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John Muir Trail, Cherokee National Forest, TN

Contemplate the south's wild side on the trail that launched America's greatest wilderness champion.


KEY SKILL: CLIFF JUMPING

cliff jumping Do not swim under waterfalls. Rocks often come crashing down.

cliff jumping If you get swept downriver, float onto your back with feet up
and pointing downstream.
Assume whitewater swim position (nose and toes above water) and stroke hard to avoid the drown-hazard of strainers (e.g., submerged trees).

cliff jumping Test depth  before jumping. Best way?
Get in. You’ll need 15 feet of water for safe landings. And don’t even think about diving
in headfirst.

cliff jumping Protect your feet. Wear snug-fitting sandals that protect against sharp rocks and provide grip on slippery banks.

EAT THIS
Wild edibles
Before there were GU packets, hikers like Muir foraged trailside for pick-me-ups. The Cherokee forest offers a bounty of natural sweets—if you know when and where to look. In May and June, ripe mulberries abound from Big Bend to Childers Creek; search the same spots for blackberries in July. And dig the Jerusalem artichoke’s potatolike tuber in mid-September. Tip: Keep berries fresh by storing them in unsealed containers out of the sun.

Locals Know
Got an extra day? The 6.4-mile out-and-back up the Coker Creek Trail hits a string of waterfalls and pools, perfect for a cooling dip on a hot day. Break a sweat on the sometimes steep hike, then cool off with a banzai plunge into the first pool .5 mile in. See safety tips above, keep hiking (and dipping), and you’ll be a swimming-hole connoisseur by the day’s end.

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