Foothills Trail Trip Report (Part I)
I hiked the Foothills Trail from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park this week. I left Table Rock State Park on Monday afternoon and arrived at Oconee State Park in the early afternoon on Friday. Here is my trip report and some pictures from the hike.
About a week before the hike, I slipped on wet pavement in a parking lot (of a bar, but I was going in, not out ) and took a serious fall that resulted in a badly injured left wrist and tailbone. I obviously could not go to see a doctor about it, as he most likely would have immobilized the wrist, putting an end to my hiking ambitions. In my backyard testing before the hike, I found that I was unable to untie the bowline knot I normally use to suspend my hammock due to the injured wrist, so I quickly ordered some ring buckles. Just prior to the injury, I had taken my sewing machine on a business trip and made an asym hammock with a bugnet in my hotel room in the evening. My underquilt suspension did not work with this hammock, so I added channels to the torso quilt and used a warbonnetguy style suspension. With an additional pull-tab at the head-end tie-out point of the asym hammock, this worked really well. I also added asym tie-outs to the driducks poncho that I use for my rain gear and as an undercover before leaving for the hike. Here is a list of the major items I carried:
- DIY digital camo backpack
- DIY top quilt
- DIY 3/4 underquilt
- Z-lite pad cut down to four sections as a sit pad and leg insulation.
- Bushbuddy ultra and Snowpeak Trek 900 (with DIY lid) and a couple of Esbit tabs for backup.
- Steripen Adventurer, Nalgene bottle and Platypus 2L bladder
- Large cat-cut tarp
- Smart-wool base layer, light-weight fleece top, Kinsman pullover
- Driducks poncho/undercover
My pack weighed a little under 16 lbs without the 7 lbs of food I started out with. The weather forecast included some nights in the low 30's in nearby cities, and I had been comfortable with the insulation I carried at 22, so I felt I had a good margin.
I got to the trail head around 12:30pm and signed the hiker registry and chatted with some other hikers. The water fountain at the trail head was out of service, so I went down to Carrick creek and got some water that I treated with my Steripen.
Around 1pm, I was finally ready to go and started my way up to Sassafras mountain, the highest point in South Carolina. As I was hiking up the mountain in the afternoon heat, I recalled what Youngblood recently posted about the Foothills Trail:
Of course, I had some choice words for him going through my head that I am afraid I cannot repeat here. I made good progress, though, and took a break at a rock outcrop after 3.6 miles with a really nice view.
Originally Posted by Youngblood
As I sat there, I saw a huge bird with a white head and white tail gliding through the air, which I thought must be a bald eagle. After returning home, I called the park and spoke to the naturalist, and he confirmed that there had been similar sightings off and on and he was pretty excited about my report.
After a little bit more climbing, I reached the end of Table Rock State Park and the start of the Foothills Trail.
Shortly after, my problems started. My stomach did not feel right initially, and after another mile or so, the diarrhea started. I took some Immodium and proceeded on, but it was slow going in the heat with an upset stomach. After about another mile and two more emergency stops, I decided to stop and cook some food and a tea in hopes that that might settle my stomach. So I got out the Bushbuddy and boiled some water. After the rest and dinner, I felt a lot better, but it was getting late. I was in the midst of rhododenron bushes, so I proceeded up the trail until I found more open forest with trees. I found a really nice spot about 100 yards off the trail and hung my hammock. As the sun was setting, the bugs attacked in numbers. I just managed to get in the hammock and was really glad to have the bugnet on it. Ten minutes later, the mosquitos were gone and I finished setting up camp and hung my food bag. After reading the trail guide for a while, I fell asleep around 9:30pm. At 4am, I was woken up by grunting sounds nearby. I sat up in the hammock and started looking around, but could not see anything. When I inquired Are you a pig?, I heard whatever it was scurrying off and went back to sleep. Here are some photos of my hammock setup the first night. The second picture is for moski. He sent me the glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls as a gift a while ago and I promised him I would post a picture when I used them in a project.
I awoke at 6:30am and was so comfortable that I really wanted to snooze in the hammock for a little while. But after having managed only about 6 miles the previous afternoon, I forced myself to get up and cook some oatmeal and hot chocolate. After breakfast, I headed up to Sassafras mountain and having been up there before I knew to keep walking and not stop. It is the most anti-climactic mountain top you can imagine, has no view and is usually littered with beer cans and other trash due to the vicinity to a parking lot. The weatherman had lied to me again and instead of a cloudy day in the mid-60s, it was sunny and getting pretty hot. I ate an early lunch on the rocks in the middle of the river that flows through Laurel Valley and enjoyed the sunshine. My stomach felt much better, but I was extremely hungry and ate the extra lunch portion I had packed. I continued on to Laurel Fork Falls and arrived at the spur trail in the late afternoon.
There were some yellow jackets at the bridge, and since I am somewhat allergic and wanted to make up some miles anyway, I did not take the spur and continued on, but hung out and took some pictures of the falls at the overlook next to the trail.
I hiked on for about 4 miles and the sun was setting as I arrived at Rock Creek, just in time for the skeeters to go into their feeding frenzy. I started out just swatting at them, but finally I broke down and covered myself in deet. Here are a couple of pictures of my hammock setup.
After setting up, I cooked dinner. Again, I was extremely hungry and ate the extra dinner portion I had brought, which meant I had to finish the hike on Friday or go hungry. After dinner, I heated up some water to wash the deet off and also washed my underwear, socks and sweaty shirt. Then I made some hot chocolate and hung out by the creek before going to sleep around 11:30pm.
I woke up around 8:30am. On the bright side, I missed the morning mosquito frenzy, but still not a good way to start the day considering that I had planned to make it to Bad Creek Access. But I wanted to do some night hiking anyway. I packed up quickly, ate a Clif bar and got going. The guide book says that the next mile is called heartbreak ridge by many hikers... This is one of my favorite parts of the trail, as you have beautiful views left and right. Again, the weatherman's prediction was entirely wrong and it was a sunny day with no clouds to be seen. When I arrived at the Toxaway, I stopped to cook some oatmeal and hot chocolate. I went on and crossed the Toxaway on the 225 ft suspension bridge. This was the scariest part of the hike, as the bridge swayed left to right by at least a foot as I crossed it. Having lollygagged away the whole morning, I picked up the pace a little and went for 6 miles or so before eating "lunch" at a beautiful little creek. It was nice and sunny and warm, and I sat there for a long time. When I finally got up, it was 3:30pm. I kept going until I reached the Thompson river, where I took another extended break and ate some snacks.
Leaving the Thompson, I saw some little flowers as the sun was beginning to set.
Not long afterwards, I turned on my headlamp as it was getting dark. I then noticed a blister starting on my left foot. Since I only had a couple of miles to camp, I did not stop to take care of it. Big mistake. After about a mile, I had a sharp pain in my left hip. I figure because of the blister, I was trying not to put any weight on my left foot and not walking properly, and that affected my hip. The pain was pretty bad, now both from the blister and the hip, so I decided to stop short of my goal and make camp. Conveniently, there was a campsite with water source a few hundred yards ahead. I quickly cooked dinner and retired to the hammock at about 11:30pm.
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