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Benton Mackaye Trail – Big Damn Frog Mountain | Average Hiker

Sign eating tree on the Benton MacKaye Trail
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  • Start: 78.4
  • Miles: 20
  • Temp: 60/75
  • Stop: 98.4

The morning was warmer than prior mornings when I stuck my arm out from under the quilt to do a temperature check. Glancing out from under the edge of the tarp tent, I saw a heavy, grey sky that indicated a front was probably moving through and I would have some rain.

I got moving quickly since I did not need to lay talking myself into moving out into a frigid morning. It was always hard to leave my warm bed on cold mornings. I’m definitely a southern cold wimp.

A General store in Reliance, TN would be my town stop tomorrow so I wanted to make good miles and began the day with a brisk moderate climb up and over Hemp Top Mountain. My blood had warmed up and I was ready to move when I reached Double Spring Gap.

Rhododendron Tunnel on the BMT Trail

Now I don’t usually fuss too much about climbs, but Holy Crap! I could literally lean forward and kiss the trail as I climbed up Big Frog Mountain. I climbed about 1,000 feet in one mile and was huffing by the time I reached the top. I’m not sure if there were switchbacks, but it really would not have mattered.

The next 10 miles were a relatively moderate hike 3,000 feet down to Thunder Rock Campground. It was an apology hike for the Big Frog climb.

The trail crossed over the Ocoee River and US64/74 where a lot of hikers hitch into the Ducktown Copper Inn. I ended up having an unplanned stay there, but more on that later.

The 1,700-foot climb up to a ridge top in Little Frog Wilderness was not too rough, and I took my time since I was making decent time. I had planned to camp up along the ridge but could find no good camping so started back down the other side of the mountain.

Ridge View after Big Frog Mountain on the Benton MacKaye trail

As dusk approached I started looking for a place to set up camp. Camping along this trail has been a little more difficult than I expected and today was no exception, but I finally found an ancient forest service road that curved back around the side of the mountain. This trail crosses a lot of these and they often provide the only flat spots around.

Finding a flat spot with no trees was tough since the road was so old, but I finally managed to wedge my shelter between some young pine trees. I like sites like these since I feel secure. I’m protected from above and below. Nothing is going to sneak up on me easily.

I cleared out a small spot to cook dinner and watched the sunset out across the mountain ridges as I ate dinner. As I finished eating it began raining, so I quickly packed up and jumped into my Aeon Li for the night. The tent was pitched at an awkward angle, but I was not worried about leaks or backsplash since I was on a thick bed of pine needles. I would sleep well.

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