Duncan Ridge Trail, GA, Jan 2-4, 2013
If you grew up a fan of the country group Alabama, you’ll remember the line from “Mountain Music” that goes “Swim across the river, just to prove that I’m a man.” After finishing this little 19 mile DRT section between the Appalachian Trail’s Blood Mountain and the Benton MacKaye Trail’s Rhodes Mountain, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d done something very much along those same lines.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
After dropping my truck at the BMT crossing at Skeenah Gap, my wife drove me to Lake Winfield Scott State Park, and we headed up Jarrard Gap Road as far as we could go. Once at the gate, she dropped off me and my ever-present travel buddy Dewey Bear and headed home.
The smoothly graded roadbed took us up to the AT and Jarrard Gap in about 10 minutes of walking. From there, we turned left all sudden like and headed north. The Georgia mountains reached out to embrace me with its usual misty hug.
After a couple of miles of gradual climbing up the trail toward Blood Mountain, I reached the intersection with the Duncan Ridge Trail and the Coosa Backcountry Trail.
Before ever reaching Blood Mountain’s popular summit, I headed west. The Coosa and Duncan Ridge Trails run together for the first 5 miles, and trees show both the blue blaze (for the DRT) and the lime green blaze (for the CBT).
As I had climbed up Blood, I had risen above the fog, but as I descended, the mist rolled in again. It kept us company during our lunch break at Slaughter Gap.
As I stepped off, climbing up Slaughter Mountain, I once again broke free of the fog. The ridgeline offered views of distant peaks in a sea of cloud.
The DRT is known for having very few water sources, but the recent rain had every imaginable little seep flowing steadily. To my surprise, I also encountered another hiker along the ridge. He was heading east, nearly done with the DRT. He was about half-way through the 57-mile Georgia Loop, consisting of the DRT and a chunk of the Appalachian and Benton MacKaye Trails. We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.
Then I headed down to GA-180 at Wolfpen Gap. The natural spring there was bursting out of the ground, and I quickly filled up with 3 quarts and headed on. My planned campsite was just ¾ miles up the trail on the eastern slope of Coosa Bald. I found an excellent little site and quickly changed into some dry layers. Dewey Bear snuggled with my down pillow while I set to work.
Then over the next 20 minutes, I set up my hammock and tweaked my gear.
Once set up, I commenced to heat water for cocoa, followed by soup, then a nap. I battened down the tarp and slid into my hammock.
When I woke, it was nearly dark. I heated water for mashed potatoes with chunked chicken. The cold was definitely palpable, and once I finished dinner, I returned to the warmth of my hanging cocoon and read until I fell asleep.
A short day of only 6 miles left me feeling that the hype of the DRT’s toughness was definitely exaggerated.