SOBO – Benton MacKaye Trail

Old Dial Road to Toccoa River

It has been quite some time since I last did any type of backpacking. I have been wanting to get outdoors again for months. Originally, the plan was to do the gap left on the AT from a section inaccessible because of snow – Dick’s Creek Gap to Albert Mountain. I need about 3 to 4 days to do that section, so a new trail was selected, because why not?!

James and I drove separately to Blue Ridge, GA and stayed the night at a motel before driving to the trail heads the next morning. We parked one car at the Toccoa River access road and started the southbound hike where we left the second car, Old Dial Road.

The Old Dial Road Trailhead starts with a fairly tough uphill climb of over 1,200 ft to the first major landmark atop Brawley Mountain. An old fire tower sits there which has been converted into a cellular antenna cluster. Brawley Mountain fire tower

From there we walked another mile down some pretty steep terrain to Ledford Gap, before climbing back up another mile to the top of Tipton Mountain. We stopped here for a brief lunch and I had to treat a hotspot on my foot before it became a blister. 

Tipton Mountain Geological Survey Bench Mark

A little over a mile down from Tipton is Wilscot Gap. The hike was mostly steep downhill, and while there were not many vistas to see, the vegetation in this area was wonderful. 

Ferns along the side of a hill

Between Wilscot Gap and Lula Head Gap is when I ran out of water in my hydration pack. I still had two bottles of water, but no more quick sips while walking. Water would become a major concern as we put more miles behind us. Every marked stream and spring was dry. I managed to filter about half a liter of water around Payne Gap, but that took a lot of effort. The water was flowing, but it was only the smallest trickle, hard to get it to pool up enough for me to capture it to push it through my filter.

We carried on to Skeenah Gap Road. At that point, I was down to about a half liter of water remaining. The campsite we planned to stay at likely would have the same problem. So, we did a water check. While I only had half a liter, James had a little over 2 litters remaining. We determined that we had enough water between the two of us to make it to the campsite and make dinner and still have a small amount left for the morning walk. 

The biggest problem with this was Skeenah Gap to Rhodes mountain was a little over 1,000ft of elevation climb in just under 2 miles. We were beat. We’d hiked 12 miles of grueling terrain and we were running out of water, and we still had 2 treacherous miles to go. Those two miles seemed to last a lifetime. The amount of energy required to move my legs forward at times felt more than my body could produce, and indeed there were many times that I just had to stop and breath. 

About 40 minutes before dusk we made it to the campsite. I walked down a very steep trail to the stream and found it to be dry. This meant we needed to ration water for the night, and hike about 4 more miles the next day before we came across a reliable water source. Nothing could be done at this point other than to set up camp, have some dinner and try to ease our aching legs and backs. 

Camp Fire near Rhodes Mountain

The next morning, we packed and began our journey of 4 miles to reliable water. Thankfully, it was almost all downhill and while some of it was steep, it was manageable. My water was completely dry about half way down the mountain. 

On the way down we did come across some views just south of Wallalah Mountain, a rare sight on this stretch of trail. 

Wallalah Mountain View

We finally reached water. Both of us were dry by the time we made it. 

Creek Side

We made it to Toccoa River a couple of hours later. A heavily trafficked area of the BMT because of its proximity to the water and swinging foot bridge.

Taccoa River Swinging BridgeTaccoa River Swinging Bridge

We were supposed to stay another night near the river, but it was still early in the afternoon and with so many people around we felt it was better to drive back and be in our own beds that night. 

Old Dial Road to Taccoa River