View Full Version : BMT Section hike 4/15 to 4/26/07

05-04-2007, 14:07
I did about 160+ miles in this time period starting at the approach trail at Amicolola Falls. I will do a report, but poster Krewzer pretty much covered the details well in his report. As he stated, the trail is marked well in most areas, but in other areas it is poorly marked, or not marked at all. I used Tim Homan's book (with the maps) as a guide for the GA section and the section maps from the BMTA website for the TN sections that I hiked. There is supposed to be a new data book coming out from BMTA, but I was not able to get my hands on one before starting. I'll be interested in hearing comments about this guide when someone finally gets it and does a review.

The weather for my hike was better than I expected except for the first and last days. I had near perfect weather from April 16 to April 23. It is extremely rare to get 8 straight days with not even a drop of rain, especially in April. On my first day, Sunday 4/15, we were catching the southern edges of a big Northeaster and I got to see freshly falling snow for the first time in many many years (I live in Florida). I was awe-struck seeing the white stuff accumulating all over the pine trees late Sunday evening. By morning, it had mostly melted away except in a few areas where the wind piled it up (including the side of my tent :cool: ). The last day of my hike ended up getting cut short due to severe storms and tornados in the area. I missed 24 miles that I had planned to cover Thursday and Friday, 4/26-27.

Sunday, 4/15/07 - Day 1
I left the motel in Dawsonville after eating a breakfast at the Waffle House and drove to Amicolola Falls where I had pre-registered on Saturday for long term parking. I started the approach trail at 8:20 AM in misty rain. I stopped briefly at the upper falls area to use the restroom and adjust the pack. You can get water at the restrooms here. By the time I got to the Black Gap shelter on the approach trail, the precipitation was mixed rain and ice pellets. I walked on through most of the day (still pretty fresh) and after going over Springer and looping around a bit across the AT, I arrived at 3 Forks about 4:00 PM and decided to throw down the pack and put up the tent. Ice pellets were still coming down. Inside the tent, I made a peanut butter sandwich and crawled into the sleeping bag to stay warm. At 6:30 PM, I got out of the tent and saw the big snow flakes coming down. The grass and trees were all white and the wind was howling. I heard a tree come crashing down in the distance. I finally dozed off about 8:00 PM and had visions of waking up with 4" of snow on the ground. I am glad that did not happen.

Monday 4/16 - Day 2
It was tough getting out of the bag and into the cold. I packed up the wet tent and by the time I was ready to start hiking, my fingers were numb, even with gloves on. The wind was blowing hard and I had nylon pants on and a ski mask over my ears and face. By 10:30 it was warming up nicely and I got down to one layer of clothing. I still needed ear and hand protection. I got water from the spring at Bryson Gap. As mentioned in another post, I used Micropur tablets for water purification. The spring was just trickling, so I had to carefully fill a small plastic container and pour water into my Nalgene bottles. When I got to the Taccoa River suspension bridge, I made some lunch and refilled both bottles with water from the feeder stream. The bridge was fairly impressive. I avoided Skeenah Creek for a water stop since it is listed as an unacceptable source for water. I made the long climb after the creek and finally ended up camping on the top of Wallaha Mtn. where I found a small cleared flat spot overlooking the valley below. The wind made it a bit tough to set up the tent which is a Clip Flashlight model. The wind howled through the night making it tough to sleep with the constant flapping of the nylon tent. It seemed to warm just a little through the night.

Tuesday 4/17 - Day3
It was still windy but it warmed up quickly. I was in shorts and short sleeves by 10:00 AM. By the time I got to Skeenah Gap, I was critically low on water and it looked like I had a few miles to go before the next listed spring at Payne Gap. As I crossed the highway at the Gap, I saw road workers working on re-paving the highway. I asked if they could spare some water and they gave me about a half quart. I was glad to get it and thanked them. Later, I made it to Payne Gap where I got a full re-fill of water. The spring was not apparent and I had to do some exploring to find it. It was also just tricking and not easy to get the bottles filled. On the BMT, you have to be careful about watching your water supply. The Springs are usually not marked and sometimes you have to search the ravines for water. The Maps in Tim Homan's book give you the general location of known springs near the trail. It was only this section of GA where I had a few issues with water.
I had to take frequent breaks due to some muscle soreness and fatigue. It has been a couple of years since I have taken an extended backpack hike and I was definitely feeling it, even though I consider myself to be in good shape.
During the late afternoon, I passed Wiscot Gap and got water from a spring a mile further down the trail. I immediately began looking for a place to camp and eventually came to a wide open grassy field just off the trail. I made my supper there but decided that this might be a private area and did not feel comfortable camping there. A dirt road passed through on the other side of the field. Later, I found that you are allowed to camp on the grass. I ended up finding a flat spot about 3/4 miles before the fire tower on Brawley Mtn. It was probably 7:30 before I got the tent set up. I hung my food since this is well known bear country. The only bothersome noise I heard through the night was the sound of a dog that constantly barked in the far distance.

Wednesday 4/17 - Day 4
I slept a little longer than usual and finally got on the trail by a little after 9:00 AM. The weather was remarkably nice. There were no bugs and no humidity. Spring flowers were popping up all over the place and I remember thinking how beautiful it was out here in the woods. I walked on up to the tower site on Brawley Mtn. and looked at all the antennas and communications equipment. I got water from a spring that was near Garland Gap. When I got to Shallowford bridge and the Toccoa River, I was quite surprised to find a restaurant/convienence store that was open and right across the bridge. It was 11:30 AM and I was ready for lunch. I got a double cheeseburger, fries and a Pepsi. It really hit the spot. I also had an ice cream bar to finish off the meal. The owners said that they had opened the store last October so the place was not that well known, except by the locals. You could do a very minimal re-supply there, but don't expect too much. They do have Pizza! I was prepared to go all the way to TN without re-suppling, but could have lightened the pack a little had I known about this store. It was also nice to get rid of 4 days of trash.
From the store, it was a pretty long road walk down Stanley Creek Rd. When I got to the turn off, I took a long rest, soaking my tender feet in the stream and sitting on the rocks. I refilled with water before starting up toward the falls. I took another rest on the observation platform downstream from the falls. This time of the year, you could probably sleep on the deck and no one would bother you. The trail made a sharp left turn away from the stream and along the edge of the mountain. There was some horse hoof damage to the fragile single track trail in this area and once the summer rains start, the trail edge will wash away. I ended up camping near Scroggin knob.

Thursday 4/18 - Day 5
The trail led down to Weaver Creek Rd and then Laurel Creek Rd. At first, I passed through some rather trashy areas that had been logged. It appears that the locals have been dumping along this remote dirt road and it was apparent that the loggers had no concern for the environment since they dumped everything from beer cans to sandwich wrappers. This section also had some low spots that will become very buggy and muddy when it gets warmer and wetter. After crossing the Creek, you come into a rather nice planned housing community that is made up of log cabins. The trail was a little tough to follow on the roads here but not too bad using the directions in Homan's book. There is a hairpin turn that you can't see well and it appears you are going down a driveway into someones property. There were two loose dogs there preventing me from going further, so I retraced my steps and re-read the trail directions. After studying the map, I concluded I was going the right direction and went right by the noisy dogs without confrontation. The hairpin turn leads out to a more established road that crosses US Hwy76. After a brief climb on single track trail, I dumped out onto the Sisson property. I was able to take a break and soak my feet in a stream at a small walk bridge. I went up through the private property and up the stairs over the observation platform at the dam and continued back on road through more housing development. There is a hiker shelter on the trail in the woods and I ate lunch there. You can sleep in this shelter but it is in view of a log cabin resort home and there is no privy nearby. I expect that the locals prefer that it be used only for emergencies. Water is available from the stream out in the front of the shelter. After passing through all the developed area, you go over a mountain and drop down to Boardtown Rd. This begins a long long road walk that goes for miles. I only had one dog encounter and it was not serious. I moved across the road and the dog followed, snariling and growling, but not biting. Bushy Head Rd turns to dirt and I ate a lot of dust from the local traffic. When you hike this, be sure to have a cap and plenty of water. It is all exposed area and hot. I was so glad to get to the top of the hill and see double blazes leading back to single track and into the woods. I hiked on to Hudson Gap and got water before moving on to find a campsite about a mile further. Because of thick briars and no established camp sites, I ended up setting up in the middle of this double track path. There was evidence of ATV use along the trail, but nothing too recent.

Friday 4/19/07 - Day 6
It was good to be off the roads and back in the woods. Today was another beautiful day with the cool morning and breezy dry afternoon. You could tell that ATV's and BMX MotoCross bikes have been using the trail here. I never saw anyone or heard anything. The trail maintainers actually cut in a new section of single track just off the ridge but somewhat parallel to the old BMT. This may have been done to get us off the double track section where vehicles have travelled in the past. I continued over Fowler Mtn. and on the Blue Mtn. Ridge to Dyer Gap. The legs have become strong and the pack a bit lighter from consuming food. It really felt good to be hiking. I got to Dyer Gap in the Chattahoochee NF and continued on the dirt road for aways. The trail went back into the woods as single track. There was considerable horse hoof damage in this section. The trail then dumped out to a tee on the South Fork trail. The turn was not marked, and at first, I went to the right but after seeing no blazes, I backtracked and went left. I still saw no blazes so I stopped and looked at Homan's book for directions. I could see that the double blazes that marked the southbound direction going back up the leg of the tee had been chopped off the tree with a hatchet, but from the guidebook, it appeared that I was supposed to go right at the tee. So that is what I did and eventually I noticed that I was heading north, even though there were no markings. After a mile or so, the white diamonds started again and I realized that I was on the Northbound section of the South Fork trail. This trail is also a horse trail. Eventually, the BMT exited to the right and headed up a wide trail. Further up the trail, it made a sharp left into some nice single track. I ended up camping just off this single track, a little before Watson Gap. Later that evening, 8 horse riders came up that narrow single track and tore the hell out of the trail where it drops down to Watson Gap. The horse riders had no business on this section, but as usual, they seem to care less about riding on and tearing up the hiking trails.

Saturday 4/20/07 - Day 7
I got up early and packed everything up. Once again, all the equipment was dry, making it easy to deal with. After Watson Gap, the trail went on up past Spanish Oak Gap and on an old abandoned Rd. that was slowly filling in to make a nice wide single track path. It was on this section that I saw the first hikers on the trail since I left 3 Forks on my 2nd day. Unlike the AT, the BMT can get very lonely and you may go days with no human contact. The hikers I talked to were very helpful and gave me some great tips on finding the right trail to be on. Most of the markings were gone and the sign posts had been torn down by the bears. Through the Big Frog Wilderness, there are several trail junctions that leave you wondering which way to go. At 2:00 PM, I entered Tennessee and began the steep climb up Big Frog Mtn. I was definitely huffing for about 45 minutes on this climb. I thought I might camp at the top, but the locals told me that the descent was really easy and that I could make it to Thunder Rock campground at the Ocoee River where they have hot showers. They said I would get there an hour before dark. As I was sitting on a log, taking a break about a mile before Chestnut Ridge, a multi-day backpacker (Steve) came down and we started talking. He said that he was finishing up a section and had his vehicle parked at Chestnut Ridge. He was going into Ducktown for a Hardees burger and moving to a different section to hike some more. He offered to take me to Hardees and then back to the campground. I remembered reading about a Bed and Breakfast in Ducktown and decided to call them from the Hardees. At first they said there were no rooms available but then when I mentioned hiking the BMT, the owner perked up and said that he would take care of me which meant that they had a room available to a hiker only. Steve shuttled me over to the White House B&B and I got checked in. The owners, Dan and Mardee Kauffman were absolutely wonderful hosts. They made me feel right at home. I got cleaned up and they did my wash for me. Later that evening they had Ice Cream, and the next morning I was served a wonderful breakfast and got shuttled to the grocery store and back to the trail at the Ocoee River. I highly recommend staying at the White House B&B which is also an historic home. You will get treated very well by very kind folks.

Sunday 4/21/07 - Day 8
After a great breakfast, I got packed up and Mardee took me to the grocery store and out to the trail at the Dam. She made sure that I found the correct trail before leaving. She also wrapped up some banana bread and gave it to me for later in the day. Unfortunately, I ended up missing 3.4 miles of the trail from Chestnut Ridge to the Ocoee River, so I'll have to come back and do that section some day. With a full stomach and completely rested, I hiked up the mountain and moved along the trail with ease. All was going good until late in the day when I came across a section of the trail on a ridge that was totally plowed up for a logging road. It looked like a series of plows had come through creating rough furrows on this road. It was not easy walking on and seemed to go for a couple of miles. Also, since there was no shade, it was exposed and hot. The blazes were spaced very far apart and I often wondered if I had missed a turn. I was so very glad when this finally ended and the trail went back into the woods. Soon I dropped out on to a Forest Rd. and saw the sign for the Lost Creek Campground. I decided to check it out and it ended up being a fine place to camp that evening. There was no fee and I had a level tentsite, picnic table, garbage can, and a port-a-can toilet. Water was available from Lost Creek. It doesn't get much better than this when you are in the woods. I did hang my food, as always, since there were plenty of signs warning about bear activity. There were 2 other travel campers there, but it was a nice peaceful area.

Monday 4/22/07 - Day 9
At Lost Creek Campground, I took advantage of the picnic table and had a relaxing breakfast of oatmeal, pre-cooked bacon, and a dip packet of coffee. I refilled with water and threw away my garbage before heading out up the road. After a few hundred feet, the trail goes off the road and back down toward the creek. Soon I was looking back at the campground from the other side of the creek. The walk along the creek was very nice and it was still cool enough to keep the nats away. Soon I came to some dirt road sections and then to the Hiawasee outfitters. The store was open, but they had nothing of interest to backpackers. I did buy a Gatoraid, sit out on their picnic tables and use the bathroom. I walked further up the road to the Texaco station in Reliance and found that they had a few supplies that could be used by hikers including noodles, trail mix, tuna and chicken in foil pouches, and a few other essentials. The folks were very nice in this store and showed me some of the historical stuff including the old post office. I bought a few snacks and munched on them while sitting on the bench outside the store. Shortly after that, I crossed the bridge and went up to the first road that goes right and walked to the Childers Parking area where the John Muir section begins. This trail started out very easy, but eventually gets more difficult, especially where it crosses the road and goes up on a ridge overlooking the river. The River has some very unusual rock outcroppings that make it quite unique in this area. Later, I came to a pay picnic area, but since I didn't have a dashboard to display the receipt on I ignored the fee and just sat down and had my lunch on a picnic table and rinsed my shirt out in the creek. Right after the Apalachia Power plant, the trail becomes much wilder. You enter what I would call a bayou area and after that, a gorge area. The trail has not been well maintained in here and I actually got off the trail in a few places. I missed one sharp left turn that takes you half way up the edge of the gorge. I was perplexed for a while, but backtracked and finally found the turn. I noticed that campsite areas were very scarce and I started looking for a place in the early evening. Eventually I did find a campsite which was back down in the gorge and probably 1-1/2 miles from the dirt road that goes out to Coker Creek area. The weather had warmed up a bit and I did find a couple of ticks on me. I covered myself with insect repellent for some protection and never had any more problems with ticks. I slept very well that night, but noticed that my left Achillies tendon was a little sore and inflamed. I took some ibuprofin to counter that.

Tuesday 4/22/07 - Day 10
I was up at the crack of dawn and you could smell a change in the weather. I figured that rain would be starting at any time so I quickly packed up and moved on without any breakfast. The trail took me up a climb and out of the gorge and right down FS228 where there were some car camper people set up right in the middle of the trail where it leaves the road. I walked right between the tents but did not seem to wake anyone up. I crossed the foot bridge and climbed up to a ridge. The trail came to an unmarked intersection and at first, I went to the right. After seeing no blazes, I retraced my steps and went left. There was a diamond blaze going that direction so I proceeded on. I stopped at a huge downed tree that was so large that I sat down and made a good breakfast, never having to set anything on the ground, including the cook stove. Further up the mountain, I was able to get a weak cell phone signal and called home to ask my wife to pick me up somewhere around the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock area late Friday. I was running a bit low on water when I got to Hwy 68 and noticed that the map indicated a water source off the highway. Well, I found the spring/stream but getting to it was no easy task. I had to walk down the highway to the right about .3 miles (passing the low spot by a bit) and then climbed down a steep ravine on the left side to where I could hear the water flowing. When I got to the bottom there was a stream that enters into a 48" pipe that is cut through the mountain to the other side of the highway. This was the most I have ever worked to get water. The climb back up to the highway was very tough. When I got back on the trail, the rain began and I quickly put on the pack cover and a rain jacket. For the next 2 to 3 hours it rained steady and hard at times. The trail terrain became easy and I just sloshed on through the water, mud and horse poop. This section is shown on the map as the Unicoi motorcyle trail, but it seemed to be mainly a horse trail. I made good mileage here because there was nothing to look at with the rain hood on and my head down. I proceeded down a little section of the Unicoi Turnpike and later passed the Old House Place. I missed another sharp left turn off the ridge and walked about 1/2 a mile until the double track ended at a spring and large pool of water. I backtracked and found the turn. The trail goes on up to Cantrell Top. This section appears to be newly cut or not maintained very frequently. The blazes were very infrequent but some blue flagging tape seemed to mark the way. I was able to camp at the top off an old overgrown logging road but I had to cut some briars away to clear a suitable site. The weather had cleared up about 1 1/2 hours ago and with the dry cool breezes, the ground was not too wet at all. I got a good nights sleep, but definitely noticed the inflamed achillies tendon.

Wednesday 4/23/07 - Day 11
Once again, I got an early start and enjoyed some cool and breezy air. From the top of Cantrell, the trail got progressively worst. This section is known as the State Line Trail and it was quite overgrown with briars filling in and several downed trees to walk around. I was fortunate to be wearing the tall gaitors so the only scratches I got were above the knee line. The trail is completely passable, but needs some serious cleaning up. I believe the BMTA does not currently have a maintainer for this section. I got water about 1/4 mile before Sandy Gap and out of Berkshire Creek before the hairpin turn. I thought I was hunting the water source right after Nit Top, but it ended up that I missed that and when I came to a low section before the climb up Rocky Top, I bush wacked down the ravine to a stream for water. I noticed a trail crossing the stream and did not think anything about it until an hour later when I came around the hairpin turn coming off of Rocky Top and it all looked like the same place :confused: . I got out the maps and immediately noticed the long winding 180 degree bend. Oh well, I really needed the water before the climb anyhow :). I rested at the stream and soaked the sore achillies in the cold water while I ate lunch. A few miles up the trail, which was now only marked as trail #2, I had to ford the Bald River. This was the only serious water crossing I encountered and I just took my boots and socks off and waded across in my Waddles. The cool water felt good. From there it was a long way to the Telico River Rd with some pretty good climbs along the way. By the time I got to Sugar Mountain, I was ready to throw down the pack and call it a day. The thought of a motel stay at the Green Cove inspired me to go the next couple of miles which was a nice downhill descent. When I got to the blacktop road at Pheasant Field, I figured I'd call the motel to see if they could shuttle me. I was lacking just enough signal on the cell phone (1 bar analog) to keep the call from going through, so I began the 1.4 mile road march, arriving at the motel at dusk. I was fortunate to find the lady running the place and she rented me a room and re-opened the store for a few moments for me to buy a soft drink. I cleaned up and had tuna fish from a foil pack for supper. I was beat tired and went to bed quickly after rinsing some clothes out. The motel is not that great, but was suitable for any backpack hiker that is tired and wants a hot shower. I think the beds are the original from the 1960's. By the way, the motel is for sale and may not be there the next time I pass through. The original owners are in their mid 80s and the folks running the place are looking to retire. They were very nice to me though.

Thursday 4/24/07 - Day 12
At 6:15 AM, I rolled out of bed and got the hiking clothes on. I stumbled over to the store and got a cup of coffee and a juice. They open the store at 6:30 AM to cater to the fishermen. I inquired about getting a ride back to the trail and the woman said that her husband would take me there when he got up in about a half hour. She mentioned that severe weather was expected as a strong front was moving through. That did not sound appealing, but I really did not want to hang around with nothing to do. I packed up and bought a microwave cheese, sausage biscuit sandwich from the store which I ate when I got back down to Pheasant field picnic area. After using the bathroom there, I got on the trail by 7:30 AM and started up the Sycamore Creek Trail. This section was very beautiful inspite of the low hanging clouds. I only got about 3 miles up the trail before the rain started. It is still turkey season and I saw a hunter moving through the woods. I attempted to call my wife as the trail went up in elevation hoping that the signal would improve. Later, I was able to get a message through to ask her to pick me up at the Cheoah Dam on Friday at 5:00 PM. I was not sure I would have signal for the rest of the hike so I needed to pick a meeting place and go with it. As I climbed up the continuous, but gentle incline, the weather got worse with heavy wind driven rain and thunder in the background. Even with the rain gear on, I was getting drenched. When I talked to my wife, she sounded very concerned and said I should seek shelter because of the tornado watches for the area. An addition to the bad weather, my left achiliies was hurting to the point where my walk gait was almost becoming a limp as I was favoring the other side. Admittedly, I was not feeling good about hiking 9 more miles today and 15 more on Friday.
After 6 miles of hiking, I came to the first forest road and saw a pickup truck parked there. There was no one inside, but I could see two people wearing red raincoats in the distance. This was probably at the Whigg meadow area, but with the rain and fog, I could not see very far. I walked over to the couple and asked them if they were going to a town. They said yes and offered me a ride. They had been digging ramps just before the heavy rain started and were from Madisonville. They were also members of the Hiawassee hiking club. As it ended up, they dropped me off at the American Motor Inns in Madisonville.
I was gratefull for the ride, but sadly, that ended my hike. In retrospect, it was probably the right thing to do with the weather and foot injury, plus it gave my wife some peace-of-mind knowing that I was safe. She had arranged to fly from Tampa to Chattanooga, rent a car, pick me up late Friday, and take me back to Amicalola Falls.
I had a convienient location in Madisonville, with a nearby Hardees (lunch), Cracker box restaurant (dinner), and a Huddle House (Friday's breakfast). There was also a Dollar General store where I got a pack of razors and a few other supplies. There was a gas station store that sold beer, so I drank a big 20 oz can. The motel had a decent TV set. I did all I could to pass the time. I became quite comfortable very quickly, but still had the desire to be on the trail (in better weather conditions, of course).
On Friday, I ate a good breakfast and read the paper for an hour. Nearby was a big flea market, so I perused the tables, killing another hour or so. I checked the phone book and found that the Madisonville Library was only a mile away. After packing up and checking out at 11:00 AM, I walked to the Library and pretty much spent the rest of the day there. There could not have been a better place in town to wait out the afternoon. I got picked up about 4:00 PM and we were on our way to Amicalola to pick up my car and return the rental.

I hope to be back up to Tennessee early next year to finish the rest of the trail. It appears like the best is still to come. The ankle healed very quickly (I did 20 miles this past weekend in Florida with no problems) so I just needed a little time off my feet.

John Wood
(Just John)

05-04-2007, 15:09
looking forward to reading it. The more I read about the BMT the more I want to hike it

Tipi Walter
05-05-2007, 07:41
Thanks for the backpacking BMT report. When you get to my neck of the woods(Hiway 68/Unicoi Gap north to Slickrock/Hiway 129)keep me in mind and we may possibly run into each other.

05-06-2007, 07:52
Great report, Thanks.

Coincidentally, you started the same day we finished, Sunday 4/15. You hiked up, we hiked down. Wind, rain, sleet and ice on Springer. Wind, rain, sleet and ice on Sterling.

Look forward to hearing about the rest of your hike.