|It had been a long time since I had visited Jacks River Falls and I was getting the "I need to hike there again" |
bug real bad. I happened to mention this recently to a friend of mine who immediately said she'd love to try that
-- that she was just thinking about taking up hiking again. Things like this happen (I think I will start hiking) when
you have an active, sports crazy, 8 year old son egging you on... :-)
Anyway I picked up my friend Sharon and her son Ryan early in the morning because it takes over 2 and a half
hours to get to the trail head from my house. After grabbing a few bacon, egg, and biscuits, and other breakfast
goodies from our local McDonald's, we hit the highway (I-75 North), then north on US 411 on up past Chatsworth
and headed for Cisco, GA -- a small town (size of a football field) on US 411 that is not to far from where
US 411 crosses over into Tennessee.
Soon we had reached Cisco, turned off US 411 and was following old GA 2 towards the Tennessee state line.
After about 3 miles, we were off the paved road and onto familiar (to me, anyway) dirt and gravel Forest
Service roads common in the Chattahoochee and Cherokee National Forest areas of Georgia and Tennessee.
We crossed over Jacks River on the new bridge built right there at the state line and headed north on Peavine
Sneed Creek Road for about one mile until we reached Forest Service Road 62 (Big Frog Road). This road runs
basically parallel (east-west) to the Tenn/Ga State line. We now only had about three more miles of dirt and
gravel roads and heavy white dust to go. Note: By the time we got back on paved roads 7 hours later, my shinny
black Suburban was a rolling monument to clingy, dirty, whitish, cream colored dust.
I had to beg the man at the 3 dollar car wash to let me go through it... :-)
Anyway -- finally, after having bounced along for about 15 miles on gravel roads, we reached the parking lot for
the Beech Bottoms Trail that works its way for 4 miles south from Tennessee back into Georgia (after a 1/4 of
mile) and on down to Jacks River and the falls in the Cohutta Wilderness.
Ever since we had sited some large hairy creature (wood chuck?) running across the road and hiding on a tree
right by the edge of the road about a half mile back, Ryan was ready to go hiking after we parked in an already
full parking lot (it was only about 10:30 in the morning).
Soon we were all geared up, my SPOT (Satellite Personal Tracking device) was blinking away (sending location
position messages ever 10 minutes to my SPOT Tracking Web Page that Deanna and others can access), our
hiking sticks were in hand, and we were finally headed for Jacks River Falls.
The weather was perfect and the hike down went smoothly. This was the first long hike that Sharon and Ryan had
been on so we were purposefully going slow and taking our time. The trail is the remains of an old railroad bed
that was in place in the early 1900s when all of this area was extensively logged. Walking along here this morning
and seeing all the huge trees all around us, it was hard to image that 80 years ago, just about all of the land
around us had been "clear cut" of all trees.
It was fun watching Ryan experience the wilderness first hand. We heard lots of birds as we hiked and saw lots
of different plants and trees. I enjoyed showing him the small wild flowers like Trillium, or what Poison Ivy
looked like, or small Blueberry Bushes, and then the huge and towering Eastern Hemlock trees and the smooth
barked Birch Trees. We saw several patches of flowering Mountain Laurel
and the early white blooms on the Blackberry canes.
We also noticed a lot of downed trees (lots of storms and high winds this past winter and spring). Some were
huge and had fallen over the trail. Thankfully, the Forest Rangers had cut them away so that the trail was free
and clear. After about 2 hours, we reached Beech Bottoms and had to carefully make our way over the wide (but
shallow) Beech Creek. While I jumped from rock to rock to make it across, Sharon and Ryan took their tennis
shoes off and waded across. Ryan thought this was "cool."
After we crossed over, we started out on the trail that follows along in one of the many "dry creek beds" that
are spread all out through the "bottoms area." In bad weather, Beech Creek overflows its shallow banks and
spreads out over the many dry creek beds -- all of which make their way towards Jacks River about a 3/10s of
mile away. I was looking for my secret short cut to the falls but after seeing how high Beech Creek was running
(secret trail crosses it two times again) and they had already just made one "take your shoes off crossing,"
I decided we would take the regular trail down to the river, and once there, pick up Jacks River Trail
and then follow it alongside the river on down to the falls.
45 minutes later, we passed the closed campground (Rangers are letting this area "recoup" from heavy usage)
near the falls where the secret trail comes out. The way we had just hiked was about 1.3 miles in length and the
secret trail way is only abut 3/10s of a mile. We all agreed that on the way back, creek crossings or not,
we were going back that way. :-)
We could hear the falls long before we ever saw them. Finally, after three long hours, we reached the falls.
What can I say -- they are (were) absolutely beautiful -- thunderous sounds of rushing clean and cascading
torrents of white, bubbling, raging waters, and pools of clear, cold waters
at the bottom of the multitude of drop offs.
I think that is what makes these falls so beautiful -- they are not the standard falls where water drops off
(over) a single rock ledge to a pool below. These falls are like a gigantic sets of rock hewn, jagged steps that
provide for a continuous dropping, cascading, churning, boiling froth of white water that
almost mesmerizes you when you stand close to them.
We made our way to the flat rocks along side the middle part of the falls area and were greeted by others who
had already reached the falls and were kicked back, munching on food that they had brought and were just
soaking up all the magnificent scenery that surrounded all of us. Ryan and Sharon were both amazed and pleased
with the "reward" -- the falls -- at the end of our 4 mile hike.
We joined in with the others, kicked back, and enjoyed the show like everyone else.