January 11th, marked 26 years of marriage for Big Yahmo and I. We celebrated the evening by going to Lowes and looking at a dishwasher and a garbage disposal to replace the ones that conveniently exploded two days before Christmas.. (Of course, being married 26 years allows those kinds of things to just roll off your back.)
For the weekend, however, I had other plans. Our dear friends, Chris and Patti Leppo, graciously shared their sweet cabin located outside of Blue Ridge on Fighting Town Creek. So, Friday after work, we loaded up and headed to the hills. By sunset, we were sitting in front of the fire, eating tortilla soup, with a glass of wine, listening to the water roar below.
Morning came quickly and after some hot tea and blueberry buckwheat pancakes , off we went. The plan was to head to Section 5 of the Benton MacKaye Trail. While the temperature was reading around 27, the sky was brilliant blue and cloudless as we neared the pull off. . .Now, this is where the story gets kind of interesting.
According to Tim Homan’s North Georgia Trail Guide, the trail began at an old logging road across from the gravel parking space. Now I have never hiked the Benton MacKaye and really didn’t know how it was blazed, if it was blazed or anything about it. Right at the logging road entrance we saw two girls with backpacks getting organized, so we took off ahead of them.
The trail started as described with a reasonable climb and before long we had glimpses of the mountains beyond and the valley below. Little sparkles of water, assumed to be Lake Blue Ridge mentioned in the trail description were visible. After the first two miles, the trail became rather challenging. Many blow downs, several overgrown patches made us call laughingly call it the “Duck and Bob” trail. (we should have called it the Dumb and Dumber Trail, but more on that later…)
At the 2.5 mile point according to my trusty FitBit,we came to a hard switchback….. just as described in the book….(Due to the overgrown nature of the intersection, we left a couple of good sized sticks to point us home on the way back.) Have I mentioned that we are not known for our navigational skills?
We followed this along the ridge wall of the mountain crossing a dry creek bed a couple of times for another mile and suddenly there was nowhere else to go……. We should have been in full view of the fire tower but truly, there was nothing that even resembled a trail…
After scratching our heads, consulting our trail guide, taking a break, making some tea and eating a bite we decided to turn around and and call it a day. Seriously, I was wondering who, if anyone, maintained the Benton MacKaye Trail and how was anyone supposed to find their way around…So we made our way back, over and under and through the overgrown trail. Soon we caught sight of the road and as we walked around the gate over the logging road I looked to the right…..
On a tree…..up the hill….to the right of the road…..in the woods…. was a small brown sign , as I looked up from the sign, I caught a glimpse of a post with a small familiar sign about 20 feet up the TRAIL. Yep, Section 5 of the Benton MacKaye………
We had just spent the last 8 miles hiking on what is most certainly NOT a trail and who knows where we were heading!!! In disbelief, we hiked up the trail a bit and then saw the prominent white diamond blazes on trees beyond.
Now I am pretty sure that this confession would qualify for being evicted from the Trail Dames, Southeast Women Backpackers and the O.G.G. ! However, this is a pretty typical adventure for David and I. We have a long colorful history of dirt roads, leaking tents, flooded trails and worm attacks. We have stumbled upon cult families in the woods, had equipment malfunctions and have experienced a few “Deliverance” type moments over the 30 plus years we have been exploring life AND the woods together.
But through it all we have persevered, found the humor and leaned on each other to weather each storm and trial. Getting lost on a logging road is not life threatening but could have ruined the weekend for some. After our hike, we retreated to the cabin, showered, gussied up and had a fabulous dinner at Harvest on Main in downtown Blue Ridge. (Thank you Teresa for being an outstanding server) We came back to the nice warm cozy cabin appreciative of the opportunity to spend time together.
Sunday morning, bright, cold and blue came and we headed back once again to the Benton MacKaye Section Five trailhead.
This time, we chose the right path and enjoyed a spectacular hike. The sky could not have been more blue, a dusting of snow on mossy green logs, gorgeous sculptures of trees not visible during the summer months and the deep blue reflection of Lake Blue Ridge kept us company as we hiked.
Fabulous 360 degree views from the top of Tipton Mountain, a mysterious rusted bleacher surrounded field and Brawley’s Mountain fire tower (in a scene straight out of Lost, complete with mysterious radio transmissions..) made the second attempt more than worth our efforts. It was a perfect winter day, filled with the quietness that comes with the season and we had it all to ourselves..
Satisfied that we had finally actually hiked Section Five of the Benton MacKaye , we turned and headed back to the car victorious. We ended our more than fabulous weekend with a stop at the famous Panorama Apple Market, where we picked up a bag of Pink Lady’s and went around the sample table a couple of times before heading back to reality…….…