Our Appalachia Power House Quest
While we bagged Appalachia Dam on the Tapoco Quest 2, we did not get the power house, which was about seven miles downstream. So, in what turned out to be our most trying quest yet, we finally managed to bag it on Labor Day Weekend, 2001.

We were staying at Jan's sister's house on the Tennessee River north of Chattanooga (Thanks, Jane!). She bought the house to fix up, so there was no one living there. The place has a fantastic view of the river channel, and the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant is just on the other side of the river. The weather was not very cooperative: it rained pretty much all weekend. But, on Sunday, we decided we would go see if we could bag the Appalachia Power House. We left Jane's place about 11:00 AM, figuring we would be back in no more than four hours... WRONG! In the trip report for the second Tapoco Quest, we said that we thought it was a good idea that we didn't try to get the power house on that trip. We were proven right, in spades!
Sunday, September 2, 2001
We headed north on TN 312, took a short cut on Sam Smith Road. and hit TN 60. From there we hit TN 58, crossed the Hiwassee River portion of Chickamauga Lake, and found a county road heading east to intersect I 75. There it became TN 163, and we continued eastward to hit US 411. Topo 3.0 and the Gazeteer both showed a road running down the north side of the Hiwassee River, accessible from US 411, so we though that might be the best vantage point to see the power house. It should have been on the south side, according to the maps. On our fist attempt, we took the wrong road, figuring that out when the GPS track showed us going away from the river. We backtracked, found another road off of 411, and headed in. The first road put us in the north side of a railroad track that parallels the river... this one put us on the south side. We actually found a RR crossing that connected the two roads, but you had to ford a small creek. With the dirt roads wet from the rain, we figured we were pushing our luck as it was, so we opted for the long way. We encountered a second RR crossing, and wound up going away from the river again, ending up at a Forest Service campground. At this point we found the maps were inaccurate. Jan though she saw a "road" (and we use the term loosely!) continuing down the south side of the RR tracks just before we crossed, so we back tracked, and with some hesitation, started down the trail. We only got a few hundred yards when we encountered what would have been an overpass, with the road dipping under a small trestle, that was barricaded and abandoned. So much for that route! So after consulting the maps, we decided to go back to 411, cross the river, and take TN 30 paralleling the river on the south side. It would intersect with TN 315, cross the river, and intersect with the road going down the north side of the river, which hopefully would be in better shape at this point! We only got a mile or so down 30 when a lady flagged us down as we entered a curve. There was a wreck in the curve that had the road blocked (we had seen two ambulances turn in ahead of us). We don't know whether there was an entrapment or a fatality, but it looked like it would be awhile before the road was reopened. Well shucks! At that point we just gave up. We decided to go down to US 64, deal with the traffic of the rafters, and go back to TN 68, where we had seen the signs to the power house. We decided we could also bag the Ocoee #3 Dam, which we had missed the first time. We might also get a chance to grab a shot of the Ocoee #2 Power House, which we couldn't get last time because of the traffic. No such luck! So we had to drive passed the dam again, and pulled into the #3 Power House parking lot to consult the maps. We decided we should be able to take a Forest Service road back off of US 64 to get to the dam. We found the road which had an opened gate, so in we went. We soon got to a parking area that was labeled "Commercial Vehicles Only"; this was the launching area for the Olympic Rafting Course which was open that day. We ignored the sign and drove on in, but caught only a fleeting glimpse of the very top of the dam. The was another, barricaded road from the parking area for "Authorized Vehicles Only", which we assume was TVA's access to the dam. No Public Access! Now we don't know what we are going to do about bagging Ocoee #3. This trip was getting worse by the minute!
We had driven by the point where TN 30 intersected with US 64... we could have gone back up TN 30 to try again, but we had opted for the "sure thing", which turned out to be our biggest mistake since we started this madness. The sign we had seen sent us up Old Farner Road off of TN 68, where we encountered another sign that said "Appalacha Power House, 11 miles" We turned there, and immediately encountered the end of the pavement. We rounded a switchback, where we saw a sign that said "One Lane Road with Turnouts, Please Be Careful". That should have been an omen, but we were determined to bag something today... we had already been out almost the whole four hours we thought the entire trip would take. So off we went. It took us 45 minutes to do the 11 miles, and there was one place we weren't sure we would get passed on the way back. It was a deep wash accross the road, and we were going downhill when we encountered it the first time. Well, maybe we could find a way around it. Rots o Ruck!
We crossed the RR tracks at the Power House, and parked just outside the gate. These tracks were obviously used during the construction of the plant, and these same tracks also went very close to the dam. There was an abandoned side track going right into the power house, and another into the transformer yard on the other side. The tracks themselves looked like they see very little traffic now, but the road bed is still in good shape. We figure that TVA must have some agreement with CSX in case they have to bring in heavy equipment... we can't see them bringing it in the way we came! We got pictures of the plant, and the twin penstocks exiting the tunnel. The switchyard is on top of the mountain, so each of the 2 generators had a transformer sending a 161 KV (probably) line up to the switchyard.
There was a nice suspension foot bridge across the river there, which looked like it might have been capable of some vehicle traffic at one time. On the other side of the river was a paved parking area, and the Forest Service map indicated that the road, the one we were trying to get to before, was a nice paved road with four campgrounds on it! Why didn't we consult that map before? We were so upset with ourselves that we didn't even try to get to the switchyard, even though we found the "road" that probably lead to it. The weather was still iffy, and after that drive in, if it had started raining hard, we would have been in real trouble. This might be the one time that we really did need 4 wheel drive! We did have a choice of going back the way we came, or to go even farther (MUCH farther) on similar roads to back out to TN 68. With much trepidation, we opted to go back the way we came. The drive back out did not seem as bad as it had going in, since we knew what to expect, we guess, until we got to the wash. We couldn't take a running start, since it was deep enough to do some real damage. So we cautiously approached, and Pat picked what he thought was the best path through it. For the first time that day, something went right! Thank God for front wheel drive... the Caravan pulled right through it, without even spinning once! Whew!!! From there it was only a couple of miles back to the main drag, and we were soon back to US 64. It was about 4:45 PM, so we stopped at the Hardees (the only eating place we saw!) in Ducktown, TN to get something to eat. We then continued on US 64 back to Cleveland, TN, encountering all the "ratfer" traffic along the Ocoee River, and finally connected with TN 312, which continued over I 75, crossed TN 58, and we continued north on 312 back to the subdivision. We had made a big circle, and got back to the house after 6:00 PM. Our four hour trip had taken over seven hours, and all we had to show for it was the Appalachia Power House. Those pictures had better be good!
In retrospect, we re-learned an important lesson: don't trust any one map. While the combination of Topo 3.0 and the GPS was invaluable, Topo does not have a lot of information about the roads: the Forest Service road we were on (23, we think it started out as) was just another secondary road to Topo. The Cherokee National Forest map indicated it was improved gravel, but we should have noticed the changes in elevation: we went up and down from about 1000 feet to over 1600 feet twice, actually topping out at just over 2000 feet. And with the weather, the roads would have been slippery and possibly washed in places, which we did enounter. We should have studied the Forest Service map in more detail... if we had, we would have persisted in trying to get in on the north side of the river. And of course, with the foot bridge, we would have still been able to get right to the power house. We are planning on going back, and we will decide then if we want to hike up to get the switchyard. We will NOT drive the "sure thing" again, at least not in a non off road vehicle.
Pix are here.