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Benton Mackaye Trail – Hiking Tramily | Average Hiker

thunder rock shelter on the benton mackaye trail by average hiker

Leaving Blue Ridge, GA – Day 6

  • 55/80 degrees
  • Miles 11.7
  • Partly Cloudy

After grabbing breakfast at the greasy Awful Waffle (a personal favorite), Sam and Clay took me to an outfitter to get a new Thermarest X-lite pad. As with every other trail, I paused to consider a foam pad since it would not go flat, but my 53-year-old hips quickly corrected those thoughts!

If my pad did go flat, it would be fairly easy to find an outfitter within hitching distance or to have one sent to the next post office, hostel, or hiker-friendly store along the Benton Mackaye Trail. This was a pretty “user friendly” trail as far as services needed, similar to the Appalachian Trail.

I was sorry to see Sam leaving the trail, but as Clayton pulled over to drop me off on the side of the highway, I could feel the familiar pull of the mountains and the eagerness to return to the journey.

After leaving US 76 I spent the rest of the day climbing and hiking through small mountain communities. These weren’t the Appalachian “hollers” I’ve wandered through in year’s past, but weekenders up from Atlanta and neighboring cities.

These may have been small rural communities at one time, but now these mountains were filled with large expensive homes that were just starting to get unlocked for the beginning of Spring.

Some people eyed me a little warily as I walked past their homes on the narrow gravel roads, probably wondering at the lone woman with the backpack and the badly scratched up legs. I just smiled and waved and usually got a wave in return.

Mountain Community along BMT

I took a short break at Indian Rock Shelter, which appeared to back up to a residential area, and checked out the log book to see who had passed this way recently. These logs were usually entertaining.

Most of the trails had some pretty creative writers, and I have spent many an hour just browsing through the writings and hand drawn pictures in these logs.

The rest of the afternoon included some good climbs, up to Misty Lane followed by a final big 1,000′ push up to Bear Den Mountain. My legs were fueled by the Awful Waffle, and I made good time as I knocked off a couple of small roller-coaster peaks before dropping into Hatley Gap.

Coming down into Hatley Gap I heard the voices and laughter before the camp came into view. I also saw an old fire service road below me that veered away from the camp and would make for good camping, but as I reached the camp the hikers spread out there seemed less than enthused to see me.

As I walked up they all quit talking and just stared at me – a group of 4 to 5, 20-something males that also looked to be thru-hikers. I smiled, said hi, and hooked a sharp right to head back down the forest service road to look for a campsite, and that was when one of them spoke up.

Small footbridge while hiking on the trail.

“If you keep going past us and down the mountain, there is another campsite” he said coldly. I turned to look at him and paused. Finding a forest service road campsite would put me nowhere near them, but they obviously wanted me to leave, which was fine with me.

I looked over at each guy before shifting my pack, smiling casually, and moving slowly down the trail.

About a quarter of a mile later I found a small site off to the left of the trail. I don’t think it was the one the other hiker had mentioned but it was nice and flat with good views out over the ridges. It worked out well since it was far better than the one I would have set up on if I had made camp on the old, overgrown service road.

Ridge views on the Benton Mackaye Trail
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