Sat, Oct 30 2004 - Backpacking on the Benton MacKaye trail to Jacks River Falls (View Original Event Details)

Trip Leader(s): Don Norton (Chicken Feathers)
Participants:David Light, Ameen (Buck) Dahdah, Gillian Genrich, Don Norton (Chicken Feathers)

Write Up:
Due to the Halloween weekend, the daylight savings time change, and the recent cold front that dropped temperatures to the mid 30’s, the idea of doing a backpack trip where it was necessary to wade through the river, probably contributed to the small group of brave souls that showed up. This was the first backpack trip with the AOC for all 3 participants and I look forward to many future outings with them. This was also the first AOC trip that I helped organize and led. I look forward to bringing my experiences in California, Costa Rica, and Hawaii to the club and going on many future outings. The drive up had overcast skies, but we were all hopeful and focused on the 80% chance of no rain for the weekend.

We started down the Jack’s River trail, but promptly made a turn to go back up on the Benton MacKaye trail. The steady uphill climb got our hearts pumping and then followed the Hemp Top Trail until joining up with the Penitentiary trail. Several pictures were taken along the way as we took our time heading down in order to enjoy the Maples, Oaks, Poplars, and Pines that were in full color display. After a nice, yet long, downhill climb we arrived at our camp site where my fellow trip leader, Don Norton, noted that he had “made reservations ahead of time.” These may or may not have been needed, as we had our pick of the camp right along the flowing river. As we set up our camp and had lunch, a good friend Jimmy Camp came strolling across the river. He was hiking a different trail in the area, and would wind up spending the evening around the campfire with us.

After we gained up enough courage to forego an afternoon siesta, we set out to conquer the 4 river crossings down to the falls. The water in the crossings was not as cold as anticipated, but we quickly discovered that the summer’s tropical storms had changed the conditions along the trail. With good leadership, we not only made it to the actual falls, but were able to do it in just 3 crossings thanks to a bend in the river. The falls were in spectacular form and the youngest in our group, David just had to jump off a 15 ft ledge into the big pool of water below. Not to be outdone and being promised some action photos, I followed off the same ledge. The water was a little frigid but well worth it. Our photographers couldn’t be coaxed into swimming, so with the fast approaching darkness, we headed back to camp.

We came upon some friendly campers, chatted, and continued on. On the way back, Don Norton thought how he should of trick and treated them. No problem, as we came along a couple of other backpackers, he promptly asked for treats but to our dismay were not successful. Later, we realized that it really was still the day before Halloween so we cancelled our plans to return late in the night and surprise the 2 backpackers.

We arrived back at camp right at darkness, started a camp fire, and got ready for our “hot dog and beans” cookout. Buck and Jimmy did a great job with the fire. The cookout included some beans and sausages from a special recipe by Don Norton’s wife. Cooking sticks were made to skewer the hot dogs in order to roast them over the fire. A tremendous and very filling dinner was had by all, and we sampled and shared food in the friendly backpacker way. Dinner was supplemented by smores, which was a first for Laura because I learned they don’t do it in Patagonia where her previous backpack experiences had been. The campsite was right along the river and offered a few small areas where we were able to watch the stars and wait for the moon to brighten the sky.

The rain that we hoped wouldn’t come suddenly arrived at 4 am and everyone’s tents were rain tested. No major problems, even Don Norton and his hammock got through the night just fine. Don’t know if it was the time change, the rain, or the long hike in, but everyone seemed to sleep in until the rain stopped.

On the way back up the Penitentiary trail, we all felt the strenuous nature that was in the hike description and contributed to the aptly name trail. It was even more strenuous than the group anticipated as the rain came down in buckets for what seemed was the entire uphill portion. At least it was better for it to have rained on the way out than on the way in. Gradually near the top of the long haul, the rain lightened up, and some in the group took a side trip towards Hemp Top Overlook. We saw some great views, took some more pictures, and tried to rush back to join the rest of the group. We continued on the Hemp Top trail all the way to the car, only to find Don Norton and Buck relaxing in the pickup truck while waiting for us to arrive.

The trip culminated with a great Mexican Dinner at Los Reyes back in Marietta. During which, we were waited on by a “Slice of Pizza” and everyone remarked about the other ghosts, goblins, a belly dancer, and even a hula dancer (which being from Hawaii, I really appreciated) that worked at this restaurant. I’ll definitely head back for drinks and to see if the ghouls are permanent features. Some potential plans for future trips were discussed and we all departed energized and ready for the next trip.

Thanks to everyone for a great trip.
Written By: Don Hayes
Photos From: Laura Locatelli and Don Norton, without which, we would have no documentation of this trip except for our wet gear and clothes, the odor of which still lingers in our cars.