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  1. #1
    Prefers life at 12 MPH. FLRider's Avatar
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    VIDEO: The Pine Mountain Trail: Thirty-Hour Days, Tricky Rocks, and Troublesome Trots

    Video:



    (The video is still being "processed", after three hours. I'm going to check back in the morning and make sure that it's up; if not, I'll e-mail YouTube.)


    Text Report:

    This trip was in part the result of my attempted Foothills Trail thru-hike. I decided that, since I discovered that the mountains are...tougher...than the flats when it comes to high-mile days, I'd give a slightly shorter hike a try.

    I cast a line into the pool of information that is Hammock Forums, looking for a trail with good elevation change as close to Gainesville as I could get. From the responses, it seemed that the Pine Mountain Trail (hereafter referred to as "PMT") was the best bet. It was only six hours' drive, it ranged from nine hundred to thirteen hundred feet above sea level, it was supposedly well-marked, and it was never far from a road (which turned out to be a good thing, in the end).

    Mr. Tattoo, a forum member here, had expressed an interest in getting out of Florida to hike somewhere with elevation changes. He's planning a thru of the AT next year, and he wanted to get a feel for what it was like to hike in the mountains.

    After some discussion, we settled on leaving Saturday night after I got out of work. My original intention was to stay up all night on Thursday and sleep all day Friday to reset my circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, it turned out that an old friend of mine was going to be in town for only one night, Thursday. So, though I stayed up all night on Thursday, my recreational self-poisoning left me in no state to be up all night Friday after work. Therefore, I awoke at 6:30 Saturday morning and didn't get to bed until about 5:00 Sunday night...save for fifteen minutes on the road and five minutes at lunch.

    But, I get ahead of myself.

    I left work after midnight on Saturday, after the busiest night we've ever had (it hasn't been confirmed yet, but it's the first time in waking memory that we've run out of sauce, at a pizza place; I'll let you do the math). I arrived home just in time for Mr. Tattoo to call me to ensure that he was headed in the correct direction; the signage here in Gainesville leaves a lot to be desired if you're not familiar with the grid system.

    He arrived on his motorcycle at about 1:30, and we were headed northbound into the steadily-thickening darkness by 2:00. After two different instances of road hypnosis on my part, where I was driving more than half asleep, I finally gave in and let him drive the rest of the way up. I fell asleep sitting up in the passenger seat for about fifteen minutes just before we arrived at FDR State Park in Georgia.

    We came into the park as the sun rose, illuminating the fog that had escaped from some B-rated horror movie. I mean, the stuff was thick enough to eat with a spoon! We arrived at the park office (they require you to register for backcountry camping there) at about 7:20; they didn't open until 8:00. By 8:45 having received our permit for Beech Bottom campsite, we headed out on the trail into the gathering heat of the day.

    By 9:45, we had had our first break for the day. Sipping water in the moisture-laden air, we stopped at Mile 2, next to the rock cairn there, to eat a small snack before continuing on. By the time we left the CCC hatchery ponds, built in the '30s and abandoned during the Second World War (now dry depressions in the mountainside), it was obvious that Mr. Tattoo was feeling the effects of having been up for more than twenty-four hours. Well, to be fair, I was feeling them too.

    We stopped at about Mile 4, at the park office, for lunch, around noon. It had taken us two hours to cover two miles, and it was obvious that we were not going to make it to the Beech Bottom campsite (about Mile 10 on the trail). So, I headed inside to see if we could change our campsite; if not, I would need to head back down to the car and call the hike.

    Fortunately, there was an opening at Broken Tree campsite, at about mile 5.3. Which meant that we "only" had to cover a mile and a quarter or so. We rolled into camp around 2:00 in the afternoon and set camp up. It was my first time using my new DIY asym minimalist tarp in the field (I'd only finished it on Wednesday, and I'm glad I took the time to get a feel for it in the front yard before this trip), as well as my new spreader bar loops (inspired by one of the Wilderness Logics hammocks that uses the same concept for their bug netting; I don't remember which one, though). Both performed admirably, and it's good that they did...

    We killed some time by trying to start a fire. I was able to get a small fire going on a flat rock with tiny twigs; though it wasn't much, I was able to dry enough other tiny twigs to get my woodburner going. I probably could have built a bigger fire, but I was so exhausted by being up for about twenty-eight hours at this point that my heart wasn't really in it.

    This was my first ultralight trip, and I hovered right at 21.5 pounds for my FSO weight with three liters of water and two days of food. Which means that my base weight was right around 9 pounds before clothing and consumables. I'm impressed by how comfortable that was, though it would only be so down into the fifties or so; below that, I wouldn't trust a Garlington Insulator on the bottom. I'd want an underquilt below fifty, for certain.

    The reason I mention that is that, as part of my UL kit, I left my alchy stove (and the fuel!) at home. I'd been hoping to try my woodburner out in wet conditions, and I certainly got my wish. I was able to get it going with some effort, and I dried wood out over the coals once I'd taken the pot off to rehydrate my meal. I put the dehydrated sticks into my ditty bag and left them under my hammock for the night.

    Mr. Tattoo and I jawed for a while, and I turned in for the evening around 5:00. I woke at 11:00 to absolutely freaking pouring rain. I mean, there was a torrent coming off of my tarp that was the size of my palm! My (new, untested, minimalist asym) tarp was in porch mode, and the low point for the tarp was right next to my head on the foot side! It was pouring right there, and I was getting some splashback from the ground three feet under the hammock. Enough to make me feel chilly. So, with the LineLoc being right at the corner of the tarp, I knocked my hiking pole out of the guyline and tightened that side down into storm mode. No more splashback!

    I went back to sleep, only to be woken by the absence of rain around 4:00. I turned over and went back to sleep, though I did wonder about the light I saw from the direction of Mr. Tattoo's hammock. I slept through my alarm, which I had set for 7:45, and woke almost an hour later. Looking at the soaked campsite, my heart sank as I considered that I wouldn't be able to make "coffee". But, as it turned out, WV's trick (thank you, by the way, for that one) of drying the morning's wood over the previous night's fire and then shoving it in a stuff sack worked like a charm!

    I swung my legs out of the hammock, only to look down at the spot where the water had been running off of my tarp the night before. The water had been coming down so fiercely that it dug a two-inch-deep hole in the red Georgia clay under my hammock. I wondered at that as I got up and moving, only to find that Mr. Tattoo was already up and about.

    It turned out that Mr. Tattoo had been up most of the night with some kind of intestinal bug that kept him running to the bushes every hour or so. This left him exhausted and weak, and we decided that a short day was definitely in order. Our original plan was to hike back to the park office via the road and then I would jog from there back down to the car and come pick him up.

    We packed everything up slowly and were ready to go by 11:00. By 11:15, it was obvious that he wasn't going to be able to make it to the office; the bug and his general exhaustion were getting the better of him. I called the hike at this point and disassembled my pack's frame to take the waist belt off of it in order to carry some essentials on my run back to the car. I stuck the map and compass, my Swiss army knife, the car keys, and an half-liter of water (at Mr. Tattoo's insistence) to the belt and set off for the car.

    I figured we were about four or five miles from the car, judging by the map. Never have I been so glad to be wrong; it turned out that we were only about three and an half via road. I made it back to the car, despite some steep grades, in about an half-hour--I'm actually really happy about that, despite the circumstances that required it. It means my cardio training is paying off.

    However, despite my elation at the short(er) run and my time on it, I was still worried about Mr. Tattoo. I leaped into the car and set off down (well, up, but you get the idea) the mountain road back to his location. I arrived about fifty minutes after I'd left, to find him in good spirits and enjoying his rest.

    We packed everything up into the car and headed out down the road, stopping at Dowdell's Knob for some scenic views. We continued on, eating lunch in the small town of Manchester at an excellent Mexican restaurant in downtown there.

    The drive back was nothing particularly interesting, though Mr. Tattoo is a wonderful guy to do a long drive with. He's a great conversationalist and a good hiking partner with a level head.

    I enjoyed this trip, despite its difficulties, and I really look forward to doing another one with him!


    Pics (L->R, T->B):

    1.) A view from the first vista we came upon, through fog that had been steadily lightening for the better part of two hours at that point.

    2.) A plaque describing how FDR liked to go up to Dowdell Knob for the views and barbequed up there often.

    3.) The (larger-than-)life-sized bronze of President Roosevelt on Dowdell Knob.

    4.) The view from Dowdell Knob.

    5.) A plaque describing the grill that FDR had built up there.

    6.) The actual (now filled-in) grill.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member born2roam's Avatar
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    It uploaded alright!

    Hope Mr Tattoo is feeling better and thanks for sharing the trip!

    Grtz Johan
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  3. #3
    Bruciehi5's Avatar
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    Well, I just popped on to the the Hammock forums site hoping to find a video to watch and there was yours! The poncho with the front that opens is a good idea. They are so good as a weather shield, and on cooler nights, or windy nights, they really help to keep you warm. Sounds like yours worked well in a big down pour. Very nice view to end the walk with and to end the video with! Thanks for the much needed video, FLRider!

  4. #4
    Senior Member hikingshoes's Avatar
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    FLRider, Thanks for the video dude. I,m only 35-45mins away from the PMT. I was up there this weekend checking out the park/trailheads and to see how far it was from Columbus,ga.. Now i know Im just down the road and working 4/10's Im going to start section hike some. HYOH..HS

  5. #5
    Senior Member stevebo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the trip report! (I live 45 min from FDR-------been on the PMT dozens of times!) If you plan on hiking the PMT alot, if you join the PMT association, you get unlimited free backcountry camping----I think the membership is 30 bucks a year. http://www.pinemountaintrail.org/?page=21 Its a pretty good deal when you consider the nightly fee Ga charges for backcountry sites in state parks!
    Also, in wet conditions, look for dead sticks that arnt touching the ground -they usually arnt too wet, especially if you split them in half. What kind of wood burning stove do you use? Thanks again for the report!
    FYI: If you want to know what type a certain bear is, sneak up behind it and kick it. Then,
    run like crazy and climb up a tree. If the bear climbs the tree and eats you, it's a black
    bear. If the bear just pushes the tree over and eats you, it's a grizzly bear : )


    Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either, just leave me alone.
    --unknown

  6. #6
    Senior Member Maddog67's Avatar
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    Cool video! Thanks for sharing! I live about 45 minutes from the PMT! I use it for testing gear and training about once a month! Hit me up next time you go...maybe i can meet you guys! Maddog
    "You do more hiking with your head than your feet!" Emma "Grandma" Gatewood...HYOY!!!

  7. #7
    Senior Member stevebo's Avatar
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    I just looked at the PMTA website-------- Check out the article about the plane crash at dowdell knob in the 1950s--------Ive hiked there for over 20 years and had no idea! (always fun to know the history of a place you hike!) http://www.pinemountaintrail.org/
    FYI: If you want to know what type a certain bear is, sneak up behind it and kick it. Then,
    run like crazy and climb up a tree. If the bear climbs the tree and eats you, it's a black
    bear. If the bear just pushes the tree over and eats you, it's a grizzly bear : )


    Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either, just leave me alone.
    --unknown

  8. #8
    Senior Member Maddog67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maddog67 View Post
    Cool video! Thanks for sharing! I live about 45 minutes from the PMT! I use it for testing gear and training about once a month! Hit me up next time you go...maybe i can meet you guys! Maddog
    BTW:Great music! I'm a huge Grateful Dead fan! Maddog
    "You do more hiking with your head than your feet!" Emma "Grandma" Gatewood...HYOY!!!

  9. #9
    Prefers life at 12 MPH. FLRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by born2roam View Post
    It uploaded alright!

    Hope Mr Tattoo is feeling better and thanks for sharing the trip!

    Grtz Johan
    Yep. It looks like YouTube finally got off of the dime some time during the night.

    He seemed to be on the ride home; he caught some sleep and wasn't needing to pull over every few miles (despite the authentic Mexican food we ate for lunch). I'm going to keep in touch with him to make sure he's okay.

    No problem!


    Quote Originally Posted by Bruciehi5 View Post
    Well, I just popped on to the the Hammock forums site hoping to find a video to watch and there was yours! The poncho with the front that opens is a good idea. They are so good as a weather shield, and on cooler nights, or windy nights, they really help to keep you warm. Sounds like yours worked well in a big down pour. Very nice view to end the walk with and to end the video with! Thanks for the much needed video, FLRider!
    The poncho front opening was Raiffnuke's idea. Can't take credit for that one. And the poncho used as a weather shield really goes to the Jacks. The all-in-one Velcro attachment goes to Ed Speer, and the Garlington Insulator idea goes to Mr. Garlington. No real new ideas here, just different ones thrown together into a giant melting pot.

    I actually didn't use the poncho as a weather shield that night. I probably should have, considering the rain we got, but I was just so tired when I went to bed that I trusted the clear skies. Not my best call, but it all came out okay in the end...

    Yeah, President Roosevelt had good taste in the outdoors, that's for certain. Pine Mountain and FDR State Park are beautiful, and I'm definitely going to schedule a return trip. That one, I think, might be a three or four nighter, and I might try and thru the trail (it's only about twenty miles/thirty kilometers long, but has another ten or twenty miles/fifteen or thirty kilometers of side trails) out and back.


    Quote Originally Posted by hikingshoes View Post
    FLRider, Thanks for the video dude. I,m only 35-45mins away from the PMT. I was up there this weekend checking out the park/trailheads and to see how far it was from Columbus,ga.. Now i know Im just down the road and working 4/10's Im going to start section hike some. HYOH..HS
    The PMT is definitely doable in a weekend if you're in good enough shape. An overnighter could be done; you drop one car at the western terminus and one car at the eastern terminus (or you can find out about shuttles in the area) and hike ten-ish miles, camp, and hike twelve-ish miles the second day. Not too hard, as long as you're used to decent elevation gain (ultralight hiking shines here, as does hard cardio training beforehand).

    I wouldn't mind meeting up with you some time to hike that, but I also work a screwy schedule where I'm at work Tuesday to Saturday nights (though, coming up in a few weeks, I'll have Tuesday off for a while). Maybe we could work something out...


    Quote Originally Posted by stevebo View Post
    Thanks for the trip report! (I live 45 min from FDR-------been on the PMT dozens of times!) If you plan on hiking the PMT alot, if you join the PMT association, you get unlimited free backcountry camping----I think the membership is 30 bucks a year. http://www.pinemountaintrail.org/?page=21 Its a pretty good deal when you consider the nightly fee Ga charges for backcountry sites in state parks!
    Also, in wet conditions, look for dead sticks that arnt touching the ground -they usually arnt too wet, especially if you split them in half. What kind of wood burning stove do you use? Thanks again for the report!

    I just looked at the PMTA website-------- Check out the article about the plane crash at dowdell knob in the 1950s--------Ive hiked there for over 20 years and had no idea! (always fun to know the history of a place you hike!) http://www.pinemountaintrail.org/
    Not a problem. I thought about joining, but I'm (at most) going to be able to make it up to the PMT once or twice a year. So, it doesn't make a lot of economic sense for me to join. Unless I go for four nights or more a year, at which point...

    Per the wet sticks, we tried that. The soaking rain and fog from the night before we got to the trail (trust me, it looked like London in one of the Jack the Ripper movies when we arrived Sunday morning) had soaked everything. Even working with sticks off of the ground that were 1/16" in diameter or less, they didn't want to light and took two to three minutes of flame to burn off the accumulated moisture--even dead pine twigs, with all of the resin in them. I used my DIY hobo stove. It's pretty simple; I did a thread with video of it located here (for folks who aren't donating members, it's just an old coffee can with holes cut in it; nothing special). It works pretty well, even with wet wood, since the heat feedback is pretty intense. Not quite as intense as a gassifier would be, but it's lighter and easier to make.

    Huh. Never knew about that plane crash. I suppose it makes sense; visibility in that area has to suck some of the time (Sunday morning comes to mind), and it's the highest point for hundreds of miles. Go figure.


    Quote Originally Posted by Maddog67 View Post
    Cool video! Thanks for sharing! I live about 45 minutes from the PMT! I use it for testing gear and training about once a month! Hit me up next time you go...maybe i can meet you guys! Maddog

    BTW:Great music! I'm a huge Grateful Dead fan! Maddog
    Thank you.

    I would definitely enjoy an hike with you. I'll PM you the next time I get on up that way (it's probably going to be a while, though).

    Thanks. The Grateful Dead are just fun, as are the other two bands (well, the second one was only together for a single album, but all the musicians involved are excellent).

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mr.Tattoo's Avatar
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    Thanks for letting me tag along had a good time besides the stomach bug when I got home my girlfriend told me she wasn't feeling good either and it was probably the place we ate the night we left ...Capt D's I had totally forgot about that . There was defiantly some nice views ,Cardio is a major player when hiking in the Mountains nothing like flat pine needle covered trails in Florida lol.

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