It’s sometimes amazing to me how much plans can change. Originally, I had planned to spend the full 9 days of Spring Break thru-hiking the Bartram Trail in Georgia and North Carolina. But in dealing with major weather systems and changing goals and interests, I section hiked the first 30 miles of the Foothills Trail (in South and North Carolina) instead.
I began the walk early in the afternoon sun on Sunday, March 16, at Oconee State Park, after leaving my truck at Table Rock State Park on the other end of the trail.
The Foothills Trail proved to offer incredibly gentle grades, making 800-foot ascents pass by with little more effort than a level walk. I attribute this to excellent route selection and impressive efforts from trail builders in side-hill cuts, sometimes through thick rhododendron growth.
The trail itself crossed SC-107 several times in its first several miles, but eventually it settled alongside the Chattooga River.
I found a number of excellent campsites along the way the first day, but eventually settled in alongside the Chattooga on a gravel bar for a camp underneath the sky and stars. My first day of 11 ½ miles was behind me.
That night, I suffered from a significant migraine headache that kept me up from 3 am until about 4:30. I also had to contend with some pretty significant chafing to my hips. I can only figure this happened due to weight I have lost combined with my shorts’ waistband and belt sliding under my hip belt. I have never before had this issue and it caught me by surprise. However, choosing to sleep in until 8:30 Monday morning helped me rest up for a better day.
I headed out around 10 am and enjoyed lunch at the base of King Creek Falls, an incredible cascade which offered fantastic energy from the wind, mist and chill it offered in the Springtime warmth.
King Creek Falls
The afternoon included a surprisingly easy 1200-foot ascent over Medlin Mountain. While the views atop will be gone in a few weeks when the trees bloom again, they were appreciated very much.
A 5 o’clock arrival (after about 12 miles) left me with plenty of time to enjoy camp that evening.
The next day dawned with a feeling of dread however. The sun of Sunday and scattered clouds of Monday gave way to heavy overcast and occasional mist. My hips were still quite sore, and as I hiked, I saw NO wildlife any where, a sure sign that a heavy weather system was inbound. At this point, I decided I should consider hitchhiking out to my truck once I reached NC-281 near Whitewater Falls.
I begin an ascent up Round Mountain, this time a bit steeper than previous days, but still mellower than most portions of the AT. Near the summit, I crossed into North Carolina.
Just past the border, I encountered the remains of an old lean-to some one had built.
As I continued east, I enjoyed a series of benches, some of which offered excellent views down to Lake Jocassee.
Finally, I reached the road crossing at NC-281 and I continued on the .8 miles to the viewing platform at Whitewater Falls, a 411-foot beauty that should not be missed.
The mist had turned to light rain at this point, and definitely decided to spend the rest of my Spring Break enjoying myself, away from the severe weather which was to descend on the region. I walked the ½-mile paved walkway back to NC-281 and stuck out my thumb. 45 minutes later, I caught the first of two rides that shuttled me back to my truck and headed home.
For a much more detailed account with more pictures, you can see my trail journal here: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=7254