Thursday May 26, 2016
I plan to work all day then after work shower, eat dinner and drive 8 hours to South Carolina to the southern end of the Chattooga River Trail. This is where I will leave my car and hike back to this area. Shuttle driver, Taz, will pick me up at 6am to drive me to the northern end of the trail to start my hike. Which is totally insane for me because I have never, in my whole life, driven 8 hours anywhere especially by myself!!!
Friday May 27, 2016 Day 1
It was hard to kiss Jim goodbye. I know he is going to go crazy with worry. I won’t have any cell phone reception once I am on the trail. So I won’t be able to let him know that I am safe each nigh or call him if I have any problems.I was looking forward to the adventure but I was scared to be going without him too.
I was the only one the road for two hours and I was wondering if I could do this? I still had 6 hours of driving to go. About 10 pm I started to get tired, mostly just feeling like I needed to close my eyes. They felt dry and tired. I found a rest area at 11pm and climbed in the back of the car where I had made a bed to lay down. I instantly felt awake. I could hear all the trucks on the highway and didn’t think I would be able to go to sleep but a half hour later I was out. I set an alarm to get me up by 2am but I awoke on my own at 1:30am, went to the bathroom one more time then I was on the road again.
I did make one wrong turn getting back on the highway after getting gas but the GPS got me back on the right path again. Once I got off the highway I was traveling on some very dark back roads. I hit what I think was a deer in the road. It was already dead and I only caught it with one back tire as I tried to go around it. I felt horrible even though I think it was already dead.
I made a Walmart stop along the way. I realized that I forgot my food container that I re-hydrate my food in. They didn’t have what I was looking for but I found something that would work. Reminder… put this on my check list.
I arrived at the trail head at 5:20 and Taz was picking me up at 6am. I preceded to heat water for breakfast and get everything together. Taz showed up early at 5:40 and we headed out 5 minutes later. He had his dog Charlie with him since he had several shuttles to do today and would be gone from the house for much of the day. Charlie was a mid size dog I believe Taz got from the humane society. I think he was happy to be going along for the ride.
After passing the trail head once we finely found it and Taz dropped me off. I sit down on the ground to eat my breakfast (sweet potato porridge) with shaking hands. I was SCARED!!! I was all alone and about to head down an unmarked trail all by myself. I can’t finish my breakfast. I think my nervous worry is getting to me. Plus on top of everything I started my period this morning. I am an emotional mess.
I have to take Bad Creek Trail to get to the northern end of the Chattooga River Trail. There is no road access to the northern end of the Chattooga River Trail. The trail is narrow and the rhododendrons are hanging low and keep brushing my head as I walk under them and they keep raining water down on me. There are many downed trees on the trail that I have to go under or over. I wish I had better leg strength for the ones I have to squat low to go under. Time to get back into some weight training, but I keep procrastinating about this.
Holy smokes there are a lot of cobwebs on the trail!!! I feel like I have a contrail of little wispy cobwebs floating behind me. The little wispy feeling they cause on my skin drives me nuts. I make a mental note that I want a very light long sleeve shirt to wear when I hike first thing in the morning. I am a very early riser so I think I will be clearing the trail of the cobwebs for most hikers. It makes me miss Jim, he always leads the way clearing the trail of all those pesky webs. I was always envious of him because he had the best view down the trail now I realize the cost of that view. It makes me really appreciate him taking the lead. I already miss him. He is my security blanket. I later discovered that I could tie my bandanna around my face to keep the cobwebs off my face and neck. WOW, what a difference this made. Now I just wish I had long sleeves and I would be set.
I had only been hiking about an hour when I all of a sudden had to go to the bathroom. I think it is because of my nerves. There is really no place to go. I keep searching but there is a steep incline to the right of me and a steep drop off to my left. I hold it for as long as I can searching for a place to go, but I just can’t anymore. I’m going to have to go on the trail. It makes me think of my friend Kara, who is currently thru hiking the AT and her embarrassing moment. I pray to God no one comes down the trail!!! I squat as close to the edge of the trail as I can and poop. I use my shovel to toss “it” way down the bank and pack out my toilet paper. I use one of Berkley’s doggie poop bags for the toilet paper, how appropriate.
Once I finely make it to the Chattooga River Trail I get lost in a camp site with 2 hammock campers that appear to be sleeping still. I try not to stomp around their camp to much and finely find my way. I loose my way again later in the day in a camp site that is large enough to host a concert. It’s like a corn maze. Some of the camp sites that the trail passes through are hard to find your way because there are small paths going everywhere between the sites.
I notice pretty early on that my shoes are slipping all over the place on the tree roots. The trail is wet from a recent rain. Some how I have managed to loose my favorite trail runners in the 3 weeks since our last hike. Jim thinks he remembers seeing them in the car on the way home from our last hike, but we couldn’t find them anywhere. I am wearing an old pair of hiking shoes that are a whole size to small for me and they don’t do well on slippery terrain… Hopefully I will be fine for the 38 miles with these, but no such luck.
By 8am I am covered in cobwebs, by 8:30 I am pooping on the trail, by 9 I get lost in a campsite and by 9:30 I am muddy and bloody…I slipped on a rock slab and go down. I have 3 bloody knuckles. I clean them off the best I can by washing them in the river. I apply some neosporin and bandage them up. I wish I had some alcohol wipes to clean them better, but oh well. ~I realize the next day that I have hand sanitizer and never thought to use it.~
Things pick up from there the trail starts to dry out and there are less roots to slip on, less cobwebs and less downed trees that I am crawling under or climbing over. The trail is better maintained and easier. I am making my way and feeling pretty good and thinking how grateful I am just to be out here hiking. Grateful just to be able to walk.
I arrive at a road crossing and I’m not sure which way to go. There is a trail directly across the road but it is blazed green and I haven’t seen any green blazes yet. I’m thinking its a different trail. The trail map looks like it follows the road so that is what I do and after a little confusion I am on the right trail. I was much calmer in this situation than I was this morning. I am making my way and feeling good about it.
I did about 15 miles today only because I over shot a camp site that I wanted to stay at and had to keep going but I have an awesome camp site for the night and arrived at 4:15 with plenty of time to do my chores.
I would guess it got into the low 80’s today. I did work up a sweat and was glad to take a bandana bath in the river.
I slept in my one man tent for the first time on the trail. It uses my tracking poles to support it and I don’t think I have them lengthened enough because currently I don’t have as much head room as the night I tried it out in the back yard. I make mental note to extend the poles more tomorrow night. I go to bed thinking how worried Jim must be not knowing how I am doing and I want so much to let him know I am fine but I don’t have any cell service.
Saturday May 28, 2016 Day 2
I wake up at 3:15am and see a flash through the screen of my tent. Oh NO! Is that lightening I think to myself, no I see more flashes, lots of them. I’m guessing its fireflies and a hundred of them…how awesome. I have never seen so many at once. It looks like twinkling stars. I think this is one of the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
I realize I woke up because I have to pee but I don’t want to get up and go. I drift in and out of sleep watching the fireflies out side the tent until about 6 am. It is light enough now to go to the bathroom with out needing a flashlight so I get up.
I relax and eat breakfast down by the water. This morning’s breakfast is oatmeal with cherries and nuts. This is one of my favorite times of day when everything is waking up. I am a morning person and always feel best early. I borrowed Jim’s altimeter watch and it is about 66 degrees in the tent when I woke up. Good temperature for hiking. I head out at 7:30am enjoying the cooler weather.
I had to stop and tape a couple of toes today. My big toes started to feel they were getting hot spots. I really wish I had my trail runners. The toe box is larger allowing more room for my toes. I am thankful that my feet aren’t aching, my toes just need more room.
I got a little turned around today when I came to the GA 28 road crossing, the maps are not very clear and there was no signage telling me which way to go. I had to walk down the road a ways and cross a bridge to pick up the trail. The road crossing is the start of Section 2 which follows the Bartram Trial for 9.5 miles. This section has yellow blazes and is very easy to follow. I am now in Ga with both North and South Carolina sections finished.
I was thinking as I was hiking today that I could have left a note on a car parked at the last road crossing or given a day hiker Jim’s number so they could message him when they got service that I was doing well. I wished I had thought of that earlier, but I am a pretty slow thinker.
It got pretty hot today and I had decided that I was going to get to camp early and take a dip in the river to cool off and wash some of the stink out of my clothes. I decided to stop for the day at Dicks Creek Falls. Mom and I have been here before on one of our day hikes and the falls are amazing. When I arrived at the falls there were some kayakers checking out the best way to go down the rapids. I watched them go down the rapids then looked for a place to camp. I arrived at camp at 3:30 after 14 miles for the day.
I slowly walked into the water since it was pretty cold but much warmer than three weeks ago when Jim and I were in the area. I washed up as best as I could and felt much better. I lounged on the bank for a while drying in the sun before setting up the tent and making dinner.
I have decided that I don’t like hanging a bear bag. It is very time consuming finding a tree to use, if you can even find one. Then there is the trouble if getting the rope over the tree limb. Then the thin line is a little rough on the hands when trying to heft up the food bag. This nights hang is not a perfect as last nights, but its up and away from my camp. I am going to look into a Ursack. It a bag that you just tie to a tree trunk and is suppose to be bear proof. It just seems hard to believe that a bear couldn’t tear into it.
I clean and retape my fingers and toes before going to bed. I debate about taping a couple of other toes that were starting to get a little uncomfortable, but I am out of my toe tape and only have kinesiotape left and I worry it will be too uncomfortable so I will see how things go tomorrow. I only have about 11 miles to go to finish the trail. Hopefully it will go well.
Sunday May 29, 2016 Day 3
I slept good last night. I didn’t wake up with a full bladder during the night. I did see some fireflies but not like last night. Last night they looked like twinkling stars. I was up at 6am and packing up. I decided to hike for a bit before stopping for breakfast.
I found a great spot to stop along the river for breakfast. I had homemade Paleo Granola with coconut milk. I loved it!!! It is the first time I have had it on the trail.
I come along a spot on the river where I can see rafts being loaded up with people to go whitewater rafting. I watch for a while while the guides went over paddling instruction. I have only been whitewater rafting once in my life, as a teenager, and think I would like to do it again.
My little toe on my left foot starts to bother me as well as a toe on my right foot, but there aren’t any great spot to stop and take a rest. I tough it out much longer than I should have and when I finely stop I actually have 2 blisters. This is the first time I have ever gotten blisters. God! I wish I had my other shoes. I hope I will be able to find another pair like them online. I got them from Outdoor 76 in North Carolina. I lance the blisters with a dirty razor blade and tape the toes. It hurts when I start walking but gets a little better as I continue to walk. I think I only have a couple of miles to go to finish the trail.
This section of trail seemed to be the least traveled I only saw one group camping all day. The other two days I saw a large number of people.
Afterthoughts on my hike…
I truly had more warm weather gear than I needed. I didn’t wear my heavy long sleeve hoody or hiking pants. I also didn’t wear my long sleeve sleep shirt. They all could have been left at home. The weather was pretty warm.
I did wish I had more Hypafix tape for my toes. That stuff is awesome.
I also wish I had some way to communicate with Jim. Just to let him know that I was safe and making good progress.
I used an alcohol stove for the first time on this trip. It was ok. I don’t think I would wish to use it on a longer trip. When it was sunny out it was hard to tell if the stove was lit. It was also more unstable with my pot on top of it.
You can check out my gear list to see what I bought with me. My total pack weight was about 22 lbs.