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    Default Cohutta Expedition in 24 Days

    I was lucky to be able to hump a 24 day food load into the Big Frog/Cohutta wilderness of TN and Georgia and pull an expedition trip in the truest sense of the word---long, uninterrupted, no resupply, all over the map---cold and hot and wet and dry---and even had some 10 mile days with a 90+lb pack (like Days 4 and 8 and 11 and 16).

    Here's the trip report of my latest swaray into the backcountry---which could also be called The Three Rivers Trip as I connected Ocoee River to Jacks River to Conasauga River---and back again.

    To see all trip pics go here---

    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...ta-Expedition/

    COHUTTA
    EXPEDITION
    IN
    24 DAYS

    TRIP 197
    April 22 to May 15, 2019

    HIGHLIGHTS
    **45 CREEK CROSSINGS
    **14 BACKPACKERS SEEN
    **FIRST BACKPACKERS FAMILY OF THREE
    **JACKS RIVER CROSSING AFTER A 10 MILE DAY
    **20 CROSSINGS OF THE CONASAUGA RIVER
    **GOD'S ANUS 9 MILE DAY ON HICKORY CREEK AND EAST COWPEN AND HICKORY RIDGE
    **DEANNA AND VAN ON JACKS RIVER
    **BMT THRUHIKERS FIDDLEHEAD AND ROOT BOY ON BIG FROG MT
    **3 DAYS IN A DELUGE ON FROG MT
    **57 HOUR CONSECUTIVE RAINSTORM
    **TRAIL HOBO JACOB ON WEST FORK 303 TRAIL


    TRAILS
    Entrance Thunder Rock on Ocoee River
    BMT South
    **West Fork Rough Creek**
    West Fork 303 Trail Up
    Rough Creek 70 Going West Up
    Big Frog Trail 64 Up
    **Low Gap**
    Grassy Gap Trail Southwest
    **Bear Pen Gap**
    Wolf Ridge Trail Up
    Chestnut Mt Down
    FS 62 Roadwalk West
    Beech Bottom Trail to Jacks River
    Jacks River Trail One Crossing Upstream
    **Rough Ridge Creek Camp**(2)
    Rough Ridge Trail Up
    **Crooked Dogwood Gap**
    Rough Ridge Up to Cowpen Jct
    **Cowpen Mt**
    East Cowpen Trail South to 3 Forks Mt
    FS 64 Roadwalk Southwest to Betty Gap
    Conasauga River Trail Down 18 Crossings
    **Connie/Panther Camp**
    Conasauga River Downstream
    **Crossing 19 Camp**
    Connie River Backtrack to Bray Field
    Hickory Creek Trail Up
    **South Fork Hickory Creek Camp**
    Hickory Creek Up
    East Cowpen Up Southeast
    Hickory Ridge Trail Down Crossing Jacks River
    Beech Bottom Trail Up
    **Beech Creek Secret Camp**
    Beech Bottom Backtrack to Jacks River
    Jacks River Trail Upstream 2 Crossings
    **Jacks/Penitentiary Camp**(2)
    Penitentiary Trail Up
    **Rockwall Gap Camp**
    Hemp Top Trail North
    **Top of Frog Mt**
    Wolf Ridge Down to Pace Gap
    FS 221 Roadwalk Northeast
    Big Creek Trail Up
    **Peter Camp Creek**
    Big Creek Up to Bark Legging Gap
    Grassy Gap Trail Northeast
    **Low Gap**
    Big Frog Trail Up
    **Tongue of the Frog**(4)
    Big Frog Trail Down
    Fork Ridge Trail 69 Down
    Rough Creek 70 Down
    **West Fork Crossing 3 Camp**
    West Fork Trail Down
    **West Fork Camp**
    BMT North to Thunder Rock and OUT


    My backpacking trip begins in Tennessee in Thunder Rock campground on the Benton MacKaye trail as it passes next to mighty Ocoee River for several hundred feet before climbing hard on 8 switchbacks out of the river valley.


    After a 5 mile hump with a 90-95 lb pack I reach my first day's destination next to the West Fork of Rough Creek in the Big Frog wilderness---and I'm still on the BMT. My tent of choice is a Hilleberg Keron 3---and for me it's the perfect solo backpacking tent---even at 8 lbs 10 ozs.


    I leave West Fork Camp on Day 2 and get off the BMT and hump up Rough Creek trail #70 west to jct the Big Frog trail and head to Low Gap. On Day 3 I take the Grassy Gap trail (still in the Big Frog) to Bear Pen Gap and along the way take a break to look at my map. All trips start with and sometimes end with a map.


    This is Bear Pen Gap on Wolf Ridge trail and the place Grassy Gap trail ends (on the left) to intersect Wolf Ridge. If you follow Wolf Ridge up behind the pack you'll eventually reach Big Frog Mt at 4,240 feet. I climb Wolf Ridge up a half mile and veer off the ridge on the Chestnut Mt trail.


    Day 4 is a big 10 mile day as I leave Wolf Ridge and take the 2 mile Chestnut Mt trail down to Big Frog FS road 62 and roadwalk about 2.5 miles to Beech Bottom trailhead and find this wonderful sign and could not agree more---keep your whining noisy toys out!! I'm now out of the Frog and into the Cohut!!


    The first backpackers I see are on the Beech Bottom trail and it's a guy named Joe with his two daughters. They are heading out of the wilderness while I'm going in and will soon cross Jacks River to the Rough Ridge trailhead.


    Beech Bottom trail drops me to Jacks River in 4 miles and then I cross to the Rough Ridge trail side and begin my Nut journey up the steep trail called Rough Ridge. After most of the tough climbs I reach a favorite campsite in Crooked Dogwood Camp which has a creek flowing thru it. Home sweet home.

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    As I'm squatting in Crooked Dogwood Gap Camp I explore around a bit and find Rednecks have been busy scarring up the area with their idiocy. Welcome to Georgia.


    I finish the 7 mile long Rough Ridge trail and reach Cowpen Mt at 4,100 feet and cook up a dinner of spaghetti with brown rice and some wild violets to augment the meal. All my dinners are home dried using a 10 tray TSM dehydrator.


    Day 8 is a big day of backsackpackaging as I leave Cowpen Mt and reach Three Forks Mt and roadwalk about 3 miles on FS 64 down to Betty Gap and the start of the Conasauga River trail---the goal of reaching the Connie is done!! My pack of choice is a big Dan McHale loadhauler at about 8,000 cubic inches.


    Day 8 is another long 9 to 10 mile day as I backpack all 18 crossings of the Connie and stop here at crossing 12 to take a break. I usually use just one hiking pole on my trips but this time I brought a second pole to help in all the creek crossings I knew I'd be doing. Crossing a creek with a 80-90 lb pack is always a challenge so a second pole really helps.


    The Conasauga River trail is in terrible shape in places and this is proof. My 18 crossing descent of the trail therefore becomes a Hell Slog but I make it down to Bray Field and camp.


    After I spend a couple days playing on the Connie it's time to cross the river and head up the Hickory Creek trail (the western part of the trail). It's a long trail full of hundreds of blowdowns which makes life difficult for Uncle Fungus, urine's truly.


    Day 11 becomes the hardest day of my trip as I finish Hickory Creek up to East Cowpen and climb East Cowpen 3 miles---it's a tough climb---and junction Hickory Ridge trail which really sucks because it's hot and full of thousands of blowdowns and I run out of water midway down the 3.6 mile trail. This pic is on Cowpen and shows Cowpen Mt on the top left.

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    Hickory Ridge finally dumps me out on Jacks River and I cross it once and climb up to Beech Creek and camp for the night. (Hickory Ridge is a parallel sister trail to Rough Ridge). On Day 12 I leave Beech Creek Camp and come back to the Jacks and cross here by hiking down this rock obstacle and fording the river. This crossing puts me back on the Ridge Ridge side and one more Jacks crossing puts me on the Penitentiary Branch trail side.


    I set up camp on Jacks River by the Penitentiary trail jct and get hit by a big rainstorm which causes Jacks River to get higher than usual. As I'm squatting in camp I look up-river and see these two boys trying to cross and get on the Penitentiary side to exit up to Hemp Top and loop back to Dally Gap. Crossing this kind of water with a big pack is a real challenge.


    While camping on Jacks River I'm joined by these two backpackers named Deanna and Van. After the big rainstorm we all head up the Penitentiary trail to get out of the high water valley.


    My time on the Jacks comes to an end as I hump up the Penitentiary trail and set up camp right on the Hemp Top trail---and I'm once again back on the Benton MacKaye trail.


    Penitentiary trail pops me out in Rockwall Gap and so the next day I take the Hemp Top trail north to Double Spring Gap and pull a very tough Nut hump up to Big Frog Mt and stop at Elderberry Spring which is the water source for the mountain top. The hump up from Double Spring Gap is 1,000 feet in one mile---a scrotal destroyer.


    Day 16 is another big 9-10 mile day as I leave Big Frog Mt and take the Wolf Ridge trail all the way down to Pace Gap and roadwalk FS 221 several miles to Big Creek trailhead and go up about a mile to this campsite next to Peter Camp Creek. It's another awesome spot.


    A pleasant night falls on Peter Camp Creek and it's time to burn some trash.

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    I leave Peter Creek and climb Big Creek to Grassy Gap trail and turn left to Low Gap and climb Big Frog trail #64 all the way up to Big Frog Mt and set up north of the mountain top on the Frog's Tongue. The next day I do a water run to Elderberry Spring and get about 10 lbs of water for a couple zero days on the Tongue. My McHale pack lid makes a great shoulder bag-daypack to haul all my water and Hiker filter.


    While squatting on the Frog's Tongue during a long nasty rainstorm I roast up some Ramps---roots---which I found on the Wolf Ridge part of my trek. Good eating.


    As I'm squatting on the Tongue of the Frog I run into my first BMT thruhikers and they are Root Boy and Fiddllehead. They are headed down to the West Fork of Rough Creek and where I was on Day 1. Just after they left the thunderstorms hit and produced buckets of rain swamped the area creeks. I stayed put in Hunker Mode and even spending Day 20 fasting all day from food.


    After the storm leaves the area (and the temps fall to 40F)---I book it off the Tongue and reach Rough Creek and spend my last couple nights next to the West Fork of the creek.


    As I'm coming down the West Fork/BMT trail I run into this guy with his 50 lb pack who is planning on staying out for two weeks and hoping to connect the BMT south to the Pinhoti trail into Alabama. His name I think is Jacob aka Bam Bam and he's a real "Trail Dog"---someone who stays out all the time. He told me he brings a D-cell battery tent fan which is neat.


    I finish my trip back to Thunder Rock campground and find the weirdest sight---two car campers enjoying nature . . . with their smartphones.


    And so my trip ends where it started---at Thunder Rock campground. I dump my gear and wait for my shuttle ride out. End O Trip.

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    Nice trip Tipi. Have walked most of those trails in the past 2 trips. Lots of familiar sights. Only thing I don't like are all the roads through the area.
    Will be in the Citico/Slickrock area first week of July. Going to be hot, nasty, buggy and muggy.
    Might see ya out there if your romancing the Stone (Slickrock).
    *
    Likely coming in at Beech to South Fork, up Brush, down North Fork, Up Pine Ridge and points East..All subject to change secondary to weather?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasputen View Post
    Nice trip Tipi. Have walked most of those trails in the past 2 trips. Lots of familiar sights. Only thing I don't like are all the roads through the area.
    Will be in the Citico/Slickrock area first week of July. Going to be hot, nasty, buggy and muggy.
    Might see ya out there if your romancing the Stone (Slickrock).
    *
    Likely coming in at Beech to South Fork, up Brush, down North Fork, Up Pine Ridge and points East..All subject to change secondary to weather?
    July in the Citico/Slick will be hot and nasty with numerous Pit Vipers. Say hello to Jimmy and Johnny and Billy for me. Your route sounds spectacular especially going up Brush Mt and using Trail 149 to connect to the North Fork. Ample fun will be had by all etc etc.

    By "points East" I'm assuming you'll try to reach Slickrock Creek and maybe go up the Nutbuster trail??? That will put you in Naked Ground Gap and an easy hike back out to Beech Gap. But you first have to do the Nutbuster trail. If you do so you may be authorized to add an Asterisk to your Ranger tab . . . or a V device . . . standing for Vacuity---the profound emptiness you will find in your brain after such an attempt.

    Maybe we'll meet up as I have something planned for June spilling over into July.

  7. #7
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I always enjoy the pictures and trip reports. And I still marvel at your ability to carry heavy backpacks. Whew, 90 pounds! I'd probably be seeing a Chiropractor for the rest of my life if I tried that.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  8. #8

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    No pit-vipers??

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    I always enjoy the pictures and trip reports. And I still marvel at your ability to carry heavy backpacks. Whew, 90 pounds! I'd probably be seeing a Chiropractor for the rest of my life if I tried that.
    My max mileage with such weight is between 5 to 8 or 9 miles. And of course by Day 22 of a trip I'm at your usual "weekender's" backpack weight---in my case it's about 30 lbs---so I'm basically carrying 60 "extra" lbs of food and white gas fuel and books to burn etc.

    Humping such weight gets harder the older I get, of course. Maybe in my 70s I'll have to rethink things.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by blue indian View Post
    No pit-vipers??
    Nope though it's hard to believe. The only snake I saw was a ring neck on the Jacks River trail. But I never got the furnace temps we're having now across the Southeast. Pit vipers love 95F in the Southeast forests . . . so my June/July trip should be worrisome as I try to avoid envenomation. The best advice I have is to Keep My Eyeballs Open and My Butt Cheeks Clenched. Amen.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    By "points East" I'm assuming you'll try to reach Slickrock Creek and maybe go up the Nutbuster trail??? That will put you in Naked Ground Gap and an easy hike back out to Beech Gap. But you first have to do the Nutbuster trail.
    Saving the best for last.. Down it twice but never up. Going to suck and no stream to swim in afterward...

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    Sounds like a really good trip. Cohutta is great in the summertime due to the availability of water...and being able to get in the water. I'm giving a shout-out to Team Conasauga for all the work they've done with trail maintenance over the years. http://www.teamconasauga.org/volunteerinfo.asp I know they had a real tough time clearing the Jacks River Falls and the trails in that area. Zipper

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    Registered User moytoy's Avatar
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    I have not been on this forum in awhile. I'm glad to see your still humpin it Tipi.
    KK4VKZ -SOTA-SUMMITS ON THE AIR-
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    90-pound pack?!? Now that there are no phone booths, where do you change into your Superman outfit?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasputen View Post
    Saving the best for last.. Down it twice but never up. Going to suck and no stream to swim in afterward...
    The Nutbuster trail has traditionally been my favorite area trail but in the last 8 to 10 years it has suffered terribly from the Hemlock tree dieoff. In March I just pulled my 46th backpack up the thing and so I know it very well---and try my best to keep it open with my trail tools. There's one section in the middle that I call the Open Cove leg that has been destroyed by falling hemlocks which my puny trail tools can't touch. This one small section has over 20 big tree blowdowns to fight through. See them all here---in consecutive order from low to high---

    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...Pack/i-C82CVGs

    Scroll thru these and click to the right to see them all. Now you know what you're up against. (And just past Open Cove comes the steepest part of the whole trail---VERY STEEP. It's not called The Hardest Trail in the Southeast without reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zipper265 View Post
    Sounds like a really good trip. Cohutta is great in the summertime due to the availability of water...and being able to get in the water. I'm giving a shout-out to Team Conasauga for all the work they've done with trail maintenance over the years. http://www.teamconasauga.org/volunteerinfo.asp I know they had a real tough time clearing the Jacks River Falls and the trails in that area. Zipper
    I was thinking about Team Conasauga on my trip---and actually cursing them while battling down the Conasauga River trail (blowdown city), the Hickory Creek trail (blowdown avenue), and the Hickory Ridge trail (blowdown hell zone).

    Quote Originally Posted by moytoy View Post
    I have not been on this forum in awhile. I'm glad to see your still humpin it Tipi.
    Still pumping nylon although I'm slowing down some. Like to pull long trips though. Cleans out the mental cobwebs and let's me sleep with my erotic mistress Miss Nature.

    Quote Originally Posted by skater View Post
    90-pound pack?!? Now that there are no phone booths, where do you change into your Superman outfit?
    I'm definitely no Superman---just someone who likes living outdoors. I'm more of a pencil-neck, limp wrist, weak-kneed whining and bitter Misanthrope. Plus, I've been humping heavy rucks since 1980 so I'm used to it---and it's all just a mental game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    The Nutbuster trail has traditionally been my favorite area trail but in the last 8 to 10 years it has suffered terribly from the Hemlock tree dieoff. In March I just pulled my 46th backpack up the thing and so I know it very well---and try my best to keep it open with my trail tools. There's one section in the middle that I call the Open Cove leg that has been destroyed by falling hemlocks which my puny trail tools can't touch. This one small section has over 20 big tree blowdowns to fight through. See them all here---in consecutive order from low to high---
    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...Pack/i-C82CVGs

    Scroll thru these and click to the right to see them all. Now you know what you're up against. (And just past Open Cove comes the steepest part of the whole trail---VERY STEEP. It's not called The Hardest Trail in the Southeast without reason.
    Wow, I'd almost forgotten how tough wilderness area trails were compared to the AT. Those pictures reminded me of a few weekend trips I did in Linville Gorge prior to starting the AT. Definitely slow going, even with only a 40 lb. pack. No signs either, so bring a map and study it beforehand.

    You planning to make it to trip #200 this year?
    It's all good in the woods.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zipper265 View Post
    I'm giving a shout-out to Team Conasauga for all the work they've done with trail maintenance over the years. ... I know they had a real tough time clearing the Jacks River Falls and the trails in that area. Zipper
    On Sunday, we had to battle through about 2 to 3 dozen tangled blow-downs about a mile downstream from Jack's River Falls. Still, I join praises for trail maintainers.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Wow, I'd almost forgotten how tough wilderness area trails were compared to the AT. Those pictures reminded me of a few weekend trips I did in Linville Gorge prior to starting the AT. Definitely slow going, even with only a 40 lb. pack. No signs either, so bring a map and study it beforehand.

    You planning to make it to trip #200 this year?
    God willing and the creeks don't rise I hope to achieve Trip 200 sometime in Sept/Oct . . . But first come a few trips in the Hell Furnace of June/July and August.



    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    On Sunday, we had to battle through about 2 to 3 dozen tangled blow-downs about a mile downstream from Jack's River Falls. Still, I join praises for trail maintainers.
    Cohutta was recently closed after a big tornado--like storm swept down Beech Bottom to the Falls and it took them many weeks to open it up. (Not to be confused with the big 2016 Rough Ridge Fire which closed the Wilderness too).

    Jacks River Falls is the main tourist attraction in the Cohutta and so of course the maintainers put top priority on getting the trail to the Falls open. A mile below the Falls?? Not such a high priority. And as mentioned---there are several trails in the Cohut which are terrible.

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    Very cool!
    "Whoever said nothing is impossible has never tried to nail jelly to a tree." John Candy

  20. #20

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    Looks like a sweet trip. Was Bam Bam hiking shoe less? I heard it was a thing.

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