KATHLEEN -- Deep in the woods east of Ga. 247, behind the Frito-Lay factory and then south, a few dozen people went for a Sunday hike.
It really wasn’t all that deep in the woods, mind you, just a couple of miles or so as the crow flies from the highway. But it was wilderness enough to get the idea.
You could see 150-year-old trees and sand dollar fossils and remains of a moonshine still. It was also deep enough to be made aware of the black bear.
“This is the heart of the bear country,” guide John Trussell said.
“I don’t want to see a bear unless it’s a long away away,” said hiker Angie Livingston of nearby Bonaire.
Trussell, a conservationist and founder of Save Oaky Woods, regularly leads hikes in the 13,000-acre, state-owned Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area.
“Any of you have any health problems? Can you walk a mile and a half or two miles?” he asked hikers before they headed into a hardwood bottom below an old cotton plantation along Big Grocery Creek.
The hikers, more than 30 of them in all from different parts of the midstate, trekked for a couple of hours, taking in Japanese honeysuckle, American beech trees, white oaks, red oaks and shagbark hickories.
“This is an ideal time because there’s no snakes and bugs, and not a whole lot of serious hunting going on,” said Trussell, 63, a retired probation officer.
“Most people have never been here, and they’re a little leery about coming by themselves.”
Hiker Bud Queen of Monroe County, who is president of a group called Friends of High Falls State Park there, had been wanting to visit Oaky Woods for years.
“There’s a lot of people out here for just a day hike. It’s good that they get out and take advantage of it,” Queen said.
“This is very unusual here in that you’ve got so many different types of terrain to deal with, plus the oldness of it. Most people don’t see this kind of stuff.”