After visiting Hot Springs, NC, recently, I tried to find Big Creek Country Store on Mt. Sterling Road in Mt. Sterling, North Carolina. I had a GPS that speaks every language except Klingon, and plenty of time. All went well, except for the fact that my GPS said there was no such road and no such town. That, friends, is why it's easier to follow white blazes on the Appalachian Trail than it is to drive.
White blazes speak a universal language and they all have the same message: you're not lost -- you're on the Trail.
Just look for the next one ... and the next. If you begin at Springer Mountain in Georgia and follow the white-blazed road, you'll end up in Baxter State Park and Katahdin. The end of the Trail in Maine.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The A.T. is marked for daylight travel in both directions using a system of white "blazes," or a rectangle of white paint 2 inches wide and 6 inches high. Blazes are found on trees, posts and rocks.
Distance between blazes varies. If you have gone as much as a quarter-mile without seeing a blaze, stop. Retrace your steps until you locate a blaze. Then, check to make sure you haven't missed a turn. When your map or guidebook indicates one route, and the blazes show another, follow the blazes.
When the Trail changes direction, you'll find two white blazes, one atop the other.
Follow the direction of the upper blaze and you'll stay on the Trail. You really can't get lost. Until you get lost.
Hike a large enough section and you'll get turned around. You'll dig deep enough to find your compass. If you're heading north, for example, and your compass shows you where north is, you'll happily hop on the Trail. Only to find a while later that you're going south on the Trail, because the path wiggles so much, sometimes south is north.
I know. You think that's just stupid and that it can't be right. But it is. It's kind of like how some people think it's cool to drive a Hummer or wear tassel loafers.
White blazes are usually placed at eye level on trees or whatever works. Sometimes, they're on rocks, as in the photo on the right taken on the south side of the 100-Mile-Wilderness.
There are a zillion white blazes on the Appalachian Trail. Hikers can't find some at first. Then, they jump out without thinking.
In a sort of hall of fame, we remember our favorites. And remember who was or wasn't there ... and if it was raining and what the day smelled like.
White blazes can do that. Hike the AT and see for yourself.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, appalachian trail hikers, and white blazes on the appalachian trail