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Thomas "10-k" Bradford
Begins: Apr 11, 2011
Date: Sun, May 8th, 2011
Entry Visits: 1,421
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Benton MacKaye Trail Map
I decided to sleep in since I was in a comfortable bed and didn't get up until 6:00 AM the next morning. I put on my clothes and walked outside wondering if there was a place in town to get a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning that early. The gas station / convenience store was open and they had just finished brewing 2 pots of coffee! I bought 2 large 24 oz cups of coffee, loaded with sugar and half & half and an apple pie and went outside and sat down on the curb and decided this was breakfast. Not exactly health food but perfect after days of oatmeal, instant grits and instant coffee.
After breakfast, I went back to my room and loaded up my pack and hit the trail. I took an alternate trail out of Hot Springs called the Roundtop Ridge Trail which is the old AT route in and out of Hot Springs. As I hiked the trail I couldn't help but think of all the people in the previous decades who had hiked this when it was the AT and felt a real connection with the past. The big advantage of this trail is that it is 5 miles shorter than the current AT route and avoids the steep climb out of Hot Springs that the current AT requires. Even though I didn't start until after 7:00 AM, by 9:00 AM I was further up the trail than I would have been had I started at 5:00 AM on the "real" AT. Sweet.
I was back on home turf! After hiking for almost 2 weeks I was finally back in an area where I knew where the campsites were, were the water sources were - and most importantly at the time, where the shortcuts were! As I neared Hurricane Gap I jumped down on a forest service road which saved me a lot of time and energy, then I hopped back on the trail and made my way down to Allen's Gap. 45 more miles to go!
After the climb out of Allen's Gap I made my way up to Camp Creek Bald and took a break at the piped spring and evaluated the situation. It was Easter Sunday. I was within 10 miles of our property at Devil's Fork Gap, I was very tired and I was not looking forward to hiking from Devil's Fork Gap to Erwin because I've hiked it sooo many times this year I wasn't sure I was up for hiking it yet again.
I made the executive decision to get off the AT and take the Jerry Miller Trail down to the Shelton Laurel Backcountry area and call Marie to pick me up, approximately 30 miles from our home in Erwin.
And within 4 hours of making that decision I was at home eating leftover Easter dinner - a fine, fine way to bring my journey to an end.
All in all it was a wonderful time and I'm looking forward to my next adventure.
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