Cohutta Wilderness: Backpacking to Jack’s River Falls

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A Weekend in the Woods

This Memorial Day Weekend, Team Lightning set out for a backpacking adventure in the Cohutta Wilderness of northern Georgia. Braving more than twenty river crossings, and over 13 miles of rocky terrain, our Team Lightning trekkers came out victorious with loads of memories to take home.

Opting to cut out the initial 13 mile hike up and over the Mountain, we instead shuttled from the bottom of the river up to the trailhead high above the falls. Day one was a leisurely hike downstream interspersed with river crossings from knee to thigh deep. Other than a couple small slips and wet socks, it was smooth sailing (hiking) to the campsite. While the usual dehydrated meals were being cooked with stoves, a couple of pre-seasoned steaks really took the campfire to the next level.

Having weathered the rain that fell overnight, Team Lightning proceeded downstream, crossing the river nearly every quarter-mile. By noon we reached the pinnacle of the trek, Jacks River Falls. Before hiking down to the bottom, the team stopped to take in the view and eat lunch at the top, perched on the rocks that overlooked the river below. After refueling, it was a quick climb down to rocks to the riverbed where several of us enjoyed a brisk swim. Some took “jump right in” a little more literally and leaped to the bottom of the falls from a tall rock near the top, about a 25 foot drop.

Having spent a couple hours playing in the falls, the team marched on but quickly was met by a downpour from the skies above. Having ran into some other folks backpacking upstream, the group decided that if the river crossings below the falls were elevated much more it wouldn’t be safe to continue. The crossings ahead that would normally be midriff to chest high had the chance to be up closer to the shoulders on some of the hikers, which would practically require swimming across the river while carrying packs. Instead, Team Lightning braved one more deep crossing to make it to a campsite large enough to accommodate us and set up camp early for the night. Campfire stories and games kept spirits high until the rain subsided and we retired for the night.

An early start to day three began with crossing back over the river, our toughest crossing yet. After backpacking back up to the falls, we took the day-hike trail back out to the midpoint where a truck was wisely left behind in case of excessive rainfall. Having piled into the cab and the bed of the truck, we took the six mile ride down the mountain and finally made it the the trailhead at the bottom. Dry clothes and air conditioning were welcomed by all as we hit the road towards Chattanooga, and the pizza that lay ahead.

A huge thank you to everyone who made this trip so wildly fun. I’ll remember my first Team Lightning experience for a long time.

‘Til the next adventure,

Delaney

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