Wilderness Weekend in Cherokee National Forest

Wilderness Weekend in Cherokee National Forest

August 7th, 2014 by Staff Report in Chattnow Outabout

Tennessee Wild will mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 with a weekend of free outdoor activities designed to promote the Tellico Region and Cherokee National Forest as go-to destinations for outdoor recreation in the Southeast.

Event organizers also will provide information on an effort to protect special places in Tennessee. The Tennessee Wilderness Act, currently awaiting a Senate vote, will safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land, expanding the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock, Big Frog, Little Frog, Big Laurel Branch and Sampson Mountain wilderness areas and creating the new 9,000-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. Wilderness designation, they say, ensures clean drinking water for communities downstream, protects critical habitat for the abundant species of fish and wildlife of the forest and offers first-class outdoor recreation opportunities that are vital to the prosperity of small towns like Tellico Plains. It costs taxpayers nothing.

Scheduled Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9-10, activities will include guided hikes into designated wilderness areas, stewardship projects, snorkeling and standup paddleboarding. Saturday also will culminate in the ceremonial dedication of Tellico Plains as an official "Trail Town" by the Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association. The ribbon-cutting and remarks by guest speakers will be followed by food, music and prize giveaways.

Events start each day at 9 a.m. Participants will meet at the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center in Tellico Plains, then carpool to the various trail heads.

Due to group size limits, free registration at www.meetup.com/Tennessee-Wild is a must.

Find out more on Tennessee Wild's Facebook page or at www.meetup.com/Tennessee-Wild.

Learn to paddleboard this weekend at Indian Boundary Lake near Tellico Plains.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

SATURDAY, AUG. 9

Guided Hikes

¦ Unicoi Turnpike Trail at Coker Creek (2.5 miles, easy). Walk through history on the oldest known travel path in the country. The route was part of the Trail of Tears during the removal of the Cherokee people in the 1800s, then the first toll road in America.

¦ Brookshire Creek at Upper Bald River Wilderness Study Area (5 miles, easy). Hike along the crystal clear Bald River about 2.4 miles to an as yet unnamed 15-foot waterfall. When the Tennessee Wilderness Act is passed, the Upper Bald River WSA will be the first new wilderness created in Tennessee since 1986. It will protect the entire Bald River watershed.

¦ Sycamore Creek at Benton MacKaye Trail (4 miles, easy). Hike with local historian Pam Hall Matthews with stops along the way to admire the cascades of Sycamore Creek. She will talk about local legend and lore, and then the group will pay a visit to the Charles Hall museum for a tour by its namesake.

¦ Family Fun Hike for Big and Little Kids Alike (easy). Experience nature using all your senses and discover the great outdoors with naturalist Ben Prater of Wild South and his sons (ages 3 and 5) on a fun-filled adventure in the forest.

Interpretive Hikes:

¦ Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts (moderate/strenuous). Discover the miniature plants that blanket the forest floor, rocks and trees. Learn to recognize these three prolific groups and different species of each.

¦ Old Growth Forest at Falls Branch Falls/Jeffrey Hell trails. Hike leader Hugh Irwin of The Wilderness Society will take participants down the path of forest history while exploring the remaining old-growth trees of the Citico Creek Wilderness; talking about the logging history and the devastating fire that ended this chapter and scars on the landscape that are still apparent today.

¦ Stewardship Trip, Brushing Jeffrey's Hell (4 miles, moderate/strenuous). This stewardship day led by Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards will involve brushing annual vegetation growth from the trail corridor along the first two miles of the Jeffrey Hell Trail. Tools, safety instruction and personal protective equipment will be provided.

OTHER EVENTS

¦ Standup Paddleboarding 101 at Indian Boundary Lake. Learn the basics of Standup Paddleboarding with a skilled instructor from Rock/Creek, Chattanooga. Participants will learn how to get up on the board, stay up on the board and do some basic maneuvers on Indian Boundary Lake. All equipment and instruction are furnished.

¦ Tellico Plains Trail Town Designation ceremony. Starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Outpost Pavilion Tent, Cherohala Skyway, Tellico Plains.

SUNDAY, AUG. 10

Guided Hikes

¦ Bald River Gorge (9 miles, moderate). One of the most scenic trails in the area was once a railroad track for trains to haul huge logs down to Tellico Plains during the early logging days. Now the gorge is a protected wilderness with wondrous trees that have regrown since the last logging 100 years ago.

¦ Mill Branch/Fodderstack/Crowder Branch Loop (7 miles, strenuous). This hike shows off two beautiful valleys of the Citico Creek Wilderness high-ridge walk of over a mile, a cross-section of Southern Appalachian wilderness.

¦ Simply Better Pictures - Tips, Tricks and Techniques (easy). No need for fancy equipment! This guided hike offers simple tips and techniques for taking better pictures with a point-and-shoot or smartphone.

OTHER EVENTS

¦ Standup Paddleboarding 101 at Indian Boundary Lake. Learn the basics of Standup Paddleboarding with a skilled instructor from Rock/Creek, Chattanooga. Participants will learn how to get up on the board, stay up on the board and do some basic maneuvers on Indian Boundary Lake. All equipment and instruction are furnished.

¦ Snorkel Citico Creek. Citico Creek, one of the most biologically rich temperate creeks in the United States, contains more species of fish than the entire Colorado River watershed. Participants will explore the chilly water with wetsuit, snorkel and mask provided by the Forest Service. Expert guides will point out species of fish, turtles, amphibians and other critters that live in mountain rivers and creeks.