One of Georgia’s most unusual mountains, Pine Mountain is where you wouldn’t expect a mountain to be — 80 miles southwest of Atlanta in Middle Georgia, near where the rolling piedmont region meets up with the flat, sandy coastal plain.
The 1,395-foot-high peak is the southernmost mountain in the eastern U.S. But it’s perhaps best known for being the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park near Warm Springs. Drawn by the mountain’s great beauty and serenity, the late president often found solace there during World War II.
Pine Mountain also draws legions of botanists and geologists, who marvel over its amazing biological diversity and geology. Because of its location, the mountain is a geographical crossroads. Its variety of habitats — dry ridge tops, moist valleys, savannah-like openings, springs, perennial streams, small glades — support a mixture of mountain and coastal plain plants, and both piedmont and coastal plain animals.
The ridge tops harbor stands of longleaf pine, which gives the mountain its name. On a slope stands a small grove of American chestnuts, a remnant of the great chestnut forest that once covered the Eastern seaboard.
“On Pine Mountain, you have mountain laurel right next to titi (a shrub of the coastal plain),” said Leslie Edwards, a geosciences professor at Georgia State University. “That’s amazing.”
She is a co-editor of “Natural Communities of Georgia,” a detailed guide to Georgia’s natural environments. She recently teamed up with geologist Bill Witherspoon for a talk and a hike to explain Pine Mountain’s natural richness. I jumped at the chance to go.
Witherspoon, who teaches at Fernbank Science Center, is a co-author of the book “Roadside Geology of Georgia.” Pine Mountain, he noted, was formed mainly from Hollis quartzite, an extremely hard metamorphic rock formed when sandstone was laid down on the ocean bottom and was altered by immense heat and pressure beginning around 250 million years ago.
In the sky: The moon, now in new phase, will be a thin crescent low in the west just after dark Saturday evening, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Venus rises out of the east about two hours before dawn. Mars is in the south at sunset. Jupiter is low in the west at dusk and sets in the west about an hour later. Jupiter will appear near the moon just after dark Saturday night. Saturn is in the east at dusk.