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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 7

June 4th, 2021

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 7, June 4

Double Spring Gap to highway 74 (and on to Ducktown) 11.1 miles

Short hiking day—heading in to Ducktown to resupply for a 4 day stretch. A few days back I stopped to talk to a man (about my age) who was standing near the top of a mountain carrying nothing but trekking poles. He told me what to anticipate in the miles immediately ahead, mentioned some stretches he enjoyed, then looked down, gripped his poles tightly and said— “Big Frog, uh uh!” Last night I camped at Double Springs (a gap with a spring on either side of the trail, one in Georgia, one in Tennessee—I drank Georgia water that night). That campsite is at the foot of Big Frog, so my day started with the longest, steepest ascent thus far. It’s not like Roan mountain or some others on the AT, but it got my heart pumping first thing in the morning.

After those early exertions it was, as they say, all downhill from there. Long stretches of well graded and maintained paths, many, like Georgia, on old logging roads. Some of the ridges were steeper and paths narrower, so I relearned some caution I had not yet needed. The only excitement was a moment when I heard a crashing in the woods just down below the trail. An unseen mama bear making a ruckus, while I could see a small black bear cub climbing a tree. Wish I could have stayed to watch, but it was not all that clear where mama had gone, so I proceeded posthaste.

On hitting the highway near noon, I walked down to the Ocoee Whitewater Center (site of the 96 Olympics whitewater competitions) where it was easier to hitch a ride. A really nice truck driver named Bill picked me up and took me all the way to the Copper Inn, a motel recommended by the BMT guides. Nice folks who arranged transport back tomorrow morning. Ducktown is an old copper town, but the mines have long since closed, and nothing much has taken its place except seasonal river rafting. Even the Piggly Wiggly is closed, so I had to resupply at the Family Dollar. That experience helped me understand better the dietary challenges of rural America.

Much of the town is in disrepair and many of the shops are closed (I suspect covid has something to do with that). The bright spot is Rods Rockin Rolls— a restaurant specializing in Thai food and sushi, but (given the need for diversity) they also have an Italian menu. I spent the evening in their garden courtyard, sipping a beer and trying the fare. Was the highlight of the day.

T. Hugh Crawford