cheathilltunnelThis week marks the 145th anniversary of the brutal Civil War battle fought at Kennesaw Mountain. What better time to take note of how one venue of that ferociously fought war to protect segregation and slavery has become the picture of diversity?

My husband and I have been hiking the Kennesaw trails for almost 20 years and have been increasingly struck by the growing array of accents, languages, skin colors and ages visiting this historic national park.

Independence Day weekend presents an opportune time to check this out for yourself.

Last weekend, we took the Cheatham Hill trail to Kolb Farm (bordered by Powder Springs Road), and our trek back toward the mountain included a stop at the Illinois Monument – an imposing honor to the Illinois boys and men who died in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. We were stunned that we hadn’t even known of its existence and enlightened to read more about how that “Bent Angle” (or, depending on which side you were on, “Dead Angle,” so called because the Union troops attacked a Confederate line that jutted out too far) battle was fought.

kennesaw34That walk also included rolling hills, meandering meadows of sweet-smelling grass, a brush up against suburbia tempered with wild-growing flora from blackberry bushes to spider worts.

The trail over Big and Little Kennesaw is about six miles, definitely up-and-down-up-and-down (allegedly a 700-foot incline), but doable with the right shoes and degree of fitness. The gentlest part of the path, right at the beginning, is predictably the most heavily populated: from senior citizens with canes to toddlers wobbling their way until they eventually end up atop dad’s shoulders. There is also a wide range of dogs trotting the trails, too – all sizes, all breeds, all mixes.

A woman from Japan told me a couple of years ago that the Kennesaw terrain reminds many Asians of their homelands, which may explain why there seem to be so many of them enjoying the trek.

One recent Saturday morning, we met a couple from Baltimore who were passing through Atlanta with limited time for sightseeing. Where did they go? Not The World of Coca-Cola or Zoo Atlanta. Not the High Museum or Six Flags. They were hiking up Kennesaw Mountain (also known as Big Kennesaw), marveling at the view of downtown Atlanta 22 miles away.

Even if they weren’t schooled about the battle between General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops and Joseph E. Johnston leading the “Rebs,” they sensed the uniqueness of this place and were full of questions.

vfiles2189The National Park – almost three thousand acres up I-75 and Barrett Parkway — features an excellent museum filled with authentic memorabilia, a respectable array of Civil War books, an 18-minute film intro for your visit and maps to guide you as far as you’re willing to walk.

Kennesaw, from the Cherokee Indian word “Gah-nee-sah,” means cemetery or burial ground. Yet another irony of how alive and active the mountain is these days with the collective energy and enthusiasm of its visitors – no matter where they’re from.

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Susan Soper

Susan Soper

Susan Soper is a longtime journalist: as a writer for Newsday where she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for The Heroin Trail, writer at CNN, Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Executive Editor at Atlanta INtown. Recently, she created and published a workbook, ObitKit (www.obitkit.com). She is currently working on a number of writing and editing projects, including obituaries and life stories. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Bo Holland. Her interests include hiking, reading, the arts, people (dead and alive) and, in a better economy, travel. Staying close to home these days, she takes and documents “Urban Hikes” and is interested in sharing sites of interest with readers of Like the Dew.