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  1. #1
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Savage Gulf, May 30-31, 2009

    I was a bit tentative as I started this trip to Savage Gulf. For over three months, Id been fighting a severe bout with bronchitis that flared into walking pneumonia. This condition killed a section hike of the Pinhoti Trail in March, and after two rounds of antibiotics, I was still not feeling 100%. So I planned on three relatively easy days to let my battered lungs adapt.

    I also planned to hike the few remaining miles of trail I had not previously completed in Savage Gulf State Natural Area.


    I started out at Collins Gulf Trailhead, meaning a rocky first 1/2-mile in either direction of the intersection.


    Once past the rocks, the trail on the rim turned to relatively level, smooth hiking packed with Mountain Laurel and Flame Azalea.




    The area has been subject to severe drought the last couple of years, but the rainiest spring in some time left all the streambeds flowing solidly.

    Once I reached the historic Stagecoach Road Trail down into the gulf, water began to dry up. The gulf is home to hundreds of sinks, sinkholes where water flows underground. Dry streambeds are the norm, though you can sometimes hear water flowing underneath them. As the water disappeared, scouts emerged, heading uphill, a dozen of them asking about water on the rim. They were happy to hear about the abundance there.

    8 miles and change into the walk, I hit the Connector Trail which leads .4 miles down to Sawmill Campsite.


    There, I ventured up the .3 miles to Schwoon Cave and spring, the water source for the campsite, then set up my hammock and tarp.


    I ate, read, and rested for the night, reflecting that I was much stronger than I had been just a week earlier after hiking shorter distances near home. The Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock was new and I fell completely in love with the right side footbox which eliminated any pressure at the knees.

    The next day, my plan was to hike up the Connector Trail to where it reached Big Creek Gulf Trail. I had not hiked this portion of the Connector Trail before.

    Sights included the old Cator Savage Cabin and a perhaps the biggest suspension bridge in the entire Natural area.






    The walking was relatively easy with just my tiny daypack and I moved with much more strength than I would have imagined. I arrived at the intersection for a quick snack before heading back the way I came.


    I arrived back from the 7-mile round trip by 11:30. Now I had to make a decision. I had planned to relax for the rest of the day and hike the 4 miles out in the morning cool. But I had felt so much stronger than expected that I chose to pack up and walk up the rocky ascent back to the trail head in the afternoon.

    I made excellent time the first couple of relatively flat miles and very much enjoyed the chance to cool off at Horsepound Falls.


    After the falls, the real climb began, up a series of switchbacks, often strewn with rocks. I had been ready for this, so I simply ambled on up, stopping for extra breath for my beat-up lungs whenever I felt the need.

    As I arrived at Suter Falls, I discovered a quirky bridge, small waterfall, and HUGE rockhouse as I headed up the last -mile to the trailhead.




    As I walked the last few hundred yards, I swung through Collins West Campsite to enjoy Collins Gulf Overlook.


    Other than a bit of chafing and soreness from three months with very little hiking, I felt great. I had finally hiked all marked trails in Savage Gulf and was none the worse for wear. The summer was off to a good start.

  2. #2
    Senior Member hangnout's Avatar
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    Great report! The last time I went to that area we went to Hobbs cabin. It was the only time I have not used my hammock in the past few years. NEVER again, those cots just were not the same

    Sounds like your trip went well

  3. #3
    Senior Member Perkolady's Avatar
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    I enjoyed your report! Thanks for posting it.

    Glad you're back out there and feeling better...

  4. #4
    Senior Member angrysparrow's Avatar
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    Wonderful report. That looks like a great hike!
    I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. - Cormac McCarthy

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Thanks every one. It's nice to get back into the backcountry after being too ragged physically to carry a pack more than a couple of miles these last few months.

    Hopefully, I will continue to feel strong when I tackle a section of the Pinhoti Trail in a couple more days.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Ewker's Avatar
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    Savage Gulf/South Cumberland is a great place to go backpack. If you haven't been you need to add it to your list
    There are times that the only way you can do something is alone that waiting on the convenience of others means that a lot of opportunities will pass you by
    Spirit Walker

    Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. ― Mark Twain

    Who cares about showers, gourmet food, using flush toilets. Just keep on walking and being away from it all.

  7. #7
    Whoooo Buddy)))) Shug's Avatar
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    That bridge looks awesome.
    Nice hammock and tarp set-up. You look good to go and go and go.....
    Have a wonderful Pinhoti trek.
    Shug
    Whoooo Buddy)))) I Love Onions, Grits, Greens, Livermush, NC Style BBQ, Potted Meat, Anchovies, 'Naner Puddin", Peanut Butter Pie, Red Velvet Cake and Cocoa and Straaaaaawwwwberrrry Milk and Coffee Crisps....
    I Hope Heaven has a Bakery!!!!



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  8. #8
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shug View Post
    That bridge looks awesome.
    I kept waiting for it to break in half right as I approached the middle. The suspension bridges in the area all have signs saying "Load limit 2 people". This one clearly said "1 person". Since I'm bigger than average, I couldn't help but wonder if it should read "No Bearpaws"

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ewker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearpaw View Post
    I kept waiting for it to break in half right as I approached the middle. The suspension bridges in the area all have signs saying "Load limit 2 people". This one clearly said "1 person". Since I'm bigger than average, I couldn't help but wonder if it should read "No Bearpaws"
    that bridge has been there less than a yr. You either had to wade or rock hop that stream. In the winter time it was not fun at all
    There are times that the only way you can do something is alone that waiting on the convenience of others means that a lot of opportunities will pass you by
    Spirit Walker

    Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. ― Mark Twain

    Who cares about showers, gourmet food, using flush toilets. Just keep on walking and being away from it all.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    I love it when tough ol former Marines take pictures of pretty flowers.
    Seriously, that looks like a great trip! Thanks for sharing.
    Trust nobody!

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