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Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail
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Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/21/2007 17:43:07 MDT Print View

Well folks, I got back earlier today from my first real trip out. I had done some shakedown hikes here locally, but now was the time. I chose the Pine Mountain Trail here in Georgia.

The trail is 23 miles on Pine Mountain, and is rated easy to moderate. Yeah, right!

I had to select my campsite at the Ranger's Station when I got my backcountry permit. I chose one called Brown Dog Campsite located 16 miles down the trail. It's an easy trail, and my trail head pack weight was only 15 lbs. I'd been reading about 15-20 mile days like they were nothing, and it's an easy trail, right?

Well, there are parts of the trail that were very easy. Other parts are fairly strenuous. My earlier shake down hikes were only a mile or two, just enough to get a feel for my pack, and to test out my gear at the campsite. It did nothing to prepare me for yesterday's ordeal.

The trail was very well marked, making it very difficult to get lost. I know I couldn't manage it. And, luckily, there are joining trails that can be used to cut down the distance. That's a good thing too, because without it, I'm not sure I'd have made it to my campsite!

I started out on the trail about 8:45 that morning, eager to start my adventure. Sure enough, I clipped on through, but after a couple of miles, fatigue started setting in. It was bad enough that I didn't even notice the blisters forming on both feet. After a long, hard day; I found myself in the dark, with about a mile or so between me and my camp. I was making pretty lousy time, and now I was going to pay for it. I'm just glad I had decided to go the headlamp route.

I limped into my campsite about 8:30 that night. I quickly set up my Gatewood Camp and crashed out. I usually have some difficulty sleeping in the woods the first night, but not last night. I was out in no time.

I got an early start this morning, and cut through on a shorter trail, knowing now that my hiking pace is far to slow for the timeframe I had in mind for coming off the trail. It worked out well, only coming off 30 minutes later than I had originally planned.

It was, ultimately, a good trip. While I was miserable for most of the trip, I learned some key things.

1. I overestimated my ability. This was stupid, and in some cases has been fatal for others. This won't happen again.

2. I underestimated the trail. Everything I had read said that it was 23 easy to moderate miles with about 300 feet of elevation gain. That wasn't right. There is a lot of ups and downs that can wear you down. Plenty of flat spots too, but the PUDS can kill ya. I will never again assume a trail is easy, even if something says it is, until I've done it already and know myself.

3. I'm glad I started out ultralight. If I had been carrying a traditional load, I'd still be out there!

4. Trekking poles work! At least for me. They will be a part of my kit from now until the end of time.

5. Pick shorter routes. Goes along with #1 and #2, doesn't it?

6. Make double sure your toilet paper is packed. Not fun ;)

7. Get a dehydrator. Some of those freeze-dried meals suck worse than a Hoover!

While I'm still recovering from this trip, and likely will be for a couple of days, it's not enough to deter me. Until the pain and fatigue set in, I was having a blast and am quite sure I'll continue to enjoy myself. Just now, I'll be a good bit smarter.

There is no replacement for experience!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/21/2007 20:31:14 MDT Print View

Glad you are okay and learned from the ordeal. 90-99.9% of hikers cannot hike 15-20 mile days when they have only prepared with 2 mile hikes. Those distances must be worked up to. Keep a list of your gear and go over it as you pack. If you don't, you are guaranteed to leave something you may need. Exhaustion can ruin anybodies apetite.

Edited by jshann on 10/21/2007 20:35:26 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/21/2007 20:40:34 MDT Print View

7. Get a dehydrator. Some of those freeze-dried meals suck worse than a Hoover!

Ya got that right, hard to believe they were even worse 30 years ago. In addition to an dehydrator, it'd be worthwhile buying Sarbar's book ... no affiliation, not even a satisfied customer (yet), but I know that good meals are possible if you listen to those who have worked at it.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/21/2007 21:03:37 MDT Print View


A lot of folks here have under estimated a trip or over estimated their abilities at one time or another. The difference between future good/bad trips is whether or not we learn from our experiences. It sounds like you've already picked up a load of experience. Someone once said, "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting a different end result", or something to that effect. A couple of years ago I started out on only the second trip of the year with minimal prep walking wise, and a plan for a 30+ mile 1st day. Needless to say, I was shut down at mile 21 with foot problems, and after basically hobbeling 7 miles to the next road crossing in the morning I called the trip, 10 miles short of my goal.I now make sure my feet are used to getting pounded before putting in big miles. BTW, I'm not sure I'll ever consider 20 mile days a piece of cake! Check out Ryan's 1st high mile hike of the year in GA a few years back here:

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/21/2007 21:41:30 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> 1. I overestimated my ability. ... This won't happen again.
This is what experience is all about. I would not feel too bad about it: you survived. But allow for the possibility that you WILL wrongly estimate travel times in the future. It happens to us all.

> 2. I underestimated the trail. Everything I had read said that it was 23 easy to moderate miles with about 300 feet of elevation gain. That wasn't right.
Well, this is again a matter of experience. I am willing to bet that in a few years time you will be able do this track much more easily. Go walking in the French Alps, and you will get used to ascents and descents of up to 6,000 ft in a day. Yep, truly.

> I will never again assume a trail is easy, even if something says it is, until I've done it already and know myself.
:-) This is the way of wisdom, but wisdom comes from embarrasing experiences, which usually come from a lack of wisdom ... :-) (like missing TP)

> 3. I'm glad I started out ultralight. If I had been carrying a traditional load, I'd still be out there!
Our core message! Yay!


Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Thanks Folks on 10/22/2007 03:14:32 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone! I definitely learned a lot. Sure, I'll probably make mistakes again in the future, though I'm hoping that they'll be all new mistakes ;)

My next hike will be a seven mile trail at Torreya State Park down in Florida. I NOW know I can manage that at least ;)

Another important thing I learned was that the techniques and skills I learned here worked for me. I watched people with huge honking packs have just as much as I did, and a few who were even less comfortable than I was!

Oh, and Jim? Already got it! I just have to get the dehydrator so I can make use of it :D


Edited by Tomcat1066 on 10/22/2007 04:45:57 MDT.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
Congrats on 10/22/2007 13:11:20 MDT Print View

Way to go Tom!

I'm building up to my first 20+; conquered a UL 15mile trail a month ago.

UL Backpacking comprises everything I love and appreciate in life: strategic planning, technologies, troubleshooting, physical fitness, and, most of all, it's a never ending exploration. Exploring the wilds, exploring yourself (do you really get hairy palms from that?). And while I haven't stopped learning, I haven't stopped forgetting too. Like... forgetting my sleepy time warm socks this last weekend. Oh, and leaving my water filtration system behind!! WTF!?!! That could have been terminal but I stock my Emergency Kit with tablets. What I learned this time? Make a list and check it twice. What I did at night when I couldn't sleep because my attempted quilt sleep system was inadequate at 32F? Kept a fire going and wrote lists. yawn.

Which bag did you take and what were the temps out there?


Oh, and this year I left Mountain House behind and never looked back. Thanks Sarah!

Edited by uberkatzen on 10/22/2007 13:18:54 MDT.

Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Re: Congrats on 10/22/2007 13:57:54 MDT Print View

I took out the GoLite Fur I bought used here on BPL about a year ago. It's rated to 20 degrees, and I was comfortable down to the 41*F that were observed, even wearing shorts under the quilt. I was quite toasty :D

After careful review of what's still here at the house, my TP isn't. Therefore, I have figured that it must have fallen out of my pack along the trail, probably when I treated some water since it was in the same outside pocket of my Jam with my Micropur. So, I feel a little better about my packing, since I didn't forget it, but just hope some poor soul who had forgotten their TP found makes me feel better about what all I had to endure ;)

Seriously though, I found out this morning that I appear to have injured my foot somehow. Not surprising considering the abuse I heaped upon it Saturday.

Another thing I learned that I forgot to mention is how important a tight hip belt is! My Jam was killing me Saturday, so much so that I was cursing GoLite and had set my mind to find an REI within a day's drive and find something with a frame...until I tightened my hip belt sufficiently and POOF! All better.

Unfortunately, that didn't help my poor shoulders feel better at that point, but Sunday was a much better hike that way!

Mountain House will not be in my pack again though...Bleek!


Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
It happens to the best of us on 10/22/2007 19:49:44 MDT Print View

I think the most important thing is knowing your limits.

My friend and I tried to do a thru-hike in the Smokys this Spring. We made it the first day and realized we were not physically prepared or geared up to handle it. Instead of going further, we took a zero day and made a little loop out of the deal. We had fun, but if our egos would have gotten in the way, we would have been in big trouble high above the world with no one to help us...

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Congrats, Tom! on 10/22/2007 20:27:41 MDT Print View


Like others here, I relate to your story - thru experience :), and I appreciate your sharing.

Keep at it! Let me know if you find yourself in North FL this winter - I'll show you some good trails.

By the way, your pack weight for your 1st trip is impressive!!!!


Dylan Taylor
(nevadas) - F

Locale: California Coast
i second the notion that 20 miles is never easy on 10/22/2007 23:19:37 MDT Print View

unless the focus of your life is being a competative athlete... and by that i mean you're sponsored and have time to dedicate several hours a day on training in your sport... then 20 miles can never be easy. it can be relatively easy. right? i mean, hiking 20 with no elevation gain/loss is "easy" compared to the same distance with a 4k gain. (o and btw, to the above poster, you dont have to go to europe to be doing those types of gains/losses, check out the sierra nevadas). but anyone saying 20 miles a day is easy isnt being straight up.

that being said, making a mistake on mileage is pretty de minimus. it beats underestimating your skill on a climb, when crossing a glacier, making a river crossing, etc. ie, things you will get to in your evolution as a mountaineer.

imho, the most important lesson to learn when you arrive safe at home after a day, a week, a month, in the backcountry is this:

never underestimate the strength and detachment of nature.

Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Thanks again on 10/23/2007 03:37:20 MDT Print View

It's good to know I'm not a complete idiot ;)

One of my goals in life is to not make the same mistake twice, instead to make all new ones. I definitely made some this past weekend, and I've seriously paid the price. Obviously the price could have been higher had the stakes been higher. Thankfully, they weren't.

Here was the thing that I think is most important, and I post this for future newbie hikers who might read this: I made it home, I learned from it, and I ultimately had fun.

Granted, I ran the gamut of emotions while out there. Everything from pure joy (expected), to total fear. At one point, I dropped my pack, collapsed and thought "so this is where they'll find my body." Now, obviously, fatigue was making me a bit melodramatic, but the emotion was real. And the funny thing is, looking back, it made the trip something more than I expected.

I honestly think I'm hooked on this now :D

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 10/23/2007 10:38:17 MDT Print View

And you know what? It doesn't take a 20 mile/day trek to learn things the hard way. I remember the first time I underestimated time on a DAY-HIKE with my wife. Our day-hike became a night-hike!

At the time, I didn't own a head-lamp and I hadn't packed a flashlight (It's a day-hike, right?). I won't go into the details of the grief I received from the wife but suffice it to say, I immediately ordered two head-lamps which go with us on EVERY hike.

Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
To Todd on 10/25/2007 19:53:25 MDT Print View

I just sent you a PM on your offer ;)


todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: To Todd on 10/26/2007 19:53:58 MDT Print View


Pls PM again, I didn't get your message.


Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Re: Re: To Todd on 10/26/2007 21:44:57 MDT Print View

Another PM sent. If that doesn't work, just shoot me an email at thomas DOT knighton AT mchsi DOT com


Jim Cook

Locale: Land of Cotton
Re: Re: Two days, One Night on the Pine Mountain Trail on 11/26/2007 13:12:44 MST Print View

In addition to an dehydrator, it'd be worthwhile buying Sarbar's book...

Second that. Plus, she posts tons of freebies on her web site and here in the Food, Hydration and Nutrition forum.

Just read your trip report. You're not terribly far from me, right next to Columbus, GA. The PMT is about 45 minutes away from my house and is a great weekend getaway. I've hiked a good bit of it; there are some great sites along those 23 miles. It's a good trail for a shakedown. I've been an on/off member of the Pine Mountain Trail Association for several years and I can tell you that those folks put a lot of TLC into maintaining that trail.

Edited by jim_cook on 11/26/2007 13:15:24 MST.

Jesse Squires
(shinfuro) - F
How was the area? on 12/05/2007 14:31:51 MST Print View

How was pine mountain as far as scenery and water supply?
Im looking to do a weekend trip there in the coming weeks.