Return to Chunky Gal Mountain
Clay County, North Carolina
October 15-17, 2004
By Wayne Brantley

Our trip was planned around the first of October. Pat sent an email to our daughter and told her all I wanted for my birthday was to go to the mountains. She was waiting to hear about a job application so we were not sure weather or not we would get to go. Pat had already packed everything we would need for our 3 days in the mountains ahead of time and was hoping Tonya wouldn't let us down. We knew for sure on Thursday that our trip was a go. This put a big smile on Pat's face.

On Friday morning Tonya arrived at our house at around 7:00 AM. This was hard to believe because she is never on time.... The night before we packed the van with our camping equipment, so we were able to leave around 7:30 Friday morning.

Finally we were on our way to our first destination, the Cowee Mountains, to camp and prospect Friday and Saturday. Then return to Chunky Gal Mountain on Sunday for my birthday. It takes us about 45 minutes to get from our house to Ducktown, Tennessee. The Ocoee River Gorge was just starting to burst with Fall colors. It was a beautiful morning. We always have to stop at Hardees for a Biscuit before heading on into North Carolina. We reached Chunky Gal around 9:30. The east view from the lookout was a beautiful site. I was concerned with the fast moving dark clouds over our destination that could be seen on the horizon.

Finally around 10:30 we arrived at our destination where we would camp on Friday and Saturday. We were thankful that the camping spot was not taken because it was the beginning of Bear Hunting Season the following week. After having coffee it was time to start putting the tent up and getting ready for our R&R. It took us about an hour to get set up.

We had more coffee and then decided to do some hiking. We walked up the road about 1/2 mile checking out the road for yard rocks. Then back to our campsite before we decided to walk down the road another 1/2 mile. We stopped at a small runoff from the mountain to check for any signs of corundum. About all we found there were quartz rocks and a big hornets nest that had been abandoned. We headed back to the camp to get ready for supper. I decided it would be a good time for a nap.

Pat brought some rib eye steaks and all the fixings for our Friday night supper. I can tell you it was a very good meal.

After supper it started getting cooler so we decided to call it an early night and see if we could get some much needed rest before the next morning. Pat had spotted bear scat in the area so she was kind of scared the first night in camp. We made sure everything was locked up tight for the night before trying to get some sleep. We both woke up around midnight because the wind was blowing so hard we thought the tent was going to blow away. It was a scary night for Pat but she did manage to get a little sleep. She was up on Saturday morning at 6:00. I woke up to the smell of coffee brewing on the camp stove. Pat cooked bacon and eggs and we also had some of her good homemade muscadine jelly with the biscuits.

After breakfast we started getting ready for our trip through the woods to a creek that was shown to cut a possible formation containing corundum, which I had transfered the location from a 100 year old geology map to a current topo map. The road to the creek was a pretty good hike, being about a half mile from camp. Not too much vegetation or fallen trees to climb over and many of the trees were in full color.

Once we reached a small runoff and crossed over things began to change a bit. There had been trees cut and a forest fire a few year back and this caused the mountain to be thick with underbrush. We headed into the underbrush and it got worse the farther we went. Pat can tell you she has been through places no other woman would dream of going through. The brush was so thick we had to stop every few minutes to take a break. In many places you couldn't stand up and walk, you either had to "duck walk" or crawl! The picture below was taken with Pat sitting on the ground, I had moved about 30 feet away to try and find a better route. I was wearing an orange hat which you barely see in the center of the picture!

We located the small creek that was running down the side of the mountain, which we checked over for about an hour. The wind was blowing in gust at over 50 miles an hour while we were there and it was getting cooler as the day went on. We decided to return to camp, looking for the "mother lode" would have to wait for better weather and less leaf cover. Not much to show in the way of corundum, but I would bet the formation didn't have just one piece of pink!?

Pat was happy to get back to the road where we started in. Finally we arrived back to camp. We set around and talked and drank coffee for about an hour before Pat started supper. On Saturday night she cooked chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and biscuits. It was my birthday supper and I couldn't have asked for a better meal. The wind had blown the whole day and it was really cool on Saturday night. We called it an early day and decided to get some rest because we were going to get up early to break camp and head for Chunky Gal Mountain on Sunday morning. Pat fell asleep really fast after what we had went through a few hours earlier. It was getting around 9:30 and I woke up to headlights shining into the van. I grabbed the .44 and told Pat to wake up that someone was outside. It really scared her. I saw a person with a flashlight coming near the van, I thought maybe it was a game warden, so I rolled down the window to see who it was. It wasn't a game warden, it was a forest ranger..."Mr. Greenjeans" himself! LOL! I guess he was told that we had been camping over the 15 day limit by a hunter that planned to use this camping spot during the following week's hunt, because he asked when did we arrive. After telling him we were rockhounds looking for corundum, he named other known sites in the area and after some small talk, he left.

On Sunday we woke to a cool morning with the temperature near freezing. We ate breakfast before daylight and started breaking camp at first light. We left the Cowee Mountains around 8:30 and arrived on Chunky Gal an hour later. The temperature seemed even colder, but we were over a thousand feet higher! The walk was a fresh one, a turn to look back at the van with the sun just coming over the tops, before making our right turn to head even higher to the "Yellow Site".

The old run-off looked as pristine as it had during our last visit, which was nearly two years ago. It appeared that no one had been there during our absence.

We had set a time limit at 1:30 that afternoon, so we wasted no time looking for the yellow #9!
I found a small piece that still had feldspar on the edges, and was hoping to find the source further up the creek.

We had been to this location many times in the past, always finding corundum, but never the vein. I knew, one or more would cross the wash at right angle with the border between the dunite and the gneiss running parallel to the run-off. The storms that had been in the mountains a few weeks earlier had removed some of the cover that was hiding a vein, which we found at 12:45!
At 1:30 we had to leave. I was sad and at the same time happy to have found a vein containing the yellow stuff! I'm sure others cross because of the slight difference in the corundum that we've found before.
It was a hell'va birthday! I had never dug 15-20 pounds of corundum ore in 45 minutes!
That would be hard to top in an alluvial deposit!
The picture below shows some of the ore we found. It was only washed off in the creek and hasn't been cleaned. The yellow corundum has a coating of altered feldspar which makes finding the corundum much harder since the clay is yellow also....but clay doesn't "flash" like corundum, which is the bright spots in the picture!