May 2022 – Cohutta / Big Frog Loop

Huh, what? The largest swath of wilderness land in the eastern US National Forest is the conjoined tracts of the Cohutta wilderness in NW GA (about 80% of the combined tract) and the Big Frog wilderness just across the border in TN (about 20%). Wilderness areas contain no roads, but are usually surrounded by forest service roads. So… Larry, Dave and Mel decided to circumnavigate the Cohutta - Big Frog wilderness area.

Earlier in April, Dave, Mel and Dan toured the SE and S portion of the Cohutta’s on an unseasonably cool day ride (Ok, with all the snow flurries, it was COLD!) [see here for pics and video]. Since a full circumnavigation around these two wilderness tracts is about 90 miles and requires a full day’s riding, the trip would require some camping. So, on a Friday afternoon, they rode to Ellijay the fast way, then headed NW up beautiful Gates Chapel road toward their “loop”. But first they received a taste of what the next day would bring when the came to a spectacular overlook just before starting the loop.

Heading clockwise around the wilderness, they quickly arrived at the Lake Conasauga recreation area where they snagged a beautiful camp site near the water and quickly set up tents and Mel’s dining fly just before a late afternoon shower doused the area. But the rain soon let up allowing Mel to light his Firebox stove and grill steaks for dinner. This crew takes their camp cooking seriously with items like steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, chicken and rice. Maybe even a craft brew or two.

Saturday morning they headed toward a fire tower just outside of the recreation area, but the road was gated and they skipped the hike up in order to continue their loop ride. However, they did see a single-track trail labeled “for experienced riders” which others may want to consider - smaller bikes advised!

The FS roads around the loop consisted of every style imaginable from wide and well-maintained to little-maintained to narrow with partially cleared trees from a long-ago blow down. There were some long sections of steep and washed areas requiring riding “up on the pegs” and “no-stopping-or-you-might-not-get-started-again-without-help”! All enjoyed the technical challenges and were thoroughly pooped by late afternoon. Fortunately, that morning they were able to leave most of their gear behind allowing them to return to the same beautiful site without any setup effort - winning!

Another fine dinner was had and a small campfire enjoyed along with the sounds of their many neighbors - big frogs and owls. Shortly after turning in, the sound of distant thunder came closer and closer until it poured on their tents most of the night, probably an inch or so, but pleasantly finishing by daybreak. Larry continued perfecting hashbrowns and is getting close to a Waffle House Special for breakfast. After that it was break camp and head back, but not without stopping again at that great overlook and a small waterfall just around the bend.