2017-07-13 / Opinions

Woody knew how to beat cantankerous, logjam thinking

By LORAN SMITH
columnist

SUCHES – This forested oasis in the sweet spot of North Georgia has an elevation of almost 3,000 feet which has brought about the notion from its long-time residents as being, “The Valley Above The Clouds.”

That sobriquet alone tells you that if you have been bogged down with frustration, internet lag, idleness, or worry, you ought to come here and get cleansed and refreshed. The cure doesn’t need a prescription.

Suches is unincorporated and uncomplicated. You hang out here and you might get a citation from the Union County sheriff if you become impatient or get in a hurry. You just can’t become a worried man, singing a worried song in these parts. If you don’t slow down when you come here – from premeditation – the winding roads will cause you to keep the pedal a huge distance from the metal.

If you find your way here, you will want to buy something at Wolfpen Gap Country Store. It is an old-fashioned place where browsing will make your day. Certainly you agree that we don’t want to lose places like that – they should remain part of the landscape.

I have found my way here to sidle up to the headwaters of the Toccoa River which flows north for 93 miles into Tennessee where its name becomes the Ocoee. As you might suspect Toccoa is an Indian name which, in Cherokee, means “beautiful.” The meaning of the name certainly is befitting. The Toccoa, a tributary of the Hiawassee, is 56 miles long in the state of Georgia. It flows through Lake Blue Ridge where the tail waters of the lake are home to trophy size brown trout.

If you want a lazy-river-like afternoon, make the 33 mile drive from Suches to Blue Ridge. Even in the heat of summer, there is a refreshing influence that is a reminder that North Georgia is a center for feel good moments.

All Georgians who appreciate the unspoiled North Georgia mountains should never fail to come this way, stop somewhere, and bow in reverence, remembering Arthur Woody who had a lot to do with what we consider pristine. However, if you conduct a modicum of research you find that without his influence there is no telling what this treasured landscape would be like today.

Woody, a colorful character, was a forest ranger who preferred not to wear a uniform. He often walked around barefoot. He was a woodsman who came along in the 1915 era. The son of a farmer, Woody became a member of a forest service crew as an axe man and became an advocate of the federal government buying up land in North Georgia.

A series of purchases did take place bringing about the Chattahoochee (formerly Cherokee) National Forest. One would assume that the government paid good money for land back then – otherwise how could folks support the Feds, most of whom were Yankees.

It was a good deal for Woody and his friend Roscoe Nicholson as they became the first Forest Rangers of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Woody’s good deeds were celebrated and remain legend. He was highly opposed to poachers and made false bear tracks to catch them. If you are an outlaw, one of the best ways to hide out would be the forest. The outlaws were no match for the wily Woody who would catch ’em and bring ’em to justice.

Today the Chattahoochee National Forest is an invigorating playground for outdoor recreational advocates. If you ride through the forest, you can’t imagine that North Georgia was once as bald as Stone Mountain.”

Not only did Woody go about his “rangering” business as an efficient fiduciary for the U. S. government, he was never reluctant to parry with the bureaucrats by finding ways to get around their troublesome, cantankerous, and logjam thinking.

He wanted a road built from Suches to Wolfpen Gap. He was told that there was nothing in the budget to build new roads, only funding for improving existing roads. Ranger Woody and his friends cut a path through the forest from Suches to the gap. When they finished, they called it a road which led to Washington funding improvements until a paved road was built.

On your way from here to Blue Ridge, you might want to stop at Woody Gap and give a thumbs up for ol’ Arthur. His sprit still hovers over the lands he helped preserve and protect. But don’t go to Blue Ridge without a fly rod and urgency to catch a big brown trout on the Toccoa

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