Jacks River Falls

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Jacks River Falls


Several of my co-workers and I were sitting in the employee lounge for lunch one day last week discussing things we missed from our younger years. There were recollections of parties, trips to the beach in Florida, the Bahama's or Mexico, to the Grand Canyon, or to Europe. From the stage at "the 'Grand 'ol 'Opry to the mosh pit at Offspring and 311 concerts. Our interest were as diverse as they were descriptive of our personalities.
I was quite active in my youth with my main life goal at the time being a desire to do and experience everything I possibly could before I die. I've made a pretty good run of it, too so I was able to relate some pretty entertaining anecdotes, some flattering, some rather embarrassing but all were given and received in good humor. I've paid, actually I'm still paying, a pretty steep price for my adrenaline-fired adventures with knee, ankle, hip, back and shoulder injuries and their several related surgeries and other medical procedures to mitigate the pain. Only a few of which could be deemed successes. Years of Football, motocross, rock climbing (and falling), mountainbiking and other ways of finding the next adrenaline fix all leave their marks on the body. Some of these adventures will play into a future story or two, I'm sure.
One story that didn't make an appearance, mainly because it wasn't suited for exposition in the workplace, happened when I was twenty-two years old. I'm afraid that this story won't be quite as exciting as most stories on this site, simply because it is, on the whole, a (mostly) true depiction of what actually happened one summer weekend in 1989 in the North Georgia mountains. I don't remember everybody's names but the events were pleasantly etched into my memory.


"Come on, I'll show you the way up to the top ledge."

A group of nine college students had joined my two hiking buddies and me along with about a half-dozen other transient hikers at Jacks River Falls the Friday after Independence day in 1989. The river begins in the Jacks River Gorge in North Georgia and flows north into the Alaculsey Valley across the Tennessee state line. The falls is the most popular spot in the Cohutta Wilderness and is a prime swimming area if you're willing to put in the effort to hike in to reach it. The Jacks River Trail begins about eight and a half miles and twenty river crossings upstream from the falls and terminates about eight and a quarter miles and twenty-two river crossings downstream. The trail meanders through some of the most scenic and beautiful country you could ever hope to experience but is not suited for the light-hearted, it can be a pretty strenuous trek and some of the 42 separate river crossings can be quite difficult, especially when the water level is up after a rain. There are, however, a few other routes to the falls that are considerably easier than the almost 17 mile long Jacks.

The first route is the Penetentiary Branch Trail which covers about eight miles from the parking area at Dally Gap.

The second is the five mile Rice Camp Trail route.

The Third and easiest is the Beech Bottom Trail.

The Beech Bottom Trail is, by far, the most popular with day-hikers; those who come in to swim or explore the falls but don't intend to camp or stay overnight. Camping has been, in recent years, seriously curtailed or outright forbidden in much of the Cohutta Wilderness during Summer months but when we were making trips two or three times a year the camping options were much more available year round.

Jacks River Falls is actually made up of two sets of falls; the upper tumbles about fifteen feet over rocks into a large pool and the lower drops about fifty feet into a large cauldron below. Both pools are situated at the base of a large cliff, which is located on the opposite side of the river from the trail. The large expanse of exposed bedrock is often covered with the towels and beach blankets of sun-worshipers striving to perfect their suntans during the summer.
That's where I was currently: crossing the river above the first drop to a route up the stone face of the cliff, which was only obvious if you knew where to look, to two different ledges used to jump off above the falls and into the pools below. One of the, apparently, regular hikers had been climbing and jumping off the cliff. He appeared to be trying to catch the attention of the girls in the newly-arrived group. He had been trying to chat them up for the past half-hour but his obvious arogance and agressive demeanor seemed to have the oposite effect than he wanted. Two of the guys from the group were trying to find the path up the cliff themselves but were, so far, unable to locate the best way up. I showed them where to find the best hand- and foot-holds to climb the thirty or so feet up the cliff to the top and a wide ledge overlooking the top pool. I told the guys that when they jumped to make sure they got far enough away from the cliff base to avoid the rocks and because the water was shallower there, the bottom sloped away toward the middle of the pool. I asked the two guys what their names were while they argued over who was going to jump first.

"Henry"

"I'm Evan"

"It's good to meet you, I'm Gavin."

"Ok, you pussies gonna jump or just stand up here all day jerking each other off?"

I just looked at Mr. Arrogant and shook my head slowly then faced the other two again.

"If you step back and get a couple running steps then keep moving your feet and legs like you're still running in the air you'll stay stable and it really isn't that far to the water." I told them.

"Nah, I think I'm going to climb back down."

"Come on, Evan, you gotta jump!" Henry pleaded.

"Yeah, pussy, there ain't but one way down from up here and it ain't back the way you came." Mr. Arrogant, again.

"Dude, who're you trying to impress? Yourself? Because that's the only person you have any hope of succeeding with. Why don'

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Written by kissessnatches
Uploaded October 20, 2020
Notes Primitive camping in North Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness
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