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bmt thru hike/at lash/ft bastian chapter 4-hiking alone together

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  • as rasty has already filed a pretty thorough report on the 10 days he spent with me, i'll just fill in a few details.
    the first site we camped at, coker creek, was the least desirable site on the entire bmt. close to a forest road crossing, their was a camper trailer parked for the night, we found a spot far enough away , but the place was less than tidy. i stepped on a marshmallow, so i put my camp shoes on to pick the crap out of the tread, when i stepped on a second marshmallow.we went to sleep early that night, as it had been a rather long first day for rasty.
    my second resupply point was at green cove motel 1.6 mi from the trail. everyone was friendly and helpful, and the local kids were enthralled to be visited by foreigners."my dad went to new york once!"the room was spartan, institutional yellow cinder block,no tv, but a powerful shower head, and thats all i cared about. it is sooo frustrating when you hit a town, craving a nice hot shower, and it comes out in a trickle, because everyone uses those stupid water saving devices. this one came out like a fire hose and it felt great. we cooked dinner out back on a table and bench alongside a stream.the next morning we hiked back to the trail to climb to whigg meadow, a beautiful artificial bald with 360 views.
    that night some t storms blew in. with winds between 30-40 mph,my new titanium tent stakes wouldnt hold the ground, and i had to get out twice in the middle of the night to restake the tent.i made it through the night okay, but vowed to replace them as soon as i could get to an outfitter. this didnt happen till i hit hot springs 2 weeks later, but fortunately, i didnt hit any bad weather after that.
    a few days later we hit deals gap and decided on taking the new bypass to fontana village. we began an uphill roadwalk that lasted too long, to the point where we had though of giving up,going back and hiking the original road walk on tail of the dragon. but we pushed a little further. a car drove out from one of the nearby houses. we asked where to find the road we were looking for, and she told us she didnt know any roads around there, and pulled away. we then asked a lady at a house , and she told us it was just a bit further up the road.so on we continued till we came to a road intersection with a white ford explorer parked nearby with at, bmt,and a number of other stickers on it, which i figured belonged to sgt. rock. we watered up and began hiking up the forest road. a few minutes later, a truck came up behind us. the driver asked if we were the guys thru hiking the bmt. i recognized sgt rock in the seat next to him. the driver was dick evans, from the bmta, and sgt rock's son was in the back seat. they showed us a great gap to camp at, with a nice water source nearby.
    the next day, we continued on the yellow creek ridge trail, which was challenging, as the trail had been flagged with yellow ribbon, but not yet cleared in most spots.it was tedious to negotiate, and pretty durn steep up and down, one of the toughest sections on the length of the bmt.i like tough.
    we bushwacked a few hundred yards into fontana village, and called hike inn for a shuttle to the motel for the night.jeff and his wife were excellent hosts, and i highly recommend hike inn.
    so far, although we did see people from time to time at road crossings, we had camped alone pretty much every night.
    next up was the smokies. we shuttled back to fontana village so that rasty could pick up his mail drop at the post office, socializing for a few minutes with some of the class of 2014 at thru hikers.
    rasty had told one of them we had been hiking the bmt, which was more difficult than the at, and the kid went on this whole spiel"are you crazy? the at is 2100 miles,man!" and so on, completely misunderstanding the point,all pumped up with the self importance a thru hike attempt can sometimes impart.
    the trail through the smokies is waaay different than the at. no shelters, for starters, and, unlike at thru hikers, we had to set our itinerary in advance, filing permits for each campsite for every night. this was a bit of a pain, but mostly just a formality, as i never saw a single ranger or ridgerunner my whole time on the bmt.
    rather than follow the ridgeline, the trail follows down much lower, first along fontana lake, and on the second day, we came to the abandoned lumber town of proctor.
    we came to the calhoun house, built by a railroad magnate, and it had a big porch in front, where we relaxed on cushioned lounges watching the water go by in the stream it faced as we cooked our dinner.that night we camped on the other side of the stream. there were some horsemen camped nearby, but we never saw them the time we were there.late that night we got some heavy t storms, and when we woke up, it was still raining lightly that morning we were getting warnings from cafe members about severe weather. the south had been hit hard by tornadoes the previous day and the forecast called for severe weather moving into our area that day. my bigger concern was fording noland creek twice the following day which,if we got hit with a lot of rain, would become dangerous.we ate breakfast on the porch of the calhoun house, drying out our gear. we discussed the weather, decided we'd trust my incredible luck with the weather and headed out. we never really saw any severe weather, and i joked that if you looked at our journey on a weather map, you'd see how the fronts would part for us, like moses parting the red sea.the following day, we safely forded noland creek. the following morning rasty was already gone, getting up early to hike to newfound gap rd for a shuttle back to his car.
    i packed up and hit the trail around 8am, getting to the trailhead around 2:30.i planned to hitch into cherokee, and grab a room for the night. traffic was sparce, so i started walking the 4.6 miles into town, putting my thumb out when i heard a vehicle passing. as i was doing this, i turn to see a car with lights on top, who sees my thumb out, puts on his lights and pulls over into a parking turnout on the other side of the road. i didnt know whether he was going to give me a ride or a ticket for hitchiking and wasnt sure whether i should be hurrying towards him or away from him.
    he asked where i was headed, i told him, and he said he could give me a ride to the visitor center. before i got in the car, he asked if i had any weapons. i smiled and showed him my tiny swiss army knife. he ended up giving me a ride all the way to cherokee, and we had some nice conversation on the ride.
    i checked into a motel, and decided to stay another day to play tourist. the following day i explored the museum of the cherokee indian, and the qualla arts center adjacent to it, which i found to be more interesting than the museum. there was also a bamboo forest which ran a few hundred yards you could walk through by the stream which ran right through cherokee.i visited souvenir alley, laughing that they all sold the same crap you could find in any souvenir shop in the world, same shot glasses, ash trays, etc. even though i was on an actual indian reservation, they all sold minnetonka mocassins(made in minnesota). i had joked with rasty they probably sold cherokee snow globes. i was disappointed they didnt, but did find smoky mountain snow globes a suitable substitute.
    the following day, a cherokee woman who worked for the hotel shuttled me back to the trailhead. we had a lively discussion as she complained about her culture slowly disappearing with the coming of the casino, and lamented the fact the elders were no longer teaching the cherokee language in their schools.and it did seem the cherokees had "sold out" even selling to the white man the white man's perception of what an indian should be, rather than their authentic culture and lifestyle.
    my destination for the day was enlo creek campsite. i had passed 3 section hikers earlier who had told me this was their goal as well. i got there and set up my tent in a nice spot next to a beautiful cascade over huge boulders, a stream lined with hemlocks and moss, with a foot bridge leading to the other side. up along the boulders i came across a small cave/alcove with a boulder for a seat, a perfect spot to watch the water go by, and someone had left a therma seat pad to sit on. the section hikers came along a little while later but couldnt find trees to hang their hammocks(there were trees everywhere) so they headed off to the next site some 6 miles away, and i had the site to myself.
    the next morning i readied myself for the long climb up mt sterling, the highest point on the bmt in the smokies. i got to the clearing around the fire tower around 5pm, and met a hiker just setting up her own tent. her name was robin,from nashville,tn. trail name groovy, she had thru hiked the at in 2001, was out doing some sections in the smokies. we had some great conversation. that night, the moon set early and we were treated to a crystal clear sky at 5800 ft, a milky way night. the morning came, and we again marveled at a gorgeous sunrise. we lingered a bit too long, enjoying each others company and conversation, but by 8:30am we said goodbye and headed off in opposite directions.
    i had planned on meeting homebrew at standing bear by 12am, but knew id never get there that early. the trail down from mt sterling was a pretty easy downhill and i made good time, getting to the bmt northern terminus at big creek ranger station around 12pm.from there it was still 5.5 miles to standing bear, so i kept on going, getting to standing bear around 2:30, to find homebrew hanging out with some thru hikers.
    all in all,the benton mackaye trail was perhaps one of the best trails ive hiked. challenging, rewarding, and remote- my favorite criteria.the scenery was consistently breathtaking, whether it was in the backcountry among waterfalls and cascades("oh,no!not more waterfalls and cascades!")or on the ridgeline with awesome mountain vistas("oh,no, not more awesome mountain vistas!")every day was a different hike, and i never had a bad day. although i had some rain, it was rarely for long, only had 2 days that it rained all day.most other days were cool and overcast which made for great hiking weather, water sources were abundant.if you're looking for a hike with plenty of solitude i highly recommend it.
    i'd love to do it again.
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    its all good

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