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Thomas "10-k" Bradford
Begins: Apr 11, 2011
Date: Tue, Apr 26th, 2011
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Benton MacKaye Trail Map
As I hiked along it was hard not to make compare the BMT to the AT. Other than hiking in the same mountain range the two trails have very little in common. The BMT has the same vibe as the Foothills Trail in South Carolina - the FHT being my favorite short trail at 77 miles. At 77 miles, the FHT is over before the wildness of the trail sets in but if the FHT was 288 miles long it would be very "BMTish".
The BMT is a more intelligent, efficient trail than the AT. On the AT, 75% of the time if you want to know where the trail goes all you have to do is look for the hardest, most Godawful way you could possibly go and you'll be right. On the BMT, 75% of the time if I wondered where the trail was going to go I found myself looking for the most sensible way the trail could go and that's where it went. There were a few surprises, like a few straight, steep climbs coming into Green Cove but on the BMT I spent most of my time enjoying hiking. On the AT I spend a fair amount of time wondering what in the world were they thinking when they went this way...
As mentioned, the BMT is a solitary trail - I was "alone in the woods" and it's a cheap hike because there's no place to spend money unless you hitch into a town miles from the trail. ( If I were king it would be a law that a hiker could get a brewed cup of coffee with sugar and Half & Half every 50 miles.)
From Springer Mt. to the Cohutta Wilderness the BMT is as easy to follow as the AT and I would highly recommend this hike for anyone looking for a few days of solitude or for a gear shakedown hike. Once you enter the Cohutta wilderness you best (at a minimum) have a map and compass *because* most of the trail intersections have no signage and there are no blazes to follow. I had map and compass, my GPS (which was "mostly but not always helpful" and Sargent Rocks excellent guide and between them all I was able to get through this section relatively stress free. For the first time I saw the usefulness of an altimeter as I used my elevation to ascertain which trail intersection I was at - very helpful.
The truth is I was really dreading going into unblazed areas but as it turns out this section was my favorite of the entire trip. Nice views, good tread, and a very remote feeling. I remember one night not being able to see a single electric light anywhere I looked which is pretty rare. As I finished up the Cohutta wilderness section I said goodbye go Georgia and entered NC and TN.
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