Here's what 14 years can do to an overlook on the Appalachian Trail. Ramrock Mountain and the view in 2002…
And the same view looking toward the southeast in 2016. Note the rock in the center of the photo and tree cover in the background. The tree to the left in the photo above is no longer there.
Granted – the 2002 photo was taken in March with no leave cover and the above photo was taken in May, but it's amazing how fast the Southern forest grows. We enjoyed what remained of the view nonetheless.
In Episode 28, Sprinkles and NoKey tell us about their ultimate thru-hiking summer – walking 1400 miles on four major trails on the East Coast – including the Benton MacKaye, Finger Lakes, Northville-Placid and Long Trails.
Forewarning, we spend the majority of the podcast discussing their 20 day, ~290 mile hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail – a great alternative to the Appalachian Trail in the South – but there's lots of great tips on backpacking and thru-hiking in general.
So listen in – and when the mobs of thru-hikers hit the Trail next year after the movies Wild and Walk In The Woods motivate the masses… you now have some great alternatives to the A.T. and P.C.T.!
Subject: The Benton MacKaye Trail
Interviewees: Jen (Sprinkles) and Patrick (NoKey)
Interview Date: July 21, 2015
Download Now: The Benton MacKaye Trail (WMA format 53.5 Meg);
The Benton MacKaye Trail (MP3 format 66.0 Meg)
And you can follow or subscribe to this podcast if you click here (via Blubrry, Facebook, Google+, iGoogle, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, Stitcher, Yahoo, Zune). Or click this link for a complete list of N2Backpacking podcasts.
Panthertown Valley is one of my favorite hiking spots in North Carolina. It is located near Cashiers, NC in the western section of the State and was purchased by the Nature Conservancy from Duke Power in 1989. Panthertown is now part of the Nantahala National Forest and has been growing rapidly in popularity – especially over the last ten years.
Schoolhouse Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Panthertown. When we first visited Panthertown in 2001, there was only the occasional day hiker at Schoolhouse Falls, but these days you will likely have lots of company – especially on weekends!
But it’s definitely worth the trip. You can hike behind the Schoolhouse Falls and take some really cool photos. The trail is rocky and slippery but no match for energetic kids!
Many visitors come to Panthertown to see the 20+ waterfalls in the ~6300 acre valley, but in spring and summer there are many beautiful wildflowers along the trail.
It rains around 91 inches per year in this area which is more than double the precipitation that the major cities get to the east in Charlotte and Raleigh. So no surprise there are such great waterfalls and wildflowers in this forest.
The kids hike back to the trailhead with our wives, and Alec and I backpack deeper in to the valley to camp at one of our favorite falls on the Tuckaseegee River. Our friend Roger (aka The Camel), hiked in earlier in the morning and has already set up camp.
Roger is determined to catch a trout in the river. He rigs up and hits the water. The streams in the Valley have lots of 4-8” brook trout.
The pool at the base of this falls has produced many trout for us in the past – and once again it delivers.
I pitch my tent while Alec and Roger test the waters. It rained most of the morning and thunderstorms are forecast for the evening hours. So I tuck in under a canopy of rhododendron for some extra cover.
In the meantime, the dog burrows in to the sand to rest. He’s hot and tired from the hike in to the campsite.
Fortunately, the thunderstorms pass to the North and leave us with only a few sprinkles. So we relax next to the falls and set in for some dinner.
Burritos mixed with rice, vegetables, and some Campbell’s Lentil soup mix is on the menu for the night. Round 1 is successful, but my stove gets knocked over and Round 2 ends up in the sand! This doesn’t seem to bother Boone Dawg and he gets and extra meal tonight.
Roger is a fan of the stuffed Burrito! And he enjoys busting my chops for knocking over our dinner.
It rains hard overnight, but the Trail Gods smile on us the following morning – with cloudy skies but no storms for the hike out.
We are back at the mountain house and off the Trail by the time rains finally come – under cover and watching a double rainbow light up the sky. ~91 inches per year – no doubt – and maybe even 100+ inches in 2015. But we’ll be back…
We had nearly perfect Spring weather for this hike last weekend in North Georgia. My dog slept for most of the next 24 hours after our 9.7 mile loop hike on and around the Benton MacKaye Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness. Spring has finally sprung!
After a unseasonably cool winter, the weather finally broke and we decided to take the kids out for an overnight hike. We did this one on a Friday night to avoid conflicts with spring sports and with spring break. Here we are at the parking area at Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail.
The dog is more excited than anyone and is hauling his own food, water, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. All in – the dog’s pack weighs about 8 lbs – nearly the same weight as my empty (and aging) Dana Design backpack!
Here we are climbing to Long Creek Falls along the A.T. and headed northbound. The trail is nice and wide in this area and it is a pleasant walk to the waterfall and junction with the Benton MacKaye Trail.
There is a father and son from Orlando camped here when we arrive, and three guys camped nearby at the junction of the A.T. and Benton MacKaye Trail. For a Friday, there’s a lot of action on both trails today. We see a number of thru-hikers, and a number of larger groups that are day hiking.
But once we break off on the B.M.T., the crowds diminish and we walk to our campsite without seeing a soul. It’s nearly 5:30pm when we arrive and there’s a group of four that are searching for lost items from the Army Rangers that train in this area. They spot a water cache down the hill and are convinced the Rangers are training later tonight.
With the sun dropping in the sky, Ira and I walk back down the mountain to get water while Rob and Ken collect firewood with the kids. It’s been in the 60’s today, but it’s due to drop in to the 30’s after dark. So a campfire is a must – and after we pitch our tents we start cooking a late dinner around 8pm.
The kids are showing no interest in sacking out after dinner, but a brief rain shower has them heading for the tents at 10pm. By now, it’s getting cold – especially away from the campfire. Time to “mummy” up.
And the dog is tired too, but not cold enough to zip up in his sleeping bag – at least yet. He’s content to sack out on top of mine!
But after a couple of rain bursts, it passes and the adults return to the campfire at a lower decibel level. We hang out while the kids sack out … and we pay for it in the morning. They are up early!
So after a quick breakfast, we are packed up and on the trail by 10:30am. Many of the kids have soccer and baseball games today – or we would have hung out longer.
And as we hit the trail – we find out that Friday night was the right night to be on the B.M.T. There is a 68 mile trail run right through our campsite this morning and many athletes and their supporters are in the area as we hike out. There are also a lot of day hikers and backpackers on the A.T. and it’s the busiest that I’ve ever seen it in this area. I feel fortunate that we had the last 14 hours with a campsite and the B.M.T. to ourselves.