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 undergo 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, serioiusly 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 on the opposite side of the river from the trail and the large expanse of exposed bedrock often covered with the towels and beach blankets of sun-worshipers striving to perfect thier 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 Sinop Escort the pool. I asked the two guys what their names were while they argued over who was going to jump first.


“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’t you give it a rest?” I was already tired of his attitude.

“You’re as big a pussy as they are.”

I looked back to Evan. “Actually you have a better chance of getting down unhurt by jumping off. The way we climbed up is pretty precarious when you can’t see where you’re putting your feet if you try to climb back down, if you fall there onto the rocks you’re going back to town on a stretcher or in a helicopter.”

“Man, quit talking and jump or wimp out and climb back down.”

“Seriously, dude, is this all you’ve got to do, talk shit? If we’re in your way just go on and we’ll be down however we see fit.” I told the hiker then looked back at Henry and Evan.

“Whatever, just get the fuck out of my way, let me show you how to do this!”

He backed far enough from the edge to get three good running steps and then was gone.

“Thank God, Now maybe we can do this without his shit.” I mumbled.

“Will you go first to show us?” Evan asked.

I looked over the edge of the cliff and saw asshole climbing up onto a rock across the pool from the cliff side. He sat there smirking up at us while Henry’s and Evan’s friends watched our exchange. I also saw Robbie and Darrel, my hiking buddies, watching our banter with smiles on their faces.

I turned back to Evan and said “Remember, when you jump you need to keep your feet running all the way to the water and you’ll stay stable and not get hurt. Just kick out as far as you can to miss the bottom. And whatever you do, don’t you dare try to do what I’m about to do.’

They both nodded as I stepped back as far as I could get from the edge. I took three quick, long strides, kicking as hard as I could on the last stride from the edge of the rock face but instead of stepping out into the void as Mr. Arrogant had, I extended both arms in front of myself and dove. As I arced away from the cliff face and began to drop I tucked into a forward flip and followed through until I could straighten up and enter the pool feet first. I climbed out of the pool beside Mr. Arrogant, smiled and nodded at him as I watched his smirk disolve. I glanced at Robbie and Darrel, Robbie was laughing at the show but Darrel was too stoic to let anyone know he was capable of laughter. As I approached my two friends I looked back up to the cliff and watched as Evan lept from the ledge, he never kicked his feet and he held his arms straight out from his body but he landed far enough into the pool and he surfaced, excited and cheering for himself. Henry followed without hesitating and both climbed out of the pool more confident in themselves than they had been ten minutes earlier.

The three of us made a surprising trio, in fact, other than working together and a mutual enjoyment of primitive camping we had very little in common. Darrel was a couple years older than I was and when not at work he wore the same wardrobe, January or July: long sleeve button down Columbia Sportswear shirts, long quick-dry fishing pants and nylon hiking shoes. He rarely wore shorts unless he was swimming and then as soon as he was out of the water he always put a long sleved shirt back on. Darrel spent time as an Army Medic but refused to talk about his experiences and as far as I knew, Robbie and I were the only people he ever associated with away from work. Robbie was younger than me by two years and spent most of his spare time in the gym, as as a result he had a body builders physique. He was very gregarious, seldom alone and we teased him about being a ‘man-whore’ because he tended to only date someone for a short period of time before moving on to someone else. At 5’11” and 215lbs, I was the biggest of the ‘Three Amigos’ and was dedicated to “chasing the thrill”; I was an amateur “Extreme Sports” athelete before the phrase was coined. While I often worked out with Robbie, my goal in the gym was strength building, not developing a body builder’s appearance and I ony dated occasionally. Yeah, strange, I know, but I spent almost all of my spare time and money chasing some new adventure or other, SCUBA, climbing, hiking, Sinop Escort Bayan mountain biking, motocross, white water kayaking, etc. The three of us had, at some point in the past two years, hiked most of the trails in the Cohutta Wilderness as well as a couple sections of the Appalachian Trail.

“Are you guys passing through or staying longer than today?”

I turned toward the voice and Henry was standing with several of his group of friends.

“We just came for the weekend, we’ll be here tomorrow and we’ll leave Sunday afternoon.” I answered.

“I wonder if he’s staying all weekend?” One of the girls queried, glancing over at Mr. Arrogant.

I looked in the same direction she was looking and said “He came in with two other guys not long before y’all got here but they came down stream. I’d guess they’re hiking the Jacks and since thats only a two day hike, my guess is that they plan to stay here two nights and then walk out on Sunday unless they plan to move over to the Conasauga River tomorrow.”

“Great, two more days. He doesn’t take a hint very well.” She mumbled, disappointedly.

I just grinned. “He might, He’ll have a lot more people to annoy tomorrow and Sunday.”


“Yep, these rocks will be crawling this weekend, if it’s anything like it was last year.” Robbie answered.

“Where a y’all camping?” One of the other guys in the group asked.

“That was our camp y’all passed just before you got to the falls on your way up. That’s why we try to get here as early as we can on good weather weekends. It’s one of the first spots claimed here.” I replied.

“Is there any more spots close by?” Again, from the same unnamed guy.

“Oh, yeah.” Robbie responded.

I continued “Beech Bottom is just a couple hundred yards upstream on the left, there are a lot of suitable spots there.”


“No Problem.” I answered

I looked at Donnie. “You ready to go catch dinner?”

“Waitin’ on you.” He answered.

“If you’re waiting on me, you’re backing up.” I countered

Robbie didn’t have the patience for fishing; we joked that steroids were the source of his lack of patience and short temper but of course he denied using them.

Darrel and I got our fishing gear from camp and followed the trail downstream for about a half mile where we climbed down to the river and began fishing upstream. By the time we made it back to the base of the falls we caught several Rainbow Trout and one decent sized Brown. We kept enough of the Rainbows to feed all three of us for dinner.

Later, I went back to the rocks above the falls to lay back and read a couple chapters from my current Robert Ludlum novel until the sun got too low for me to see the words on the page.

I smiled and greeted two of the girls from the group who were laying on large towels wearing bikinis and dark sunglasses as I passed before finding a comfortable spot of my own. I was a few pages into my reading when one of the girls sat up on her towel, turned toward me and spoke.

“You must come here a lot.”

“We usually come two or three times during warm months, when it’s cooler we either go to the A.T. or some of the other, drier trails. We just like to get away from town when we get a chance. By the way I’m Gavin, from Rome.”

The first girl said “I’m Andrea.”

“You can call me Becca.” Replied the second girl.

“Will there really be a lot of people here tomorrow?” Becca asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. It’s such a short hike people come in the morning, spend the day and leave in the afternoon.”

“Short?! I didn’t think we were ever going to get here, we just kept walking.” Andrea complained.

“Y’all came upstream, I’m guessing you used the Rice Camp Trail? Surely y’all didn’t come all the way up the Jacks?”

“I don’t know, we came across the mountain until we had to cross the river down that way.” Andrea said, pointing downstream.

“Yeah, Rice Camp is a little over four miles long then you have another mile of the Jacks to get to the falls. Pretty easy coming in but it gets a little tougher going back because you have to climb all that elevation you lost coming this direction.”

Both girls looked at me with astonishment but neither said anything.

“The next time you come you should consider taking the Beech Bottom Trail. It’s only about four miles and only changes about three hundred feet in elevation. And no river crossings. An hour and a half walk if you take it easy and you stay on the trail.” I grinned. “About half the time it takes to walk the Rice Camp. That’s the way most people will come in tomorrow.”

“Please tell Henry, he’s the one who talked all of us into coming up here this weekend.” Becca asked.

“Are all y’all from Georgia?” I asked.

“Most of us are,” Andrea answered “Jenna’s from North Carolina, Fred and Evan are from Alabama. I think everybody else lives in Georgia. I live in Woodstock and Becca lives in Canton.”

“Wow, we live less than an hour from each Escort Sinop other.” I was pleasantly surprised. “I noticed you all carried packs and it’s getting late so I assume you’re camping overnight?”

Andrea responded “Yeah, we’re staying until Sunday, too.”

“I guess you all go to college together since you don’t live closer to one another.”

Becca said “Yes, we haven’t seen each other in over a month so we decided to get together for the weekend, we still have about another month before classes start again.”

“Well, if it gets too crowded here I’ll show you another swimming hole downstream a ways where I’ve never seen anybody else. It’s not easy to get to but it’s nice.”

Andrea said “I’d like that.” and smiled.

I had a pleasant thought and lay my book down before standing up.

“Are you leaving?” Andrea asked.

“No, I thought I might find some wood and light a fire before it got too dark.”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll help you!” Andrea exclaimed.

“Me too!” Becca didn’t want to be left out.

It took us about twenty minutes to gather enough wood to burn for a few hours and get it going but once we did people began showing up to join us. For a while everybody was having a great time, my two buddies and me along with the college nine and a couple others who had wandered in throuout the afternoon. But there must be a galactic law written somewhere that says if a group of people are getting along and enjoying one another’s company, someone has to come along and screw it up.

Enter Mr. Arrogant and his, thankfully quiet and decidedly non-arrogant, sidekick.

Soon after his arrival, the general light-heartedness we shared gradually evaporated. He again tried flirting with the girls in the college group until each of them attached themselves to one of the other guys. Andrea moved and sat to my left side, hooking my left arm with her right. She looked at me uneasily and I nodded my head at her and smiled. I pulled my arm out of hers and placed it around her shoulders, drawing her into my side. Everybody spent the next half hour trying to act as though he wasn’t present but the longer he was ignored the more indignant he became. His friend looked as though he wished he was still at home.

I looked at Mr. Arrogant and said “You’re no more pleasant drunk than you were sober. Why do you want to be like that?”

He grew angrier and spat “I’ll kick your pussy ass off this rock!”

I stood and from the corner of my eye I noticed Darrel and Robbie stand as well.

Mr. Arrogant’s friend grabbed him and turned him by his shoulders and began pushing him toward their camp and said “It’s time for us to go. You’ve had enough tonight.”

We heard them arguing for several minutes as they walked away until they were out of hearing distance.

Evan asked “What do you do? What kind of job?”

Robbie answered “We’re Sheriff’s Deputies.”

Erin added “So you weren’t concerned about what he was going to do, then…”

I shared a glance across the fire at Robby and grinned. He grinned back at me and said “Nah, he wasn’t going to do anything, he’s too busy bragging to do anything.”

I just nodded and leaned back against the rock behind my back.

Although the tension was lifting, the cheeriness didn’t return in its absence and people began to drift away to their campsites.

When nearly everybody had wandered away I anounced that I was going to take a last dip in the upper falls pool before I headed for my hammock and sleeping bag.

“Do you mind if I join you for a while?” Andrea asked.

“I don’t mind but I didn’t plan to go back to camp for my swim suit.”

“Skinny dipping?!” Andrea exclaimed, eyes wide.

“That’s what I intended to do.” I said with a grin.

Becca looked at Andrea then at Henry and Erin and then to me and with a demure grin asked “Can I go swimming with you, too?”

“Of course, you do what you want to do, it’s your choice. Not mine.”

Darrel said “I’m going back to camp, see y’all in the morning.”

Jenna and Robbie decided to join us but everybody else migrated back to their campsites.

We spent the next half-hour or so just drifting around in the upper falls pool talking and laughing, I showed Andrea how to find the perfect spot under the cascading water where she could find a rock she could sit on and let the falling water massage her shoulders before the current pushed her out of the hole. Jenna soon joined us and asked if we minded her intruding. I answered “Not at all, you’re not intruding.”

Andrea said “I thought you were hanging out with Robbie?”

“I think he likes Erin, I know she likes him. Right now they don’t know anybody else is even within ten miles of here but themselves.” The three of us just laughed at that. “Besides, I’ve got a boyfriend at home and I’d just feel guilty if we started making out.”

A few minutes later, Jenna told us she was heading back to her tent. Andrea offered to walk back with her but she declined and left on her own.

I reached my arms around Andrea from behind and pulled her against my chest, she sighed then leaned her head back on my right shoulder. ‘This place is relaxing, we don’t have anything like it back home, I could float around up here all night but it’s going to get chilly before too long.”

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