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  1. #1
    Registered User Krewzer's Avatar
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    Default Back from the BMT

    Hey Y'all, got back home this past Tuesday.

    The BMT was more than I thought it would be. Started in sun, finished in rain. It was easy, it was hard. It was long and steep going up in places, long and steep going down in places. It was hot, it was cold. It was wet, it was dry. There was sunshine, rain, wind, sleet and snow. There were river walks, ridge walks, woods walks and road walks. There was wilderness, there was suburbia. There were long views and tangled blowdowns. It was easy to follow, hard to follow. Some places were blazed really well, others not at all. Only got badly lost once, but missed the trail three or four times. There was rock hopping, slippery log walking, and knee deep ice cold creek crossings. There was smooth trail, rocky trail, leafy trail, muddy trail and grown over in black berry bramble trail. There were turkey, grouse, squirrels, frogs, gnats, spiders, chipmonks, buzzards, hawks, owls, junko birds, song birds, horse manure, a couple of snakes and turkey hunters.

    But no Bears!!! Bummer....

    Hitchin' was easy, "yogi-ing" was hard, but two cheeseburger shops made up for it.

    In almost 300 miles of hiking there were no other thru-hikers, one other section hiker, 3 other weekend hikers.

    All you blue blazers looking for a Spring place away from the AT crowds, here's your long trail. Just follow the white diamonds...or follow all those you can find.

    I'm putting together a trip report and will post it later. Glad to be home. See you at Trail Days.

  2. #2
    Registered User C-Stepper's Avatar
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    I am looking forward to your trip report, as this is the next trail on my list. So far, the teaser was pretty good

  3. #3
    Registered User Ramble~On's Avatar
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    I am looking forward to the trip report too. I hope to be able to hike the entire trail this year...until then I'll stick to sections.
    The BMTA annual walk through is coming up...which will identify where the work is...some areas aren't allowed to be blazed and as for that cold water fording well, I just love it.

  4. #4
    Registered User Frolicking Dinosaurs's Avatar
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    ::: contemplates changing Krewser's name to Just-2-Kool Krewser :::

    Looking forward to your trip report. I want to do the BMT after we finish the AT (provided I live long enough ). I love a mix or trail characteristics and it certainly sounds like the BMT fits the bill.

    For the maintainers - is there any sort of trail marking system allowed on the BMT in the wilderness areas? I have lost the trail in SlickRock Wilderness a couple of times and ended up on other trails (it appears I followed well-used illegal connectors between trails as I ended up on trails other than the one I was following). Some sort of marker every half mile or so would sure be welcomed if allowed.

  5. #5
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Sounds like my kind of trail.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
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    NO SNIVELING

  6. #6
    Registered User Ramble~On's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frolicking Dinosaurs View Post
    ::: contemplates changing Krewser's name to Just-2-Kool Krewser :::

    Looking forward to your trip report. I want to do the BMT after we finish the AT (provided I live long enough ). I love a mix or trail characteristics and it certainly sounds like the BMT fits the bill.

    For the maintainers - is there any sort of trail marking system allowed on the BMT in the wilderness areas? I have lost the trail in SlickRock Wilderness a couple of times and ended up on other trails (it appears I followed well-used illegal connectors between trails as I ended up on trails other than the one I was following). Some sort of marker every half mile or so would sure be welcomed if allowed.
    Actually...by designation the "Wilderness Areas" aren't supposed to be signed or blazed at all...the Forest Service has already bent this quite a bit in Slickrock with the number of signs already in place. Trails inside wilderness areas are maintained to a lesser degree than those outside to "provide a wilderness experience" Joyce Kilmer /Slickrock Creek Wilderness and adjoining Citico Creek Wilderness get a large amount of use and in turn require a large number of man hours finding "lost" hikers. To curb this the FS placed signs at every crossing of Slickrock Creek and at most trail junctions. Kiosks at trailheads and the maps for specific wilderness areas often warn of the difficulties in backcountry travel associated with wilderness areas. More often than not hikers do not heed the experience level warnings, are overconfident by cell phone and gps and venture farther than they should. Myself, I really wish that more public lands were set aside and designated Wilderness.

  7. #7
    El Sordo
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    I guess I don't understand nuance, but to my mind having a blaze does not detract from the wilderness experience. It of course makes no difference, the same mentality that requires wheelchair ramps at backcountry privies has apparently decided that blazes are not permissible. The nice thing about actually hiking is that these little annoyances kinda fall by the wayside. A pity that the need to earn a living and support those who depend on you keeps a person away from the trail.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by generoll View Post
    I guess I don't understand nuance, but to my mind having a blaze does not detract from the wilderness experience. It of course makes no difference, the same mentality that requires wheelchair ramps at backcountry privies has apparently decided that blazes are not permissible. The nice thing about actually hiking is that these little annoyances kinda fall by the wayside. A pity that the need to earn a living and support those who depend on you keeps a person away from the trail.
    Gene:

    I'm hoping to section from the Hiwassee River to the Smokies over 4-5 weekends, and then bite off the Smokies in one hunk. I could skip the Lakeshore Trail, cause I've already done it.

    Interested in joining me? An extra person with a car would make matters easier.
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

  9. #9
    El Sordo
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    i'm commited for every weekend until July. either on call, vacationing, or bringing my father to Tennessee. If you still have some trail left to cover in July or later I'd love to join you.

  10. #10

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    OK Gene. I'll keep that in mind. I hope all is well with you & yours.
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

  11. #11
    Registered User Krewzer's Avatar
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    Here's the trip report in three sections.

    Before I get too far along with this hiking report, let me say thanks to the Benton MacKaye Trail Assoc for all they’ve done to make this trail possible. Also, a big thanks to Sgt Rock for putting together the data sheets he gleaned from the BMTA website. I personally don’t think the MacKaye is a trail you can hike by following the “White Diamond” blazes from end to end at this time. At the least you’ll need some sort guidebook or data info. Topo maps are very big plus, and I highly recommend you take a compass and know how to use it with the maps. If you prefer GPS, put in a fresh set of batteries and enjoy.

    Georgia and the “old” or “original” trail is blazed in most sections and relatively easy to follow. BUT!!! In several places the blazes are old and faded and pretty far apart. Also, there are many cross trails and old forest roads that can be confusing and can get you lost if you aren’t paying attention. We were all talking when we should have been watching in Bryson Gap (actually well marked) and it cost us a very difficult 2-mile lost in space adventure. Though an old trail, it is in surprisingly good shape, with a good tread way to walk on in most areas.

    Right off, water was an issue in Georgia, particularly from the Toccoa River (mile 14) to about Tipton Mountain (mile 30). I suggest you carry at least 2 liters of water through the Georgia section. This was a dry period of weather and it may be easier find water at other times. There are several springs noted in the data info and on maps, but are off the trail and there are no signs or blazes on the trail indicating where to look for them. Many were either dry or we couldn’t find them. At Ga. Hwy 60 (mi 17.4), hang a right (east) and either stop at the “log furniture” place or go around the curve to the store and water up before climbing Wallalah Mtn. Don’t get water from Skeena Creek, one look at the antifreeze bottles and oil cans you’ll understand why. When you reach Skeena Gap Rd (mi 23) you can get water from faucet on the side of Friendship Baptist Church about ¼ or ½ mile to the left, or west. This isn’t listed as a water source in any BMT information I know of. At the time there was no one there to ask permission from, and hopefully they didn’t mind sharing water with three hot and thirsty hikers.

    At Shallowford Bridge (mile 36), there is a really good country store with burgers, fries, and a good variety of hot sandwiches. This is a must stop. Up the road is another restaurant, but wasn’t open when we went through.

    For re-supply, clean up and a night in town, we went into Blue Ridge at US Hwy 76 (mile 48). It’s either an easy hitch or Hutch has a magic thumb.

    In Georgia from Springer:
    Day 1: Long Creek Falls. Mile 7.1. Good site. Just over the footbridge past the falls. We met 2 BMT maintainers working on blow downs and they showed us a really nice spot on tributary.

    Day 2: Wallalah Mtn top. Mile 19.1 Not a good camp site. No water, too small, and comes with an end of the day 1000ft climb. This was an unusually hot day and water was scarce. Loaded up with water at the Log Furniture place just down from Skeena Creek for the climb up. Toccoa River Hiker Bridge very impressive.

    Plans were to get water at spring 2 miles up the next morning on the other side of Licklog Mtn. Couldn’t find it, no indication to where it is. Data says trail to right 1/3 mile, map showed on left, no signs or blazes indicating water. Water at Friendship Baptist Church (1889) to left ¼ to ½ mile. Outside faucet.

    Day 3: Tipton Mtn. Mile 30.3. Good camp site. Just on the other side of Tipton. Spring and a flat grassy area just off trail. Can’t miss. Tough hiking day. Hutch says it was 51% up and 51% down.

    Day 4: Blue Ridge, Ga. US Hwy 76. Mile 48. Went to town for re-supply, bed and bath. Had Mexican for dinner and eggs over easy for breakfast. Lost Rabbit to a foot problem here. Thanks to St Pete Sue picking him up. Fairly moderate hiking day, but decided to do the 17 miles to get to town a day early. Had lunch at Shallowford River Bridge, good stop at end of bridge. Several miles road walking in this section. One of the worst looking sections of trail anywhere through private property here, Laurel Creek to road 1-2 miles, posted signs everywhere. Disgusting trash and crap all over the place. Read warning that no camping for next 8.4 miles from Laurel Creek. Lots of road walks and private property. Fall Branch Falls was great, but couldn’t find the Indian Rock.

    Day 5: Hatley Gap. Mile 59.2. Poor site. Tented in trail. No water. Much road walk, but interesting. Moderate hiking. Passed Indian Rock Shelter-nice, but in residential area.

    Day 6: Peter Cove. Mile 73.2 Great camp on Creek. Blazes end at wilderness. Lunch under pavilion at Dyer Cemetery, a great highlight of the day and slice of Appalachian history. Enter Cohutta Wilderness.

  12. #12
    Registered User Krewzer's Avatar
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    BMT Part 2. Tennessee

    Here starts Tennessee's part of the BMT and a tour of the Unicoi Mountains and the Wilderness areas; Big Frog, Little Frog, Citico Creek, Slick Rock. The BMT really starts to feel like back country here. Sometimes there are lots of brand new shiny new white diamonds and smooth new trail, sometimes few or none and seems a bushwhack through bramble and briar. In a couple of places, including Berkshire Creek, there are what look like old AT blazes. There are occasional signposts with good instruction, but are at times turned oddly and are a little confusing. But, with a few exceptions, the trail isn’t so hard to follow with the help of the data sheet and a good map.

    Big Frog Wilderness is one of the exceptions. It’s a brain-teasing puzzle of trails, even with trail data, map and compass. There are no blazes here. There are no signs either. But there are some old leftover posts that once had signs, where thankfully someone used a magic marker to write a few directions on the sides or backs…occasionally…and you must look close to see this. Side trails aren’t marked, yet guide and data indicates passing or using these to travel the BMT. There are a few rock cairns in places, but no indication that these are used to mark the BMT or any trail in particular. These were some anxious miles, but we managed to come out at Thunder Rock CG on the Ocoee River, in spite of wondering where the heck we were a half the time. You really appreciate a Diamond blaze after coming out of Big Frog.

    From the Ocoee River the BMT trail is new, although it takes advantage of many old trails, forest roads and what appeared to be old railroad beds occasionally. The BMT Assc has done a really good job with the extension., Whigg Meadow offered the best view of the hike. Hiwassee River is very scenic, as is Lost Creek. There were loads of wildflowers at this time.

    We re-supplied in Etowah. Good stop. We had another re-supply at the Tellico River by friends, but a long hitch to Tellico Plains would be the only real on trail option for supplies at this point.

    In Tennessee made camps at:
    Day 7: Thunder Rock CG. Ocoee River Mile 89.3 Camp closed public, but water still turned on at entrance. Left Georgia this morning, entered Tennessee. Negotiated Big Frog Wilderness. Butt kicking climb to top. Confusion at many trail intersections, old road crossings and creek crossings. Some rock cairns to mark trail….but who can tell what trail???? Found a couple little brown wooden diamonds nailed up in one place. Had map and compass out all across this area. Didn’t know what trail we were on often. Look for old signposts, check for small writing on sides and hope for the best. Keep up with trail intersections and appx mileage. Side trail not marked. Some good views. Only about 10 miles in here and it was rewarding to make our way without missing the trail.

    Day 8: Lost Creek CG Mile 104.3 Great FS camp. On beautiful creek way back in woods. Easy hiking day. Mileages seem off in data (seemed much shorter than indicated) first part of day, but maybe not. Lot of blow downs, but didn’t slow us up much.

    Day 9: Etowah, Tn. Mile109. Re-supply, bed and bath. Mail drop at Hiwassee River Outfitters-great people here. Called Sleep Inn for shuttle listed in data info, but no shuttle service anymore. To get to town, we did the road walk over to Webb Brothers Store and got a really quick hitch to Etowah (Hutch’s magic thumb)and the Sleep Inn. Surprised that the manager arranged us ride back to trail next day to make up for discontinued shuttle. There are super nice folks at Sleep Inn. Nice town, good stop, but no outfitter. Got alcohol (Heet) at NAPA store.

    Day 10 Along the Hiwassee River appx mile 119. This is a very beautiful wild river. Enjoyed the entire day. Also, an interesting and famous old church building and an old Hotel building along the road walk through Reliance, Tn. Oddly, this trail is named the John Muir. I didn’t know if he hiked here or not. Lots of trout fishermen.

    Day 11 Tate Gap Mile 132. Camped at an old lodge or very old home place just beneath the gap. Was told later it may have been the old Doc Rogers place. According to Mr. Crowe at the Green Cove Motel, Doc was a famous local character some years back. Saw North Carolina for first time getting water down the road at Unicoi Gap. Also, hiked a 3½ mile oddity today, the Unicoi Motorcycle Trail. What the heck is that thing doing up here?

    Day 12 Sugar Mountain. Mile 148 Not a good site. Rocky and the area had recently been plowed and sowed, but very rough surface. This turned out to be one of the most difficult sections of the BMT. Altitudes ranged from around 2600ft to the 4000ft range, with ups and downs all day. The trail from around Nit Top to Rocky Top is covered in Blackberry Briars, the blazes hard to find and it was fairly steep. Not mention the gnats were out in force on top of the ridge. We planned on a shorter hiking day with camp somewhere along Berkshire Creek. But didn’t see any sites that appealed to us, so made the climb up Sugar Mountain and set ourselves up for an early arrival to meet friends at Green Cove Motel the next day and a semi-zero day chillin’.

    Day 13 Tellico River. Mile 150.8 The short hike to Tellico River brought us an unpleasant surprise. This was Saturday and it was the second week of trout fishing season. No rooms available at the Green Cove Motel. We decided to take a zero day at Rabbit’s home in Stecoah, the predicted rain the next made it an easy decision.

    Day 14 Straton Gap along the Cherohala Skyway Mile 162. Found a fair camp site just above Beech Gap for the evening. Spring close to Skyway about a mile from Straton Gap. Had a great sunset. Easy hiking day. The trail mostly followed an old RR bed and old forest roads, moderate hiking day.

    Day 15 Slick Rock Creek Mile 179. Moderate hiking day. Practically did all of Citico and Slick Rock in a day. Camped just shy of the Stiffknee/Slickrock trail intersection. Another no blaze day, but easier to follow with sign posts at trail intersections. A little disappointing, not many views today. I was expecting a similar trail to Hangover Lead over in Slick Rock with big time views. Lots of grouse and turkey, but no Bears.

  13. #13
    Registered User Krewzer's Avatar
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    BMT Part 3 North Carolina

    Day 16 Twentmile Ranger Station. Mile 191. The new sign at Ike Branch was very helpful. Hike out of Slickrock was fairly easy, but the climb up from Cheoah Dam was hard. Not fair, after doing two major wilderness areas, somebody dropped a surprise hard climb on us. I guess the BMT just wanted to remind us that all good hiking isn’t in the wilderness. Stopped at the gas station below Deal’s Gap for a “Dragon Burger” and fries. Dragon is good, tastes just luck ground beef.

    Here we got off for a few days of R&R, a little trail magic at the Fontana Hilton and Easter. This was where Hutch got off to return Damascus and work, and Rabbit got back on for the Smokies.

    The North Carolina section is, with the exception of less than 20 miles of trail coming out of Slickrock Wilderness and a few more miles to 20 Mile Ranger Station, is a hike through the Smoky Mountain National Park. The trail is well marked at trail intersections, but is not blazed. I thought the first half of the park was easy to moderate hiking. The second half was difficult to very difficult, with lots elevation gains and losses all way to Big Creek. Mt Sterling is very difficult, no matter which direction you’re hiking or which trail you use to climb it.

    The BMT finished a bit odd for me. There is about a 2 mile road walk from Big Creek to Davenport Gap to finish. I just didn’t feel right doing a road walk after 90 miles of the Smokies, much less after doing the whole 287 miles. I’m guessing there is a good reason for it, but I don’t know what it might be.

    In NC:
    Day 17 Campsite 86. Mile 204.4. Easy to moderate hiking. Good cold day for hiking. The climb up Shuckstack and Sassafras Gap wasn't as bad as expected from an old AT hiker. Didn’t see any AT Thru-hikers, but ran into a couple of hikers doing different parts of the park. There was a lot of rock hopping and log walking down Lost Cove Trail, but didn't have to take our boots off. There was a group of Americorps Volunteers and several Park Service Personel at camp that evening. They were working on clearing non-native and invasive plants in that area. Great bunch of young people from all over the country.

    Day 18 Campsite 98. Mile 219. Easy hiking all day, but started out below freezing that morning. I tired of hiking by Fontana Lake most of the day. I was ready for the higher mountains. Later in the afternoon there were a lot of old home sites along Lakeshore Trail, mainly just old chimneys, daffodils marking fondations, a few old galvanized pots and tubs, and ancient car parts left about. Odd seeing this sort of junk in the park. This is the same trail the controversial road is wanted to travel.

    Day 19 Campsite 63 Mile 234.4 Easy to moderate hiking. This was a gloomy rain day for us. There were more old home sites. But the big treat for the day was man-made, the “Tunnel to Nowhere.” Apparently the planned road through the park from Bryson City got as far as putting in this tunnel and stopped a few hundred yards beyond. Anyway, it’s a very cool (actually cold this day) walk through. Noland Creek Trail is a graveled road and horse path to this camp site, easy walking.


    Day 20 Campsite 52 on Newton Bald. Mile 249.5 Moderate to very difficult hiking. I got my wish for higher mountains this day. A 4000 ft day of ups and downs. Add to this two early morning icy crossings of Noland Creek that are knee deep and swift. These would feel great in August, but not early April. After a couple of easy days of hiking by the lake, this got back to hard core hiking, lots of sweat on a cold and windy day.

    Day 21 Campsite 47. Mile263.7 Difficult to very difficult. Re-supplied by Rabbit’s wife, Carolyn, and St Pete Sue in Smokemont CG. Long downhill hike in morning, then up and up that afternoon. The trail maps shows this to be a long walk of creeks and streams. Be aware, this is some of the longest and uphill climbs in the park. Enloe Creek was appreciated as much for being very scenic as it was for it being downhill. The climb up Chasteen Creek Trail is very difficult. Camp was shared by a father and son, who both were interested in doing a thru of the AT someday soon.

    Day 22 Laurel Gap Shelter. Mile 273.8 Very difficult hiking day. Many say Mt Sterling is the most difficult mountain to climb in the Smokies. I have a hard time saying that isn’t so. And we were still a couple of miles short of the top. But, on this day, we had at last a shelter, with a table, with a fireplace, with a picnic table. I’d forgotten how nice shelters can be. Especially this day, there was stormy weather brewing, with snow forecast for tomorrow.

    Day 23 Davenport Gap. Mile287.6. Done it. The climb over Mt Sterling from the shelter was a moderate hike, only because it was short. The weather had turned and we had high wind and sleet as we crossed the top. Finally turned rain after we got down a thousand feet or so. The almost 3000 ft downhill to Big Creek went quickly. We were pumped and had visions of steak and baked potatoes pulling us down. The road walk to Davenport Gap was a small let down, but got over it pretty quickly when our ride arrived with dry cloths.

    That finished the Benton MacKaye for me. Like every long distance hike I’ve done, I enjoyed just about all of it. I recommend it anyone looking for some other place to hike besides the AT; maybe you’ll see Bears. (Hutch said they may be in the Bahamas this time of year.)

    I think Benton MacKaye would appreciate his namesake trail. I did. Happy Trails.

  14. #14
    Registered User Ramble~On's Avatar
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    Krewzer,

    Thank You very much for sharing all of this. That was a very thorough and needed first hand account. I intend to invite BMTA members to read this trip report.

    Did you use or were you aware of the book "HIKING THE BENTON MACKAYE TRAIL" by Tim Homan ? This book covers Springer to the Ocoee.
    Hopefully, in the not too distant future a thorough map and data book will be available.

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    El Sordo
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    Excellent trip report. I enjoyed reading about the parts I haven't done and shared your views on those I have. Perhaps I'll get to connect a few dots this summer.

  16. #16
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Outstanding trip report. I may pick your brain some later as I prepare for my hike. I'm also working with another hiker to write the thru-hikers handbook for the trail.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  17. #17
    Registered User Krewzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpiritWind View Post

    Did you use or were you aware of the book "HIKING THE BENTON MACKAYE TRAIL" by Tim Homan ? This book covers Springer to the Ocoee.
    Hopefully, in the not too distant future a thorough map and data book will be available.
    I was aware of it, but didn't use it. The BMT website was my main source of info....and Sgt Rock's data sheets. Rabbit had a copy, but I didn't have time to go through it.
    What I didn't have and wanted, was better maps of the Smokies. The park service trail map was OK as a route map, but was pretty flimsy. Get it laminated if you're going to use it. I missed having the topo's. But, I just enjoy messing around with maps.

    What I didn't use were the trail profiles for elevation gains and losses. They didn't print very well when I downloaded them. Also, the downloadable topo maps came out a little fuzzy but were good enough for all the info I wanted.

    Pick away Rock. Let me know when you get started. There is someone in Etowah, Tn you'll want to talk to about legends and history in the Hiwassee River area. (I've misplaced his adr for now, but will find it again for you.)

  18. #18
    Registered User Ewker's Avatar
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    Krewzer, very nice trip report. Thanks for sharing. I haven't hiked any of the BMT yet but it is on my to do list.
    Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves

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    Registered User Ramble~On's Avatar
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    A map set and guide book or something along the lines of what the Foothills Trail Assoc. puts out (fold out maps inside guide book) would be great for the BMT..especially with the number of designated wilderness areas it travels through. Trails inside wilderness areas aren't blazed and that can make it tough. Power tools such as weed eatters and chainsaws aren't allowed and that makes clearing blowdowns and overgrowth a chore...add to that the fact that wilderness trails are usuallly maintained to a lesser degree than other trails and the difficulty factor goes up. An up to date guide book and maps would take a lot of the guess work out of hiking through these sections. I'm not sure which map you used through the Smokies. The Trails Illustrated Map (#229) put out by Nat. Geographic shows the entire route of the BMT from Calderwood Lake to Davenport but the trail isn't actually listed or shown as a seperate trail...hopefully future printings of this map will have the BMT included.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krewzer View Post
    What I didn't have and wanted, was better maps of the Smokies. The park service trail map was OK as a route map, but was pretty flimsy. Get it laminated if you're going to use it. I missed having the topo's. But, I just enjoy messing around with maps.
    National Geographic has a pretty good map, map 229 in thier Trails Illustrated series. If I'm not mistaken, when I ordered the ATC guide book and map of the smokies they threw one of these in with my order. That's how I believe I aquired it. I don't know if they still do that.

    Great report Krewzer. It gives some great info for when we finish up the BMT by doing the smokies in a couple of weeks.
    Hokey Pokey

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