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Our Next Outing... On July 20 we'll leave the church parking lot at 8:30 to revisit Jack's River Falls in the Cohutta Wilderness. This is one of the more beautiful areas in this part of the country, so it'll be nice to see how different it might be in the summer from what it was like when we hiked there in February. The road should be open all the way to the parking lot, so it'll also be a mile or so shorter than our February hike. It also means I'll be able to use a lot of text from February's newsletter.
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 long 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.
Be sure to bring a lunch or snack, and plenty of water.
Preparation As mentioned in last month's newsletter, drinking plenty of water is very important while hiking, especially in the summer. I thought I'd spend a little time discussing water bottles and water treatment this month.
There are many different ways to carry water, and for an occasional day hike, just about any non-breakable, sealable container you've got around the house will do. You can simple fill it with water and throw it into your day pack with your lunch and rain gear. Old 32- or 64-ounce soft drink bottles work for this.
Another good type of bottle many people already have are those used by bicyclists which have the pop-up nozzle through which you can drink, and then easily reseal. These are designed to be used with one hand, which makes them nice if you're trying to get a drink while walking on the trail with your hiking stick in your hand, or while hanging onto a tree to keep you from sliding down a steep mountainside. Many fanny packs come with holsters for these bottles, which can make them very convenient to carry. You can also buy the holsters (usually including the bottle) to attach to your belt in case you've already got a day pack.
I have two complaints about the bicyclist-style bottles. First is volume - they normally hold 20 ounces of water, although you can get larger ones which will hold 26 ounces. The second is ease of access to the bottle: If you don't have one of the holsters (which I don't), you've got to get into your pack to get the bottle.
The bottle I use is a 32 ounce (it'll hold 34 ounces) "Nalgene Trail Bottle." This bottle has a large "mouth" and a screw-on cap which is tethered to the bottle with a plastic retainer (you can buy them without the retainer - I don't recommend it.) You can get holsters for these bottles with which you can attach them to your belt or your pack strap, but I use carabiners to fasten them to my pack strap. The carabiners are invaluable around camp on backpacking trips, and can prove useful in many other situations, so I like having them along.
Water weighs a lot. If you're going to be going to an area where water is available in a lake or stream, you can reduce your load by "treating" the water on trail, rather than carrying all you'll drink. I don't recommend that you drink untreated water, even in wilderness areas. There are a number of natural ways for water to cause illness to those of us who are "citified", and you might just be getting your water downstream from a human campsite, and many humans' sanitation habits leave something to be desired.
The least expensive and least complicated way to treat water is with iodine tablets. The usual dosage is one tablet per quart of water, and the water is normally ready to drink in about 10 minutes. Be sure to follow the instructions included with the tablets. The disadvantages to iodine treatment is that there is some flavoring of the water by the iodine, and some people are allergic to iodine. There are ways to deal with the flavoring (Kool-aid is one), but iodine isn't an option for those with that allergy.
For people who are going to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, a water filter is a good option. Good filters have gotten less expensive lately, and a serviceable filter can be purchased for around $50. Water filters pump the water through an element which will remove most "critters" which will cause humans problems. Some of these remove things as small as .2 microns, most of the other quality filters are have .5 micron filter elements. The smaller size gets pretty much everything that could harm a human with the exception of viruses, and those are usually not a problem in USA waterways. The larger size will get all the more common problem-causers, but some also add a little iodine to the water to ensure that everything is killed. The smaller the pore-size the more cleaning the filter will need.
I normally carry a water filter with us on our hikes. If you run short of water, come see me. Don't do without water.
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.
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: 07/20/96, 08/17/96, 09/21/96, 10/19/96, 11/16/96, and 12/21/96.