhead or gazing steadily and curiously from rock outcrops at the strange human visitors.
While Whiteside Mountain is a very, very long-time resident of the Highlands area, its geographic awakening began as molten rock, which gradually cooled over time. Over millions of years, the infant mountain – as granite rock – underwent change from heat and pressure and rose again as granitic gneiss. Eons eroded the formation’s covering, exposing the brazen rock. The best views of White Mountain’s bare rock are on the southern cliffs where wind and dry weather restrict plant and foliage growth.
White Mountain used to be part of the Cherokee Nation prior to the 1819 Seventh Cherokee Treaty, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. State officials issued more than 20 land grants to early settlers along Whiteside Mountain’s eastern slope in the mid-1800s. The Macon County Land Company bought the rest of the mountain for about 7 cents an acre in the late 1800s.
Quite at odds – at least in the namesake sense – with Whiteside Mountain’s semantic glory is a feature called Devil’s Courthouse. And, in an ironic sense, the Forest Service has discouraged hiking to this area, which provides beautiful views of the Cashiers area, according to Stay and Play in the Smokies, a travel guide. The reason for the service’s warning against hiking the trail and the trail’s overgrowth is the potentially strong and sudden winds on the courthouse.
The trail, which is the spur trail off of the Whiteside Trail, is recommended only for experienced hikers and for those in very good physical shape. This Devil’s Courthouse – part of Whiteside Mountain – is sometimes confused with the one by the same name some 20 miles away in Transylvania County.
But both vistas – and so many more – are real and wild and beautiful, providing mere mortals with unprecedented glimpses of earthen splendor.
Come. Visit us at The Park on Main. Book today to experience nature’s greatness!
What do you think of our saga through the eons of Whiteside Mountain’s life? Are you and your pet planning to head this way soon? Make reservations today. Let us know how we can be of service to you by following us on our social media channels.
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