Archives For Benton MacKaye Trail

Just when I believe I’ve got it all figured out… I have to run off and change something.  And by “change,” I mean different.  Not necessarily better.  Just different.

Pack weight is the holy grail of backpacking and experienced long-distance backpackers are always looking for ways to reduce their pack weight.  Some forego the comfort of cooking hot meals on the trail.  Others purchase insanely priced and light-weight materials and even others go so far as to cut the unused straps off their backpacks.  When it comes to saving weight on the trail, I don’t believe I’ve seen it all — but I’m definitely not surprised by what I see.

I wouldn’t consider myself a chronic over-packer, but I tend to obsess over items I pack that don’t get used.  At the end of the hike, I’m always evaluating the gear I brought to determine if it is truly necessary.  Can that item be replaced by another item that performs other tasks or was it really required for my comfort or survival?  If I’m guilty of carrying more than I should, it’s always water.  I’m still haunted by that weekend on the Art Loeb Trail when carrying THREE LITERS of water between sources wasn’t enough.  I still refer to the Art Loeb Trail as the Bataan Death March.
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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


I’ve been considering how I would conclude this topic and exactly what I’d be discussing in my summary and I’ve decided that I would split it between two different posts: 1. Discussing my thoughts/feelings being back on the trail and 2. Discussing the gear I used and what changes, if any, I would consider making to my setup.  So for any gear-heads trolling my blog (Duckhunter), you’ll want to read the post after this one.

After I told my wife that I’d been invited on this trip and that I was considering it, she strongly urged me to go.  I was confused by this response as I was expecting her to protest a bit about me being gone for the weekend and leaving her alone with the baby.  Instead, she said something to the effect of, “You need this trip.  I need this trip.  You always come back a better person: more relaxed; polite.”

I’m not certain I return more relaxed and polite so much as maybe I’m just too exhausted to be my usual self for a couple days.  That must be what she means…
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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


Benton MacKaye Trail, Section 3: Highway 60 to Skeenah Gap Road

The BMT continues at Highway 60 across Wallalah, Licklog and Rhodes mountains.  It’s approximately 3.5 miles in length, according to the BMT Section Mileages. http://www.bmta.org/SectionMileages.php

Sunday morning began with the typical smells and sounds associated with hikers fed on a steady diet of camp food.  Bryan wisely decided if he were ever to walk normally again, he would sit this part of the hike out.  I believe Trent decided to sleep in.  That left: Brandon, Brian, Greg, Jason, Ross and myself.

The plan was to begin early in the morning, on trail at dawn and hopefully finish this excursion before the rain set in.  Only, it started raining the moment we set foot on the road pointed toward the trail and didn’t let up until we were somewhere on the other side of Wallalah Mountain.  I apologize for the lack of photos, but my phone went into my bag at this point and didn’t see the light of day until I stepped off the trail.

I don’t normally injure myself on the trail, but when I do, I make it memorable.  We weren’t even ten minutes on the trail and my head had an intimate encounter with a tree that had fallen across the trail but was suspended about 6 feet in the air.  I was watching my footing as I was climbing a set of steps, and with my jacket hood obstructing my view, I stood right into it.  I immediately crumpled but instead of falling to my knees I got hung up on my hiking poles.  I remained hunched over for a few minutes while the stars stopped swimming circles around my head.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


Benton MacKaye Trail, Section 2: Three Forks to Highway 60

The BMT continues at Three Forks across a couple mountains and along the ridgeline before descending to the swinging bridge over the Toccoa River.  From there, it’s a tough slog uphill before descending to where the trail crosses Highway 60.  It’s approximately 12.4 miles in length, according to the BMT Section Mileages.

Around 4:30am I had to get up and water the bushes.  While climbing back into my hammock, I realized someone else was up and shining their flashlight around the campsite.  My hammock was just on the outside of the camp, in the shadows, but I couldn’t figure out where this person with the flashlight was.  In my sleepy stupor, it took me a long moment to realize the light around camp was the moonlight shining through the opening in the canopy above.  It was so much light, in fact, that you could have easily made your way around any obstacles in camp without your headlamp.

I woke again later in the morning when I heard someone else stirring around the fire and stuck an arm out of my sleeping bag to snap a selfie before briefly going back to sleep.  It wasn’t bitterly cold but cold none-the-less and I wasn’t about to stir before most of the group was awake and packing.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


I realized that some folks might have tuned in here to actually read about the individual sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT).  If that’s you, you might want to skip story time to the appropriate section below.

Thursday night I did a final gear check after unpacking/repacking my bag to remove my radio gear.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” and forget anything, so I laid out the next day’s clothes and miscellaneous gear (not packed in the bag) next to the bed.  I left my bag, hiking poles and boots by the door.

My Friday morning began at 4:30am, but I remained in bed until nearly 5:00am.  Jason was picking me up at my place at 5:15am.  Amazingly, I was ready by the time he pulled into the driveway.  Jason was the only person in the bunch that I knew — everyone else in this cast of characters I’d be meeting for the first time this morning.

I loaded my gear in the back of the pickup and we headed over to Ross’s house to pick him up.  Ross was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this early in the morning and we were soon under way to pick up Bryan… as soon as we figured out where that was to be.  Bryan wasn’t waiting on us where they formerly discussed meeting up, but in Bryan’s defense they had agreed to “figure it out in the morning.”

Bryan wasn’t answering his phone so we made the short drive to his place in hopes of catching him at his house.  His truck was in the driveway but no lights were on in the house and he wasn’t answering his phone.  Jason and Ross exited the truck and commenced to ringing the doorbell and knocking on the front door.  The only creature stirring at Bryan’s place was their scruffy cat.  Ross decided we weren’t going to leave without Bryan and went around to the back of the house.  I was still seated in the truck parked in the cul-de-sac out front when I heard Ross banging on the house yelling Bryan’s name.  I opted to stay in the truck; I figured I was least likely to get shot if I stayed there.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


This past weekend I backpacked the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail with 7 strangers.  But before I tell you how all that went down, let’s drag this story out a bit…

It’s been a while since I’ve been backpacking.  As best as I can tell, I believe the last time I went was when RakeTheTable, DuckHunter and I went to Shining Rock. That was September 2011.  I didn’t think it had been that long, but apparently it had.  So I wasn’t about to turn down an invitation to go backpacking… unless DuckHunter was planning the trip. 😛

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the Benton MacKaye Trail.  When I was first invited, I mistakenly thought the person was talking about the Bartram Trail (of which I am familiar).  It wasn’t until later that I realized I had the wrong trail in mind and started reading about the right trail. (Sorta important when planning, ya know?)

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