Thursday, June 28, 2012

Travel: Foothills Trail

A few weeks ago J. and I hit up the Foothills Trail for our first backpacking adventure.  This past Christmas, we were gifted with backpacks that we had planned to use for our upcoming Alaska trip. Unfortunately, it took us six months to actually use said backpacks, but happily we were finally able to!

Not knowing what to hike, J. did a lot of research and kept coming up with the Foothills Trail. For those that don't know (we didn't) or haven't heard of it, it is a 77-mile trail that travels east to west, from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park in South Carolina.  It traverses the upstate of SC, up and down mountains, along streams, rivers, waterfalls and the small portion we did was quite beautiful.  I remember when our feet hit the trail, the first thing I said to J. was, "It's been a while since we've had a real adventure!"

The Foothills Trail Conference, made up of nature-loving volunteers, keeps the trail maintained for hikers like us.  They also have a plethora of information, including folks that are willing to shuttle hikers to sections of the trail so they don't have to take two cars.  We were lucky and met up with H., who, as we found out later, is a very important part of the trail's future.  We met him and his wife at Table Rock SP, left our car at the nature center, and they dropped us about 13mi (driving) west, near the Laurel Valley/Eastatoe trailhead.

The hike was really beautiful.  White rhododendrons lined our path, sometimes four feet wide, and other times only eight inches.  Tons of green, cool weather... We were very blessed.  We were the only two on our section of the trail the entire time (kind of crazy) and when we first encountered people on Sassafrass it felt weird, and then we encountered a ton more in Table Rock we were ready for silence/serenity again. Hiking up Sassafrass was challenging, to say the least.  We both later agreed that the mountain wouldn't have been so hard if we didn't have our packs on, but 2300+ feet of elevation change over a few miles is quite exhausting.  It was extremely satisfying getting to the top, enjoying the view with lunch, and then taking a nap on a small wooden platform.

Only one point of the trip seemed a little questionable with regards to water (I started freaking out with my rationed water amounts, let's be honest), and after filling our tanks with water that had visible chunks of dirt, treating it, and then 30-minutes later coming to a rushing stream, we yelped Hallelujah and stopped right there to set up camp.

Photographic evidence that this trip did exist:

home, the first night

late night hike toward Eastatoe Gorge

where we started; where we're at; our target for lunchtime

The View from Sassafrass Mountain, tallest mountain in South Carolina:

Sweaty A. & J. atop Sassafrass:
*promptly took nap after this snapped photo

Nap didn't last long, we kept chugging along...

"natural" Adironack chairs
  our slightly hilly home, second night
  leaving our site, looking down at our personal footbridge and our terrific water source for the night (:

seeing the terrain change
  hard to tell, but there is a waterfall in the distance behind me... little did we know that five minutes after this photo was taken, the trail would lead us to said waterfall -- to cross it!

one of the balds -- lunch time!
  handsome husband

deranged wife

can you see him?

what about now? (:

this reminded me of TX

encountered this little guy

made a side trip for this waterfall -- one of the more interesting trails we've been on, haha Lookee, it's Table Rock!

 I neglected to take photos while in the heart of Table Rock, mostly because we stopped every ten minutes to lap water onto our bandanas. By the end, we were soaking wet (and later had an awkward encounter in the changing rooms) and loving it. Lovely trip, though I must say it was awesome to come home to cold water that didn't need to be treated.

We decided we hiked somewhere around 18-20 miles (we don't have an official map and different internet sources cite different mileage) in total between Saturday and Sunday. Not as much as we'd (I'd) hoped, but perhaps my original goal (13-15mi/day) was too lofty. It will be interested to see how much different elevation gains/losses will be different in Alaska as compared to this trip. Also realized when we arrived home that our shuttle driver/volunteer, H., is much bigger than we originally knew with regards to the trail. It sparked a slew of research from my end, and I just recently checked out Becoming Odyssa for more adventure-inspiring tales.

Thinking about making it a goal to complete the FHT (in sections, most likely) -- we can even get a Peregrine Award (named after H., of course)! We will see though. In the mean time, Alaska planning -- all to be revealed in an upcoming post!

Do you have any outdoor goals?

1 comment:

Mrs. Hoft said...

Totally fun! and beautiful!

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