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  1. #1
    jb_outdoors's Avatar
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    Post Foothills Trail Gear Shakedown

    The Plan
    This year I have been aggressively accumulating and making gear, but for one reason or another I have only done one overnight trip way back in April. I finally cashed in some PTO, invited a few friends up from Florida, and hit the Foothills Trail for what was planned to be a 4-day trip. We started at Table Rock SP and planned to hike to the Canebrake area on Lake Joccassee, then hike out on the Canebrake Trail through Gorges SP.

    trip_plan.jpg

    The New Gear
    • Warbonnet Eldorado
    • Wooki 20-Degree Underquilt
    • DIY 50-Degree Topquilt
    • Warbonnet Minifly
    • Dutchware Nylon Straps Becket-Hitched
    • DIY G4 Backpack
    • Helinox Chair Zero
    • Nitecore NU25
    • Teva Hikers
    • Yuoto Hydration Fanny Pack
    • Garmin Fenix 5 Pro
    • Costco "32 Degree Heat" thermal shirt and leggings
    • REI 650FP Fleece Jacket


    In total with food and water I was at around 22lbs. I'm no ultralight fanatic but I am making a conscious effort to minimize the weight I carry. What happened on this trip has convinced me this effort is entirely worthwhile.

    PXL_20211015_181638866.jpg
    That's me with the very svelte-looking homemade red pack along with my exceptionally overloaded companion.

    The Trip

    Day 1:
    We hit the trail around 11am on Friday planning to camp at the Cantrell site about 8.7 miles in. We made it exactly 1 mile before the trouble started. I knew the terrain would be difficult for a couple Florida boys, but I had no idea it would destroy them in less than an hour. We ended up having to stop every 1,000 ft or so to take a break. My original plan was for us to reach camp around 5 or 6 including time for breaks, lunch, sightseeing, photographs, etc. By 6pm we had only gone 5 miles, and my friend was suffering badly from ankle pain, muscle cramps, and general exhaustion. We made the decision that one of us would hike ahead to camp, drop their pack, then come back to carry the pack of the struggler, while we would continue to push on as able.

    We finally made it to camp at 8pm after 9 hours of misery. We decided right then and there to eat our heaviest meals first, at which point The Struggler produced a 1lb tin of Spam. It was delicious, but this prompted some questions about what else he had in his pack. We discovered among other things:
    • A 3lb shovel
    • A 3lb chair
    • 2lbs of climbing rope


    In total his pack weighed close to 50lbs. I'm a reasonably experienced hiker and I don't think I could have carried that much weight for almost 9 miles.

    This was my first night in the Warbonnet, and only the second time even hanging it up. Prior to this trip I've been using a 9' Etrol hammock. In the dark I put the underquilt on wrong and hung the hammock "backwards", meaning I was climbing in and out of the side that is staked out which works but isn't ideal. Nevertheless, holy cow is this thing comfortable! I managed to tug the underquilt into some kind of full coverage and my homemade topquilt was just the right size for tucking around me a bit. The temp got down into the low 40s but I was completely warm the whole night. Having an extra 2' of hammock to work with was an absolute game changer! In the Etrol I felt like I had to fight with it a bit to get a good lay, but the Eldorado was completely effortless. I slept on both sides, my stomach, my back, and every other which way. It was all comfortable. I love this hammock! I did find myself wishing I had the gear shelf that distinguishes the Blackbird from the Eldorado, but I believe changing the bugnet gets me the shelf if I decide I really need it for future trips. I had a bit more stuff (battery pack, phone, watch, headlamp, book, various cables, glasses) than the ridgeline stuffsack could contain without being awkward and bumping into me a bit. Not a huge deal just something worth noting. This was also my first time using a becket hitch to hang the hammock. I had to reference Derek's illustration a few times to get my head around it, but it was quite simple in practice. I had my whoopies and marlin spike toggles but I don't think I'll use them in the future unless I have a longer distance to hang from.

    PXL_20211016_122732725.MP.jpg

    Day 2:
    Neither of my companions slept very well due to their aches from the day before. We agreed to hike the 1.1 miles to Sassafras Mountain which would be the nearest bailout point, and then evaluate whether or not to continue from there. Spirits improved quite a bit after some breakfast and we made good time from camp to the summit.

    PXL_20211016_150006891.PHOTOSPHERE.jpg

    Everyone was still feeling good so we agreed to push on to the Laurel Valley access point and evaluate again. We made great time and got there around 3pm, but after discussion the consensus was we did not feel confident we could complete the remaining 15 miles of the trip given everyone's condition and energy level. I was still feeling really good at this point, but was not about to push my friends beyond their physical and/or mental limits. We caught a ride back to the car from some friendly ATVers hanging out at the access point and headed back into town tired and disappointed but knowing we had made the right decision. All told we ended up completing 14.2 of the 32.7 miles we had planned.

    PXL_20211016_191340899.jpg

    What Went Well

    • Weight: Having such a lighter load made an enormous difference for me this trip. I'm used to getting to camp completely exhausted with an aching back, sore shoulders, and feet on fire with multiple blisters. Despite the fact that we were in the harness for twice as many hours as I had planned, when I got to camp I felt like I could easily have done 5-10 more miles. I was completely pain free, though my calves were a little tight. Having a roller for my feet/calves would probably be a good idea in the future.
    • Sandals: I met a few people on trail who wondered if I was getting rocks in my Tevas all the time, and the truth is that only once or twice did anything get under my feet. I got one blister on day two, but considering I usually get multiple blisters from a 5-mile walk in the park with my other hiking shoes this was a significant improvement. My feet did get dirty, but they didn't get all sweaty and "corpsey" as the saying goes.
    • Camp Clothes: I've never bothered to bring a spare set of clothes for sleeping in, but having a dry set of duds to change into was amazing. I'll be doing this from now on.
    • Meal Plan: I covered my meal plan in this post. There's not much else to say other than for the first time ever I didn't feel like I was starving at any point.
    • Hip Pack: Oh my goodness. Having my water, snacks, hand sanitizer, mio drops, phone, and bug spray all right there was amazing. There were a few times where I had to leave my pack on the trail and climb up or down to a water source, and being able to fit my filter kit into the fanny pack and have my hands free for scrambling was really nice.


    The Trail

    A lot has already been written about the Foothills Trail, and the Hickery Brothers did a fantastic exposition a few years ago which is actually what inspired me to try hammock camping. What I will say is if this trail isn't on your bucket list it most definitely should be. It is deceptively tough. It will challenge you physically and mentally. It's maybe not quite Linville Gorge tough, but it's **** close in my opinion. Furthermore every inch of this trail is simply beautiful, and the variety of landscapes, trail surfaces, geology, water features, etc, etc, makes it impossible to get bored out there. I was so disappointed to have to cut our trip short, and I can't wait to get back out there again.

    PXL_20211015_184536008.jpg
    -- Josh

    "Courage, mon ami! Le Diable est mort!"

  2. #2
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    Glad you got a taste of that trail.
    Hickery and I ant to do it again someday but this time only 11 miles a day for more camp relax time.
    Nice that you had a good kit and it served your back at the end of the day.
    Whooooooo Buddy)))))
    Shug
    ShugArt Hammock Paintings....https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShugArtStu...platform-mcnav

    Whooooo Buddy)))) All Secure in Sector Seven

  3. #3
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    I just got off the trail Friday. Did Oconee to Table Rock. I will say that if you go Table to Oconee the climbs are way longer and harder. That first 5.5 Miles out of Table Rock are a beast. I canít imagine 50# pack on that uphill. We did those as downs. We did the trail from Sunday and off Friday. Was a great hike. Sounds like you made the right call as a group. Enjoy that new Eldorado


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    jb_outdoors's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shug View Post
    only 11 miles a day
    "only"

    The Maple King's influence was in full force this week. All the leaves were popping. I kept waiting for him to come out at Old Man Cantrell's place. I sure hope you and Hickery get a chance to lollygag over these hills again.

    Quote Originally Posted by CHAPPY23 View Post
    I just got off the trail Friday. Did Oconee to Table Rock. I will say that if you go Table to Oconee the climbs are way longer and harder. That first 5.5 Miles out of Table Rock are a beast. I can’t imagine 50# pack on that uphill. We did those as downs. We did the trail from Sunday and off Friday. Was a great hike. Sounds like you made the right call as a group. Enjoy that new Eldorado
    I've heard that East to West is the harder way to go, and yet that is the way the guidebook sends you If I'd known just how heavy his pack was I'd have made him shed some gear before we ever left home. He and I did the first 10 miles starting at Oconee last year in September and he had a hard time but he survived. Eventually I'd like to thru-hike the whole thing both ways. After this weekend I think I'm ready for it. I'm quite pleased with how dialed-in my kit has gotten. I hope the weather was as nice for you as it was for us

    Bonus pic of The Gorge from Mt. Mitchell yesterday:
    PXL_20211017_194321106.jpg
    -- Josh

    "Courage, mon ami! Le Diable est mort!"

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Nice trip report! Too bad about your distance falling short, but sounds like you all made the right choice. I hope to do Oconee to Table Rock this winter or early spring. My load out with food and water for 3 days averages about 22-23 lbs too. I could drop a few luxuries to get it lighter, but I appreciate a little comfort while on the trail. The nice thing about Foorthills is there’s water everywhere so no need for extended carries.

  6. #6
    jb_outdoors's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twistytee View Post
    The nice thing about Foorthills is there’s water everywhere so no need for extended carries.
    I'm glad you mentioned that. I had meant to say something about this originally. I made the choice this trip to only bring a 1L water bottle and a 2L CNOC. I never ended up having to carry dirty water. The only iffy stretch was between Emory Creek and Sassafrass. As for luxuries, you'll pry my Helinox chair from my cold dead hands If I don't have somewhere comfy to sit in camp I get real ornery.
    -- Josh

    "Courage, mon ami! Le Diable est mort!"

  7. #7
    FLTurtle's Avatar
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    Next week, my hiking buddy and I are heading up to NC to do a 4 nighter. Tagging along is the boyfriend of one of his daughters. He's in good shape, does a lot of day hikes but this will be his first real back country hiking and camping experience.

    He asked about food...he was planning on bringing canned stuff. And a change of clothes for every day. So, we put together his kit with a mix of our spare gear. It won't be UL, but it won't be 50 pounds. I'll be the slowest of the group anyways.

    At some point, I'd like to do the Foothills Trail. Watching the Shug and Hickery videos was the inspiration.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jb_outdoors View Post
    I'm glad you mentioned that. I had meant to say something about this originally. I made the choice this trip to only bring a 1L water bottle and a 2L CNOC. I never ended up having to carry dirty water. The only iffy stretch was between Emory Creek and Sassafrass. As for luxuries, you'll pry my Helinox chair from my cold dead hands If I don't have somewhere comfy to sit in camp I get real ornery.
    A few of us did the Ellicott Rock Wilderness loop back in May which included sections of the Chattooga River Trail and Foothills Trail. I kept commenting how nice it was not to have to carry much water. Plus the local Scout troops had been installing cisterns at major stream crossings to capture spring fed run off in the dry season. I thought that was such a great Eagle Scout project. I’ve hiked a fair number of locations across the Carolinas and the Foothills Trail Conservancy does such a great job at maintaining that trail system. It really is one of the best kept long trails that I’ve hiked.

  9. #9
    jb_outdoors's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLTurtle View Post
    He asked about food...he was planning on bringing canned stuff. And a change of clothes for every day. So, we put together his kit with a mix of our spare gear. It won't be UL, but it won't be 50 pounds. I'll be the slowest of the group anyways.

    At some point, I'd like to do the Foothills Trail. Watching the Shug and Hickery videos was the inspiration.
    My first time out backpacking I did the same thing. I brought a big can of beans, some sausage, eggs, bacon, you name it. It looked like a pack list Horace Kephart would have recognized. I ate good that trip, but I never made that mistake again. We all start somewhere and learn from there The Foothills Trail is definitely worth the drive and the time. I don't think there's another trail like it in the whole region.

    Quote Originally Posted by Twistytee View Post
    A few of us did the Ellicott Rock Wilderness loop back in May which included sections of the Chattooga River Trail and Foothills Trail. I kept commenting how nice it was not to have to carry much water. Plus the local Scout troops had been installing cisterns at major stream crossings to capture spring fed run off in the dry season. I thought that was such a great Eagle Scout project. I’ve hiked a fair number of locations across the Carolinas and the Foothills Trail Conservancy does such a great job at maintaining that trail system. It really is one of the best kept long trails that I’ve hiked.
    They do an excellent job for sure. It's certainly not an easy trail to hike, but it's approachable for rookie backpackers as long as they do a bit of research and take advice from the wiser. I was sad I couldn't make the Ellicott Rock hike but I do hope to tag along if you ever decide to lead one again
    -- Josh

    "Courage, mon ami! Le Diable est mort!"

  10. #10
    Senior Member mistone's Avatar
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    Nice pack weight 22 pounds not bad at all
    Its a good day to be out in the woods no matter the weather.Mist One..

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