Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 17

This morning was really foggy. I waited at the shelter for a bit, hoping it would clear off and let my gear dry off a bit. Eventually I just gave up and packed up.

I saw a lot of hikers today, some doing day hikes and some out for the weekend. I am in the Cheaha State Park area, so there is relatively easy access for short hikes. I also met 'BCM' who was doing a loop hike in the area. Apparently he works for a local outfitter, and seemed to know a lot about the trail (he thru-hiked the Alabama portion before). The funny thing is that he actually recognized me as a thru-hiker, on a trail that doesn't get many thru-hikers.

After lunch and talking with BCM for a bit the fog did finally clear off, so I was able to catch the last few overlooks in the park. Some of the best views on the whole trail and I pass them on a foggy day.

Overall the trail today was really rocky. The guidebook goes so far as to name areas as 'rock gardens', which seems to be just a codeword for a broken ankle waiting to happen. Fortunately, my ankles are pretty strong with all the hiking I've done.

I was planning on getting to a specific water source for the night, and ended up getting there just before dark. Dark actually happened a bit earlier than usual as well, as another set of huge black clouds blew over the mountain. I was able to get my hammock and tarp all set up, and about 5 minutes later a huge windstorm swept in, bringing major amounts of thunder and lighting. Then calm. And then the rain hit. Definitely 'hit', not just 'started'. I wasn't sure if it was going to break my tarp or not, it was raining so hard.

Eventually the storm blew over, and I ended up having a relatively quite night after it passed.

298.7 miles down

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 16

Today there were several nice waterfalls, so I picked one to stop at for lunch, and had a nice long break there. Unfortunately it was a bit too long, since I ended up getting caught in rain near the end of the day.

At first when it started raining I set up my tarp and decided to wait it out, since the sky looked like it was clearing. In about half an hour it did clear off, so I set out again. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes later it started raining again, even harder. By that point I was already wet, so I just kept going, planning to dry out at the shelter that was a few miles away.

It poured for the rest of the day, so I was happy to be at the Blue Mountain shelter, which had a loft and everything. I spread out all of my soaking wet gear, hoping to dry off a bit. The good part about the rain is that the water source for the shelter was far away. Instead I just hung up my tarp and funneled the rain into my water bottles. No treatment needed.

276.7 miles down

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 15

This morning I packed up with DAH, while two young turkey hunters wandered into the shelter wondering where the nearest road was. Apparently they had gotten lost following turkeys and wanted to get back out. We pointed out the trail to them, which hit a forest service road about a mile later. After I finished packing up I said goodbye to DAH, and then headed out, only to find the turkey hunters off-trail about a half mile later. I guess they had seen another turkey.

About 8 miles into the day I stopped at the Shoal Creek Ranger Station to ask them a few questions about the town and the trail. Based on their input I changed my resupply plans. Instead of resupplying at the Cheaha State Park, I would instead walk into town from the ranger station, to Heflin, which is about 3 miles away. I left my pack in the office and took off. It can be quite nice to walk without a pack.

Once I got there I did a quick resupply, but then had to wait an hour and a half for the library to open, so I could get in touch with the rest of the world. Then another 3 miles back to the ranger station.

After the ranger station I did another 7 miles, for a total of 15 miles of trail and 5 miles of roadwalk. I also got enough food to last for the rest of the trip, instead of having to stop at the convenience store.

I have roughly 100 miles left, and am planning to finish that in 5 days to get to Flagg Mountain in less than a week.

258.7 miles down

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 14

I got an early start this morning, hoping to beat a bit of the heat. A local told me yesterday that it is roughly 10 degrees warmer than it normally is this time of year, so I think that might have been why I felt so slow the day before.

I stopped for lunch at a nice shelter about 10 miles into the day, and relaxed with a long nap. Even though I was still killing off time like I was on the slow day, I felt much better about it today.

Right after lunch I ran into two hikers, Blister Bob and Hiker Sue, who run a shuttle service for the Pinhoti. I had seen some of their cards in previous registers, so I knew roughly who they were. I still planned on trying to hitch a ride from the end of the hike, rather than trying to schedule a ride with them.

When I got into the shelter for the night there was another hiker there, 'DAH', who 65 had run into a few day earlier. He was out for a week long hike, ending the next day. His goal was just to see how far he could get, but he was running into some foot problems, so he was calling his hike a bit early. The shelter had a few nice waterfalls, so I took advantage of the location and timing to do some long exposure waterfall shots, which turned out nicely.

243.7 miles down

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 13

Today was a very slow day. I felt like I was moving in slow motion the whole day. It is probably due to yesterday being a long day, including all the time spent trying to hitch, when I was out in direct sun.

Fortunately, I had planned on this being a shorter day anyways, due to the shelter spacing, so it all worked out. After last night I had actually talked myself into doing a 24 today, based on advice from 65 that there was a nice campground and camp hosts that he knew there that were very hiker friendly. After the first few miles today that idea got scrapped.

Even with going slow today I still got into the shelter early in the afternoon. I didn't feel like I could push on so I stayed put and relaxed for the last few hours of the day. Hopefully tomorrow I feel a bit more motivated, because today wasn't a good day.

222.7 miles down

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 12

Today had a rocky start. The trail was entirely covered by a thick layer of leaves, which covered all the tough rocks underneath. Not a good situation for footing.

First thing in the morning I hit the state line and passed into Alabama. The trail is supposed to improve from there south, with almost no roadwalk until the very southern end.

About 11 miles into the day I came to the highway where I was planning on hitching into town for my newly planned resupply. The hitch down took almost an hour and a half to get someone to pull over for me. I guess they don't see too many hikers in the area. Even the guy that pulled over for me wasn't familiar with the trail, but he had been hiking on the BMT as a kid, and as a former marine. Then a 10 minute ride to town, a 5 minute stop at Dollar General, and another 45 minute wait for another ride. The ride back up to the trail actually passed me, and then turned around and stopped. The guy asked me if I was headed back to the trail, and I was almost too surprised to answer. I wasn't really expecting someone who knew that much about the trail. It turns out that he is an instructor at the local college, teaching camping and outdoor education.

After all that waiting around I was ready to get back to hiking, and ended up getting another 10 miles in to get to the next shelter. The last mile or so was well after dark, but I figured that '65' might be at the shelter, so I wanted to get there for the night. I had hiked with him on the Florida Trail, and he was headed north on the whole ECT, so I wanted to make sure I ran into him again. As I was getting close to the shelter I saw a fire going, a sure sign that 65 is at work. I yelled out to him, and we spent a few minutes going over everything we had both seen, going through the standard nobo-sobo questioning. By that point it was getting pretty late, so we both went to sleep. Then a few hours later two ATVers went blasting by the shelter. Not fun.

206.1 miles down

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 11

I woke up early this morning to make it into the small town of Cave Springs for breakfast. It was only a couple miles, and I arrived right on time. I wasn't sure where in town the meeting was, just some restaurant or diner, so I wandered around a bit, then called Rick. Apparently he had gotten lost, following blazes along the roadwalk into town. Not good for a trail maintainer.

Once I figured out which place to go, I stopped to set my pack down. Two guys came out and called me in, saying they had a meeting going on, not realizing that Rick had already invited me.

The meeting was interesting (I didn't stay for the whole thing). It was nice to see the behind the scenes deskjob type stuff that maintainers do to keep a trail open. I've been on a few trail crews and work trips, but I was always just doing the stuff in the field, nothing dealing with routing or land issues.
I also got to add my two cents to the meeting, having a fresh pair of eyes and boots on the trail, having just (almost) finished hiking through their area. I mentioned a few spots that needed clarification, as well as overall increases in blazing. The main issue just seemed to be limited manpower, so feel free to volunteer for the Pinhoti .

One thing I really wanted to find out about was the waterfall area that I missed and backtracked in several days ago. It turns out that I had been on a horse by-pass area that goes around private land that the waterfall area is on. The turnoff only had an arrow going one way, with no indication that it wasn't for hikers. It seems like the problem is that most of the maintaining is being done by bikers, who use the bypass. The other problem is that very few people hike sobo, so most of the signage is for nobo hikers. At the south end of the trail the bypass was clearly marked, but not really explained what was going on.

After the breakfast and meeting I headed out of town. According to a set of maps from Mr. Parkay, there was a Dollar General on the way out of town, that I planned on resupplying at. Unfortunately I was about 2 miles outside of town before I realized that the trail had been re-routed, and the store wasn't on the trail anymore. I looked at my options and decided to make do with the leftover food that I had, and instead continue on and hitch a ride into a town later on. I was originally planning on just resupplying at the places that were on-trail, since it saves a lot of time, but this wasn't really an option 

The way out of town was all roadwalk, until the last few miles of the day. One I got back into the woods there was a shelter a few miles in. This was a shorter day, but with a late start due to the breakfast and meeting. Also, the shelters are set up roughly a day apart, so once I stayed at one shelter I would hit several. If I had kept going for a longer day today I would have been in between shelters for the next few nights.

In the afternoon a trail maintainer passed the shelter and stopped to say hi. He was out repainting blazes along the trail, and was part of the Alabama Pinhoti club. He shared a bit about the upcoming trail and I thanked him for his hard work before he left.

185.1 miles down

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 10

Another long roadwalk day. The first half mile or so of the day was on the rails to trails, but then I turned off onto the road for the rest of the day. The 19 miles put me just shy of the town of Cave Springs, where I planned on resupplying tomorrow.

Towards the afternoon I started looking for a place to stealth, since I didn't want to passed through town today. I ended up finding a nice tree farm that was hidden from traffic, so I ducked off into the woods around 4:00. About 15 minutes later it started to rain, so I got pretty lucky again. I don't mind stealth camping so much, the only issue I really have with it is not knowing where the next good spot is. I could have done a few extra miles today, but that might have put me in the middle of suburbs with nowhere to camp. You never really know, so you just take your chances with what looks good.

Tomorrow is another 10 miles or so of roadwalk through town, including resupply and a scheduled breakfast meeting with Rick, the trail angel from Dalton. The Georgia Pinhoti group is having a meeting, and he invited me along for the thru-hiker perspective, if I was passing through on Sunday.

I also tried calling '65' today, since I think I will probably be running into him in the next few days, but I didn't get an answer.

171.1 miles down

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 9

Last night it rained off and on all night, and continued into the morning. I had been planning on taking a nero anyways, so I stayed in my hammock just reading for most of the day until around 4:00pm. My kindle has saved my sanity once again. By 4:00 pm the rain had cleared off and it had gotten sunny. Since I was hiking on a rails to trails project anyways it wasn't too bad. There were a few bridges that were knocked out, so there was a ford or two, but my feet were already soaked from puddles anyways, so it didn't really make a difference.

I ended up getting to a railroad trestle right around dark, which was my original plan anyways, since there wasn't any legal camping on the rails to trails path. I ended up stealthing just off to the side of the trestle, and I could actually look down the ravine a few hundred feet and see the bridge that the road traffic took.

A nice short relaxing day, partly to rest up physically, and partly because it lines me up nicely for a roadwalk tomorrow.

152.1 miles down

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 8

Today was mostly forest roads and gravel roads, mixed with ATV trails. There was very little hiking trail today, which can be pretty wearing after a while, especially with minimal blazing to indicate that you haven't missed a turn.

Towards the end of the day I did get back onto some real trail, and got to listen to thunder for the last couple hours of the day. About a quarter of a mile before I got to where I was planning on camping for the night I turned a corner and came into a little clearing where I could see the sky in front of me. There were huge black clouds that were racing towards me. It was so bad that I didn't even try to get to my planned camping area. Instead, I just turned around and looked for the best trees to hang my hammock.

I had just pulled my tarp and hammock out of my pack when the wind hit, bringing a torrential downpour. I just threw the tarp over my stuff and dove under, not even trying to tie it to trees. I crouched there for probably about half an hour with the storm not letting up at all. Eventually I just gave up and hung the tarp properly, getting thoroughly soaked in the process. Once the tarp was hung I could hand the hammock underneath without a lot of trouble, and then I was set up for the night. About 2 hours later the wind and rain did die down a bit, but that was well after sunset.

142.1 miles down

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 7

I woke up this morning and double checked my maps and guidebooks before deciding that I really had missed the turnoff somewhere. So I packed up and headed about a mile back to the turnoff, and tried a different path. This one disintegrated after about a half mile, so I realized I was on the right path originally. I turned back, and after a total of 3 miles of detour got back to where I camped for the night last night. Another quarter mile later there was a blaze to turn off, so I realized I was on the right trail after all. The only strange thing is that there were signs indicating that hikers and horses should take different trails. The whole area wasn't really making a lot of sense, and the maps and guidebooks weren't agreeing with each other, or the trail, so I just followed the blazes.

I was passed by several different groups of horse riders, who were surprised I was camping out. I guess the trail doesn't get a whole lot of overnight traffic, especially since there aren't any actual designated campsites.

I ended up having lunch at a large ford on a forest service road, where the water was almost up to my knee. The nice part about the ford was it managed to wash away a bunch of pollen, which had been falling pretty thick, and had accumulated on my boots and in my socks.

Towards the end of the day I was finishing up a bit more of roadwalk and passed by some signs for a controlled burn, warning drivers about limited visibility. I figured I didn't really have much choice, so I kept going along the road. Fortunately several forest service fire fighters passed me, so I flagged them down and asked them where the fire was, and if it was safe to continue. They didn't really know much about the trail, but they were at least able to tell me the fire was on the other side of the road, and it was considered to be out, so I should be safe.

I ended up camping another mile further on, where the trail ducked back into woods away from the road. It was a nice little spot, right along a small creek that I could listen to all night. 17 miles of forward progress, plus the 3 miles of backtracking makes a decent day.

123.1 miles down

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 6

This morning I woke up at Rick's (the trail angel's) house and had a nice breakfast before he drove me back to the trail where I left off. After that I had about another mile of sidewalk to get out of town, across I-75, and then a smaller roadwalk to get back to actual trail.

Most of the trail today was along ridgelines, zig-zagging quite a bit to pick up a bunch of different ranges. Since I was higher up, there was also very little water along the way, until I dropped back down near the end of the day. Based on Rick's advice, I had tried to get a bit further than originally planned today, so I could sleep on top of a waterfall for the night.

Unfortunately things didn't quite work out. It was getting dark by the last mile or two, and I thought I missed a turn somewhere, since the mileage wasn't working out, and there wasn't any waterfall. I ended the day deciding I had missed a turn about a mile back, and just made camp where I was. My plan was to backtrack the next day when it got light out, and start off fresh. Not quite what I was hoping for when I decided to do a longer day.

106.1 miles down

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 5

I woke up on the powerline pretty early, hoping to get back into the woods today at the end of the 35 mile roadwalk. A few miles into the day a guy in a limo pulled over, with a big dog hanging out the window. At first I thought it was a cop, since there was a metal divider between him and the back seats, like in a cop car, but it was just for the dog. I've also been stopped before for walking down a street, called in by the neighborhood watch committee.
The guy in the limo actually turned out to be the president of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail group. He was apparently looking for a nobo hiker, who should have been in the area (probably Lakeland on the ECT). Instead, he ran into me, and thought that I had gotten turned around, since the majority of people hike nobo. He left me a business card, and asked me to call him in the evening.
Most of the day was on back roads, so not too much traffic, except in a few spots where the trail runs by the Vann house, which is the house of an old indian chief. There were also nice signs along the way, that looked almost like road signs, to indicate turns in the Pinhoti. This helped a lot, since the Pinhoti is not blazed nearly as nicely as other trails I've been on. Especially on this 35 mile roadwalk, blazes were in short supply.
Towards dinner I hit the Dalton area, with plentiful fast food choices. I also was able to resupply at Krogers, which was right on the trail. There was another mile or so to get back to the woods, so I decided to give my trail angel a call and let him know. Turns out that he lives less than a mile from Krogers and offered to let me stay for the night and get a shower. Not only that, but he came and picked me up in his limo, dirty clothes and all. Not bad.

80.1 miles down

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 4

Spent a nice night last night, without any rain. The morning started with some trail, but then turned into mostly roadwalk in some form or another. Most of it was gravel roads, but by the end of the day I was on a paved road with a lot of traffic.

I ended up ducking off of the road onto a powerline to spend the night. Relatively short day today, and I wasn't really that tired by the afternoon, but I wasn't really sure how well I would be able to stealth camp the further in to town I got. This way I was well set up to do a 20 mile day to get back into the woods tomorrow

59.8 miles down

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 3

Today started of raining until around 10am. I decided to wait it out for a bit, so I packed up around 10 and took off. After about a mile it started up again, but by that point I was wet anyways, so I kept going, even after it started pouring. The first several miles were through a watershed, so I kept having to ford creeks and streams, some past my knees.

By the afternoon it started to get sunny and I dried off a bit, which was nice.

This section of trail is popular with mountain bikers, and quite a few groups passed me. I also had a lady stop by from the Mulberry Gap, which I guess is a popular mountain bike trip company, doing a bunch of shuttles and camping. I almost ended up staying the night there, but I wanted to get a few more miles in at the end of the day.

After I passed the Mulberry Gap place, I ran into another hiker headed north. He looked like the thru-hiker, so I asked him how far he was going. Turns out he was headed to Canada on the ECT. I guessed he was either Sterling Coleman or Lakeland. He was surprised that I knew who he was, but he had passed the group I was hiking with on the Florida Trail, so I knew he was somewhere around. We would have spent the night together, but there weren't any good camping spots, and we both wanted to move on another mile or two, so we parted ways.

I ended up camping on the side of a hill, so my hammock was definitely useful. Otherwise I would have ended up sliding down the hill.

42.3 miles down

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 2

This morning I spread all my stuff out in the shelter, taking advantage of the space to get everything organized a bit more. It rained a bit last night, so the shelter was nice to have.

After leaving the shelter there were several miles of roadwalk, some paved and some gravel. On one of the roads a local stopped by and offered me the use of his local cabin for the night if I wanted to shower and spend the night, but since it was really early in the day I declined.

Once I was back in the woods I was hiking up a ravine and ended up scaring a bunch of white-tailed deer, which looked cool as they all fled up the mountain, with their tails flashing back and forth.
After that most of the day was a ridgeline hike, but not very good views. Towards the end of the day I dropped down off of the ridge, and came upon an outdoor church and cemetery. It was very convenient, as there was a thunderstorm coming in. I ended up waiting the storm out underneath the pavilion. If the storm had kept going I was just going to spend the night there, but it did break, so I pushed a few more miles at the end of the day to get to the start of the Pinhoti.

Once I was on the Pinhoti there was a creek ford almost immediately, so I ended up getting my feet soaking wet. After that crossing I was on an old forest road that was turned into a mountain bike trail, and climbed for the next couple of miles at a nice easy grade.

I set up my hammock on the side of the trail on top of the ridgeline. I made camp right was it was getting dark, and it started raining again shortly after, so I was glad to have everything set up already.

23.8 miles down

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pinhoti Trail Day 1

Today I spent most of the day in the van with Chuck Norris. He was giving me a ride from Plant City to the trailhead on the Benton Mackaye Trail, about 20 miles south of the Pinhoti.

He ended up dropping me off about 40 minutes before sunset, so I was able to get a start on the trail a bit, and had time to get to a shelter on the trail. I was planning on getting there anyways, even if it meant night hiking. The trail was actually quite nice, going by a bunch of mountain retreat homes and climbing along a bunch of nice streams.

The shelter was nicer than most of the AT shelters. Unfortunately the BMT association is limiting everything to only 2 shelters on the trail, keeping with a more wilderness setting.

One nice thing about the shelter is the register. There was another ECT hiker, "Lakeland" who passed through several days ago, going the opposite way, so I missed him.

Tomorrow I will be getting to the start of the Pinhoti, about 19 miles from the shelter.

2 miles down