Backpacking with Beiber.....another wonderful post from Dame Sandi Adams
Backpacking was on Tanner’s summer bucket list, so we planned an overnight midweek trip. I chose the Cohutta Wilderness because it is my absolute favorite Georgia spot to backpack.
Meals were planned, maps consulted, the packs were loaded and off we went. The morning was sunny and warm as the Yaris took the rutted labyrinth of forest service roads like a champ and after what seemed like a hundred miles, we came to the Hickory Creek trail parking area. Not one soul to be seen… I checked the board for bear warning and nothing was posted which was a bit of a relief.
Tanner and I adjusted our packs, locked the car and took off down the trail. The first part of the Hickory Creek Trail was rocky and weathered with evidence of the spring storms and all downhill as it wound its way to the creek. We hear the water before we can see it and soon get glimpses of the creek before our first crossing. Crystal clear, with plenty of water, it keeps us company as we continue down the trail. Soon we hit the intersection of the Conasauga River Trail and Hickory Creek Trail where we turn right and begin looking for the perfect campsite.
Before long we come to the perfect balance of trees for my hammock and a nice flat spot for the tent. The entire length of the site is situated directly on the Conasauga with a combination of deep pools ,little falls, huge boulders and the constant melody of the river. A covering of hemlocks, a nice big fire pit and a makeshift bench make it the unanimous choice. We go about the business of setting up camp, unpacking, gathering wood and having lunch.
After a short rest, we leave our site and head down the trail to explore.. We pass ginormous boulders, falls and swimming holes, a huge beaver dam which has turned into what must be a diverse mass of frogs, toads and Lord knows what else and come to the opening and intersection known as Bray field. (This used to be an old homestead but is now mainly used by backpackers.) We take off our shoes and wade across the Conasuaga River before I realize, we really don’t want to hike the entire Hickory Creek Trail, so we cross again and travel a bit down Tearbritches Trail, rockhopping the creek and wander along this beautiful easy section of the trail.
As the day turned into late afternoon, we head back to camp and take a swim in the cool clear river . We both enjoy some quiet time, then get to the business of preparing for the evening. We break up our wood, filter our water and settle down to cook dinner. Tanner is a great student of the outdoors, watching my every move and made my day when he tells me, “Mom, I can’t believe you know how to do all this stuff!!” After a satisfying, (although bland) meal of beef stroganoff and pudding, it starts to cool off and we get down to business and start the fire. For years, I have watched my best friend, Leslie, THE FIREMASTER, start epic blazes. I have always been content to gather kindling and drag logs to the pile but she was not on this trip! Apparently, I was able to channel her talent and build one big honking fire!
We roasted a small bag of marshmallows, talked and stared into the fire (aka Hikers TV), until it got pretty late. The moon was new, so the night was DARK.
We made our way to our shelter, Tanner on the ground and me hanging in my hammock nearby and dozed off to the sound of the river. I woke around 7:00, rolled out of my warm bag and started another little fire. (Leslie, are you so proud?!) Sitting and drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful cool morning, I counted my many blessings, one of which was laying in the tent next to me.
Tanner slept a little longer and finally crawled out, ate his bacon, cream cheese bagel and we reluctantly started to break camp.
We climbed out of Hickory Creek around noon as the day warmed, taking our time while I told Tanner funny stories about David and our many adventures in the woods, pre-kids. An occasional stop for water, a view and to admire a little red salamander made for an enjoyable although, hot hike out.
On a funny note, as we reached the trailhead, I noticed that the BACK side of the information board was COVERED with bear warnings and information underneath the engraved message: WELCOME TO BEAR COUNTRY……
We loaded up our gear and took the rutted forest service road back toward 411 and after what seemed like fifty miles bouncing from bump to bump, popped out in the middle of nowhere . After consulting the map, we found our way to 411. A quick stop at a convenience store for icees and beef jerky and made our way back to Woodstock and civilization.
This trip will always have a special place in my heart and I will cherish it’s memory. My son, Tanner, is an incredible young man. He has been through adversity and difficult times but has emerged strong and confident with a natural, loving, unshakeable faith in God. I am proud of him and grateful for the time spent.