Back in October, the School Schedule Gods gifted us with a glorious and much needed Fall Break. It didn’t come a minute too soon and was very much appreciated. Too often school breaks do not coincide with an empty space on Mr. Dirty’s work calendar; however, on this particular weekend, the planet’s were aligned and a little fun was in order!!
Mr. Dirty has done quite a bit of reading on the hiking trails buried deep in the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness of North Georgia (at over 40,000 acres, the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi) and was eager to explore the area. This area is literally laced with trails – 13 trails for 87 miles of butt-kicking hikes – we had plenty of options. After looking over maps and our schedule, Mr. Dirty chose the 15.5 mile Cohutta Mountain Loop Trail.
The Cohutta Mountain Loop Trail is comprised of three trails: Hickory Ridge Trail, Jacks River Trail, and Rough Ridge Trail. If you want specifics on how many miles we spent on each trail, I’m sure Mr. Dirty has them available. On most of the websites I have seen, all three trails are described as “moderately difficult to strenuous.” Yup. I think that’s what they say when what they really want to say is, “it’s a real butt kicker.” (I think I have a new rating system: 4 out of 4 butts kicked on this trail).
On Friday evening, we made it in to Ellijay where we ate overly hyped barbeque and stayed in the skeeviest hotel room in the state of Georgia. Literally. We used duct tape to cover the hole that was once a peep hole in the door. It was the weekend of the Apple Festival so we were fortunate to have the room, even if we were too freaked out to take a shower in that bathroom!!
Saturday dawned bright and crisp… it was unbelievably cold! The parking lot at the trailhead was completely full, thanks to the pop-up camper that took up three parking spaces, camp chairs taking up a space, and the trailer full of ATVs in another. Apparently, we were in someone’s private campground rather than a US Forest Service parking lot (snarky sarcasm)! As we were passing the “campground” for the trail, the happy campers let us know that they weren’t your average campers…. they were bear hunters! Not only were they bear hunters, but they were bear hunters who left an angry, injured bear in the woods that they had yet to find. Awesome. I suddenly became worried that the “Aue de Waffle House” scent I was sporting could double as bear bait. I’m almost positive a southern black bear could tear up some “Smothered, Covered, Diced, and Capped” hashbrowns. Positive.
Fortunately, we were never attacked by an angry, hashbrown-craving bear. I’m sure that soothes your troubled minds 😉 Unfortunately, the attack came in a much smaller, much angrier package: yellow jackets!
I don’t know what it is about the Dirties, but those stinking things love us!! (This past summer, the mister and I wound up with over 20 stings a piece when he disturbed a nest. Thanks, Hon!). This time, it was the boy and me running for our lives. Who knew you could run with a 25 pound pack down the side of a mountain?!
There are several opportunities *read: you gotta do it* to cross the Jacks River – which I am sure is frigid on a nice summer day. Our river crossings were pretty stinking cold! Dirty Boy, being Dirty Boy, had a minor mishap that involved a gigantic bolder, his foot, and water. Needless to say, we took an extra long break on the opposite shore.
And THAT is when the most curious thing happened!! Out of absolutely no where (ok, somewhere on the trail) came a virtual stampede of riders on horseback! Literally, at least a dozen horses and three dogs came beebopping along the trail. It was the most unexpected, bizarre thing I’ve seen on the trail in quite some time. (Unfortunately, these horses did significant damage to the trail in the way of collapsing the trail for several yards in some places).
On our second day, Mr. Dirty took Dirty Boy and Hiking Ninja to the waterfalls. By their account and the pictures they brought back, it was stunning.
ANYHOW. After they returned from the falls, we started out in an attempt to make it to the campsite at Crooked Dogwood Gap. It. Was. All. Up. Hill. Yeah. Remember I said it was a real butt kicker?! We hiked until dark and still didn’t find the elusive campsite! Seeing as we were all hammocking – with the exception of the Dirty Boy who was in an OR bug bivy, we set up camp on the side of the trail in the middle of nowhere. We were THAT desperate for rest.
As I set up my hammock in a growth of briars and poison ivy, all I could think about was snakes. I didn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. I was positive they were hanging out with the Waffle House bear just waiting to eat me. I think I did a decent job of keeping my fears well hidden – even when I had to go deeper into the dark woods to poop. I just knew I was going to get jumped!
As I’m sure you’ve surmised, mainly because I’m able to write this today, neither bear nor snake had me for dinner while I was pooping or sleeping in my taffeta cocoon. Surprisingly, I had the best night of my life…. which could be due to exhaustion. In the morning, we hiked about a quarter of a mile (during which I saw an honest to God rattlesnake. Good thing that was AFTER I slept) only to find THE campsite. And it was glorious. Huge water supply, private poop corner, lots of poison-ivy-free trees. We found it when it was too late to enjoy it. But we still found it!!
Four out of four butts were kicked, but four out of four butts had a great time!!