BMT 2020: Day 10, Loss Creek to Tate Gap

Does anybody really know what time it is?

A moss-covered trail sign

Though disappointed the switch to standard time last night wouldn't give me an extra hour of sleep, I set the alarm on my watch for 5:30 a.m. I needed enough time for breakfast and packing my gear so I could begin hiking shortly after sunrise.

That shouldn't have been complicated, but it resulted in confusion this morning. When I woke up, my phone and watch said 5:30, but my Garmin inReach said the time was 6:30. I wasn't sure which was correct.

DateMonday, November 2, 2020
WeatherCloudy early, then gradually clearing; temperatures range from low 40s to mid-60s; becoming breezy late
Trail ConditionsFord creek, then more climbs than descents, with a few rocky sections and blowdowns; some poorly marked junctions with other trails
Today's Miles14.9
Trip Miles136.5

At first, I assumed the inReach had the correct time. It connects to satellites to get the time. My phone wasn't connected to cell service yet and my watch was connected to the phone. Logically, I thought, they missed the time change.

After comparing the time with Tengo Hambre, Just Awesome, and Polecat, we decided my inReach had it wrong.

I still didn't get an extra hour of sleep, even accidentally, but at least I didn't get up an hour early.

Eating breakfast by headlamp light

Daylight saving time or standard time, we still had to eat breakfast and pack in the dark.

Polecat checks his Guthook app

Soon after leaving camp, we had to cross Loss Creek.

A comment was posted a couple of days ago in the Guthook app saying the creek was "absolutely raging." That was during the time Tropical Storm Zeta passed through the area. The creek was still flowing swiftly today, but thankfully, it had diminished enough that crossing it wasn't dangerous.

Just Awesome managed to rock-hop his way across the creek. This required searching upstream of the trail to find a way across. After crossing, he had some difficulty bushwhacking his way back to the trail. This seemed like a little more trouble than we were willing to deal with, so we just forded the stream.

Low-hanging rhododendron over the trail

Soon after we crossed Loss Creek, we began a 300-foot climb. It was steep, but the distance was minor compared to the climbing that was to come.

Climbing over a blowdown

Scrambling over a couple of blowdowns across the trail made the climb up the mountain a little more strenuous than normal.

Hiwassee River, viewed from high above

At the top of the first climb, the Hiwassee River came into view. The river was noticeably more narrow here than it was when we saw it yesterday.

A road leading to Coker Creek

Going down, the trail was about as steep as it had been going up. At the bottom, it crossed a spot frequently used by locals for camping and partying. It was at the end of a road, which provided easy access.

We had intentionally avoided this site yesterday because we didn't want to risk being around Saturday night partiers. As it turned out, no one was here when we walked by, except for a few day hikers.

Footbridge over Coker Creek

A short distance past the campsite, the trail crossed a footbridge over Coker Creek.

A gold rush of sorts was started on this creek in 1827. At the time, the land was owned by the Cherokee Indians. The influx of white settlers had caused enough of a problem that by 1832, President Andrew Jackson ordered the U.S. Army to restore order.

To be sure, the military occupation was to keep out illegal prospectors, not protect the property rights of Native Americans. The 85-90 soldiers were there without the consent of the Indian tribe.

Jackson had signed the Indian Removal Act two years earlier, but the soldiers weren't initially sent to remove the Cherokee from their land. That didn't happen until after 1835 when a small unauthorized faction of Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota, which gave up the Indians' rights to their land.

About 60,000 Native Americans were rounded up between 1830 and 1850 in what became known as the Trail of Tears. The forced march to Oklahoma resulted in the death of more than 4,000 native people. As many as one out of every four Cherokees from Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia died while being removed from their homeland.

Benton MacKaye Trail

The trail began another climb on the other side of the creek. This one went up up 1,200 feet. A short way up the climb, the BMT left the John Muir Trail.

Sun comes out on the trail

At the top of the climb, the trail followed a ridgeline. As I walked along this section, the clouds that had hung low all morning began to clear away.

State Route 68

At a gap in the ridge, the trail crossed State Route 68. If we had not worked out a plan to drop off food at Green Cove Store & Lodge, we could have sent a resupply package to the Coker Creek post office, which was 6.4 miles up the road from here.

Of course, the post office was closed today (Sunday). We also would have to hitch to get there, which would be hard enough on a road with light traffic and likely harder during a pandemic.

We'll be able to pick up our food the day after tomorrow without either of those problems.

Climbing trail

The trail climbed from the highway at the gap and continued again on a ridge. Along the way, it passed a motorcycle trail. The junction was not marked well, and I had to stop to make sure I was going the correct way.

Seeing this, I wondered if Tengo Hambre had stopped to make sure he was going the right way, or if he missed the junction and went down the motorcycle trail. He had already missed a couple of trail junctions on this hike.

I had a premonition it happened again, and my worry was borne out a short time later when I caught up to Polecat. He told me Tengo had not passed him.

Unicoi Turnpike

The trail made another short descent as it headed toward Joe Brown Highway at Unicoi Gap. Shortly before reaching the road, the BMT intersected with an old trail called the Unicoi Turnpike. This was originally a footpath used by Cherokee and Creek Indians. It was an important route between northwestern Georgia and the French Broad River.

Later, hunters and trappers in the fur-trading business began following the route in the early 18th century to haul their deerskins and pelts to markets in Charleston and Savannah. British soldiers used the trail in 1756 when they built Fort Loudoun, one of the first fortifications on the western frontier.

As white settlers migrated to Tennessee, the importance of the trail grew. By 1815, improvements were needed, so a company was founded to construct a toll road. It was completed by 1819.

Unicoi Turnpike was used for the Trail of Tears forced removal of the Cherokee from their homeland in 1838.

The road's importance diminished after the Civil War, though a tollgate remained in operation at Unicoi Gap until the early 20th century. A portion of the old turnpike is preserved today by the U.S. Forest Service.

A short distance north of here is the site of Fort Armistead. U.S. soldiers were garrisoned there during the Coker Creek gold rush and Trail of Tears removal. Later, a battalion of Confederate soldiers camped there during the Civil War.

Eating lunch at Unicoi Gap

When I arrived at Unicoi Gap, Just Awesome and Polecat were already there. There was no sign of Tengo.

We decided to eat lunch and hoped he would show up soon.

Leaving a note for Tengo Hambre

After waiting for more than an hour, JA decided to post a note for him on a Forest Service signboard. Polecat then did the same, though I'm unsure why two notes were needed. Still, it was a good idea to make sure Tengo knew where we planned to stop tonight.

We were confident of Tengo's good outdoor skills and weren't worried about him. If he had taken the wrong turn at the motorcycle trail, he knew how to navigate his way back to the trail or the highway.

Polecat and Just Awesome mug for the camera

After posting their notes, JA and Polecat mugged for my camera. We were comfortable joking about Tengo going the wrong way because we knew he could take care of himself.

Tengo Hambre arrives at Unicoi Gap

And then, as if right on cue, we saw Tengo walk down the trail to the gap. Despite my confidence in his ability to navigate and stay safe, I admit feeling some relief when I saw him.

Tengo explains what happened

Tengo's explanation for his delay was exactly as I had thought. He missed the turn for the BMT and followed the motorcycle trail. Unfortunately, he walked more than a mile – all downhill – before realizing his mistake.

He was good-natured about the ribbing we gave him.

Leaving Unicoi Gap

The trail continued past Unicoi Gap on a forest road. It was difficult to tell, but the trail would weave back and forth across the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina for the next several miles.

The trail crosses into North Carolina

We were soon climbing again, this time going up more than 1,100 feet.

The sky was mostly clear by now, and just as it did yesterday, the temperature felt much warmer than it really was. This made the climb tiring.

I began to fall behind the others, which wasn't unusual for me.

A view from Peels High Top

The climb took me past Peels High Top, where an opening in the trees offered one of the few views of the day. The sky was clear enough that I could see Brasstown Bald, which was about 36 miles away. It is the highest peak in Georgia.

An old stone chimney at Peels Top

The trail dipped slightly to Peels Gap, then on the next climb was Peels Top. An old chimney stood there on top of the mountain. It may have been from a homestead, but I didn't see anything that looked like a foundation.

Walking with Tengo Hambre

I caught up to Tengo and we walked together for the rest of the way to Tate Gap.

After climbing more than 2,200 feet today, we were getting a little worn out. Ten days into a thru-hike isn't enough to build up trail legs. I figured I'll probably get used to these climbs in the last couple of days before finishing.

Camping at Tate Gap

Old ruins of a house stood about 100 yards away from the trail near Tate Gap. It was known as the Doc Rogers Place. According to a narrative posted on Reddit, the house was built by a patient of William A. “Doc” Rogers.

Rogers was a physician in Tellico Plains, and as the story goes, had suggested to the patient that he move to the mountains for relief from his asthma symptoms. Years later, the patient was so grateful to be "cured" of his asthma, he sold the property to Doc Rogers for one dollar.

Rogers lived in the house with his wife and used it as a respiratory therapy clinic to treat other patients. When the clinic was closed and they moved away in the 1950s, a caretaker lived on the property until it was sold to the U.S. Forest Service in the 1960s. The house was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.

Only portions of three walls were standing of the three-story home. An old military ambulance is said to be parked on the site, but we never saw it. I failed to take any photos because the day was getting late, but a video posted in 2014 shows the home's deteriorating condition.

By the time we arrived at Tate Gap, the sun was just minutes away from setting and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Our focus now was to set up our tents and collect water.

When we arrived, Polecat and Just Awesome were already there, but they hadn't set up their tents yet. We were unsure at first where to find a good spot to pitch our tents. This spot was labeled in trail guides as a campsite, but the only place we could find that was close to being flat was on an old forest road, which was also the trail.

The water here also wasn't great. It was only a trickle from a small spring. It took me several minutes to collect some for tonight's dinner and enough to last until I reached the next stream tomorrow.

There was one good thing about our campsite. We were protected from the wind. We could hear it gusting in the trees above the gap, but we didn't feel it. Even without wind, the temperature dropped enough that we didn't spend much time after dinner before crawling into our tents.

Tengo realized he failed to pack a pair of gloves for this trip. Not unexpectedly, Polecat had packed more than one, so he was able to lend Tengo a pair.

As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is?
(I don't)
Does anybody really care?
(Care about time)
If so, I can't imagine why
(No, no)
We've all got time enough to cry


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.