By Doug Walker The Rome News-Tribune
CAVE SPRING — Far off the beaten path between Cave Spring and Cedartown, volunteers were pouring out sweat on a humid January afternoon, laying the groundwork for what they hope will soon be a well-worn trail.
Armed with rakes, axes and hoes on Sunday, leaders of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association were clearing a new off-road path across a tract acquired by The Conservation Fund last year.
Rick Moon of Dalton, president of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association, was joined by Larry Madden of Cave Spring, Ricky Flowers of Cedartown and Marty Dominy of Toomsboro in Wilkinson County.
The crew put in several hours of hands-on labor to help create an off-road trail that will ultimately cross Santa Claus Mountain south of Cave Spring and link Old Georgia 100 to the new Ga. 100.
“We’re building about a half a mile of single track right here,” Moon said. “We’re about ready to blaze it. It’s walkable; not in the pristine shape we want it to be, but it’s getting there pretty quickly.”
The Pinhoti Trail was conceived more than 30 years ago, to continue Benton MacKaye’s dream of having a trail along the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Alabama.
The Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, where the Benton MacKaye Trail picks up the path to the Cohutta Wilderness northeast of Chatsworth.
The Pinhoti makes the link from the MacKaye Trail to the Talladega National Forest in Alabama.
Madden, who is the past-president of the Pinhoti Trail Association, said he’s not sure why the official Appalachian Trail was stopped at Spring Mountain near Dawsonville.
The section where Madden, Moon, Dominy and Flowers were working Sunday will eliminate four miles of road walking, according to Dominy. He’s worked at one time or another on 90 percent of the 165 Pinhoti miles in Georgia.
The Conservation Fund purchased the property from Hancock Timber Resources for approximately $2 million in the spring of 2012, with most of the funds coming from a single donor to the nonprofit organization. The Pinhoti group still has much work left on the trail.
“The more people we can get to come out and help us, obviously the more we can do,” Moon said.
The Pinhoti in Georgia has been constructed, for the most part, to accommodate equestrian and mountain bike use as well as traditional hikers.
“That’s given us a lot broader volunteer base to build, maintain and actually enjoy the trail,” said Moon.
The bikers and horseback riders are often the ones who put in the most sweat equity, he said. Most hikers are used to walking on trails that have already been built for them.
“The local hiking community, it’s hard to get them to actually come out here and put a tool in their hand,” Madden said.
The group hopes to one day develop six to nine miles of mountain bike trails in the 960-acre tract between Cave Spring and Cedartown.
Moon said that would potentially create a significant economic impact for the area because of the growth of adventure sports. The Pinhoti is already home to three major adventure races, he noted.
“Adventure sports and the Pinhoti have come together at the same time. This is a rare trail system, to have this many miles point-to-point,” Moon said. “A guy looking to run 100 miles, you can’t find that just everywhere. We’re getting a lot of national and international recognition because of that fact.”