Our hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail was only a one-nighter but we packed a lot in. We had nine Trailmen and seven dads throw on packs and head out on a 9.6 mile loop hike utilizing the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail. On day one, we hiked about 4 miles on the AT crossing several creeks and log bridges along the way. We made a quick stop at an AT shelter and showed the Trailmen what a shelter is like including bear vaults, privy, and a trail journal.
That night we set up camp near beautiful Long Creek Falls. One of our first time Navigators quickly learned how to be creative and adapt when something goes wrong. As he was setting up his tent, one of the poles broke. He definitely learned the value of a pole repair kit and some duck tape! Needless to say he earned the trail name “pole breaker”.
As temps dipped down into the low 30s, we huddled around the campfire telling stories, jokes, and playing some games. We all survived the night which bottomed out at 29 degrees (cold for us GA boys).
The next morning we gathered around the campfire once more for our devotional. We talked about how the shared work and experiences of backpacking relate to the church. It’s through those shared experiences and serving each other that the church grows and is what God calls us to be.
We were soon back on the trail for day two which was a much more strenuous 4 mile hike back to our cars on the Benton MacKaye Trail. This trail is named for the original visionary of the Appalachian Trail. We ran into a Park Ranger along the way who shared some best practices with our crew about sustainability and how people can negatively impact the trail.
Once back to our cars, we stashed our packs and hiked up to the top of Springer Mountain. There, the Trailmen got to see the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. While we were there, we got to to talk with three thru-hikers who had just finished the 2,190 miles of the AT. They were fascinating to talk with, but we all agreed the first thing they needed to do was take a shower!! Once back to our cars it was off to a survivors meal at a local BBQ joint.
For several of our Trailmen, this was their first backpacking adventure. As leaders, we were impressed with how the older boys rallied around the new Trailmen and helped them along the way. Old and new, everyone is looking forward to our next backpacking adventure!
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