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  1. #1
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Bartram Trail (GA/NC) March 19-25, 2011

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    So Spring Break was here, and I was determined to finish the Bartram Trail. I had hiked the first 19 miles in Georgia three weeks earlier, and now 82 miles remained.

    After shuttling my truck to Buckeye Creek Trailhead, where the southern 55-mile leg ended south of Franklin, NC, my wife dropped me off at Warwoman Dell picnic area. We had lunch there, then I stepped off up the trail, quickly crossing Warwoman Road.

    After the relatively mild terrain of the Chattooga River walk, I knew I was now entering the mountain portion of the GA Bartram Trail. The grade was relatively steep at first, then it mellowed considerably as I crossed a footbridge right next to the first of many small waterfalls.


    A couple of miles later, I approached Martin Creek Campsite. It was full of tents, maybe eight. A short while later, I encountered their owners, a scout group at the boardwalk overlooking Martin Creek Falls. The falls were definitely rocking.


    By this point the sun was coming out. The temperature was around 80. Now in the south, 80 degrees is pretty mellow. But after temps in the 50’s earlier in the week, and an almost complete lack of shade due to no leaves, 80 made for some warm hiking up the ridgeline. Still, the weather brought out plenty of backpackers. I passed three small groups and another scout group over the next few miles. But the miles and elevation dropped away slowly.

    At Windy Gap, Dewey stopped for a shot with another Georgia highlight, one of the many carved boulders found on the trail.


    I had planned a 12-mile day to Saltrock Gap, but between the late start and the warmth of the day, I decided to stop a mile short at a stream near the summit of Flat Top. A mile before camp, a light sprinkling rain began. As soon as I put my pack cover on, the rain stopped….

    Fortunately, Dewey and I were able to enjoy the overlook a half-mile before our camp.


    When we arrived at camp, there were already a couple of other campers there, including another hammocker. They were courteous and fine with my setting up on the other side of the campsite.


    I cooked dinner and settled in for the evening. I enjoyed reading and listening to the campfire my site mates had stoked up in the distance. Before long, I drifted off to sleep.

    Sunday, March 20

    The first day of Spring began on a less than auspicious note. I had been sure to drink plenty of water in camp, but I awoke around 1 AM with a mild headache. I drank more water and drifted back to sleep. I awoke again around 4:30 with a deeper headache. I urinated and noted the urine was nearly clear, so dehydration didn’t seem like the issue.

    I thought maybe the headache was due to congestion from allergies, so I took a zirtec and a couple of Tylenol and lay back down. I lay restlessly for about 15-20 minutes until my stomach churned. Finally , I rolled over in my hammock and hurled over the side. The Tylenol flavored water was a bit nasty, but within 3 minutes, the headache all but disappeared. I can only assume I had been suffering from a migraine. Then I slept the sleep of the dead.

    I knew this would be a long day. I had about 13 miles planned with 3000 feet of climbing. But when my alarm rang, my body told me I needed sleep more than an early start. I drifted off for another hour, eventually rising and heading up the trail around 9 AM.

    The climb up to Rabun Bald felt remarkably strong, due at least partly to cooler weather. Rabun Bald is the highest point on the GA Bartram Trail, and the second highest point in the whole state at 4696 feet. Like so many southern balds, the summit is no longer bald of trees and brush. But the fire tower atop still allows excellent 360 views.


    The wind up top was enough to nearly cut you. Dewey and I quickly snapped a photo with our stickpic.


    Then we headed back down the trail. Though the day offered little sun, I at least enjoyed the thought that I might have some shade from the long stretches of rhododendron tunnel that abounded in the region.


    As I continued down the mountain, I encountered a number of dayhikers approaching the summit. I also passed the first of many houses just off the trail. Soon I reached Hale Ridge Road and the border with North Carolina. As I pushed into the trailhead, I said goodbye to the yellow diamonds of the GA BT and hello to the yellow rectangular blazes of the NC BT.


    As I ascended, Dewey and I paused briefly to enjoy the Osage Mountain Overlook at the parking area on NC106.


    Then I began the final ascent over Scaly Mountain. At 4804 feet, it was a bit of a hump later in the day. As I worked my way to the summit, the tread gave way to many long swathes of exposed rock, reminding me of the Appalachian Trail in New England. I’m sure there would have been great views, but the weather conspired against me with clouds closing in and a misty rain gently falling. Once again, within minutes of throwing on my pack cover, the rain stopped.

    I made good time downhill to the developed campsite on Tessentee Creek. It offered a fully furnished kitchen with metal fire ring, lantern post, and plenty of log stools and table tops.


    It also offered a great set of trees for Dewey and me to enjoy our hammock for the evening.


    We crawled in and slept well.

    Monday, March 21

    I was up early and hiking by 8 AM. I wanted to make good time back to my truck, since I had a few chores to do in Franklin and my wife was meeting me to shuttle my truck to where the BT crossed US19 near the trail’s northern terminus on Cheoah Bald.

    The trail was surprisingly rough and rocky in the first mile and my progress was surprisingly slow. However, I began to move more smoothly as I pushed up the main ascent of Jones Knob. The morning was foggy and offered what Dewey referred to as “Grimms’ Fairy Tale Woods”.


    But the day cleared and views became more prevalent once I reach the main ridgeline. Fishhawk Mountain showed its rough face.


    Side trails offered excellent overlooks.


    Dewey asked for a break at Wolf Rocks before we began our 2000 foot descent to Buckeye Creek Trailhead.


    Then we headed down. On the ridge, we paused to glance at an old, long-abandoned school bus.


    As we neared the trailhead, I noticed the first wildflowers of my hike, spring beauties beginning to blanket the slope.


    In the last mile and change, we reached an old smooth roadbed that brought us quickly back to the truck.


    There is no official Bartram Trail route through the 14 miles of Franklin to where the northern segment begins at Wallace Branch Trailhead. However, I chose to drive the road walk the Bartram Trail Society described as “recommended” to avoid the heaviest traffic of the area. It was on little country roads with no shoulder and locals who know the way well enough to whip along at 50 MPH. I was glad that I didn’t need to walk it.

    All afterward was a blur, visiting the outfitter in Franklin, meeting my wife at Ron Haven’s Budget Inn, shuttling my truck up to US19. The official trailhead at Winding Stair Road was closed due to construction, so I parked at a picnic area a quarter mile down the road where Ledbetter Creek empties into the Nantahala River.

    We headed back to Franklin for dinner and some quality time together before we drifted to sleep.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Bartram Trail (NC) March 22-24, 2011

    Tuesday, March 22

    My wife dropped me off at the Wallace Branch Trailhead of the northwest side of Franklin around 9 AM. Just as I stepped off, I passed a pretty little feeder stream waterfalling its way to Wallace Branch.


    I pushed uphill, gaining 1200 feet of elevation along a reasonable grade to the first Locust Tree Gap. Yes, that’s right, there are two gaps called Locust Tree just five miles apart on the Bartram Trail. The first offered a trickle stream that was the last water source for 7 miles, until a hiker reached the AT on Wayah Ridge.

    Now the frustration began. Profile maps showed perhaps 1000 feet of climbs, gaining a net of maybe 500 feet of elevation over the five miles to the next Locust Tree Gap. In fact, that 5 miles stretch offered 15-20 small peaks gaining 50-200 feet of elevation straight up the fall line then straight down the other side. I stewed over named like “PUD Alley”, “PUD City”, and “PUDville” for this atrocious section of tiresome trail. Eventually, as the ups and downs continued, I settled on naming this stretch “PUDopolis”. I climbed a minimum of 1500 feet and maybe 2000 along these 5 miles.

    It was tempting to burn up tremendous emotional energy on what seemed like a never-ending stretch of pain, but Dewey reminded me I was on vacation and I should stop my griping and relax.


    Eventually, I reached the second Locust Tree Gap and enjoyed a quick break before I headed up the “honest” climb of a continuous 1600 feet to Wayah Bald. A set of wooden steps announced the beginning of the final ascent.


    I grunted my way up and suddenly Wayah Bald, which had seemed so impossibly distant was right there in front of me.


    I continued climbing, finally reaching a rhododendron packed gap where I drew water from a beautiful little stream, then joined the Appalachian Trail.


    I turned uphill toward Wayah Bald, passing my first hiker of the last three days. My first impression was how rocky this stretch of the AT had become, compared to the smooth tread I had walked all day on the BT. If PUDopolis had been rock strewn this way, it would have been beyond miserable.

    But I pushed on, arriving at the restored tower on Wayah Bald in short order.


    Dewey and I chatted with another AT hiker, then we climbed up to enjoy the view.


    After a few more minutes of peace and quiet, we headed on, our campsite at Wine Spring still a couple of miles beyond. We had climbed well over 4000 feet over the previous 11 miles and the day was waning.

    The mileage seemed to melt away and just after 7 PM, we hung our hammock at Wine Spring campsite.


    After a quick dinner, we turned in and slept the sleep of the supremely satisfied.

    Wednesday, March 23

    It was to be an easy day, and I needed it. A 2300 foot descent awaited, followed by a mostly level walk through Nantahala Valley.

    I was up fairly early and walking by 8:15. The early morning descent was chilly in the shadow-filled coves.


    The descent to Sawmill was quick, and after a snack I pushed on. A bit after 11 AM, I reached Wayah Road, alongside Nantahala Lake.


    ¾’s of a mile later, I arrived at the Lake’s End Restaurant. On the back deck, complete with a lake view, Dewey and I enjoyed one of the best burgers I can remember in a long time.


    Then I strolled on, heading back into the woods. A short climb above the lake pushed me above the dam where the Nantahala River begins. Another mile later, and I descended to the easiest ford any where over the Nantahala.


    On the other side, I joined a little used gravel road for two miles. It began to rain on me lightly. Unlike the other days with light rain, the precipitation did not end when I pulled on my pack cover.

    When the gravel ended, I entered woods trail along the edge of Appletree Group Campground.


    The camp was deserted, but this didn’t stop some employee from driving his truck down to make sure I didn’t have the audacity to sit down at a picnic table or try to use a privy in the rain.

    I pushed on another ¾’s of a mile to where the guidebook mentioned decent campsites along the river. The one I found was actually quite nice.


    It was only 3 PM and I had covered an easy 12 miles. I settled in, took a nap, and relaxed. The rain mostly subsided and I cooked a mellow dinner.

    As the sun set, the wind began to pick up and I dropped the lean-to side down to form a tight A-frame. I was glad I did so later and a major storm system rolled through. I heard the next day there were winds of 40 MPH throughout the region, although my cove was somewhat protected. I heard three or four trees or very large branches come down in the early hours of the evening, but by 10:30 the weather had calmed enough that I could relax and drift to sleep.

    Thursday, March 24

    I was off early again, looking forward to an 11 mile walk to my truck and pizza at Nantahala Outdoor Center.

    I headed up gentle slopes away from the Nantahala River. Eventually, as I worked my way around many coves, I eased around Rattlesnake Knob and began the 1500 foot descent toward the Nantahala once again. Beside a Duke Energy surge tank, I found an open view where I could catch a quick glimpse of the trail end up on Cheoah Bald.


    I joined a gravel access road for a smooth walk down to the river, just off of US19. I crossed the bridge and began the final mile’s walk to US 19 and my truck.


    Unfortunately, when I arrived at the bridge, it was completely encased in a massive tent.


    Signs said lead was high in the area, and it looked like the workers were removing lead-based paint from the old bridge. Of course, this did nothing to help me, as I now had to back track a mile, then walk a mile of US19 to my truck. Anger carried me the mile back quickly enough. Desire to avoid the semis and other traffic on 19 hurried me along that stretch.

    I arrived at my truck and was struck by the desire to investigate the area. My maps and guidebook confirmed that the stream which poured under the railroad tracks beside the parking area was Ledbetter Creek. This area included not only the Bartram Trail, but good campsites.

    I headed over the tracks and within 300 yards, I was outside the no-camping zone and looking at a nice campsite by the creek. I had planned to stay in the Base Camp at NOC that night, but immediately decided I would sleep here instead for the night.

    Then I headed for the River’s End Restaurant at NOC.


    Dewey and I enjoyed a great Big Fat Greek Pizza on the deck overlooking the river and its many many paddlers.


    Then we headed back to the picnic area and crossed over the tracks to the Ledbetter Creek campsite. Once we settled in, I backtracked down the railroad tracks to where the BT crossed US19. I then strolled back to camp. It was neat to see my site from above.


    Dewey and I enjoyed some time sitting and relaxing next to the creek.


    Then we turned in to the hammock to read and relax before our final day on the Bartram Trail.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Bartram Trail (NC) March 25, 2011

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    I was up well before daylight and packing. I carried my gear back to my truck and stored it there. Then I grabbed the little daypack I would carry the 5 miles up to the 5062 foot summit of Cheoah Bald where the BT ended.

    The tread started out very steep and I was glad to have had a couple of easy hiking days to rest my body a bit. Slackpacking didn’t hurt either. I still wasn’t fast, but I gained ground steadily.

    As I rejoined Ledbetter Creek, the tread became a bit rocky, but the steepness leveled off a fair bit. Bartram Falls was a highlight of this section.


    I continued up and immediately encountered rhododendron tunnels turned white with a light coating of snow. There had been a very light layer of mist in the valley where I had camped, but now it had given way to lingering snow.


    In the last mile before the summit, the BT turned very steep once again, and I pushed hard. Eventually I joined the AT, just .2 miles from Cheoah’s summit and the trail’s end. I passed a couple of hikers heading down the hill, then another hiker enjoying lunch on the bare south face of the bald. Shortly after, Dewey and I ended our BT hike on the summit.


    We paused for a bit, chatted with another couple of hikers that passed through, and enjoyed lunch with one of the best views of the entire hike.


    Then we packed up and headed downhill. Though we had hiked all of the Bartram Trail, we still had a descent to get back to our truck. But it was a mellow walk compared to the ascent. Dewey and I discussed where we would hike next as we prepared to head for home.

  4. #4
    Senior Member G.L.P.'s Avatar
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    Great trip report Bearpaw i always enjoy reading yours
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Bomber's Avatar
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    Awesome trip report Thanks for taking us along.

    On a side note; I think you should make a nice little hammock for Dewey, he seems to be a great hiking buddy
    /Bomber.LTD
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  6. #6
    Member Hiking Viking's Avatar
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    Great Report, nicely done.

  7. #7
    Old Gorge Rat Hawk-eye's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing ... ALWAYS enjoy reading about your and Dewey's adventures! Some great pictures!

    WARNING: Will discuss Rhurbarb Strawberry Pie and Livermush at random.


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  8. #8
    New Member Hiker9's Avatar
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    Great trip report. I've always wanted to hike the Bartram Trail so I'm living vicariously through you. Always been enamored with that part of of the South.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiker9 View Post
    Great trip report. I've always wanted to hike the Bartram Trail so I'm living vicariously through you. Always been enamored with that part of of the South.
    It really offers a great package of features, combining the best of several southeastern trails. Views equal to or better than the AT, walks in valleys with country roads like parts of the Pinhoti, and the river and waterfalls of the Foothills Trail.

    Of course, to achieve that range of goodies, you have to do a LOT of climbing from valley to mountains and back and forth. I had to push it to manage an average of 12 miles a day in some sections.

    Still, it was a great trail, and one folks can do without a burning a ton of vacation time.

  10. #10
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    Great trip report. Always like reading them and seeing the pics. Maybe one of these times you can convince Dewey to right up a bit of a report. Thanks for sharing and say hi to Dewey
    " The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it."

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