Saturday, March 13th, 2021
The sun began to rise, so we quickly packed up before being discovered in the gazebo by the lodge employees. We went inside as soon as the lodge opened up and got coffee. There, we met Dave who has been working at the lodge for many years. He shared stories about the kayakers who braved the rapids out front of the lodge and we shared stories of our adventures. He was kind enough to give us the coffee free of charge. We bid him farewell, then hiked passed the cabins to get back on trail.
It took us a minute to relocate the trail, and the rain had left it soggy and slippery. Combined with my sleep deprivation, this left me uneasy on my feet and I busted my ass after slipping on a wet log. Several miles in, we were feeling confused when we started seeing kids scattered randomly in the woods. We weren’t used to seeing much of anyone out here, let alone kids who were either tucked under tarps or wandering around aimlessly in the forest. We saw one, then another, then another. Eventually we came across an adult who informed us the kids were part of an outdoor school. Shortly after speaking with him and before beginning our climb, we walked by a small plot of old gravestones. Such a random place for all of this!
The trail turned into an old road bed. As I approached the top, I passed a father and his two daughters. They were hiking a section over the weekend. Eventually I’d catch up with the guys downhill at Big Fat Gap. I was moving slow today. We took a short break as the sun tried to force its way through the clouds. I was hopeful.
Another super steep climb followed, and the humidity made it even more unpleasant. Once again, I’d slip and fall on my ass. I wasn’t having the best day today. The fog made the forest feel very spooky. The sight at the top was eerie, but beautiful.
As we hiked the ridge towards Bob Bald, we passed by several weekend campers that were already set up on the side of the trail. Our GPS cut out on us briefly, so after a good educated guess, we made our way down to the road. The sun was able to peek through the clouds as we reached Unicoi Crest overlook, and we thought it was the perfect time for a food break. This was short lived. It wasn’t long before the fog started rolling back in over the crest.
We left the road and returned to a trail. Shortly after this transition, we’d see another grave. This one read, “Here lies an unknown man killed by the Kirkland Bushwhackers”. The Kirkland Bushwhackers were comprised of a gang of Civil War deserters who would raid and prey on innocent people for profit and revenge. A story I heard about their brutality was during one of their attempted robberies of a union army carrier. They held up a couple that were passing through with their baby as the gang waited for the carrier. They wound up killing the baby for crying too loud as they sat in hiding.
We hiked about an hour longer before reaching an open field in the Tellico Plains at mile 126.9. We knew the moisture in the air would have our tarps drenched by morning, but there was water nearby and a beautiful view of the setting sun.
19.0 miles (30.6 km)
Jump Ahead to the Benton MacKaye Trail: Part 9
Jump Back to the Benton MacKaye Trail: Part 7
Start from the Beginning: Benton MacKaye Trail: Part 1