Monday, February 22, 2010

Descriptions of the Loops and Some Notes on the Course

Both loops start at the Backcountry Information Center.

16 mile loop
1. Take the Long Branch Trail to the Appalachian Trail. Long Branch is a blue-blazed trail that starts across the road from the parking lot. The trail is rooty, rocky, and canted. It goes gradually uphill, but is runnable. After about 20 minutes (my speed), there are a couple landmarks to pay attention to.
- You will enter a small field. Stay on the blue blazed trail, hugging the tree line on the right.
- Shortly thereafter you will cross a creek and then head uphill (very wet/icy) to a forest road. Don’t turn- go straight ahead on the blue blazed trail.
- You will start a steep but short climb up to Glassmine Gap on the AT.

2. Turn RIGHT (south) on the AT. You will pass a couple of springs and cross a creek. The trail will wind uphill until you reach the ridge that approaches Albert Mountain. The trail levels out here. You will pass Big Springs shelter and a large sign giving you various mileage. Pay attention in the next half mile:
- After going gradually uphill, the AT will veer sharply left. There is a double blaze on a post. You will get off the AT at this point and follow the short trail that goes straight.

- After about 25 yards, you come to an old road. Turn right. This takes you to a gate which leads to a gravel parking lot. Turn left here and follow this road all the way back to the start. There is only one intersection to worry about. About 3 miles in, there is a road that goes left to Coweeta. Do not take that road. Keep to the right.

18 mile loop
1. Leave the Backcountry Information Center and head back up the paved road toward the entrance. After a mile and a half or so, you will see a parking lot on the right. This is Rock Gap. Get on the AT here, turn RIGHT (south). Follow the AT up a mountain and back down to Glassmine Gap. Follow the instructions for the 16 mile loop at this point.

There is a lot of water available along the trail and the road. Be sure to treat it if you use it. You won’t go more than an hour without a water source.

Creek crossings
There are a couple of creeks to cross on the trail that you ought to be able to keep your feet dry for. There is a ford, however, on the road section. I usually handle it by taking off my shoes for it. The start/finish area is only about 20 minutes beyond the ford, if you want to change shoes/socks at your vehicle.

Snow/ice as of 2/20

There is still a lot of snow on the course, although there should be some melting in the next couple of days. They are calling for some more snow on Wednesday. On Long Branch, there is 4-8", on the upper parts of the AT 12" (although the trail is packed down). On the road from Albert Mountain, there is a section of 3' drifts, but it is a short section. Below that the road has frozen ruts and tire track under the powdery snow, which I hope will melt some because they are a pain to run on. As you get closer to the start/finish, there is significant melting.

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