As my partners‘ back didn’t want to cooperate anymore we made the rough decision to leave the trail. There is no sense in pushing on with severe back pain. It’s not fun, first of all, but also we couldn’t go any further than a couple of miles a day and John could hardly bend over. As camping out there is basically living on the ground one can imagine how painful it would become.
So by arriving at Tellico River Rd the decision has been made to call it a hike and leave the trail for now. As the Benton Mackaye Trail is more remote than the Appalachian Trail it is way harder to actually leave the trail. With a bit of luck we hitched a ride back to Tellico Plains and then on to Maryville the next day. As it is quite pedantic to get to a place to take a train or Greyhound back north, we decided on renting a car and take the scenic way back to Washington DC. So we made the best of the situation, rented a car for 3 days and went slowly back north by taking the Cherohala Skyway. That scenic byway is 45 miles long and winds its way through the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee. Subsequently we took the Blue Ridge Parkway, that leads another 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains through North Carolina and Virginia. On the way we stopped at uncountable viewpoints, seen amazing waterfalls and, of course, stopped for a couple of little hikes that brought us to the top of some mountains and balds. These balds are specific in the Appalachians: nobody really knows why they are there. Maybe because of former agricultural use, maybe because fires caused by thunderstorms extinguished all trees and plants. Anyway, going back slowly was a perfect ending to a not-so-perfect end of the trail. But, we will be back!
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