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The Foothills Trail in 4 days!
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Daniel Smith
(knivesRsharp) - F
The Foothills Trail in 4 days! on 12/27/2010 08:49:05 MST Print View

My dad and I set out to hike the Foothills Trail to celebrate my graduation from college. We Hiked from Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park. We planned to hike from Saturday 12/18/2010. We planned to complete the trip in 5 days and return home on 12/22/2010. However, we were able to complete the hike in 4 days after a few hours of night hiking on the 4th day. The weather was mid 20’s for the lows and low 50’s for the highs. Our daily mileage was around 16-20 miles per day. On the 4th day we did around 26 miles. The trails had 1-3 inches of snow left from 12/16/2010. We noticed lots of signs of animals including Mountain Lion footprints bear prints and Scat from all types of animals.

On the third day when we reached Bear Gap we heard hunting dogs baying and howling. The only thing in season requiring the help of dogs is Bear. This was yet another reminder we were definitely in Bear country. My dad let out a startled yell when he was surprised from a pair of dogs running into his trekking poles. Two Hunting dogs a beagle and a hound had picked up our scent and tracked us. Both dogs had tracking collars and name tags. We tried to yell and them and make them return, however they continued following us. This continued for most of the day. The hound finally took off on another trail however, the beagle continued following us. Once we got to camp for the night the dog bedded down beside our tent. When we returned from hanging the bear bag we found the dog had managed to slip inside the tent. After dinner my dad gave his leftovers to the starved dog. The next morning we woke to find the dog sleeping outside the tent. I gave him an extra peanut butter sandwich I had. Then I gave him my left over oatmeal. The dog was clearly hungry as she cleaned every drop. She continued following us for the first half of the trail. We didn’t see her anymore however, we saw a DNR agent driving down a gravel road with a dog kennel in the back of the truck, and hopefully he picked her up. We planned to call the owner upon returning to Table Rock State Park.
Bear Dog
The trail was very well maintained until reaching Table Rock State Park. There were less blazes and the trail was less pronounced. The first 20-30 Miles from Oconee State Park was very easy trails. We were able to maintain a fast pace however, the pace slowed considerably over ice.
Ice Trail
Snow on Bridge
We reached the top of Sassafras Mountain around 3:30 on day 4. We had around 10 miles to go to reach Table Rock State Park. We called Table Rock to get the gate code.
10 to goWe decided with a few hours of nigh hiking we could finish the trip in 4 days. We hiked without light until around 6:00 PM. It started to rain for the first time during the trip. It started out as a fine mist and later turned into a light drizzle. Darkness came quick and the full moon we had on the other nights was blocked with the clouds. My flashlight led the way as we looked for the blazes until we reached a spot my light shinned into darkness with no trail under it. Distant lights twinkled in the darkness. We realized we were standing on a rock face. We stopped and looked for the best route to cross the slippery dark rock face. We debated turning around however, camping is not allowed in Table Rock State Park. It would have been 2-3 miles back in the direction we came to camp. We only had 4 miles left to hike. We were also completely out of water and there were no streams nearby. A fall from this height would have been fatal so we took great care to choose our footing and plant our trekking poles firmly on the rock. After traversing the rock the trail was less dangerous. We carefully made our way down the trail looking for the next trail blaze. We got off of the trail a couple times but each time we retraced our steps and found the last blaze and kept going. We finished the Hike at 8:30 PM on Tuesday 12/21/2010. When we reached the trail head we found a sign that explained how quickly darkness approaches in the mountains and that hiking past dark was against the rules. We rebelled in our defiance and triumph of the trail. We rejoiced when we came to the road and found the car that my mom had dropped off. We stopped at the first place open, a Dollar General. I bought myself a gallon of water and my dad a 1.5 liter bottle since he was driving. I also got each of us an ice-cream Snickers Bar. The trip was excellent and it’s a memory I will never forget. I definitely want to hike it again soon. I urge anyone interested to do this hike. It is really a special place.

Gear problems
We had planned to meet my mom to resupply/change out any gear either after the first night or second night. After a frigid sleepless night in my dad wanted a different sleeping bag to complete the trip, he was using a Eureka Silver City 30 degree bag. He swapped it for a ~4lb 0 degree winter bag. He was also using well worn Merrill Moab Gortex low top shoes. These shoes lacked any traction on the snow and ice, causing him to fall several times during the hike. He swapped these out for some boots with better traction. My dad who was apparently plagued with gear problems though his pants were wet from falling down however as we continued hiking he realized his pants seemed to be getting wetter. We stopped and checked his 2L Platypus and noticed it was dripping. We put the water into a 2L screw top Platypus. He had to change into tights and running shorts to warm up. My only problems with my gear were my pants. I was hiking in were Columbia zip off fishing pants. These pants have a mesh liner that bothered me. After making camp the first night I cut the liner out and it fixed the problem. I also had a hard time hanging the bear bag each night. I was trying to use mason line to hang the bear bag. I found that it tangles easily and is nearly impossible to take out knots.

My Gear
Tent- GoLite Utopia 2 with floor
Sleeping- GoLite Ultralight 3 Season Quilt, NeoAir Large, Gossamer Gear 1/8” ThinLight
Pack- GoLite Jam2 with compactor bag for pack liner
Insulating Jacket- Patagonia Nano Puff
Mid Layer- UnderArmour Hundo 1.0 microfleece wt~8oz
Base Layer- Nike DriFit long sleeve shirt
Pants-Columbia Zip off Fishing pants
Shoes- Vasque Mantra Gore-Tex XCR Cross-Training Shoes
Gloves-North Face Denali Glove
Head- Balaclava

All of this performed well and the only thing I would change is the gloves. I found they did a very poor job keeping my hands warm. These gloves were decent for hiking however around camp my hands were still cold.

My total pack weight was around 23 lbs. I carried 1 liter of water at most and found it to be sufficient as there are many creeks and rivers along the trail. I am not sure what it would look like in the summer. Another piece of gear worth mentioning was my NiteCore EZ AA flashlight. Since it is not a head lamp it was easier to look for blazes while night hiking. I did find it less convenient around camp since it is not hands free. I took all of my pictures on my Cell Phone a Droid Incredible. It took good pictures however it was a little annoying to turn the phone on to take a picture. I carried 5 extra batteries for the phone and went through 1 battery a day. Cell phone coverage was pretty good especially when we got closer to Table Rock State Park.
Please feel free to ask any questions you might have on gear or anything. I am new to posting on the forums. However, I have been reading this forum for several months now. I will try and put my gear list up when I get time. Once again this is a really great hike and I think if you get a chance you should do this one.

Edited by knivesRsharp on 12/27/2010 08:55:30 MST.

Ron Jameson

Locale: Upstate SC
Foothills Trail on 12/27/2010 12:17:52 MST Print View

Nice report Daniel. A friend of mine and I did the same trip back In October. It rained the last 2 days with tornado warnings and thunder storms. Had a great time.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Very Cool on 12/27/2010 13:45:12 MST Print View

Nice Trip report Daniel. The foothills trail has been on my to-do list for a while. My friends took a group of boys down that trail and loved it.
How big was that track you took a picture of? From the shape I'm guessing thats not a Mountain Lion track but some kind of large canine.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: foothills trail on 12/27/2010 18:59:14 MST Print View

Nice report. That trail has been on my to do list for a year or two now, but I just never seem to get out there.

As for the track its my understanding that cat tracks don't have claw marks. I'm no expert, but I'd say thats some kind of coyote or dog, but if I'm wrong I hope someone corrects me.

Daniel Smith
(knivesRsharp) - F
Re: Very Cool on 12/28/2010 06:04:59 MST Print View

I am not sure what the track was. It was probably 4 inches in length and around 4 inches wide. I know it is rare to see claw prints from Felines however this was a very soft spot so it is possible the paw sank in allowing the imprints of the claws. It was also following an icy section of trail so I'm not sure if Felines use claws for extra traction. Mountain Lions are extremely rare in this area however they do exist. I found this website that has some really interesting information on tracking. Like I said I really do not know what kind of track this was but for the size it would have had to be a VERY large canine.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Mtn Lion Tracks on 12/28/2010 10:28:43 MST Print View

If I recall you're right Mountain Lions occassionally leave claw marks. I'm looking more at the shape of this track, the toe pads and the alignment of the toes and thinking thats a really big dog of some kind. I had also heard about mountain lions in the area. Apparently Mtn. Lions are making a bit of a comeback. They've been sighted around my grandparents house near Dallas Texas and my mom is pretty sure she saw one near Lynchburg, VA.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Mtn Lion Tracks on 12/28/2010 10:52:25 MST Print View

That's a canine of some sort. Cat prints have the toes more spaced out.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
prints on 12/28/2010 13:03:47 MST Print View

A large coonhound can make prints that big. They have
big padded, webbed feet for long runs through the swamps.

Beagles are always hungry. That is why they make such
good dogs for detect food smugglers at airports. That
and a good nose and friendly personality.

Edited by oware on 12/28/2010 15:11:30 MST.

Tyler Hughes
(catsnack) - F

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Tracks on 12/29/2010 22:29:09 MST Print View

I just took my dog out for a walk in the slushy snow so I could see his prints. They look almost identical to that picture, but a bit smaller of course. I have only seen a few good cat tracks before, and one of them was over near Mt. Mitchell. I was hiking up a deep snowy trail and following some snowshoe tracks, probably a week old. I found it quite humorous, that following about the same path was a trail of big cat tracks (about 3.5" wide) that were only a couple days old at most. Kinda weirded me out being alone in the woods with a kitty.