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Cohutta WIlderness and Benton MacKaye Trail closures announced

Due to a significant wind and flood event on July 21, Cottonwood Patch Campground and all of the Cohutta Wilderness in Georgia is temporarily closed to the public. 

A large number of blown down trees present a hazard to visitors. Please avoid these areas to allow forest staff to make repairs and allow the area to recover.

The closure includes Jacks River Trail and the entire section of the Benton MacKaye Trail that occurs within the Cohutta Wilderness and all other trails contained within the Cohutta wilderness. For the Benton MacKaye Trail,  please use an alternate route such as Forest Road 221 to Forest Road 65, to Forest Road 22 down to Watson’s Gap outside the Wilderness.

Stay up-to-date with events in the Chattahoochee National Forest at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/conf/alerts-notices.

Mountain Crossings’ Annual Thru Hiker Season Kick Off Party

Mountain Crossings’ Annual Thru Hiker Season Kick Off Party

Saturday, February 24, 2018

mountaincrossingsEvery year the staff at Mountain Crossings starts off the most fun time of the year with a little welcoming shindig! The only thing better than spending a day in the mountains hanging out with a bunch of other outdoor loving folks, checking out great gear, listening to music and munching on food is when you get to spend the next six months thru hiking the Appalachian Trail! Whether you are thru hiking the AT this year, are an avid section or day hiker, just out for a stroll, or simply love spending time in the mountains, Mountain Crossings invites you to drop in and join in the fun of the 2018 Thru Hiker Season Kick Off Party!

Festivities are from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm and will include bluegrass music, a gear raffle, hot dogs on the grill with all the fixin’s, a S’more making station, face painting and a scavenger hunt for the kids, unique photo ops, gear rep booths and much more!

Proceeds from the gear raffle go to support programs of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) (http://wildernessstewards.org). Raffle tickets are only $10 and enter you into a chance to win gear or bundles of gear ranging from daypacks, t-shirts, water bottles, stickers and much, much more. Tickets may be purchased at Mountain Crossings in advance, on the day of the event, or by check made out to SAWS mailed to 12471 Gainesville Hwy, Blairsville, GA 30512. It is not necessary to be present to win.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 24th and come join us starting at noon to help kick off this year’s thru hiker season! We look forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, honoring thru hikers, and spending time with member of our community!

Thank you for your participation,

Mountain Crossings’ Staff

Mountain Crossings is located northbound just past Blood Mountain on the A.T. in the historic Walasi-yi Center at Neel Gap on US 19/129 south of Blairsville.

AT License Plate Grants Awarded for 2017

GATCNewPlateEach year the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) facilitates use of funds from the sale and renewal of Georgia AT license plates to provide grants to organizations and individuals who are working to fulfill the GATC and ATC missions within the state of Georgia. Since inception of the grants in 2014, $92,195 has been awarded (including $30,000 in 2017) for projects that benefit the AT in Georgia. All revenues generated through the GA A.T. license plate program must be used within the State of Georgia, and are placed in a dedicated account for that purpose. Any unused funds in a given year remain in the account for future use.

Awardees of AT license plate grants for 2017 were announced at the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC) annual business meeting in Dahlonega on October 7, and are listed below.

  • $2,500 is awarded to the Blairsville-Union County AT Community to print copies of “The History of the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia” for distribution to Youth Outreach, AT Communities, and Chambers of Commerce in North Georgia.
  • $5,000 is awarded to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest to provide a Forest Service AT Ranger to increase user conservation awareness and provide a uniformed presence on the AT for monitoring and education during peak hiker season.
  • $2,822 is awarded to the Len Foote Hike Inn to introduce Georgia youth to the AT as a significant cultural and natural resource, to perform service learning trail projects, and to foster a lifelong relationship with nature, hiking, conservation, and civic engagement.
  • $5,000 is awarded to GATC for its program “Connect Youth with Nature”. Funds will be used to take groups of young people from inner city Atlanta and from schools or organizations near the Appalachian Trail on overnight trips to the Len Foote Hike Inn. Students will learn about the forest, the trail, conservation, and Leave No Trace principles.
  • $5,000 is awarded to GATC to support the Ridgerunner/Caretaker Program. Ridgerunners and caretakers educate hikers about Leave No Trace principles and help protect the AT and the hiking experience during peak thru-hiker season.
  • $2,300 is awarded to GATC for the Trail Ambassador Program. Funds will be used to provide training, equipment, and uniforms for Trail Ambassadors, who will protect the trail environment and enhance the hiker experience by promoting sustainable backcountry ethics.
  • $4,520 is awarded to the GATC to provide wilderness first aid training for Trail Ambassadors, sawyers, search and rescue team members, trail maintainers, and hike leaders.
  • $2,858 is awarded to GATC for enhancements to the club’s website, including streamlining the application process for new and prospective members and improving ease of navigation.

The Georgia AT tag committee consists of GATC members Scott Barnes, Marianne Skeen, and Frank Wright, Steve Perri - Chair of ATC’s Southern Regional Partnership Committee, and Morgan Sommerville - ATC Regional Director. Kyle Grambley of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest serves as an advisor to the committee.

Future success of the tag grant program depends on continued support from the driving and hiking public in Georgia. Show your support for the AT by BUYING and RENEWING your Georgia AT tag!

Hurricane Irma Update

Irma Damage 2Two weeks out from the storm, the trail condition in Georgia has improved. Volunteer maintainers have been clearing out the trail. The Forest Service has cleared many of the Forest Service roads that provide access to the trail, as well.

The biggest challenge has been the roughly 45 miles of trail within designated wilderness areas. Crews will be concentrating on those this week and next. Work in wilderness areas require the use of the lowest form of technology, in this case crosscut saws and other low tech tools. Wilderness areas are also generally more remote, doubling the challenges that Club volunteers face to clear them out.

At this point in time the trail is open, however there will still be challenges for hikers in some areas. Be safe and enjoy your hike!

Fires Creek Trail Conservation Plan

NantahalaMtns Tusquitee 1001Many GATC members have been hoping for a good solution to a proposed private development on an inholding in the Tusquittee Mountains along the Fires Creek Rim Trail system in the Nantahala National Forest. This is a very remote area with steep slopes, trout streams, and the location of numerous GATC hikes over the years. The Rim Trail had to be rerouted to skirt the property. The owners had successfully petitioned for vehicular access via Forest Service lands and proposed to construct several houses on the property, but now they are willing to sell this land to the Mainspring Conservation Trust. If Mainspring can raise the funds to purchase this property, they will eventually transfer it to the Nantahala National Forest and the land will remain undeveloped in this pristine area.

Mainspring is in a campaign to raise $525,000 to close on the project before the end of the year. An article about this and a link to donate to this project is at:

http://www.mainspringconserves.org/press-room/conservation-purchase-end-controversy-fires-creek-property/