The Cohutta Wilderness lies directly under the Mississippi flyway, the path many migratory birds in the East use to wing it south. Ovenbirds travel more than 2,000 miles to Nicaragua, flying by night at speeds up to 40 mph. Northern Georgia is also the bird’s summer breeding ground, so listen for the loud chirping call cher teacher, teacher, teacher and then look for its nest on the ground. Nests look like miniature clay ovens or adobe huts with small doors. Peer though the door to see this teeny brown-and-white-speckled bird. (Check out picture 4 above.)
The Cohutta is the largest federally protected wilderness in the East, with more than 40,000 acres in Georgia and Tennessee. Two major rivers–the Jacks and the Conasauga–run though the lush forest, whose average annual rainfall is more than 60 inches. Not coincidentally, it is home to some of the region’s best swimming holes. Cut the summer heat with a dip at the base of Jacks River Falls, or, if it’s crowded with dayhikers, save your swim for more idyllic and secluded pools just a couple of miles downstream at Horseshoe Bend, “a swooping oxbow of calm teal water that may just slow you down enough that you’ll have to stay another day,” says recreation manager Larry Thomas. (Find good campsites where the JRT links to the Horseshoe Bend Trail.)
In 1958, Sasquatch stomped into the American psyche when a bulldozer operator near Humboldt, California, found a set of 16-inch footprints. Long story short: The prints were a hoax, and so was the 2008 story of two hunters who claimed to have killed a Bigfoot in Georgia’s northern woods. They’d stuffed a rubber ape costume with road kill. And yet: There have been more than 3,393 Bigfoot sightings since the ’50s. Discuss: Why do so many scary-monster stories survive?