Attakulla (Mt Michell)

Our next walk with Bituatîs takes us to Attakulla

Attakulla – Ata-gul is a Cherokee word, I’m still trying to find the meaning of the name. I know it has something to do with Wood. 

Attakulla one of my favorite places to go; this is the highest point in Eastern North America, standing tall at 6,684 feet (2,037 metres) located in North Carolina right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 355.4. 

Now that is not a super tall mountain compared to other places around the world. The Appalachian chain of mountains once was taller than any mountains today and is one of the world’s oldest mountain chains, now from billions of years of erosion, that are much smaller. These mountains have the most archaic energies, truly an ancient landscape. 

Now Attakulla is a magical place filled with the fragrance of fir and spruce; as soon as you step into her dense forest, you are greeted with the calming smells and breathtaking views. Attakulla’s uniqueness is that the environment can be 30 degrees cooler, and she more resembles Canada than the south. There are many species of plants, animals, the fungus that only live in her peak. Part of the Black Mountain range with trails going along the ridges of four other mountains nearby these trails are very intense, and one must be prepared for a hike.

The sad thing about Attakulla is that the trees are getting destroyed cause of acid rain from the Ohio factories pollution gets into the jet stream and raining down on Attakulla. There is also balsam woolly adelgid that kills many of the hemlocks on the mountain.

You will see a lot of Attakulla as I go there many times a year. This time was basically the start of spring for Attakulla. I will say that there was less impact on the trees from the acid rain because of Covid as many places were not running at full functionality. So that was nice to let Attakulla breathe for once.

Going into her forest is like stepping into another world full of moss-covered trees and giant stones, thousands of different kinds of mushrooms. As you sit under the fir on the moss cover ground, you hear many different birds singing, from Ravens, Saw-whet Owl, Blue-headed Vireo, and many more. It’s even more magical when the clouds are around as there is a thick layer of fog all around. This is a great place to reflect and be with nature and tell you a forgotten story.

The name Attakulla is the name the Cherokee called this mountain. When the settlers came over, they called it Black Dome. It was later changed to Mt Michell and named after the scientist that pioneered the mountain to study it. He died and was buried at the peak. I always try to find the original name of the mountains I hike out of respect for the peoples and spirits. The Cherokee lived all around Attakulla and hunted its lands. There is not much known as the colonizers pushed them out. 

There is a story that is similar to one of Aesop’s fables about the Rabit and Turtle that talks incorporates The Black Mountains.

The deer was always bragging about his speed to everyone who would listen. He was so arrogant that he thought he could outrun all of the forest's other animals in a footrace. An unlikely challenger, the terrapin, rose to meet his challenge, much to the delight of the deer. They decided to race and chose a route that took them over Mount Mitchell and along the Black Mountain crest.

Despite accepting the offer, the terrapin was well aware that pace alone would not be enough to beat the deer. So he convened a terrapin tribe council and agreed to enlist the aid of his fellow terrapins in cheating. He placed the other terrapins on each peak in the Black Mountain Range and gave them strict orders on what they should do. As the race began, the terrapin and the deer met at the starting line on the range's first peak. The signal was released, and the deer bolted like an arrow from a bow, leaving the terrapin in its wake.

The deer dashed down the ridgeline, heading for the range's next peak. The deer was taken aback when he saw the terrapin give a loud shout and cross the peak directly in front of him. The deer's resolve grew stronger, and he churned his legs ever more vigorously. He heard another yell and saw the terrapin cresting the next peak in line as he reached the top of the peak.

Fearing he was losing ground, the deer raced as fast as he could to catch up, but as he crested the next mountain, he heard another shout and saw the terrapin cross the next peak.

This pattern was replicated over each mountain peak until the deer, humiliated and persuaded the race was futile, simply gave up and returned to the starting line, only to discover the initial terrapin had never left. Demanding an explanation, the terrapin revealed his intent to use his fellow tribesmen and told the deer that the intellect could always do what the fastest legs could not.

Here you will see the Moniiatîs, Nantuatîs, Caitatîs, and many more Bituatîs.


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