From March 16 to March 20, I hiked the Foothills, following the traditional route, from Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park, South Carolina. The route is about 77 miles, including a few spurs added for sightseeing, and I took 4 days, 5 hours, 56 minutes to do it. This is my first walk on a long trail, and I had a good time.
My main gear items were the Golite Poncho Tarp, Gear Mariposa, Lafuma Warm’n Light sleeping bag, Icebreaker medium weight merino wool top and bottom, NB trailrunners (810s), and Driducks for additional rain protection (which proved to be a good foresight!)
I had a lot of fun planning for food, and here's what I came up with:
2 Granola bars for breakfast,
4 Balance Bars/day on trail
1 Probar/day on trail
Couscous or Rice (crunchy!) for dinner
handfuls of the following-
Sweet Trail Mix (cheerios, unsalted peanuts, M&M's),
Salty Trail Mix (salty peanuts, raisins, cashews),
Laura Lynn Wheat Crackers.
I figured out that it was 14,900 calories, and I averaged 123 calories/1 ounce. Here's all the food:
I'll list a brief itinerary for the day, and follow that with photos of the day's highlights:
Day One: My grandparents drove me down from their home in North Carolina, and I started the trail at 8:50 a.m. (just hours before Shawn Basil started his walk!). The route goes from Oconee State Park Trailhead, around Stratton Mountain, over Long Mountain, alongside the Chattooga River, by Big Bend Falls, to Burrell’s Ford walk-in campground. 16 miles.
At the Trailhead (I think my grandmother thought she'd never get to see me again, bless her!):
Rock outcrop along the Chattooga River:
The Chattooga at sunset:
Day Two: spur trail to Kings Creek Falls, up Medlin Mountain, down East Fork Chattooga River Valley, cross SC 107, up Chattooga Ridge, around Round Mountain cross into NC, around Grassy Knob, down to Whitewater Gorge and Whitewater Falls, the Hemlocks, to designated campsite o.6 miles from Bad Creek Access, on Whitewater Mountain. 16 miles
Kings Creek Falls:
Kings Creek was a lovely stream:
Whitewater Falls, one of the highest in the East:
Whitewater River was a wild, rocky river:
Camp in High Country, Whitewater Mountain:
Day Three: On logging roads and single track connectors from Whitewater Mountain, cross Thompson River, over Misery Mountain, Hilliard Falls, over Narrow Rock Ridge, cross Horsepasture River, over Bear Gap and Grindstone Mountain, to “Lake” Jocassee (meadow) at Cane Brake, crossing Toxaway River and Toxaway Creek, camping at Toxaway Creek. 16 miles.
Crossing the Thompson River, the next morning:
Hilliard Falls, named after one of the early promoters of the Foothills Trail:
I arrived at Lake Jocassee to discover it had drained out of a large area at the entrance of the Toxaway River! This is due to the multi-year drought affecting the Southeast. This area now looks like it must have looked back before the dams were built:
It was a beautiful meadow, and the streams entering it followed their historical, pre-damming routes (which are preserved on topos of the region):
That night I camped at Toxaway Creek:
Day Four, the Day of Rain: From Toxaway Creek around shore of Jocassee, up Cat Steps, crossing Rock Creek, Jackies Branch, Laurel Fork, Laurel Fork Falls (I dried out under a rock ledge for 45 minutes), following Laurel Fork Creek upstream to side of Flatrock Mountain, down to Rocky Bottom (drying out under front porch of empty house),up Chimneytop Mountain, camping at Chimneytop Gap near F. Van Clayton Highway. 17.6 miles
The next morning, rain fell lightly, and a mist obscured all distances. The weather would only get worse from here on out! This is the meadow again, as I walked out of the area:
Here's an image showing the spit of land where Jackie's Branch and Laurel Fork enter the much diminished lake- it looked bizarre out there:
It really started to rain with a lot of pressure. Even the silnylon poncho tarp, on top of a layer of Driducks, wasn't enough to keep me truly dry:
After crossing a highway and drying out at an unoccupied house, I headed up Chimneytop Mountain, where mist and loud, heavy winds created a truly creepy, mysterious atmosphere:
Arriving at my campsite at about 19:00, I dried out, and actually had a pretty comfortable night, given the monsoon like rains before. I credit my evening's comfort to the amazing properties of merino wool!
Day Five: From Chimneytop Gap to Sassafrass Mountain (no views), around Hickorynut Mountain, around Emory Gap, around Pinnacle Mountain (views at a rock outcrop and at Bald Rock), down Carrick Creek to Table Rock State Park. 11.2 miles. Ending 2:46 p.m.
The next morning, I was kind of tired of the trail, as I hadn't seen any big views. Lucky for me, my opinion would soon change: apparently all the big views are on Pinnacle Mountain, near the end of the trail!
Rock outcrops on the mountainside give you a chance to look around, see the sights, and get a broader perspective. Here I am at Bald Rock:
My grandmother was pretty glad to see me at the end of the trail, and I was glad to have survived the day of rain myself:
I had a good time, and I hope you enjoyed the photos!