112 forum posts
I always admired how deep the north Georgia woods appeared on maps and travels through the area, especially from the TN/GA line down to beautiful Dahlonega (means "yellow" [as in "gold"] in Cherokee). So I determined to get to see the Cohutta Wilderness by way of the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT), driving up from the Mississippi Coast area where I live.
I got onto the trail where it enters the Cohutta just west of Blue Ridge, GA, starting at a branch of the Jacks River.
BMT followed an old logging road, basically upward, along ridgetops all the way to the Tennessee border, leading to southeastern foot of Big Frog Mountain. The map suggested there would be a next water supply (about 5 miles) in a brief valley in the trail right at the border--took me two liters just to get there even with the electrolyte drops. Beautiful trail and great shade from thick hardwood canopy almost the whole route which kept the heat a bit more reasonable; some merciful breezes on the ridge tops. Not much in the way of panoramic views along here in summer though.
There was very little trouble with bugs, and the trail seldom came off the ridgetops. I didn't notice any sign of water sources, no sidetrails, just walking with the hope of that water source the map suggested would be at the border. Water was going fast in the July heat.
Thanks to the interactive map site a Trailspace member (Ocalla, thanks man!) provided in a post some time ago (http://postholer.com/), I had already realized that the BMT would continue its upward (likely dry) path toward Big Frog after crossing into TN.
I got to the border--a happy sight to see an established campground area (there were none before it). Put that pack down!
But a quick search of the area did not find water, only a few "damp" places my kidneys had no patience for. So, I made the decision to make the trip back down the next day rather than take the chance of dehydrating in the July furnace trying to get to Big Frog. I had a nice breakfast in that beautiful place the next day and headed back to a couple of alternative plans I usually prepare for when I drive that far. Beautiful area and well-kept trail. I recommend taking it from north to south in summer, though, and get picked up at the bottom of the Cohutta Wilderness.
Near the end, on the way back to the car, I saw a fresh Forest Service sign warning of recent auto-theft breakins at the trailhead (southern end), so be awares.
This is BMT entry into the east side of the Cohutta, on FS road 22-2 ("Tumbling Creek Road") that also runs north to Big Frog Wilderness.
Not wanting to attempt passing through Atlanta before dark on a weekday, I went to the Ocoee Campground area near where the 1996 Olympics were held, made coffee and soaked my feet in what was a low water version of that usually energetic whitewater championship location.
There are several trails that are nicely maintained in conjunction with that Ocoee camping area, good place for parents and kids to play in the water (no redneck behavior that I saw here, maybe because you have to pay to get in). I pulled up a table and cooked what should have been a backwoods meal (dehydrated vegetables and a powdered soup). You can see some of the long line of international flags along highway 74 (middle, far left) from the Olympics event that was held here. This location is just a few miles north of the Big Frog Wilderness area as the crow flies. Left at dark and...
...after getting through Atlanta, I rode southwest (not even 50 miles) to the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park to spend the last couple of days car-camping and walking sections of their trails (the Pine Mountain Trail there circumnavigates the park) through a thick and mature hardwood forest.
There was a lightning storm that came up that day while I was out there, so I took this picture of two trees that had just been struck on that hill (then made a hasty retreat).
This Pine Mountain Trail winds down past Dowdell's Knob where President Franklin Roosevelt often went to contemplate when visiting the area, so I stopped to enjoy the history, and...
...an older couple came up while I was taking pictures--natives of the area--and said FDR used to actually sit on the "knobby" edge itself (in spite of his leg braces) to feel the updraft from the valley below, but the lifesize statue of him was placed back about a hundred feet showing him sitting under a tree on the car seat the secret service guys would take out of the car for him--pre-Thermarest days, no doubt.
The president had his staff build a stone grill (now filled in with cement), the only alteration he made to the otherwise still natural site (except for the purple graffiti on some of the boulders).
On the way out of the park (largest in Georgia) I caught a picture of an old Civilian Conservation Corps building (1930s) they now use as park headquarters
and their larger than life-size statue celebrating the CCC workers of those days
Then, a parting pic of the "Liberty Bell" pool which is fed by the hot spring which Roosevelt often and especially came to this area for, actually getting some relief from his polio condition, locals say.
So there IS a little bit of Appalachia south of Atlanta, and the washout of one's main plan doesn't have to mean the end of the trip.
Here I am cooking up my last dehydrated meal at a rest area (under a really old Scotch Pine that made the spot special as a last stop) somewhere near Montgomery, AL, before returning to the chaos.
Hope you enjoyed my pieced-together trip, and Happy Trails to you!