Hiking The Bartram Trail – Russell Bridge To Earl’s Ford And Back

A Late Start. On Saturday, I hiked the seven mile segment of the Bartram Trail from Russel Bridge to Earl’s Ford and then back. In all, I hiked 14.6 miles, which included an additional 6 tenths of a mile when I missed a turn in the trail and continued to hike a short ways on an old roadbed before turning around.

Originally, I had planned to hike the 9.5 miles to Sandy Ford and back for a total of 19 miles, but I didn’t get to the trailhead until 10 am. Friday night is movie night at our house and I had been up late watching a DVD with my kids. Come Saturday morning I was entirely too sleepy to wake up early, and since I didn’t want to still be on the trail after sunset, I decided to do the shorter hike.

A Little About The Trail. The Bartram Trail is roughly 111 miles long. It runs from its southern terminus in the mountains of northeast Georgia to Cheoah Bald in western North Carolina. The Georgia portion of the trail is 36 or so miles long and follows a stretch of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River. The Georgia trail also climbs Rabun Bald, which at 4,696 feet is the second highest summit in the state. In North Carolina, the trail climbs to the top of Wayah Bald at an elevation of 5,385 feet before descending to Nantahala Lake. The trail is named after renowned naturalist William Bartram. For four years beginning in 1773, he traveled extensively throughout the south taking notes and making drawings of the native flora and fauna.

The Hike

Not far from the trailhead is this 112 foot bridge that crosses the West Fork of the Chattooga River.

This is a view of the West Fork a little further downstream. This segment of the trail was never very far from either the West Fork or the Chattooga.

After hiking about two miles, I came across this old hay-baler. It, along with the chimney from a house are all that remain of this depression era homestead.

At this footbridge, a beaver has built a dam only a few feet to the left, which has caused the water to back up so that it’s almost level with the boardwalk. The trail on the far side of the bridge was partly under water.

So this is the beaver’s dam as seen from the middle of the bridge, but where is that dam’s beaver?

A view of the trail ahead. It was a beautiful day for a hike, with a clear blue sky and cool temperatures.

This is the Chattooga at Earl’s Ford and my destination for the day. I sat on the bank of the river and ate my lunch, which consisted of a salami sandwich and a cheese danish. After a little less than half an hour, I packed up and began the hike back to my car.

The river here was only a few inches deep and I was tempted to walk out to the middle, but the water’s too cold right now. Maybe I’ll go back on a warmer day and take my wife and kids.

On the return hike I noticed this old tree that had dozens of mushrooms or lichens growing on it’s bark.

I’ve nicknamed this stretch The Gauntlet because of all of the trees that have fallen across the trail.

Wrapping-up. I made it back to my car by 3:24 pm. I was feeling pretty good and did the final 7 miles in just 2 hrs and 16 minutes. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed the hike. I’ve done about a third of the Bartram Trail and I’m looking forward to hiking more sections.

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4 thoughts on “Hiking The Bartram Trail – Russell Bridge To Earl’s Ford And Back

  1. Such a nice hike. I wondered hat that old piece of machinery was. Enjoyed your post Brother. I egt out at least 2 days a week some time 3 or 4. Live to hike.

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