The last of the day’s light brushes trees lining Tatham Gap Road near Robbinsville, North Carolina. I spent hours on Tatham Gap, a remote dirt passage through the mountains. The history of this place is heavy and in the air. Tatham Gap runs alongside the wagon route North Carolina troops built in 1838 to forcibly remove Cherokee people from their homelands in the Great Smoky Mountains. An estimated 17,000 Cherokee were made to walk nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) to Oklahoma in an event known as the Trail of Tears. Tatham Gap passes over Snowbird Mountain, which has an elevation of 3,800 feet (1,158 meters). In crossing Snowbird, the Cherokee prisoners climbed the highest point along the Trail of Tears.