View Full Version : Thinking about using the BMT on my thru-hike

SGT Rock
07-15-2006, 14:22
Howdy all,

Looking at my retirement and my thru-hike plan, looks like 6 April 2008 as a start date (a Sunday) with about 5 months to get it done. I can hardly wait on that. I figure it will get here faster than I think.

With time to contemplate many things while stuck in Iraq, one of them is an idea I have been kicking around for a couple of years now: Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail and use the BMT for the first 11% of the trail. I figure I can get my wife to drive me to Springer in about 3 hours and we could have lunch together (with the kids too) on Springer Mountain by using FS42. But then instead of using the AT the whole way, I could take the BMT until Davenport Gap on the far end of the Smokies. It would be about 50 extra miles over doing the AT for that same portion.

So a few questions: anyone done this before as a part of an AT thru-hike?

Anyone here thru-hiked the BMT yet?

I figure about 14 days to get to Deals Gap and then meet my wife there for a zero day and re-supply back home in Maryville. For anyone that has done the whole BMT, does this seem reasonable? I hear some sections of the BMT in GA are sort of steep :D

And for that section, I figure a resupply stop at Suches and then another one at Hiwassee by mail drop and purchase. Any feedback on the re-supply points?

And I figure about 6 days on the BMT through the Smokies to get to Davenport Gap for my next resupply. That doesn't seem too hard looking at it from here. Anyone done that section yet? Is that a realistic assessment.

Thanks in advance for any advice or input.

07-15-2006, 23:15
Sounds like a good plan. You'll find it as tough as the GA AT but being a fit Army dude, you won't have any problem. I think you're army???

I can't comment on resupply since I just did week long section hikes. Finished section 1 and 2 and hopefully next year will do the section in the Smokies.

Watch out for that Slickrock section...signage is missing...easy to get on the wrong trail.....talking from experience......

I might be able to throw some trail magic your way when you get up here near Roanoke.

SGT Rock
07-16-2006, 02:34
Slickrock doesn't bother me. I maintain there :D

Thannks for the offer of trail magic.

07-16-2006, 06:50
I know, just had to throw that on you :)

07-16-2006, 07:19
Happy Feet & Hatman would be good to talk to Sarge. I know that ypu're familiar with Happy Feet. Send her a PM.

Good choice BTW.

SGT Rock
07-16-2006, 11:21
Well I figured I would pick Hatman and Happy Feet's collective brain when I got back if I really end up deciding to go this way. I have been reading up on the BMT website and looking through the old BMT threads here to see what I can find out.

Basically looks like a great trail and I figure at 14 miles per day I can hack that no matter what, but then again you can go into something with an unrealistic expectation and get squashed LOL

I just wish the data for the sections between 11 and GSMNP were up so I could figure on some of that. Then again, I know more about a couple of those re-supply points than are on that page. I love getting burgers a Deals Gap and the trail goes right past it, so I cannot figure why they wouldn't reccomend it. I always get treated right by the folks there.

Tipi Walter
07-16-2006, 12:56
I've seen several thruhikers on the B Mac and caught them at the end of their hikes right before entering the Park so the trail from Georgia to Calderwood Lake must be good enough. In the Coker Creek area around Hiway 68 in Tennessee the trail leaves the Hiwassee river and veers northeast to cross 68 and passes Buck Mt to Unicoi Gap. This section from the Hiway past the Gap to Peels Top, Six Mile Gap, Sandy Gap and along the old State Line trail to Sled Runner Gap I found to be the most overgrown and hardest section to follow. The trail maintainers say few people clear this part and though the trail is fairly free of blowdowns the brush, weeds and briars can be a challenge. I walked it in the heat of July and August when the plants were at their peak and though I was a mite confused I was never lost as basically the trail stays up on the ridge the whole way as it skirts the TN/NC border.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 06:07
Rock, let us know when the BMT HANDBOOK comes out.

I think the plan is to not over catalog the trail.

Looks like I was wrong about that. They are working on a databook:

Coming soon: BMT Databook (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/) with listing of campsites, water, etc. with distances to each http://www.bmta.org/HikerResources.htm

But, in my spare time pulling "CPATT Security" I took all the data available on the trail from their website and put together a format similar to a databook so I can plan. It actually wasn't that hard.

07-21-2006, 06:35
But, in my spare time pulling "CPATT Security" I took all the data available on the trail from their website and put together a format similar to a databook so I can plan. It actually wasn't that hard.

All right! Thanks, Rock. That's definitely useful.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 06:44
No problem Skidsteer,

Be advised: there is some conflicting data between the section guides, the resupply page, and the trail conditions and status pages about mileage between some points. Whenever possible I used the mileage where I could get two of them to concur. But in some cases mileage may not be accurate. For the sections north of Thunder Rock Campground and South of 20 Mile Ranger Station, the data comes from best guess on looking at the maps provided on-line cross referenced with the supply details page and the Section status page. Some mileages could be up to a half mile off from each other best I could tell.

07-21-2006, 06:51
there is some conflicting data between the section guides...

I'll keep that in mind.

I've just been looking through it(saved to my desktop)and it looks like you put a lot of work into it. Thanks again and I really appreciate the effort it must have taken. :)

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 06:52
Actually it was easy, at least to me it was.

johnny quest
07-21-2006, 12:20
i have a stupid question: why? why replace part of the at thru hike with the bmt? is it more beautiful? more challenging? im not trying to be smartass. i really just dont know.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 12:39
Because I want to. :D

Really though, I have already hiked all the AT up to Fontanna and parts of the Smokies as well. I've seen all that already. Some folks hike the AT numerous times on thru-hikes and that is fine by me, but I like seeing things, and not always the same thing. So there is one reason, to see something new.

Another reason (honestly) is the AT is becoming a trail that is very well groomed in most places. I've hiked all sorts of places, places where there was no trail, to places there was trails with lots of board walks, shelters, bridges, signs to the water, etc. the AT in a lot of places is on the "Well developed" end of the spectrum, and with the traffic it gets, it probably needs that. So the BMT will have a different feel than the AT, a good way to mix it up a bit instead of seeing the same 8 mile SHELTER 8 mile SHELTER 8 mile SHELTER... mile slave routine of the AT. So there is another reason.

I also maintain on the BMT, so I want to see the whole thing. The only time I can see that I'll get to do that (right now anyway) is when I thru-hike. So there is another reason.

I also am not a purist. So when I finally meet up with the AT thru-hikers, where I stand on that will already be settled LOL. There is another reason.

Add to that I believe the AT would be smart to adopt a trail corridor approach to recognizing thru-hikers. Maybe when I get done I will submit my certificate request with the detailed accounting of my trip and why and see what happens. If they approve it that way, well then it sort of settles some of the debate about all that and what the ATC really thinks about purists and such. So there is another reason - maybe...

And then there is the time I plan to start, the begining of April. I don't want to be too crowded, I like going weeks without seeing someone else. So there is another reason.

And this way may be the closest to figuring out what guys like Earl Schaffer, Gene Espy, and the other early hikers found the AT to be back then, not always marked, not always well defined, remote from others, no hostels every 30 miles and trail angels to keep you going when you are weary. I would like to see how that feels for myself. I know I can't get it for the whole trail, but probably about 180 miles of it. There is another reason.

I am sure if I thought about it, I could come up with more. But basically it boils down to doing my own hike and doing it my way.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 12:49
Here are some facts about the trail from a piece I was writing for my website:

The Benton MacKaye Trail (www.BMTA.org (http://www.bmta.org/)) was started as an idea in 1979 by Appalachian Trail hikers that were worried the AT was becoming too crowded and overused. If the could have only seen the future of the AT! Since Benton MacKaye, the father of the Appalachian Trail, originally drew proposed feeder trails to the AT along the western branch of the southern Appalachians, that route was looked at to create a feeder trail system that met his plan while offering the hiker a wilder trail with less grooming and construction (there are only 2 shelters on the entire BMT, well three if you count Springer Mountain Shelter) for a more remote wilderness experience. Construction was started in 1980 and finally finished in 2005; at 287.6 miles long, that is about 11 miles per year! The first 82 miles of trail were finished in 1989, and then construction stalled for 14 years waiting on federal aproval. The next 200+ miles or so of trail were negotiated over time and/or built in a partnership with various federal agencies such as the Forest Service, Park Service, and other government offices. Because of the regulations regarding historical, ecological, and other impacts – the majority of the time has been spent trying to meet all regulations regarding trail building and use rather than the actual construction. To make the process easier, Section 2 and Section 3 in GSMNP follow many trails and old logging roads that already existed.

The BMT’s lowest point is 765’ at the Hiwasse River in Reliance, TN and the highest point is 5843’ at Mount Sterling in the GSMNP. Unfortunately this means you miss some of the taller peaks of the Smokies including Clingman’s Dome. Another thing that may be a problem to some hikers is there are about 10 miles of road walk on the BMT. The Benton MacKaye trail is marked by white diamonds where markings are allowed – not all of the trail has blazes because of wilderness rules that prevent trail blazing in some areas. It is rated as "Difficult" on the scale used by the ATC.

The trail starts on the Appalachian Trail 50’ north of the Springer Mountain Shelter turn off and crosses the AT again near the FS42 parking area. It joins back to the AT at Three Forks and follows the same path until Long Creek Falls area. After that it goes westward on its own and doesn’t see the AT again until GSMNP at mile point 196.4 (167.7 on the AT). During this time the BMT only passes one shelter (well two if you count Springer Mountain Shelter) while the AT will have passed 25 shelters. The BMT has less re-supply locations along the trail and hasn’t got any hostels in that stretch unless you count a bunk house for rafters at over 100 miles into the trip. A hiker contemplating these sections of the Benton MacKaye needs to be more self sufficient and take a little time to figure out how they plan to tackle it.

After crossing the AT at Sassafras Gap, the BMT follows the western side of GSMNP for 91.2 miles and rejoins the AT at Davenport Gap at mile 287.6 (234.9 on the AT). For those that hate the GSMNP shelter system, the BMT in the Smokies only has ONE shelter! Compare that to the 12 on the AT. And while the AT in the Smokies only has one designated campsite you can use if you want to sleep outside a shelter, the BMT in the Smokies has 21 to choose from! But there is a draw back: when you enter the Smokies you have to plan your itinerary and register for campsites and the one shelter (if you plan to use it) before you start. The system for thru-hikers is not as user friendly yet, but I think it may change if more people start thru-hiking the BMT. One positive is you are only 6 miles from Cherokee, NC when you cross US 441, so it is an easy walk downhill on a busy road with a good possibility of a hitch into town for re-supply when you get to that point.

johnny quest
07-21-2006, 13:07
all good reasons. especially the first. thanks for the edumacation.

im real interested in seeing what the atc makes of your thruhike.

im planning an '08 thruhike as well. earlier start though. your idea of purposely dong...not only your own hike...but your own at thruhike is interesting. are there any other trails along the at that would make good alt routes?

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 13:09
Probably. I can't say I know them all, Mowgli has a good knowledge of all the extra trails in the SE and then there are others that know the trails up north.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 13:10
Dang, should have asked you when you are planning to go. I reckon we ought to start an 08 user list soon.

johnny quest
07-21-2006, 13:18
need to do that, hi.

im still up in the air though. either i go sobo and start in june or i go nobo and start as early as possible. my personal life and family and work will all factor in. so for now im plannning for both.

07-21-2006, 13:19
If you use the BMT, then it's not a thru hike of the AT.

I wonder how many times your gonna here that? You know I dont believe it. HYOH.
I'm sure you'll keep us up on your plans SgtRock. Interesting read on the BMT. Kinda like a 100 mile Wilderness for the southern end of the AT. I can tell as you get closer to retirement the more excited your getting about your hike. I love that feeling!
Stay safe.

SGT Rock
07-21-2006, 13:22
If you use the BMT, then it's not a thru hike of the AT.

I wonder how many times your gonna here that? You know I dont believe it. HYOH.
I'm sure you'll keep us up on your plans SgtRock. Interesting read on the BMT. Kinda like a 100 mile Wilderness for the southern end of the AT. I can tell as you get closer to retirement the more excited your getting about your hike. I love that feeling!
Stay safe.

Yes, well if I hear it too much, then I will name it something else, then not tell people what it means. Like a Benton MacKaye original intent foot march. Of course it is bull****, but only a few people would know what the hell I am talking about anyway. As long as you are walking to Maine, it is all good. And the reality is I will still qualify as a 2,000 miler by the AT standards anyway, so anyone that wants to worry about my hike can pound sand LOL:eek: