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bmt thru hike/at lash/ft.bastian chapter 2- into the wilderness

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  • the benton mackaye trail is very different than the appalachian trail.overall, i would rate it somewhat more difficult to both walk and navigate.as it was still early spring, some of the trail, particularly in the more remote wilderness areas, were full of brush and blowdown, making walking very tedious at times.the georgia section had steeper ups and downs than the same section of the at, but still easier than most trails ive hiked here in the northeast.i found sgt rocks, bmt guide a must, as well as the national geo maps. although the trail is usually easy enough to follow, the trail intersections can be confusing at times, as well as reentry into the woods off roadwalks, which are not always clearly marked. this lack of blazing is pronounced in the wilderness areas, where there are no blazes at all.it just means paying close attention at the trail intersections to make sure you're on the right trail.if you hop on the wrong trail, you could travel miles without knowing you're on the wrong one. i never once had to use my compass,though.
    my first resupply point was at watson gap, at mile 73.it was a 4 mile roadwalk down a steep hill to jacks river country store, where my maildrop waited. i walked down the blacktop in the heat, dreading the climb back up. the road seemed to go on forever through farmland, with no store or town in site. i was able to get cell reception so i called rasty to see if he could figure out if i had gone too far or if i was on the right road. he saw that i was on. rte2, and i said no, i'm on trail#2.he said oh, okay, i see now you're on rte 2. and i said again, no. im on trail 2. i saw a truck coming, so i hung up on rasty, and flagged the truck down, asking if jacks river country store was indeed further down the road. he gave me a ride the last mile to the store and i was able to pick up my resupply pkg.
    some of the locals were hanging out at the store flirting with the waitress/proprietor, the one woman within 20 miles, and one of them, an old grizzled war veteran, offered me a ride back up to watson gap in his hunting atv.on the way up the hill, he asked if i carried bear spray.i looked at him quizzically and asked "are there grizzlies up here?" he said no, but there's a lot of bear, and they'll be after your food. i told him they've been after my food for a long long time,and haven't gotten it yet, that i'd be fine.he shrugged as he dropped me off and wished me well on my journey.
    i camped a few miles up from the trail crossing, at bear branch. i was a bit spooked that night, thinking about the old man's bear warning, and looked for a tree to hang a bag. i found a good one, but when i pulled the rope, the branch snapped, a dead tree. i tried twice more, but all the trees nearby were dead, so i threw my food bag back in my tent,where it remained unmolested the rest of the night.i surmised the bears were still vacationing in miami beach anyway.except for a few deer, and a skunk on my first day out, i had seen no wildlife other than birds.
    every day on the bmt was different, sometimes it was a ridgeline walk, others a walk through farmland and country roads, other times through beautiful ravines filled with rhododendron forests, waterfalls and cascades. it was hard to plan any high mileage days, and learned to adjust to take just whatever the trail offered me that day.
    the next day i set out on the climb up big frog, one of the steepest climbs on the entire bmt, around 1100 ft in just over a mile. at double spring gap, i ran into 3 riders on horses-clyde, clifford and caitlyn, who was clyde's granddaughter. clyde offered to take my pack up the mountain if i liked, but i politely declined,telling him "everything i need is in that pack, and i need everything thats in it." he smiled ,said he understood, and they headed up the trail ahead of me.the climb was stupid steep, so steep ,in fact that i passed the 3 horsemen 3 times, while they rested the horses from the steep grade and loose rock.clifford told me there was a great spring near the top of big frog, so not to fret about water. they again headed before me. a while later i came to find them sitting around a spring, cleaning fresh ramps that were growing quite abundantly around there.i joked that i would now be glad to take them up on the offer to carry my pack up the hill. we sat,chatted, ate ramps,and clifford fished 2 sloppy joe sandwiches out of his cooler and gave them to me.as we parted after lunch, clifford asked me if i were born again. i told him "more than once", turned and walked up the trail, leaving him wondering about my reply.
    the big frog wilderness was absolutely outstanding and a highlight of my trip. green lush forest, with plenty of water. at the end of the day, i got to thunder rock campground, a public site, and my journey into the wild was interrupted by a night in "civilization".
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Comments 2

  • hikerboy -

    yes. i love that bag, its the big agnes lost ranger with a sleeve for your pad, so all the down is on top. it becomes a friggin bed.super comfortable and warm as toast, in fact almost too warm by the time i was through ths smokies. i switched it out in damascus.

  • CoachLou -

    I see you have the warm one..........was it worth it's weight?