The Benton Mackaye/ Appalachian Trail Figure Eight (The Great 8)



Well here I am again, about to set off on a walking adventure and writing about it. I was supposed to thru hike the Pacific Crest trail in 2020, and I’m sure you know how that turned out. I was going to attempt it again this past year, because surely the pandemic will not last that long? Right? Oh how naive I was.

I decided to cobble together a one and a half month long hike in the Appalachians and then the Delta wave happened. Oh by the way, if you didn’t already know, I’m a travel ICU nurse. So of course I start feeling guilty and selfish for setting out into the woods while yet another surge of Covid is crashing the healthcare infrastructure.

But here’s the thing, I’m not much good at the job right now anyway. I. AM. TIRED. And who isn’t really? I believe all healthcare workers deserve a break (not more protesting and violence) and I’m just one of the lucky few who has the opportunity to do so. Besides my therapist told me she was writing me a prescription for a 1.5 month long hike, so I guess I have to go now.

Yes, I have a therapist now. My mental health has not been great. I already dealt with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. *Covid Pandemic enters the chat* I haven’t been officially diagnosed but I’m fairly certain that I meet the markers for PTSD, which makes it complex because it stems from my job. Why am I writing all this? Because it is a big reason for wanting to walk long distances. It’s a form of therapy. Also, it is part of my story and let’s normalize talking about mental health, yeah?

So now you know that.

My trip will start at Neels Gap on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and I’ll walk south to Springer Mountain where the Southern Terminus of the Benton Mackaye Trail (BMT) starts. I’ll move north roughly parallel to the AT and then cross it just before the Smokies. The BMT ends at the northern border of the Smokies where I will hop (figuratively) over to the AT and make my way south back to Neels Gap. As you can see on the map below, the BMT (red/yellow line) and the AT (dark blue dots) form a wonky looking figure eight. Thus, it shall henceforth be known as the BMT/AT F8! By only me probably.

It is about 513 miles altogether and will take a month and a half. I hope to be done by the end of October. Yes I am going by myself, and no I’m not too worried about it. I’ve got Garmin InReach with a handy SOS button if needed. I’m bringing a mask and sanitizer of course. I’ve planned out all my food and resupply stops, so there is nothing left but to go and do it.

Here is a handy map to gaze upon.

Here is my Gear list if you are interested in that sort of thing:

I’ll be posting here as signal allows, probably a week at a time.

I will also be posting on my Instagram account:


2 thoughts on “The Benton Mackaye/ Appalachian Trail Figure Eight (The Great 8)

  1. AT

    Happy to see this email. Good for you for getting out there again. Thanks for the inspiration. ❤️ Also I live in Ellijay so hollaaaaa if you’re in need. Hugs to you, Fox


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