The trail has a secret hold on me. It’s a refuge—my outdoor sanctuary. Somehow and someway, I have managed to bypass life’s traditional thoroughfare and, in so doing, feel uniquely blessed yet at odds with the world around. There is a prevailing feeling of indifference that never really goes away. As one who does not quite fit into the social mold, I become the odd one out, the gawky kid between sizes. Attempts at living within the conventions of the ordinary life can become the height of awkwardness, a round peg in a square hole. There is an unavoidable tension felt by the nonconformist. Fallen through the cracks, a person can sometimes feel disoriented, confused, or even upset. But, you know, it’s not all bad taking a different course than others. The trail has been one of the most splendid blessings of my entire life; I can’t imagine a life without her.
Jolted with a rush of excitement, I took my first step off of the Pinhoti Trail and onto the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT). Although I did not have to walk its entire length of 290 miles, a 72-mile stretch of the BMT was a necessary linkage to connect the Pinhoti to the Appalachian Trail (AT). The trail itself was named after Benton MacKaye, the forester from Massachusettes who became the father of the AT. MacKaye first published the idea for the mountainous footpath in his 1921 article An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning. The BMT is well-marked with a distinguishable 5×7 inch white diamond. The official starting point for the BMT in the south is interestingly at Springer Mountain, sharing the same terminus as the AT. The northern terminus is at Big Creek in Smoky Mountain National Park. The BMT section was packed with climbs and rewarding vistas.
Walking the BMT, I was reminded of a poem, speaking to the restless roamers of the world, that was recently passed on to me. The poem, written by Robert W. Service, is entitled The Men That Don’t Fit In. The first stanza alone is chilling:
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
The trail is a perpetual gift and I shall cherish it always.
2 thoughts on “Part 21: Benton Mackaye Trail (BMT)—Pinhoti/BMT Junction to Springer Mountain, Appalachian Trail Southern Terminus (Mile 1,863.4 to Mile 1,935.4) Day 85-89”
I love this poem. In many ways it also describes my life,it touches my inner soul, describes my feelings in a way that I never could.
I shared that poem with Outback. My neighbor shared it with me right before I left for my Missouri River canoe trip. Many of my students ask “why is he doing this?”. Others have talked to me about hiking and even asked if they could hike with me. If one doesn’t understand “why” someone would do these things… they will never understand. We know it is the journey, the challenge, the experience. I wish I could put it in more eloquent words…but for me, I do it because I can. The trail..the river… it calls to us. A mistress that we can’t deny..the love of nature combined with challenging ourselves. I guess we are a sort of “cult” lol. Happy trail Outback! See u in 3 weeks!