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Our Next Outing... On August 17 we'll leave the church parking lot at 8:30 for our last visit to the Cohutta Wilderness this year. We'll travel the lower section of the Conasauga River Trail.. This trail joins the Conasauga River after about a mile of walking through the forest, and then criss-crosses the river many times before we'll leave on the Hickory Creek Trail.
The first section of trail has some moderately steep sections, but they'll fortunately be downhill as we walk along old logging roads and paths to get down to the river.
The river part of the trail will be mostly level except for the crossings themselves, as this section primarily follows an old logging railroad bed from the 1920's and 1930's. The only other time I've hiked this section of trail there were logs across the river for some of the crossings, but many of those logs will have been swept away during subsequent high water. We may be able to rock-hop some of the crossings, but I'm sure there will be several crossings where we'll get wet. I definitely recommend shorts, and you might want to wear some shoes that you won't mind getting wet - unless you want to remove your shoes for each crossing.
The Conasauga River Trail joins the Hickory Creek Trail about a mile from the southwestern end of the Hickory Creek Trail. This trail was an old wagon road which was used to bring supplies to the logging camp at Bray's Field, about a mile up the unified Hickory Creek and Conasauga River trails, where the two trails then go their separate ways. We'll head, however, away from Bray's Field on Hickory Creek Trail for our westward climb out of the river basin. While this climb isn't real steep, it's roughly a mile that is almost entirely uphill. Coming at the end of a 9-mile hike, it'll feel steeper than it really is.
Since we'll be exiting at a different location from our entrance, someone will be taking the vehicles to the Hickory Creek parking area after dropping the Conasauga River group off at the trailhead. Anyone who wants a shorter hike can enter on Hickory Creek trail and hike as much of that trail as they want. The walk to Bray's field is a total of about 3 miles, so an out-and-back hike to that location would be a 6-mile hike. In addition, the location at the junction of the Hickory Creek and Conasauga River trails is about a mile from the Hickory Creek parking area, and has some nice areas to sit (I've spent most of one day sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, reading) while waiting for the crew coming up the river.
Since this is one of our longer hikes, and the trail head is about an hour and a half drive from the church, don't count on returning before 6 or 7 PM.
Be sure to bring a lunch or snack, and plenty of water.
I usually carry a compass when I hike, and a topographical map of the area if I have one. I always carry these when I backpack. This usually isn't to avoid getting lost, although that's a good reason to carry them, and I do carry them for that reason if I'm going to be in an unfamiliar area. These tools can add a lot of enjoyment to a hike or backpacking trip, even if you're not an expert with them (I'm not.)
A topographical map (topo) can be a great asset in planning a hike; an essential tool for planning a backpacking trip. Once you've become familiar with these maps, you can get a good feel for the lay of the land simply by looking at the map. Knowing the elevation change between starting and ending points is good information, but just as important is knowing the topography between those points. For example, the trailhead may be at 1,000 feet, and your destination may be at 800 feet, a change of 200 feet over the course of the hike. This would be a minor change in elevation for a hike of several miles, but that topographical map might tell you that during the course of your hike you've got to cross a 4,000 foot peak. That would make for a very different hike indeed!
A compass can keep you headed in the right direction, but most of the time you'll be on well-marked trails, so why would you need a compass? How many times have you gotten off of the freeway on a trip to gas up, only to turn the wrong way trying to get back to the freeway. It's easy to get disoriented in unfamiliar areas. A quick check of the compass might tell you whether or not you're headed in the right direction (is that North I-75 or South I-75 I want?)
I find it enjoyable to know what noteworthy peaks I'm seeing as I hike (especially in winter, when you can see through the forest - no leaves.) With a topo and a compass, you should be able to make either a certain identification or at least a good guess as to what mountain that might be. Get the direction of the mountain from your compass, and look on the map in that direction from your hike area. With a detailed enough topo, the shape of the peak might also be a hint as to the name of the mountain.
On our day hikes, a compass and map are probably not necessary (although I feel more comfortable with them), but they add interest to the day.
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.
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: 08/17/96, 09/21/96, 10/19/96, 11/16/96, and 12/21/96.