CPC Hikers

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February 1996

Our Purpose...

Anyone who has been attending Covenant Presbyterian Church for any length of time knows that our only purpose is to glorify God. A couple Sundays ago, Pastor Caines read from Psalms 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (NIV)." God's creation reflects His glory. In his epistle to the Romans (1:20), Paul says "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (NIV)." We can better serve to glorify God - our purpose in life - if we learn more about his nature. I believe that through sharing outdoor experiences with one another - where we can see "the work of his hands" largely as God designed and with little modification by man - we can learn more about God's eternal power and divine nature.


I've never tried to put something like this together before, so I'm looking for input from those of you who've expressed an interest in doing a some hiking, camping, and/or backpacking on a regular basis. So far we've got 13 individuals or families who have not only expressed an interest, but have really seemed excited about it. If interested spouses and offspring are included, by my count we'll have 37 people participating! And I'd really like to get some of our youth involved, even if their parents aren't able to participate.

I've got some ideas of my own about what I envision us doing. I'd like to see us doing a hike once each month, heading to some more exotic or extended locations than the trails that can be walked locally in an easy morning or afternoon. Generally, we could leave the church about 8 or 8:30 on Saturday morning, drive an hour or so to the trailhead, hike between 5 and 10 miles, with a lunch stop along the way. This should put us back at the church usually around 6-6:30 PM.

Further, I anticipate some fairly strenuous hikes from time to time. I like the challenge, and find that most things which are more difficult to achieve also provide greater satisfaction. But I think it's also important for parents and their kids to enjoy these activities together, so we certainly need to reach some compromises, to accommodate as many people as we can. While I'm willing (reluctantly) to dictate where, when, and how we go hiking, I would certainly prefer for those decisions to be a group process. I'd like to see at least a core group meet regularly to plan our activities and to educate each other.

To get things started, I'd like to gather some information from each of you. Hopefully we'll get answers to questions like "Do we want to meet together to plan our outings?", "What types of hikes do we want to be taking?" , "How often will you be with us?" To that end, I've enclosed a survey, which I'd like to get back from you ASAP (Sunday would be good.)

Our First Outing...

To get us started (before we meet to plan future outings), let's plan a hike to Jack's River Falls on Saturday, February 17. Jack's River runs through the rugged Cohutta Wilderness in Fannin county of north Georgia. The falls is the most popular place to visit, partly because of its scenic qualities, but also because the trail we'll take - Beech Bottom Trail - is one of the easiest trails in the wilderness area.

A word about "wilderness." Congress, through the 1964 Wilderness Act, authorized that some public lands be designated as "wilderness areas." This legislation defines wilderness as an area "which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable." The Forestry Service manages US wilderness areas with the goal to protect and preserve the wilderness character, and provide for public use. If there is a conflict between public use and the preservation, preservation takes precedence.

What this means to us is that no mechanized forms of travel are allowed in wilderness areas, primitive facilities may be developed only to the extent that they help preserve the wilderness (none are present in the Cohutta Wilderness), and trails are developed and maintained only to primitive levels. No timber harvesting will take place, no structures will be built, no plants or stones may be removed. You won't find bathrooms, trash cans, and water fountains along the trails.

Cohutta's Beech Bottom Trail is 3.5 miles from the parking area to Beech Bottom, just above the falls on Jack's River. It follows an old road bed, so the grades are not particularly steep, though there are some long uphill hauls. There are a couple of creek crossings, but with some careful stepping you should be able to keep your feet dry - assuming those stepping stones are still in place in Beech Creek.

The trail arrives at the top of the falls from Beech Bottom. As this is a wilderness area, there is no railing to keep one safe from a misstep. This is not a problem unless you (or your children) tend to leap before you look. Use a little cautious judgment here.


You should be in reasonably good physical condition before going on a wilderness hike. If you're wondering if you can walk seven or eight miles, I'd suggest you start walking some shorter distances now to see how you feel.

Hiking, like any hobby, can get as expensive as you like. As with most activities, nice equipment can make it more enjoyable, but I don't recommend mortgaging the house just yet. (Although Rock Creek does have a nice pair of Vasque Sundowner boots for only $170.)

Let's talk about winter outfitting, starting from the top: You'll want a hat that will help warm your head, but still breathe. A wool/polyester blend toboggan fits the bill nicely for me. Think of rain protection as well. A rain hat works, but I've seen (and used!) umbrellas on the trail.

Layering clothes are the key to comfort. I like three layers typically while hiking, with perhaps a fourth layer to put on while at rest. The bottom layer is typically a light or mid-weight thermal material, the second and third layers add warmth (and pockets!), and the fourth layer provides wind and rain protection. You can add and remove layers as you travel to adjust to temperature and exertion levels. Zippered top layers allows easy ventilation.

I typically will have one to two and a half layers of pants. Depending on conditions, I'll either have a pair of comfortable pants with rain pants for rain or wind protection, or thermal "long johns" with a pair of comfortable shorts over them (looks funny, but feels good!), with the rain pants available for weather protection.

A few words about fabrics: While cotton is a wonderfully comfortable fabric, and the knitted cottons can provide good thermal protection while dry, in cold weather wet cotton can be a killer! The thermal underwear I've referred to previously are man-made fabrics. Polypropylene, Thermax, Thermastat, and Capilene are fabrics that come to mind. These fabrics "wick" moisture away from the skin, while cotton absorbs sweat and rain, and holds that moisture against the skin. When the water cools off, it starts absorbing heat from the body. Water the same temperature as air will absorb heat from the body 20 times faster than air.

Wool will provide thermal protection while wet, but it doesn't wick the moisture away like the man-made fabrics, so is less comfortable. I have a wool sweater that travels with me frequently.

I recommend two pair of socks - a pair of very thin "liner" socks worn under a pair of thick hiking socks.

A pair of good walking shoes will probably do initially. I do not recommend thin-soled shoes - these are not paved trails. Water-proof boots become important if you're going to do a lot of hiking on wet trails, but I hesitate to recommend going out and buying boots costing from $90-200 unless you're sure about your commitment. Reasonable hiking boots/shoes can be purchased for under $50 (Hi-Tec brand comes to mind), and offer an intermediate step.

I mentioned rain gear earlier. This is useful not only as rain protection, but as wind protection for some of those cold, windy days. You can spend a lot of money on rain gear, so I recommend you consider your purchase well before buying. If you're not going to be in rain, a light jacket will usually do. Many people carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.

Don't forget gloves.

You (or at least one person in your realm of responsibility) should plan on carrying a day-pack of some sort (book bag?) in which to carry your lunch(es) and all those extra clothes I've talked about above. Lip balm is handy to have, as well as a trowel and toilet paper (see me if you need an explanation.) If you're worried about your kids wandering off, it's a good idea to equip them with a whistle. Teach them not to use it except when lost. You'll also need something in which to carry drinking water.

The Fine Print...

If several folks are willing (based on your answers to the survey), I'd like to meet to lay out a longer-term strategy for our "club" (never being a "joiner", I shudder a little at calling us a "club".) Please return your survey to me at church, or mail it to me at:

Gerry Williamson

[Address deleted]

If you've got any questions, please feel free to call [phone # deleted]