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Thomas "10-k" Bradford
Begins: Apr 11, 2011
Date: Mon, Apr 25th, 2011
Start: Springer Mt.
End: Davenport Gap
Entry Visits: 1,888
Journal Visits: 9,815
Guestbook Views: 1,333
Guestbook Entrys: 7
Benton MacKaye Trail Map
Before I start my report I would like to express my sincerest thanks to Brenda, Rick and Jake Harris who graciously put me up in their home and shuttled me all over the place, including a 3 hour ER visit in Sweetwater, TN. More on this later but without their assistance my trip would have came to an abrupt end halfway through. Thanks guys!
As planned, my wife and son dropped me off at The Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega, GA on April 10th to spend the night and where I would be shuttled to Springer Mt. the next morning to begin my BMT thru hike. The Hiker Hostel, if you haven't had the opportunity to visit, is a pretty nice place. Thirty bucks got me a room, breakfast, lots of other hikers to talk to and a ride to the trail the next morning - not bad. The next morning at 8:30 we left the hostel and at 9:14 I was at the parking lot on FS42 hiking southbound on the AT to start the BMT. My first big decision was whether to hike to the official terminius where the AT/BMT officially begin or just start the BMT .2 of a mile from the plaque where it cuts off from the AT. I decided to go all the way down and begin at the plaque.
The weather was nice and the first day I throughly enjoyed hiking in the Georgia mountains again. Having grown up in GA, I will always consider myself a Georgian no matter where I live and it was like being home again. I passed 1 of 2 hikers between Springer and GSMNP not far from Springer and about 4:00 I cut off the trail to go to Martin's Dixie Depot where I ran into the owner, a nasty little man, giving a lady hell over where to best get cell reception to call for help about car trouble. I heard him tell her she could drive off a cliff if she didn't believe him..... When I got close he said, "We're closed and we're going to stay closed and if you voted for Obama you can thank yourself that we're not open." I said I just wanted some water and he said, "We don't have any.". Nasty little man.... Fortunately, I knocked on a local guys door and they let me fill my water bottle at their place.
The first night I made it to Payne Gap. I pitched my cuben Lightheart Solo tent for the 2nd time, located the water source not far from the trail and cooked dinner. A few days before I left for my trip I received an email from Judy at Lightheart notifying me that she had discovered that water could get into the tent via the zipper and that I should sent my tent back for modifications. I didn't have time and there was no way I wasn't going to take a tent I spent five hundred dollars on just for this trip. I say that to say that as soon as I got situated a wild thunderstorm, complete with lightening, developed right over my tent. Rain was coming down in buckets and I was prepared to get soaked. As it turned out I stayed completely dry.
The next morning there wasn't a cloud in the sky and I hit the trail at first light. This is the day I made my big blunder. I like to think of it more as a "Stupidity Tax" that I paid early which served to put me on high alert. The day before when I was hiking it occurred to me that with the way I had planned my food drops I could hit GSMNP with enough extra to avoid going into Cherokee for resupply. I package food based on hiking 20 miles a day, I usually hike 23 or so and with my lighter weight setup it was looking like 25-27 mpd was going to be in reach. Sweet.... So I decided to try and hit the PO in Cherry Log, GA on my second day out instead of my 3rd as originally planned. To make a long story short, what I did was go the wrong way at the Toccoa River where it meets Shallowford Rd, got back on the BMT going SOBO and hiked ALL THE WAY BACK TO GA 60!!. Yes, even though I walked by the same fire tower, Sgt. Rocks guide says "Walk DOWNSTREAM" and there were blazes indicating the right direction. I went the wrong way solely because there was a trail marker sign that had the blazes on the wrong side indicating hikers were coming from the other direction and I just assumed that was the right way to go. When I got back to GA 60 and realized my mistake I almost sat down and cried. Three more times over the course of my hike I went the wrong way (in unblazed wilderness areas) because I "knew" the way to go. Each time I reflected on my stupid mistake, stopped to check myself and sure enough - discovered that my intuition was wrong and turned back before I went a hundred yards. So..... maybe that first mistake actually saved me time in the long run by making me more careful later on.
The second night I had a nice campsite by a creek less than a quarter mile from the last legal spot before reaching the highway where I would walk to Cherry Log and pick up my box. The PO opened at 7:30 so I started hiking at 5:00 AM with the idea of stopping by the store not far from the PO for a cup of coffee while I waited for the PO to open. So, I walked. And I walked.... I actually managed to walk 30 minutes PAST where I was supposed to get off the highway to get to Cherry Log. Nothing like a walk in the dark down a busy highway to start the day! I did make it to the PO at 7:00 and tapped on the window and asked the postal worker if I could have my box even though they hadn't opened yet. He gave me my box and I hit the road, skipping the store. I was not feeling too lucky at this point. Oh, I did get stopped by the police because someone had called me in as "A vagrant walking down the road." They checked me out and let me go but you can safely assume Cherry Log is NOT a trail town.
The Benton MacKaye Trail or BMT is a footpath nearly 300 miles in length in the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States and is blazed by a 5x7 white diamond. Learn more: www.bmta.org