Day Two: 10.5
Day Three: 10.1
Day Four: 13.3
Day Five: 5.6
Total 48.1 Miles
We had a Smoky Mountain section of the AT planned when the government decided that we needed to go elsewhere. Lora had talked about doing some more of the Jack's river trail so we got us up a five day hike in the Cohutta Wilderness Area.
We started at the Jack's River trailhead off Sheeds Creek Peavine Road. There is a sign at the trailhead stating that bear have been going in tents and taking backpacks. We hiked the 8.6 miles of it to Rough Ridge Trail. We had 23 fords of the Jack's River under our belt the first day. We did get to see Jack's River Falls which is always nice. We had alot of people on the trail Saturday. One group had been out a couple of days said that there were a lot of Copperheads which we never saw any.
The last crossing of Jack's River before Rough Creek was the deepest, but it was not over our heads as it was the last time we hiked through here. We just got going on Rough Ridge when we found an empty campsite for the night.
We got up and started the climb after breakfast. It is a good climb for the first half of Rough Ridge. We never did find the trailhead for Sugar Cove which we came up last time. We hiked the 7 miles to East Cowpen and headed to Panther Creek. During this 2 mile section we saw our last people who had day hiked in from Service Road 64.
Panther Creek is a very steep trail. I would rate it difficult no matter which way you did it. I hit the ground once just for practice. We went down 1.5 miles to a good camping area to spend the night. They were calling for rain that night so we put the cover on the tent. It was our only night we used the cover and it poured down hard all night long.
We were just up from the top of Panther Creek Falls when we camped so that was our first sight of the day. It is a pretty falls at 75-85 feet tall. It is quite the boulder hop down to the base and not may markings to follow. We continued the 1.9 miles down to the Conasauga River for another ford. The Conasuga River trail and Hickory Creek trail run together for about a .5 mile along the river. We forded the Conasuga again then followed the Hickory Creek trail to the end. Another 5.7 miles.
We walked to the trailhead parking area on SR51 to find the trailhead for Rice Camp Creek. We hiked another 2 miles to find a campsite on the saddle with a creek. When we started up the fire, a small lizard ran from under one of the rocks right into the fire. We thought he was a goner then he ran out the other side. I know he got hot. Another beautiful night around the campfire.
We finished Rice Camp Creek with another 1.9 miles down to Jack's River. Another ford and a 1.8 mile hike past the waterfall to Hickory Ridge Trail and another ford. The 3.5 mile Hickory Ridge trail is a good climb with rolling hills. The last section is a little steep climbing back up to East Cowpen. There would be a lot of good winter views.
We took East Cowpen 2.7 miles back down to SR51. This is pretty much just old roadbed going down the whole way. Once on SR51 we had a 2.5 mile road walk to Horseshoe Bend Trail. We stopped and filled our water at one of the many water crossings. Once on Horseshoe Bend we hiked 0.9 miles to the second creek crossing at a small campsite along side the creek.
We got up and hiked the other 2 miles of Horseshoe Bend. There is one section where it splits and you have to look uphill to see the trail sign. The views off this trail are overgrown but you can see a long ways. The last part of this trail goes straight down to Jack's River and I mean straight down. The trail sign is far enough off the Jack's river trail that it would be hard to see if you were trying to find it. Then we hiked the 3.6 miles and nine river fords back to the car.
We saw a lot of bear sign, but no bear. We did startle something on Rough Ridge which could of been a bear, but we never got a look at it. A guy with long gray hair and in camouflage met us at the car. We didn't know what to expect, but he was a bear hunter and season opens tomorrow. He had lots of stories to tell, but we had to go get us a greasy burger for lunch.