Small Schools Coach of the Year: Matt Brunson, Baker

By Sam Grubenhoff | 315-4476 | @GHoffNWFDN | [email protected]

BAKER — Standing atop Blood Mountain, Matt Brunson felt the pressure melt away.

A week removed from a 41-21 loss to Blountstown in the state semifinal, the Baker football coach was taking a well-deserved, though perhaps somewhat bittersweet, vacation along the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia.

It was Brunson’s third trip to the Appalachian Trail this year. He said he has covered the first 90 miles or so. It’s a new hobby but one Brunson has taken to with the same fervor his team played with all season. He said he had never been much of a backpacker before.

“That’s my new tradition,” Brunson said. “I just started. I got my bag and my backpack and all that last year for Christmas, so I started at the end of February, and then I went one more time during the summer, and then I went last week.”

At 4,458 feet, Blood Mountain is the Appalachian Trail’s highest point in Georgia. Historians believe it to be named for a battle between Creek and Cherokee tribes. Roughly 30 miles of trails, steep inclines and switchbacks separate it from Springer Mountain, Brunson’s starting point. He said he and his companions took three days to make the trek with 35 pounds of food and supplies on their backs.

For those who have never backpacked, it’s “grueling,” Brunson said.

“There’s nothing like it,” Brunson said. “You leave the car with nothin’ but what’s on your back, and you’re gone for three days.”

The test is as physically rewarding as it is emotionally, Brunson said. He likes the altitude, the weather, the crisp mountain air, the peace and the quiet.

Being away from football is an added bonus.


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