An Excellent Day in the Cohutta Wilderness  LbNA # 18942 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateOct 19 2005
LocationEllijay, GA
Found By Eidolon
Last Found Apr 1 2006
Hike Distance?

This is a nice afternoon drive in the N. Georgia mountains and is brought to you by Nagivator, the person who suggested the Coleman River area (An Excellent Adventure series). He claims to be a non-boxer but he sure does have a lot of suggestions for placement! Placing all six boxes took us about 6 hours.

All of the gravel roads are in good shape and Lil’ Honda had no worries this time; we didn’t lose any car parts. A forest service map of the area would be a good thing to have. Neither Verizon nor T-mobile phones had service.

The area that is now the Cohutta Wilderness was owned, railroaded and intensively logged by private timber companies up until the 1920’s. The US government bought these lands and began restoration and stewardship work to protect the watersheds and bring back a healthy forest. Wildfires were controlled, tress were planted and managed, trout were stocked and visitor access was provided for enjoying the land and streams. In 1975 Congress passed legislation adding the Cohutta Wilderness to the National Wilderness Preservation System. At 36,977 acres, Cohutta is the largest National Forest Wilderness in the southeast; Big Frog Wilderness, 7993 acres, adjoins the area to the north. (This information is from the Cohutta Wilderness web site.)

FOR THE PERSON WHO IS FIRST FINDER – I didn’t know exactly where we were going when we started out, so only the first box has a first finder prize. Please email me off list for the others so that I can send you the Sparky tags for the other five boxes.

Start out in downtown Ellijay and head out on Hwy 52 West. Look for Gates Chapel Rd and turn right. Continue on Gates Chapel until the pavement ends. Go right on FS 68 which is also called Wilderness Trail. Continue on this road until you reach a stop sign and turn right, still on FS 68. The Barnes Creek picnic area will be on the right. This is a nice little cascade with a vertical drop of about 20 feet. There is a small parking and picnic area.

SEE ATLASQUEST FOR CLUE UPDATE - CLUE – After parking in the lot, play in the creek. This is what Sparky always does. When you’re finished, walk up the path to the observation deck. Just before the platform is a little cave. Kneel in the cave and look up and to the left. Handyman is behind a rock. Handyman was carved by the SCMillers and has been adopted by Judith and Sparky.

Back in the car and turn right onto FS 68 out of the parking lot, continuing north. At the intersection of FS 64 and FS 68 turn left, staying on FS 68. Follow the signs to the Lake Conasauga picnic area. Nagivator calls this the Jewel of the Cohutta and it is a really pretty lake for fishing, swimming or boating.

CLUE – Walk to the lake from the parking area and take the path around the lake to the left. Past the bridge and on the lake side of the path will be a bench. Spot the knarly stump close to the bench. Celtic Lizard is on the back side of the stump.

From the parking area, turn left on FS 68, back the way you came. When you reach the intersection of FS 68 and FS 17, turn left onto FS 17. Drive for about 25 – 30 minutes on FS 17, depending on how fast you like to drive on a gravel road and how many wild turkeys, deer and raccoons you meet on the way. At the next intersection, keep on FS 17 and follow the signs to Murray’s Lake. This is a nice little lake and would be great for canoes or kayaks. Park at the boat ramp if you can or park in the parking area and walk to the boat ramp.

THIS ONE IS MISSING - CLUE – From the boat ramp, turn left and walk on the path around the lake. Look for a large white woodpecker tree. (If you get to a foot bridge, you’ve gone too far.) At the base of the woodpecker tree is a fallen tree. Celtic Dragon is under this log.

On to the Jack’s River trailhead. From Murray’s lake, continue on FS17 and then turn right onto FS16. You will cross the Conasagua river and then Jack’s river. The trailhead will be on the right just after the second bridge. You will see a sign that says you’re at the state line of Tennessee and Georgia. This is also the junction of FS 16 and FS 221.

Start walking the Jack’s River trail. This trail is 8 miles long, crosses the river 40 times and leads to Jack’s River Falls. But, geez, we’re not going that far. This time. It used to be a very pretty walk but Hurricane Ivan in 2004 really tore the place up. There are huge trees and snags in the river. It amazes me at the amount of water it took to push these trees down and carry them in the river. I doubt that the Forest Service will clean the area, they will just let nature take its course.

CLUE – Walk down the trail for about 20 minutes. There are some great swimming places here, where the river is deep and fairly slow. You will come to a part of the trail that is washed out and you will have to scramble over the rocks at the river’s edge for about 100’ or so. After you are back on the trail, watch for a fire ring and a rock cliff about 15’ high. This is a primo skinny dipping pool! Try it out! But watch out for the dogs. Sparky jumped in and had to be fished out by his collar. Standing to the left of the fire ring with your back to the river and facing the rock cliff, there is a ledge that a 5’6” person can reach. Campfire is on that ledge, behind some rocks.

Now we’re going out of the Cohutta for a while and then back in to get to Holly Creek. Go back on FS 16 to the intersection of FS 16 and FS17. Stay on FS 16 and follow the signs to Hwy 411 in Cisco. Turn left onto Hwy 411, towards Crandall. Turn left onto Summerhour Church Rd. This is the Ga. Scenic By-Way. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right onto Crandall-Ellijay Rd. Continue to the end of Crandall-Ellijay and turn left onto CCC Camp Rd (FS 18). Continue to the end of the pavement, pass the first parking area and go to the parking area at the Holly Creek trail head. This a great little creek with lots of nice wading places. You would think by now Sparky would be water-logged but this was his favorite swimming place and it took a while to get him out of the creek.

CLUE – Walk up the trail for about 10 – 15 minutes until it seems to end. It really just crosses the creek and you can go further if you want. With your back to the sign prohibiting fun beverages, take 7 steps forward. Look in the rocks at ground level and maybe behind a Fanta can. Fishing can be found here.

Turn left out of the Holly Creek parking area. Go right at the fork, onto Mulberry Gap Rd. At the end of Mulberry Gap Rd, turn left onto Shakerag Rd. (In about ˝ mile, take a good look around. This is where Nagivator found Sparky as a sick little pup, sitting on the side of the road. I’m glad Nagivator decided to drive down that road on that day.) Where the gravel ends, the road becomes Gates Chapel. Look to the left for the Bear Creek parking area. You will have to ford a small creek to get to the parking area.

From the parking area, walk along the creek to the right for about 10 minutes. You will pass camping spots and fire rings. Look for a tree that has fallen across the creek and into a group of three trees. It’s noticeable because the tree didn’t break when it fell but bent upwards. Another tree has fallen across the path. Step over the tree and follow it back to where a small tree crosses it. Hiking is under the juncture of the two trees.

That finishes the loop and an excellent day in the Cohutta. Just follow Gates Chapel road back to Hwy 52 and back to Ellijay.