Trail #97 in the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area

I think the name of Trail #97 is the Etterle Creek Trail, but I didn’t write it down and now I can’t remember for sure.  

Our trip 2 weeks ago to Land Between the Lakes was an 8 hour drive.  I decided to break 1 of the travel days in half and stay in Chatsworth, Georgia, so we could hike the Birdsong Trail on Grassy Mountain.  When we got to the mountain the paved road became a gravel road.  The gravel road was in good condition, but  I’m never too thrilled with driving on unpaved roads.  I would have kept going because the trail sounded like a great bird-watching destination, but my daughter suggested we stop and walk on any of the perfectly lovely trails that we kept passing by.  On the route to Grassy Mountain, CCC Road turns into Lake Conasauga Road which leads to the Birdsong Trail.  I didn’t know if we had reached the latter road yet and had no idea how long it would take to get there.  Winding mountain roads are slow-going, so because we had a 4 hour drive to Clarkesville ahead of us anyway, I agreed to stop at Trail #97 instead.

The trail is little more than a wide ledge between a steep mountain rise on one side and a creek gorge on the other.  The trail is about 400 yards long and dead ends at a gorgeous shoal on the creek where enormous Paleozoic-age boulders rest.  Dominant trees in the adjacent forest are white oak, sweetgum, and hemlock.  The white oaks include 2 different leaf variations.  Some of the white oak leaves had such fat leaves, I thought I was looking at a different species, however, upon studying a tree field guide, I learned that some white oaks do grow much fatter leaves than others of the same species.  Sweetgum prefers warm moist conditions; hemlock prefers cool moist conditions, so both species reach a happy medium in this locality which is southern but at a high elevation.  I only saw 1 dead hemlock tree here.  I walked about a half mile up the road where the trail begins and could see in the distance a whole hillside of healthy hemlock trees.  Evidentally, the trees here are still unaffected by the scourge that’s wiping them out elsewhere.  Also growing in the nearby woods were mountain laurel, beech, white pine, river birch, loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, and post oak.

Big boulders across the trail make for a bit of a rugged hike. 

View of the gorge.

A healthy hemlock tree.  Almost all the ones I saw at this locality were healthy still.

Another view of the gorge from the trail.

The trail is a wide ledge with a gorge on one side and steep rock like this on the other.

I thought prohibition ended. 

Boulders at a shoal at the end of the trail.

A ten inch tall waterfall!

The creek is eroding through to bedrock.

The hillside in the background is an almost pure healthy stand of hemlocks.

I saw 2 species of birds–a belted kingfisher, and a common crow, but it was the latter that had successfully captured a fat minnow.  I’d never seen a crow catch a fish before.  Kingfisher’s are interesting birds that burrow and nest in muddy creek banks.  Two human fishers were fly-casting for trout at a bridge down the road.  The water here was cool and tasted good.

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2 Responses to “Trail #97 in the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area”

  1. James Robert Smith Says:

    My old stomping grounds. I went to high school near the wilderness (Gilmer County High School) and cut my backpacking teeth in the Cohuttas. I’ve heard from some of the ENTS folk that the hemlocks there are infested but not dead yet. Decline will set in soon, unless of course someone has been going in there and treating the hemlocks out of their own pocket. Some of us are known to do that.

    You were very close to a trail that leads to a gigantic poplar tree called the Gennett Poplar and is well worth the hike to see.

    Did you see Lake Conasauga? Highest lake in Georgia.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    We never made it that far. I wasn’t sure we were even on the right road. We probably were but I stopped early because we still had a half day of travel to get to our ultimate destination. It seems like it takes forever to drive up mountain roads.

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