Monday, February 11, 2008

Cohutta Wilderness Camping

It was the last weekend of my trip, and I still hadn't gone camping with my Uncle Jeff. The forecast for the weekend started out too cold, but by Thursday had been revised to a level we could tolerate. We set off to my uncle's favorite hiking/camping area in north Georgia, the Cohutta Wildernss. The Cohutta, as it's called, is one of the only places in Georgia not to be settled and used as farmland, though logging was performed in the early twentieth century. It's as remote as you can get in Georgia, where hawks patrol the skies, and bobcat, cougar, and bear still roam free.

Our destination for the hike was Panther Creek Falls, a multi-tiered falls that drops several hundred feet over boulders and past mature Eastern Hemlocks. Our hike began on Hickory Creek trail, which descended about a 1000ft to the Conasauga River Trail, a leisurely, relatively flat hike. This trail brought us to the Panther Creek Trail, where we had to cross the bone-chilling Conasauga River barefoot. Along Panther Creek we made six crossings of the 12-15 foot wide creek, each a study in rock hopping, bushwhacking, balance, and teamwork. Our reward for not falling in a getting soaked was a strenuous .25 mile boulder field ascent, gaining 500 of the trail's 1000ft elevation gain to the falls in a heart-pounding, test-of-will, one-foot-after-the-other climb. At the top, we caught our breath and took in the view to the west until the wind put a chill in us, and we made for camp.

A warm meal, sunset at the falls, a great fire, a couple of beers and good company wrapped up an incident-free day of hiking, along with a few grumbles about soreness, the oncoming cold and the boulder field descent/nine water crossings awaiting us the next day. We woke to near-freezing temps, got the camp stove going and made some coffee, scarfed down some muffins and broke down our campsite. The hike back was more enjoyable, since we knew what to expect and had more time to make the trek. We took a little extra time to film some of the crossings for your viewing pleasure. All in all, a very enjoyable and challenging trip. Having nearly forty pounds on my back for six miles each way was a new experience, and the boulder climb section really kicked my ass, but it was good to know I can hack it. Somehow, this was the first time I had ever hiked and camped, all other adventures had either been day hikes or car camping up to this point. Huh.

Ready to go?

This is what a Rhododenron in the wild looks like!

Crossing 1 of 9...Hmm, how to stay dry...?

Problem solved! :P

Conasauga stillness...

Panther Creek Trail

The steep ascent to the falls (not my photo)

At the top of Panther Creek Falls

And happy to have made it!!

Nice fire pit, plenty of wood...


Anonymous said...

Great hike David! It defenitaly won't be our last, I have finally made it to youtube thanks to you, great job with the pics. I really enjoyed seeing you, glad you decided on an extended trip.


Uncle Jeff

mike d said...

cool guys, i wish i had been there,

i have hiked all the trails in the cohutta and jeff and i have humped plenty of miles

panthers crk is one of the best

Anonymous said...

whenever you and jeff want to go hiking again, let me know, i have some good spots in mind

mike d - aka camoflauge man