Friday, November 27, 2009

Normally, I would backpack each section of the Pinhoti Trail, but when my decided she wanted to spend some time exploring Cheaha State Park while I connected the Porter’s Gap to Cheaha section I had missed earlier in the year, I realized I had the chance to slackpack this 26-mile section.

So once we put Thanksgiving with my wife’s family behind us, we headed out early Friday morning to Cheaha State Park. Along the way, we passed more trucks and deer hunters than I could easily count. Once at the park, we picked out a campsite on the windy ridge that all the park’s semi-primitive sites are located on, and then I headed off to Cheaha trailhead.

I stepped off among two groups of scouts around 11:45. They drifted north where the access trail met the actual Pinhoti Trail while I ventured south. I made quick time up Hernandez Peak and very much enjoyed the winter views along the many dry campsites along the ridge.

Shortly after, I took the spur trail over to McDill Overlook. Along the way, I passed the wreckage of an old plane.

At the overlook, I ate a quick lunch and snapped a shot of Dewey Bear and myself.

I pushed on and felt energized by lunch and my light daypack. I began to believe I might not have to hike in the dark as I suspected at the trailhead. I also passed more hikers than I had seen the entire time I had hiked the Pinhoti this year, more than a dozen dayhikers and two groups of backpackers. I reached the halfway point at Little Caney Campsite and intersection before 2 o’clock.

Half an hour later, I reached the ridge top called “Heaven”. For north-bounders, the ridge was definitely heaven after the rocky ascent. But I thought to myself, “What am I descending into?”

I got my answer as I hit the first very steep section, only perhaps a hundred yards, but enough to make me very happy the trail was dry. For the next ¾’s of a mile, boulders were my constant companion.

Then, they simply disappeared. I pushed on another half mile the area I had originally planned to camp. The site was already occupied by a couple. As I nodded hello and continued on, I was glad I was moving on to my wife at Adams Gap, rather than look for another campsite.

I pushed on solidly and reached the ridge over Adams Gap around 4:35, just as the sun was dropping behind the far ridge.

I headed down the ridge as the valley darkened a bit more, the sound of hounds and the occasional gunshot ringing out in the distance. My wife was waiting as I arrived at Adams Gap.

Back at Cheaha, I struggled to put up my tarp in the 20+-MPH wind. The task, which usually takes less than 5 minutes, took more than twice that time. Still, the Speer Winter Tarp provided me with a wonderfully warm night’s sleep in the subfreezing wind chill.

My wife and I enjoyed dinner at the State Park restaurant and returned to our campsite where we watched a movie on her portable DVD player and retired to bed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This morning I chose to start at Talladega Creek Bridge and hike north to Adams Gap, mostly because I was concerned that my wife might have a tough time finding the bridge without my help. I stepped out and prepared to head out for another 12-mile day.

There was certainly a good bit of climbing to start off the day, but the miles fell away quickly enough. One thing I quickly noticed was that the ridgeline hike with many views was not on the table today. Rocks slowed my travel as well, but the hike was still quite easy. I got my first really excellent view at a pipeline crossing just prior to Clairmont Gap.

As I crossed the road at Clairmont Gap, I ran into a hunter waiting for his ride. The Gap, which had boasted at least 8-10 trucks that morning was now empty.

As I climbed up toward Rocky Top #3, the ridge lived up to its name with several neat formations.

It also offered a number of excellent views of the southern ridges.

I pushed on solidly. Within a couple of miles of Adams Gap, I spotted a decent sized buck run downhill in front of me. Within two minutes, hounds began howling as they caught the trail and began tracking him. I wandered up hill away from the chase. A couple of minutes later, I heard a single gunshot and the hounds ceased their baying shortly after.

Shortly after, I reached my wife at Adams Gap and headed back to Cheaha for a shower before we headed into Talladega for dinner.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The morning started frosty and cool. Dewey Bear huddled as we tore down camp.

I stepped off from Talladega Creek Bridge once again. On the other side, I spoke for about 15 minutes with “No Name”, who lives there. Afterward, I headed up Rocky Top #1 on the way to Porter’s Gap, three miles south. The trail was no longer the rough rocky ground of the previous day on the other side of Talladega Creek.

As I neared Rocky Top, it was yet another collection of rocky outcrops, but the trail remained smooth and fast.

The descent was quick and before I realized it, I was walking to my wife’s car in the gravel trailhead. I had collected the dots, and all that remained for me to hike on the Alabama portion of the Pinhoti was the final 38 miles from Burns Trailhead to the Georgia border.