Benton MacKaye Trail thru–hike attempt
25 April 2017 – Started my one-week warmup for the Benton MacKaye Trail. Leaving 1 May. It should be a 3-week trip, give or take. The plan is for my friend Traveler to take me to the trail head. I’ve been staying in shape by bike riding and limited climbing. I seem to have bounced back nicely from my shoulder dislocation 2 months ago.
1 May 2017 – 1535, I started the BMT after a .5-mile hike from the parking lot. 1740 – 4.1 miles and standing on top of Rich Mountain. Hiked on after a quick snack and at 1900, was at mile 7.5, where I found a decent campsite. Couscous and spam for dinner, yummy…
2 May 2017 – Woke @ 0100, and again at 0330 for good. It always takes a little adjustment to the woods. Now it’s 0450, I’ve taken my meds and am prepping breakfast. 1427 – Mile 22.1. Water has been scarce since this mornings fill up. I saw a creek but the data book mentions skipping this water source due to contamination from a chicken farm up-creek. 1550 – Ended up going 16 miles on 2L of water until this location. The actual water source is .3 downhill and it’s steep! I checked myself when I got back and realized I had 3 ticks on me and to top it off, it’s scorching this afternoon. 1740 – @ camp and cooking dinner. Did 21 miles by my phones count. Currently encamped @Payne’s Gap. The 2nd half of the day involved much harder terrain, but after discovering water I was set. I am tired, and both of my big toes are hurting on the outside. I also have constant nerve pain shooting into my legs and feet. Yay. My knees are sore from the downs. Found another tick on me.
3 May 2017 – Made it 11.6 miles so far today. Just hiked across Shallowford Bridge and came across the Iron Bridge Restaurant. I’m currently drinking a Pepsi and awaiting a massive cheeseburger topped with fried eggs. The only thing I can say about the last 2 ½ days is that this is hard! The BMT has the Pinhoti beat hands down on elevation gain and loss thus far. My knees do not lie. My shoes have done wonderfully, and my feet feel great. I started having a shoulder problem again about 6 miles into today. Trekking pole stress and bad sleep positions have made this rough. I popped my first Ranger candy earlier, but only for my shoulder pain. There’s a beautiful 2 bed/bath cabin on the RIVER FOR RENT FOR 150.00 a night. I need to bring the wife here. 1309 – Decided to stop at a 2nd restaurant for a beer and to fill up on water before I head back into the mountains. Got a Hiawassee Golden Ale… MONEY. I was also given another beer that was an IPA and I didn’t like it much. Hiked on and made it to the summit of Rocky Mountain (3,300 ft.), took a side trail and camped in a small clearing where there was an old wind wall.
4 May 2017 – 0220 – Lots of strong wind woke me right as my back-tent peg shifted and let loose, collapsing my tent. I jumped out in my birthday suit to fix it. My REI Flash air pad officially has a leak in it now. I’ve had to re-inflate it every night around 0100 or so. It’s currently raining and I’m almost fully packed and waiting on a window to tear down the tent and roll out to Blue Ridge Ga. For a resupply and a possible dry place to stay. The weather’s supposed to be bad all day and into tonight and temps will be dropping. I’m so glad for my new down Northface jacket. I’m glad this isn’t my first rodeo either. 0720 – Made it down to US 76 as the weather worsened. The last 2 miles was a dirt road for luxury summer cabins. The wind was so severe that big trees and limbs were coming down everywhere around and on top of me. I had to jump into a ditch at one point, and ran into a pasture at another, only to have a limb larger than me fly across the field and hit me in the leg. When I finally got to US 76, a nice older couple, Dan & Grace, stopped to give me a hitch into Blue Ridge. I was dropped off at the Walmart only to discover that all the power had been cut to the entire city. No one else was being admitted into the building and I was stuck walking a half mile in 70mph wind bursts and freezing rain to a McDonald’s. They graciously let me in and I am currently camped in a booth. I’ve been given 2 hash browns, a coffee, and a chicken biscuit. Inadvertent Trail Magic!!! I must figure out resupply and a ride back to the trail.
5 May 2017 – I got a room last night and then found out that the Food Lion was open, so I hiked there and resupplied, and got a pizza for dinner. I also managed to obtain 2 PBR’s. The weather is still bad this morning, but I must head back into it. I don’t want to take a 0 day just yet, if at all. Time to hike! 1120 – I left town and was unable to hitch a ride, so I ended up hiking 6 miles back to the trail. 1400 – @ the first shelter on the BMT. There were numerous blow downs from the storm, making a hike quite a challenge. The weather is supposed to let up and be sunny in the next 2 days. I couldn’t obtain gas in town, so I’ve only got enough for 2 burns. I should be in Hiawassee in 2 ½ days or so. Gotta get a move on though. 1800 – @ Holloway Gap. Ate dinner and tried to get comfortable.
6 May 2017 – 0145 – It’s so cold that I can’t sleep. My gear just can’t keep up with it. My pad is deflating too quickly and is full of moisture, = no insulation… and I made an error in judgement by bringing my light sleeping bag. It really sucks below 45. Shoulda brought my Big Agnes bag 24. 0630 – it’s light and seems to have warmed a degree or two. I’ve been able to catch fleeting cat naps while struggling to get into a position of warmth. 4,000-foot peaks await and I’m nervous about camping the rest of the time. I wish I had brought my down blanket!
7 May 2014 – I am calling this on a safety hazard. I don’t have the proper gear and my shoulder has been causing me problems for the entire trip. I only made it 70 miles on this attempt. I will be back for another one soon.
***7 September 2017 – Since being back from the trail I have tried to continue rehabilitation of my shoulder. In early June, I was out climbing with my Dad and son when I dislocated it again. I had overworked the shoulder the day prior while working a side job on a farm. Very soon afterwards, I was driving home from Roanoke Alabama on the 31st of May, and was struck by an Acura SUV. The left rear quarter panel, tire and rim were damaged extensively. The drivers side airbag deployed, striking me in the left ear and causing further damage that started when I was overseas. I already have severe tinnitus, and now when I talk, my voice sounds cracked, and it reminds me of a broken speaker in a car. My poor Subaru was totaled, and I was lucky to receive payoff for it plus a little extra for a down payment on another vehicle. A few days went by and I found myself in Atlanta, bent over and trying to grab an air hose. My back completely went out and I crumbled to the floor. After a trip to the VA, I was given an appointment to get an MRI, and later found out that I had an annular tear in my spinal wall and a herniated disc to go along with my other chronic back problems and nerve damage. I was given physical therapy and it has helped to an extent. I need to be in constant therapy but that isn’t an option. I have also received care for my shoulder from the VA. Today marks the start of my comeback to 100%. I want to get back on the trail and get back on a wall.