Hanging and hiking at Cheaha (pic heavy)
I was up at Cheaha back in November with a friend, and a few days after Christmas, my son and I headed back up to Cheaha for a few days of hiking and hanging fun.
We left home on Wednesday morning, well before dawn, with the intention of making it up to Atlanta to an REI store. My son was intent on picking up a new set of hiking poles, and since there are no local stores with any selection, it was off to a bigger city. Though he had his eye on a set of Lekis, he ultimately choose a pair of Black Diamond Carbon Alpine Corks, which weigh in at about an ounce less each than my (aluminum) Ergo Corks. We perused the store a little before the 2 hour drive from Atlanta.
We parked at the trailhead of the Odom Trail at High Falls. We had had briefly been here once before, but had never hiked all the way in to the falls, which is only about 1/10 mile.
We saw the lower cascades, and around each turn were greeted with larger falls.
After ascending to the top of the falls, we scouted around, and found a great little campsite along the creek, about 50 yards upstream of the uppermost falls. My son was using my GT Skeeter Beeter Pro, while I had the chance to borrow a friend's WBBB 1.0 double.
With temperatures predicted to be around 30°, I had my 3S Incubator. For Ian, we used a combination of 2 small pads supplementing my Summer Jarbridge River. I had used this combination effectively with similar temps back in November, so I was confident he would be warm enough, and I was right. I had some "adjustment issues" with the WBBB. This was my first time in a BB, so it took some fidgeting to get comfortable with the footbox. Most difficult for me was getting used to the direction of the lay. I had always found it most comfortable in my Skeeter Beeter (with the bug net), to lay with my head away from the zipper and my feet by the zipper, which is opposite of footbox arrangement in the WBBB. I also had some issues with the Incubator. I ended up getting up about 11pm and shortened the UQ suspension by about 8" to make up for the shorter hammock; while I was up, I also cinched up the ends some and rearranged the center suspension which slung over the ridgeline. Once I made these adjustments, I was much warmer, but was still a little befuddled by the BB, and ended up waking up every hour or so all night long. I was never particularly uncomfortable, but it was just new and different for me.
The next day, we had a busy hike, with 12 miles planned. We were up early and broke camp. There had been a sign at the top of High Falls indicating the Odom Trail (with arrows left and right). With the left arrow pointing mostly back toward the parking lot, and the right trail heading into our camp, we continued on the trail past our camp, which went along the stream. We followed the trail about a 1/2 mile along the stream, with the trail becoming smaller and harder to follow with each step. I knew that the Odom trail went almost exactly along the ridge up the to top at the Pinhoti trail, so when we could no longer confirm the existence of the trail, we consulted the map, and it was obvious we were off track, as the Odom Trail followed the ridge immediately from High Falls. This meant we could either backtrack the 1/2 mile, or cut directly across to the trail on the ridge. It wasn't too steep here, and though there was some underbrush, it was not unreasonable. I left the decision to Ian, who chose to trailblaze directly up the side. The map indicated that the trail was exactly on the ridge, so we knew that as soon as we crested, we should be at the trail. Ten minutes later, we topped the ridge and found ourselves at the trail, so we really did not lose too much time.
(We had hiked along the unmarked trail beside High Falls Branch to the bend beside Robinson Mountain, then bushwacked due west to meet the Odom Trail.)
As we proceeded up the ridge, we were treated with some very nice views of what was the back-side of the "Stairway to Heaven" on the Pinhoti Trail on the next ridge.
We arrived at the top in good time, and were pleased to find that the stream at High Spring was flowing good. When I had been up here 5 weeks before, this stream was completely dry, while now it was 6" deep and 6' across.
We made it to the Stairway to Heaven by lunch. Again this was different from the last time I was here, as it was now a clear day, where previously we had been in a cloud, with zero visibility.
It took a while to get down the Stairway, but we made it across Adams Gap and down the Skyway trail to Barbaree Creek. I had passed this last trip, and it was such a great site, I really wanted to make sure we camped here. It was everything I had remembered. Arriving right at sunset, we quickly made camp, but were surprised with visitors hiking through a good hour after dark. They were a group of youth and adults training for backpacking, and they had gotten ahead of some of their party, so they paused for a half hour while the rest caught up before crossing Barbaree Creek (they were not Boy Scouts, and I never did find out with what organization they were associated). The group continued to Adams Gap (in the dark), and we made dinner before heading off to sleep.
Thursday night it was a little warmer, as the campsite at is roughly the lowest part of the loop trail. This night, I slept for 7 straight hours without waking and immediately went back to sleep until dawn. Best night I have ever had in a hammock! I do like the Blackbird.
By morning, we realized that Ian had some significant blisters on both feet, and we decided to bring the trip to an end. It wasn't as much as we had originally planned to hike, but it was plenty, and we had a good time. We are both looking forward to picking up some new boots and coming back to finish the loop, maybe starting from a different place next time.
Great trip and good hanging.