She slept in this morning, (it was a little foggy) but she is usually up long before I am. Every morning she greets me and in the evening she signs off promising to see me again in the morning. Throughout each day we smile at each other just because we can.
Her face is turned slightly away from my view so that it looks like she is peeking over her shoulder like a demure child. Right now she is wearing a velvety green cape. Just her granite face is uncovered but pretty soon her cape will change with the fall colors. Then it will seem as though she has a brightly colored patchwork quilt pulled up to her neck.
Her name is Yonah – that means “Bear” in Cherokee – and she is 3,166 feet tall.
By now you should have figured out that Yonah is a mountain – the signature mountain for these parts. She is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and sits between the hamlets of Cleveland and Helen, GA. Even though Yonah is part of a range of mountains she is definitely the queen of her domain. Out my window she stands to my north – a true north.
She does her part for her country, too. She allows Army Rangers and others to train in repelling on her rock face. And she serves as a sentinel and a compass for the people of White County. I’ve heard it said, “If you live in White County and can’t see Yonah, you need to move”.
Yonah’s history is dotted with folklore but there is one legend that I think is mostly true. It’s a love story – not so unique but charming nonetheless.
A beautiful Cherokee princess named Nacoochee fell in love with a Choctaw warrior named Sautee. The elders of the Cherokee tribe forbade their love, but in true Romeo and Juliet style, the two lovers eloped. Before they could fully escape, the elders captured Sautee and threw him off Mt. Yonah. When Nacoochee witnessed her lover’s fate, she threw herself off the mountain as well. Some versions of the story include a little more drama. They add that the two young Native Americans briefly survived the fall, crawled toward each other, and died in a final embrace.
The town of Sautee Nacoochee, GA (supposedly named for the lovers) is just a few miles from here and there is an Indian mound complete with gazebo-like shrine near the town. Some want to believe that the two star-crossed lovers are buried there but there’s no evidence to prove it.
Only Yonah knows the truth and she probably has many more secrets that she’ll never reveal. She is a lady after all.
Psalm 65:5-7 You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.