Finishing The Bartram Trail – Well, Almost!

June 19th, 2017

On Monday, one of my hiking companions, Pam and I, headed to Sky Valley in Georgia with the intentions of doing a day-hike along a part of the Bartram Trail. Sky Valley is a small mountain town (population 250), located about 11 miles north of Clayton, Georgia and is situated in a beautiful area along the northwest slopes of Rabun Bald. At 4,696 feet, Rabun Bald is Georgia’s second highest peak, second only to Brasstown Bald.

Today, Pam and I started hiking at Beegum Gap, climbed a thousand feet to the fire tower at the top of Rabun Bald, then continued to hike on the Bartram Trail towards Wilson Gap. Along the way, we climbed to near the summits of Flat Top and Wilson Knob. We also took a short detour to an overlook that had spectacular views. After hiking 6.18 miles, we reached the midpoint of our hike. There, we spotted a campsite and decided to break for a quick lunch. After maybe fifteen minutes, we finished eating, turned around and began the hike back out.

A couple of summers ago, Wayne, Tally, Pam, and I had been section hiking the Bartram Trail together. I had gotten very car sick the day that we were supposed to do the stretch from near Wilson Gap to Hale Ridge Road and couldn’t hike. Tally was nice enough to have given me a ride home while Wayne and Pam carried on.

In April of last year, I went back and hiked about half of what I had missed. With today’s hike, I finally finished this section and except for the last nine-tenths of a mile in North Carolina, from Nolton Ridge Road (FS 259) to Cheoah Bald, I’ve hiked the entirety of the Bartram Trail.

Because the forecast called for a 65 percent chance of rain, with possible thunderstorms beginning as early as 1 pm, Pam and I had to hike at a relatively fast pace and not stop too often. Fortunately for us, it only rained during the last 1.7 miles or so of our hike and the heaviest rains held out until after we had finished and were back in Pam’s vehicle.

It actually turned out to be a great day for a hike. The temperature was in the upper 60’s the whole time, there was a nice cool breeze blowing, and the overcast sky meant that the sun wasn’t beating down on us. Though the terrain was steep, the forest was dense and green with lots of wildflowers in bloom. In all, we hiked 12.32 miles and climbed a little over 3,000 feet.

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Here, Mountain Laurel petals carpeted the trail on our initial climb
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A sign at base of the Rabun Bald fire tower pointing back to Beegum Gap where we had started.
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Rabun Bald fire tower – we were racing against the clock, trying to beat incoming bad weather, so we didn’t climb the tower on our hike in.
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We spotted “Lucky” the snail again on this hike. The markings on the shell sort of resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs.
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The hole in this tree might make a good home for Winnie, Piglet, or Rabbit!
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At about 4.5 miles in, there is a short side trail that leads to this overlook with great views. The rock is steeply sloping, so exercise caution, especially when wet.
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Here we passed a hillside covered with Ferns

I think that this hike had more volume and variety of wildflowers growing along the trail than any of my other hikes during the spring. While I was already familiar with a couple of the flowers, I had to look the others up on the internet once I got home. Hopefully, I’ve identified them correctly.

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It started to rain lightly just as we arrived back at Rabun Bald on our hike out. Pam was able to capture this image from the top of the tower, moments before the rain began to fall more heavily.

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