|Today was one of those long, warm, and beautiful summer days that was meant to be spent in the mountains |
hiking. Bright and early, my friend Lizz and I headed out for North Georgia to go hike in the Cohutta
Wilderness. I had been telling Lizz about the flag that I had put up on Cowpen Mountain and that I
probably needed to go back and check on it when she said, "Let's do it -- I'd love to see it."
Since Lizz is an avid outdoor runner and loves to hike, I knew she was dead serious.
We went the long way to get to the trail head -- up past Blue Ridge, then west on old GA Highway 2 to Watson's
Gap (all dirt and gravel roads by now), then south along the Eastern border of the Cohutta Wilderness to the
parking lot at Three Forks Mountain where the East Cowpen Trail starts.
The drive along old GA 2 as it winds it way along the ridges of mountains is fantastic. It probably looks exactly
he same as it did 60, 70 years ago when people rode along this bouncing, rutted, old dirt and gravel road on
their way between Blue Ridge, GA and Cisco, GA and then westward on towards Ringgold, GA.
After parking at the trail head, we started our hike up East Cowpen Trail. This trail used to be old GA 2 and
for a while after this area was classified as the Cohutta Wilderness Area in 1975, it was the only road that
allowed motorized vehicles in a wilderness area in the United States. After a huge campaign by various groups,
the State of Georgia officially closed the road and let nature take her course in reclaiming her land. When you
hike here now you can basically tell that you are on an old road bed, but with soil erosion, growth of trees,
shrubs, and weeds closing in on the middle, you soon forget about being on what was once a very
busy thoroughfare through the mountains.
Today, Lizz and I were greeted with a flush of greenery -- everything was green and lush looking all along the
trail as we hiked towards the summit of the East Cowpen Trail where the trail to Cowpen Mountain starts. We
saw lots of beautiful wildflowers along the way and were just blown away by how green everything was.
This was the first time I had ever tried this hike in warm weather months and didn't realize how high the
underbrush could get. When we reached the turn off point where you have to literally bushwhack your way back
along the gently rising land to the summit of Cowpen Mountain, we quickly realized that there was NO WAY we
were going to attempt that. We would have been walking through almost waist/chest high weeds, shrubs, and
BRIERS and most importantly, not been able to see the ground. The danger of this was of course, not being
able to see local residents like copperhead and rattlesnakes that do not like to be trampled on.
We made our way back down East Cowpen Trail and once back in the truck, we headed south along Forest
Service Road 64 -- stopping along the way at Mountaintown Overlook before we finally headed westward
towards Lake Conasauga -- the highest lake (3,150 feet in elevation above sea level) in the state of Georgia.
After exploring around this beautiful lake near Grassy Mountain on the western border of the Cohutta
Wilderness for a while, we backtracked to where Forest Service Rd 64 heads down the mountain and we
started our journey home. Before we reached civilization, we stopped of at Potato Patch Mountain Overlook
(could see Fort Mountain State park miles away across the wide valley below us) and then
we stopped at the Barnes Creek Picnic Area.
This is a beautiful place -- complete with a fantastic waterfall. How much water is cascading down the rocks is
totally dependent on how much rain the wilderness has received lately. Anyway, after a short visit, we loaded up
and headed down to GA Highway 52, then on to Ellijay and home.
It was a great day and hike but I was disappointed that we did not get to check on the flag. Oh well, I guess it
was OK -- it provided another good reason to come back again in the future.