Benton MacKaye Trail: Deep Creek Bridge

Deep Creek Crossing

It’s October, 2009. I’m standing on the north side of Deep Creek in the Smokies. “It’s not good to be here alone”, I thought. “It’s not safe here. I shouldn’t be doing this by myself. I should turn back. Is there another way?”

I’m at mile 44, three miles shy of the half way point in the Smokies section of the Benton MacKaye Trail I’m looking at my map, tracing a possible alternate route around the swollen torrent that is Deep  Creek. I’m considering scooting across the tipped log that’s interrupted by perpendicular poles. That’s what the bridge had become.

“What a surprise!” Last June, on my first BMT traverse, this had been a simple walk across a log bridge. Now, crossing this big creek required a strategic decision.

Go back. Find a trail detour. Scoot on the log. Ford the creek. These were the choices I saw. I studied the water, judging the depth and the evaluating the current. My choice: “Ford the stream.”

Half way across the thigh-deep span, my balance wavered in the current. “Just keep standing up, hold steady, take a step,” I instructed myself with each step. “No wavering. No questioning. Steady in the current. Next step now.”  I stayed up.

Two hours later, atop Noland Divide, the half way mark through the Smokies section, I celebrated my successful crossing and my gratitude for getting to sit on the big log on the ridge again.

A couple of months later, on the last day of 2009, I reached the Deep Creek Bridge for my third time.  This time I was ready. This time, I had gear. For weeks before my Winter Walk, I had researched options for a safe, warm, and dry fording of Deep Creek, in case the bridge was still unsafe to cross.

I stepped into the icy water, instantly satisfied with the lightweight, waterproof waders I had crafted at home. Even better than the waders keeping my legs warm and dry was the support and assurance of a hiking buddy.  I was not alone. My husband, John, who had specifically chosen to come with me to assure my safe crossing of Deep Creek, donned his own yellow waders and we crossed together.

“That was fun! Let’s do it again!”  In contrast to the tenuous ford in my Fall Walk, this time we crossed upstream where the wider channel subdued the current and decreased the depth. In addition, a fallen tree had provided a handrail that extended almost half way out into the creek. Wading in the creek this time was straightforward and entertaining. We made camp on the south side, and celebrated the New Year with that most anticipated challenge overcome!

My Spring crossing of Deep Creek was simple, even though I was alone again.  Although the bridge was still out, I chose that same crossing and waded easily, lingering a while on the north shore to reflect on the beauty and significance of this landmark on my only northbound crossing of Deep Creek.

It wasn’t my last, though! It took a second attempt at a Winter thru-hike in January, 2013 to accomplish my goal of thru-hiking the Benton MacKaye Trail in all four seasons, bringing me to the bank of Deep Creek for my fifth time.

Once again I was prepared with waders to ford the creek, even though I had read a report of the bridge replacement. Even though it was late in the afternoon and we had already walked nine miles, we kept walking to the bridge. I had to see it!


As in my life, a new bridge now spans the swift and uncertain waters. For Deep Creek, the new bridge is a long and massive log, hewn flat and sporting a sturdy handrail.

For me, there’s a trusted hiking partner and a community of friends, mentors, and colleagues supporting me as I cross the uncertain waters of doubts, unknown obstacles, and setbacks as I walk into my dream of living from my heart, exploring the world of business and sharing my hiking and coaching expertise with others.

The Deep Creek Bridge, Mile 44 on the Benton MacKaye Trail is a powerful landmark in my four seasons on the Trail.


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