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Backpacking with Georgia Outdoors
About North Georgia

Georgia Outdoors wanted a unique backpacking adventure in the north Georgia mountains. They asked Randy Golden, About North Georgia publisher and creator of GeorgiaTrails.com, what his choice would be. It didn't take Randy long to choose rugged Benton MacKaye, Sec. II. It would be an adventure Randy will remember for years to come.

Footbridge on the Benton MacKaye Trail Our destination
Michael Skinner and Randy Golden enjoy the 32 degree morning in the shadow of the footbridge on the Benton MacKaye Trail Micheal Skinner (left), host of Georgia Outdoors, and Randy Golden
Keely Walker, Brittany Richardson and Mitch Zastrow (insert) Keely Walker, Brittany Richardson and Mitch Zastrow (insert)
"Where is a great place to go backpacking?" That was the question that Production Assistant Brittany Richardson asked me on September 14, 2001. "Section II of the Benton MacKaye Trail," I responded without a moment's hesitation. MacKaye, who always used the Scottish pronunciation for his name, (ma-kaye, rhymes with sky) had been an outdoors enthusiast and forester for most of his life.

It was MacKaye who came up with the concept of the Applachian Trail in Georgia and although he eventually left to form the Wilderness Society, MacKaye is greatly revered to this day by the hiking community in the United States and around the world.

Brittany, Keely Walker (who produces the show), Mitch Zastrow (cameraman), host Michael Skinner and I met in the city of Blue Ridge for the journey to our destination, the footbridge across the Toccoa River on the Benton MacKaye Trail, where we will be camping for the evening. This 11+ mile stretch came to mind for three reasons. After it leaves the Appalachian Trail, this portion of the combined Benton MacKaye-Duncan Ridge Trail is fairly remote. Only one road crosses the section running from Three Forks to State Road 60.

Additionally, the footbridge, designed by the U. S. Forest Service and built by an independent contractor is simply beautiful. The footbridge is located in the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area, which means camping is permitted anywhere, including on the banks of the Toccoa River. The spot near the bridge where we planned to camp is normally full on the weekend, but since this was Tuesday (and the coldest day of the 2001-2002 season to date), it was a safe bet we wouldn't have any competition for this location.

Moving the equipment for Georgia Outdoors was a team effort. They actually filmed as we hiked to the site, and everyone was suitably impressed with the footbridge. We did some hiking, then ate a typical trail lunch (I had beef jerky and mixed nuts, a favorite of mine on the trail). After lunch came additional filming as we set up camp.

During the shoot I explained the history of the Toccoa (surprisingly one of the first places settled in north Georgia), the story of Benton MacKaye and his role in the creation of the Appalachian Trail and the Wilderness Society, and the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area, where we were camping for the night. The Blue Ridge WMA was the site where U. S. Forest Ranger Arthur Woody re-introduced deer to the North Georgia Mountains. The deer population had been eradicated as a result of the over-cutting of these forests in the late 19th century.

Once the hiking footage was shot we waited a while for the lighting to change so that we would set up camp at dusk. Preparation for the cool night was a breeze as Michael and I helped each other set up tents. He filtered some water and I dug the "pot" (latrine), then we both worked on clearing the pit and starting the fire. Next, we made the trail food we had brought in. Mine, a Meal Ready-to-Eat (MRE), required almost no preparation while Micheal and the crew shared some dehydrated chicken fajitas. After hanging Michael's backpack (it had the rest of our food in it) and the garbage, I told a ghost story and it was off to bed.

The roar of the Toccoa River provided a soothing sound and I quickly fell to sleep. When I woke up the next morning my drinking water was not frozen, but it still was very cold. After rekindling the fire Keely, Brittany, Mitch, Michael and myself completed our adventure with a camp breakfast. Then we headed off to our cars.


Related links
Georgia Trails

Overview of the Benton MacKaye Trail
Benton MacKaye, Section I
Benton MacKaye, Section II


Benton MacKaye Bridge on the Toccoa River





Outdoor Adventure in North Georgia


Article Links
Applachian Trail in Georgia
Arthur Woody
Benton MacKaye Trail
Benton MacKaye, Sec. II
Benton MacKaye, Section I
Benton MacKaye, Section II
Georgia Outdoors
Georgia Trails
North Georgia Mountains

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