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Our Next Outing... On June 15 we'll stay a little closer to home than we have been, leaving the church at 8:30 to walk in Bowater's North Chickamauga Creek Pocket Wilderness, which is one of several "pocket wildernesses" that Bowater maintains in Tennessee (and at least one other state, Alabama, I think.)
The wilderness areas we've been in so far - Gee Creek, Cohutta, and Big Frog - are part of national forests and are designated as wilderness areas by Act of Congress. The North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness is owned by Bowater, a paper company. I don't know if their intent is to sooth their conscience, make some public relations points, or if they're genuinely concerned about maintaining an ecological balance in some sensitive watersheds (probably some of all three), but whatever the reason, it results in some delightful areas to visit. This holds true for the "North Chick."
I had heard about the North Chickamauga Creek Pocket Wilderness first from some of my paddling buddies. Apparently North Chickamauga Creek was where "creek paddling" - kayakers paddling a steep, uncontrolled creek after a rain - originated, or at least was popularized. This form of kayaking would be categorized among the "extreme" sports, along with sky surfing and extreme skiing. Unlike most whitewater rivers, which usually have rapids separated by relatively flat water, allowing for a chance for rest, steep creeks usually have nearly constant white water when they are running high enough to paddle.
Our trail starts near North Chickamauga Creek at the end of the parking lot for the picnic area. This location will give you an idea of what a wilderness area in close proximity to too many people can be like - especially around the end of the school year when much celebration is going on. Fortunately, most of the people who use the area for partying don't want to carry their party supplies far from the car, and as the trail heads up away from the creek, the beer cans and other trash diminishes, and soon you can get a true wilderness experience.
The trail joins an old road bed which is wide and mostly level for quite a distance. There is one quite steep climb of about 100 yards, and in many places the trail is quite rocky, but otherwise this is a fairly easy hike. After almost 2 miles the trail reaches the base of the bluff, and for most of the rest of the hike, about another mile, it follows along the bottom of this massive rock bluff, climbing up and down piles of dirt, presumably run-off from the top.
This hike will be a total of between 5 and 6 miles. Since the parking area is around 30 minutes from the church, if you want to make a short trip of it, you can bring your own car and walk as far as you want, returning earlier than the main group. There is a return trail about a mile into the hike which would make for a pleasant 2-mile loop; a coal mine is about 2 miles from the parking lot, and the trail ends after following the bluff for about another mile.
The trails are mostly open, with little overgrowth. There are some sections where there is significant poison ivy, growth, but this can be avoided easily simply by watching for the plant.
Be sure to bring a lunch or snack, and plenty of water.
Preparation While I'm by no means an expert on summer hiking (nearly all of my hiking/backpacking has been done in the winter), now that we're into June, I thought I'd pass on a few things anyway.
Drinking plenty of water is the most important thing. The heat of summer causes significant increases in sweating (or is that perspiration?) over hiking in the cooler months. Dehydration can increase the likelihood of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, a very dangerous affliction. I recommend that you carry at least a quart of water on our hikes; more would be better. I drank two quarts on our walk up Big Frog Mountain, and that wasn't really hot weather. I will usually have a water filter in my pack so we can refill bottles if there is a water supply at hand, but in some cases (Big Frog, for instance), there may not be a handy water supply.
In many cases the trail we'll be on will be shaded most of the time, but you should still plan for some sort of sun protection. A small tube of sunscreen doesn't add much weight to your pack, and can sure come in handy if you discover much of the trail has you in the sun. A brimmed hat can also provide sun protection for the face and ears, but may also increase heat build up. You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not the sun protection is worth the heat build-up.
Insects can be a real hassle in the summer. Gnats, flies, and other biting insects can be a real nuisance, but more insidious are the ticks and chiggers. As the plant growth begins to crowd many of the more open trails in the summer, these crawling, biting insects can get onto your body off of these plants. You need to be especially aware of this on your hikes, and inspect each other for ticks when you make rest stops. It's probably also a good idea to use an insect repellent during the summer hikes. If you don't have a regular brand that you use, try a small amount before time to check to see if you might be allergic to the repellent. Long pants can also help avoid problems with insects.
Poison ivy frequently crowds trails during the warmer months. Once again, long pants can help, but you should also become familiar with what this plant looks like, and watch for it as you hike - avoiding contact is the best way to avoid getting a bad case of poison ivy.
The Fine Print...
We're collecting $2 per seat, maximum of $5 per family for those riding in the church vans. This will help offset the cost of operating the vans. Last trip we collected $7. We spent $17.00 on gas and cleaning the van, leaving us a balance of $0.
Please feel free to give me any suggestions you might have for hikes, logistics, or content of this newsletter. PLEASE!
Future Hike Dates:
As of now, we're planning on a hike every third Saturday, these dates: 06/15/96, 07/20/96, 08/17/96, 09/21/96, 10/19/96, 11/16/96, and 12/21/96.
Please mail the registration form to the address below, give it to Cindy or Gerry at church on Sunday, June 8, or call us at [phone # deleted] to reserve seating in a van. We'd like you to register even if you won't need transportation so we can keep track of who to expect to accompany us on the trip.