Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cohutta Wilderness

It's spring break and time for some unconventional training.  The kids and wife are out of school so on Sunday we headed up to the Cohutta Wilderness for a backpacking trip.  We packed up our gear, kids, and dog and started the drive to North Georgia.  We are familiar with the Cohutta's and eventually picked the Conasauga River trail to Panther Creek to East Cowpen, one of the best backpacking loops in the south in my opinion.  Normal training would take a back seat to some quality time with the family, complete with river fords, mountain climbs, and thunder storms.  (Although I did pack a pair of running shorts, thinking I would sneak away.)
The Great Conasauga River
The Conasauga River is one of the clearest, most beautiful in Georgia.  We planned to get as far down the trail as the kids would allow us.  It was 4.9 miles to the Panther creek trail and a total of 18 fords!  The kids, Olive (2) and Tully (5), cruised through the hike and Allison and I cleared the fords with T (our 12-year old boxer) in tow, across the river.  Some fords were pretty sketchy and upper thigh deep but they were all accounted for.
Ford #17 with T and Tully
We  camped that night at the trail junction then headed up Panther Creek beside cascades and to the top of the 70 ft falls.  Another 2 miles and 1,000 feet elevation and we made it to our next site.
Tully scrambling up the trail beside Panther Creek Falls

Panther Creek Falls
Olive at Top of Falls

We chilled the rest of the day and about ten minutes after turning into the tent for the night the real fun awesome storm rolled in.  The tent was lit up, the dog was shaking, and the ground was moving the ground.  Allison was scared but the kids slept through the entire thing.  We woke up to low 30 degree wet weather and started the strenuous 4.7 mile hike out.  The East Cowpen Trail was pretty magical since we crested the highest point in the Georgia portion of the Cohutta Wilderness (4,100' Cowpen Mountain) and the trees were frosted white.  The trail is actually old an old highway that was closed in 1975 after the area was designated wilderness area, but you would never know it except that it is pretty wide for a trail.

On the descent, I left the family, dropped my pack at the trailhead, and got my only run in 3 miles down the gravel road to fetch the car. 

We left the woods and headed straight for the closest Blue Ridge restaurant for some hot food and cold beer.  While there, we heard folks talking about power outages and barns being blown away (our servers roof ended up 300 yards away from were it should have been) and realized we had survived a major storm.  We were all pretty beat when we got back to the Goat's Beard, but mentally refreshed.

1 comment:

  1. Other than the storm (even that seemed exciting, though) looks like a great hike! Nice shots of the falls! Brought back some great memories.