Thursday, August 11, 2011

Saturday Sailing

Since I finished up my hike earlier than anticipated, I was able to be home to go sailing with Boo! We woke on Saturday morning and headed to the lake. I was going to help crew on his boat for a few regatta races. He was grinning from ear to ear, I think he secretly loves it when I come out and sail with him, because he's the captain and as his swabby first mate, I have to listen to all his orders. haha! I, on the other hand, was a bit nervous. You see, I've never gotten my sea legs. Not even an inkling of one. I'm a diehard land lubber. I think the fear of being shark bait has alot to do with it. Plus, I still have a hard time with all the sailing vocabulary. Like why can't you just say, "pull up the sails on the front of the boat!" Instead I have to hear things like, "prepare to tack" or "hoist the jib sheet to the port side" HUH???? haha! I'm sailing iliterate. To be quite honest, I'm not even sure if that last quote is even a legit sailing command. I just jumbled a bunch of words I had heard all day to make it "saily" sounding. Sorry Boo, please don't have a coronary attack over this blog. haha! I totally respect what you do. I admire, envy, and am very proud that you're such a good sailor. I wish I was more of the wench you want me to be. (haha!) Maybe I'll work on that more. I mean, who doesn't fantasize about being a pirate wench every now and then? haha!
Serious, I am very proud and in awe at what you can do on a boat. I feel safe knowing your the captain of the ship :)

So as the day goes, I was a big help on the boat today..... NOT. I took my usual chill spot and chilled all day long as Boo and Sean sailed us through 4 races. We came in second twice, dead last once, and a resectable 4th place on another. All in in it was a great day to be on the water and a fantastic way to relax after a week of hiking in the mountains. I can see why Boo loves sailing so much,. It's just as peaceful as being out in the woods.

Til next time... GET OUTDOORS!!!

Lake Norman Hike and Camp

Mary Poppins, Bumper, Shroom, Nina, Michelle, Beth, Dierdre, Barbara, and I all met at the carpool spot.  This is where the fun began. haha!  We had a "trail dude" show up.  He had signed up for our group last night.  Even though I sent him an email telling him this is an all womens group and he could not join us, and removed I him from our group, he still showed up!  I again told him he could not join us, he tried to leave.  I say tried b/c for the next 15-20 minutes, he kept tripping his car alarm and could not get his car started.  He then asked us for a jump and while backing his car out, almost hit a group of Dames!  Whe he saw he backed his car out too much, he asked the Dames to push his car!  That's when a handsome young man stepped in and asked if there was anything he could do to help.  We greatly appreciated the fact that he took over and we moved our cars.

We finally make it the trailhead and get started on our hike.  The weather was still holding up.  We hiked in perfect overcast, cool (well, cool for July!) weather.  The hike was a pretty fast one as far as Dames hikes go.  We timed it to be a 20 mintue mile.  AFter our hike, we all headed out in search of some lunch.  We discovered this pizza place that had 2 slices and a coke for $4.95.   Can't beat that, so we all ate pizza.

We said goodbye to some of the girls and the rest of us that were camping decided to check out the local grocery store for some adult beverages. hee hee :)  Nina and I split a six pack of Sarnac beer, while the Mary Poppins, Maureen, and Bumper split a couple bottles of wine.  Wendy and Marie already had there flasks back at the campsite.  We headed back to set up camp for the night. 

After dividing up the gear, I helped each newbie camper set up their tents.  They did so awesome and barely needed my assistance.  I then set up my hammock and let all the girls try it out.  I think I converted all but one :)  They loved the WBBB hammock.  Who can blame them :)  haha!  Seriouly, it is a very comfortable hammock.   We headed back to the tables to nosh on some fresh fruit, veggies, dip, and chit chat a bit before starting a campfire for roasting hot dogs. 

When dinner was over, we all squeezed into Marie and Wendy's picnic, which was surrounded by tarps to keep rain out.  It felt like a cozy little cabin table to play a game of TABOU.  Talk about hilarious fun!  After the rain let up a bit, I pulled out the giant marshmellows, Wendy started a fire, and Nina brought out the chocolate and graham crackers and we made s'mores!  YUMMY :)  After stuffing our faces we sat around the campfire and talked and talked til the next thing we knew it was 11:30pm, time for bed.
The next morning, we go up and hiked the trail all over again!    Great time with some great people.  Had lots of fun and we got in two hikes this weekend.  :)

Craggy Gardens

The overcast day started with me picking up 2 Dames, Kimber and Beth, while two GA Dames followed along in their car (Janet and Kellye).  The weather held up just fine, til we neared Asheville NC, then the sky just opened up.   We pulled over at the nearest exit and into a BILO grocery store.  Where I bought 3 rain ponchos.  We got back on the road and exited into Asheville.  Somehow, my directions weren't clear and we ended up traveling up Tunnel Road, a steep dead end road.  With rain pouring, we stopped to look at directions, when the parked truck in front of us suddenly blared his high beams on us.  Someone was in the car!  Oops, we u-turned it and headed back on the main road. 

We finally found the parkway!  Cruising along in the rain, we some how lost the other car.  I just figured we would all make it to the meet up spot where were were supposed to meet up with 3 more Dames, Chris, Deirdre, and Nina.  Well, the rain gods had other plans for us that day. haha!

We waited and waited and waited for a good 1/1/2 hours.  The GA girls had made a wrong turn and ended up at the picnic area instead of the visitors center, but we were able to text them the right meet up spot.  Since the other 3 Dames were missing, I decided to call the only other visitors center within a 50 mile radius.  Guess what....the other three Dames were there and had the called our visitors center and were on the way.  So we stuck around and played in the rain and wind. haha!  Seriously :)

Kimber, Beth and I,  we put on our colorful ponchos and had a good time splashing around in the rain.  It's great when your around a other people with great attitudes.  I'm so lucky to have such a group of wonderful Dames that have been a blast to hang out with, no matter the circumstances.  Instead of griping and complaining, about waiting and all the rain, we all had a great time being silly.  Since the ponchos were red, blue, and orange, we gave each other names.  Koolaid (as in the big red pitcher drink) Pumpkin, and the blue poncho was named Violet (as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Violet who swelled up into a giant blueberry.) Each time the wind bellowed up the ponchos and made us look like our goofy namesakes, we laughed like school girls.  When the rain, wind and temperature got to chilly, we all piled into my car and continued the fun.  Noshing on our trail mix, we saw Chris pull up!  She told us she did go to the wrong visitors center and when she releazied it, she made here way here.   But she got stuck on the parkway when a huge tree had fallen in the road and has stopped traffic. She had to wait for a tree cutting company to come up and cut the tree out of the roadway.  We figured that's what happened to the other dames, Nina and Dierdre.

When the skies cleared up, we decided it was time to go on our hike.  So we drove down to the Craggy Pinnacle trailhead, hiked up a mile in the rhododendrum tunnel and when we got to the top, we were in awe at the stunning view of the NC mountains. We all agreed it was worth the climb.  I took some photos and we hung around enjoying the sunshine and breeze before we hiked back down. 

When we got back to the visitors center, we finally go a hold of Nina and Dierdre.  They also got stuck in the tree traffic, so they were just going to head into Asheville for lunch.  The rest of us decided to continue on with our second hike to the picnic spot.  I found out that we were very lucky enough to have climbed up Craggy Gardens at the perfect moment.  The view is usually socked in with fog about 60% of the time.  Must of been our good attitudes that brought us good karma :)

The trailhead for the next hike was at the end of the parking area in the visitors center.  We had all intentions of hiking up the Craggy Gardens trail to the picnic area, passing a Mountains to Sea Trail shelter along the way.  I was excited to show the group what a trail shelter looked like.  Well, after 10 minutes of hiking, the entire sky turns grey.  All of the sudden the winds start whipping all the rhododendrums around and it starts to sprinkle and lighting.  I decide to call the hike and return back to our cars.  We were hiking up to higher elevation and since it was lightening, I didn't want to risk it.  Back at the parking lot, we bid goodbye to the GA Dames and got a hold of the other NC Dames.  They were in downtown Asheville having a microbrew at Mellowmushroom.  We were so there! haha!  We hopped back in the car and drove the 5 miles back into Asheville, with Kimber giving a mile by mile text to Nina, to let them know where we where.

We parked the car and in our colorful ponchos, we walked into Mellowmushroom to meet up with Nina and Dierdre.  Finding the other Dames, swiling a clean microbrew, and munching on a salad and pizza was the perfect way to end our day.  :)  This was a bit crazy, logistic wise, but we all agreed that we couldn't help the storm or the tree falling.  All in all, we had a great time and still got in a little hike.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beautiful View Hike

We had a great group of ladies for this beautiful hike.  Sarah, Kimber, Beth, Jalisia, Kerrie, Robyn, Noel, Tiffany, Maureen, Janis, Deborah, Chris, Susan, and I,  We all met up at the carpool spot and 3 car loads of Dames drove up to one of my favorite NC trails.  After taking our "before" picture, Sarah lead the group up thru the forested switchbacks til we got to the stairs.  And boy were there stairs!  We climbed for a nice .75 miles.  Each time a Dame stopped to catch her breathe, all we had to do was turn around to see the amazing view.   Lots of views on this hike.  Since I was sweeper, I could hear claps and cheers as each Dame trickled up to the top.  It made my heart feel good to see everyone encouraging one another.  We really do have a great group.  :)

The views were stunning.  We spent a while just sitting, chatting, contemplating, relaxing, and enjoying the view.  After 30 minutes, we decided to push on and continue down the relatively flat trail to another outstanding view.  After another quick break, we continued on, going down hill to hike along a stream that soon became a huge waterfall.  When we got to the bottom of the falls, we took a snack an water break and indulged our feet by taking a dip in the cool refreshing water.  It was perfect.  We continued on to finish up with an amazing view of the mountain we had just climbed.  By this point we were all hot and sweaty and ready for our reward.  ICE CREAM!!!  We all headed for the local general store for some home made ice cream and cold drinks.  This was an awesome ending to a beautiful, warm day. 

Local hike

9 Dames (Sarah, Karla, Beth, Michelle, Joy, Kimber, me, and Janet and Kellye from the GA Chapter)came out to hike a crazy loop in Morrow Mountain State Park.  We originally were supposed to hike another loop, but it was closed due to storm damage, so after calling up the ranger, he suggested we try another 4 mile trek on Sugarloaf Mt. Loop.  5 of us met up to car pool and met the rest at the park.  It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day for a hike in the woods and it started out really nice and gradual.  We even saw a deer right on the trail.  The trail started to roll up and down a bit and at one point we had to take a water break.  One of the Dames, Joy, started turning a nice beet color red so we decided to take it easy.  I think I've found Joy's trail name.  BEET.  Seriously, she was really red!  haha!  But in her defense, she does have a medical condition, which if you ask her she will gladly tell you all about it, she even jokes around and calls says her body is "allergic to exercise" haha!  So Joy, you are now dubbed "BEET"  :) 

Michelle was in training mode, so she had on a heavy full pack (she was taking her fiance' backpacking next week).  The rest of us just had our water and boy did we need it.  About half way thru the hike, I took Michelles pack for a bit.  It was too hot and too heavy for her to carry and I'd rather she enjoy the hike then be miserable with the extra weight.  To be honest, it made me miss my backpack, so as sadistic as it sounds, I enjoyed carrying the 25 lb. pack in 98 degree weather. haha!

The trail wasn't marked clearly so somehow, we got turned around on a loop trail.  Yes, we got lost on a loop trail. haha!  It's OK though, cause we actually picked up another hiker and her dog.  They briefly join in with us and she was very entertaining.  Our 4 mile trek ended up being more like a 5 mile adveture, but in true Trail Dame form, all the Dames were in great spirits, laughing, smiling, and having a good time.  We celebrated our hike at Sonic with a cool treat before we headed back home.  All in all it was a wonderful day with friends.

Foothills Trail Part (day 6-7)

DAY 6 After a crazy and hellacious night in a tornado, I woke up around 7am, ate a quick oatmeal breakfast and packed up a wet campsite. It was already getting to be a hot and muggy day. Seems as if the weather after a big storm is always calm, hot, and humid. This day was no different. I didn't have time to worry about it now, I had my climb up Sassafras mountain on my mind. At 8:30am, We stepped foot on the trail and finished the rolling 2.8 miles (including several stair climbs) to Laural Valley parking area.

We crossed highway 178 and started our 4.8 mile climb. The book broke up the climb into two sections, a 2.1 mile climb up to Chimneytop Gap and a 2.7 mile climb from Chimneytop gap to Sassafras Mt. So that's how I broke it up as well. A 2.1 mile climb sounds more doable than a 4.8 mile in my mind. It was a 1000 foot gain in elevation in that 2.1 mile climb and it was steep! Then came the steep wooden steps, followed by even steeper switchbacks. It seemed like it took forever to get to Chimneytop Gap. I actually got mad. For the first time on this trip, I was not enjoying it. I was crazy with hunger, physically fatigued, mentally drained, even Charlies panting was getting on my nerves. I was angry at the fact that I barely hiked 5 miles, had almost 3 miles to go all uphill another 3 to camp and I was done. After I crossed a wooden bridge, I let myself have a temper tantrum. I flopped down, pack and all, in the middle of this steep trail. I needed a break. After a few deep breathes, I pulled out my food bag, looked at my snacks, and thought, "to hell with it!" I gobbled down 2 granola bars and a dove chocolate bar I was saving for dessert. I didn't care if I had food for my last day, I needed some right NOW. I gulped down 1/2 a liter of water and gave Charlie the other half, which he slurped up in two seconds. Which left us 1 liter to get us over this mountain and did I mention it was swamp hot out? I pulled out my food bag to assed the damage and that's when I discovered my packing error. You see, I packed for 7 full days and nights. At the rate I was hiking, I only needed 6 full days and nights. I had an extra lunch and dinner, plus the snacks. I had enough food for the rest of my hike! I felt better, but sat there trying to come up with a reason I got so mad at the trail today. Was it the hot, sticky, humid weather that had sweat pouring out of my entire body? Was it the crazy steep climb? Was it that I was half starved out of my mind? Maybe it was a combination of it all. Who knows. I pepped talked myself back to normal by telling myself that this is where I want to be. I could be working in a closed in office right now instead of enjoying the fresh air and stillness of nature. I pulled myself out of my pity party and put my pack back on. It was time to finish this climb. Not more than 10 minutes later, I crossed over F. Van Clayton Highway and started my last 2.7 mile section up Sassafras Mountain.

It started up steep for about a mile, then I made it to the ridge. The trail turned into a nice wide roadbed trail and flattened out a bit before it started gradually ascending through a second growth white pine forest for the next 1.5 miles. By now I was praying for some water soon, not just for me, but for my poor puppy. It was a crazy hot day and he was panting his little heart out. The gods must of been listening because right as we are about to crest the mountain, we stumble into a little bitty stream. Enough for Charlie to gulp gallons and gallons of water and enough for me to filter 4 liters. I planned on drinking ever drop at lunch too. haha! Lunch was going to be on top of this beastly mountain and I couldn't wait. After a nice little break, we loaded back up and finally crested Sassafras. I found a side trail that had a spectacular view and as always, as soon as I saw the view, I forgot the climb. I found a nice boulder to have lunch.on. That's when I spread all my gear out to dry, took off my shoes, took a nap on the hot rock, and just relaxed. Aaahh.. I felt good again. I needed this. Charlie caved up in a rhody bush in the shade and napped too. After a good 2 hours of lounging, I knew we needed to go. We still had 3 miles to get to camp. So I packed all of our dry gear away and we hopped back on the trail.

We passed the intersection to Caesars State Park, if I had chosed to hike to the park, it would of added another 10 miles to my hike. I bypassed the intesection and continued down the Foothills trail to the original end, Table Rock. I saw a sign that said Table Rock state park was only 9 miles away. I was really tempted to just suffer and finish up, but I decided I was happy knowing I was going to finish up early. The next mile was pretty much down hill, then I started climbing up Hickorynut Mountain. I climbed up switchbacks and stairs to Emory Gap road and then began to hike down hill through a rhododendrum forest. We make it to a bend in the trail that has a wooden bridge with a nice flowing stream and two perfect trees. So we stopped and I pulled out the poncho liner for us to rest. After a 1/2 an hour, I get up and string up my tarp and hammock, hang the bear bag rope, change clothes, dunk my tired feet in the stream, and read about the last 6 miles of trail I'm finishing up tomorrow. Around 7pm, both JERMM and Don roll by on their way to a campsite a mile ahead. I wave goodbye and congratulate them on finishing their thru hike (in case I don't see them tomorrow.) I realize it's our last night in the woods and I feel both sad and excited. Sad that the adventure is ending, but excited to have actually accomplished this thru hike. I pet Charlie as we both lie in the stillness and tell him what an awesome hiking companion he's been and how proud of him I am. He just thumps his tail like he understands. That night I feed us extra helpings of everything and promised him 3 hamburgers at the end of this journey. We fall asleep around 9pm and I notice the temperature dropping quickly. I snuggle up in my hammock and pull my down sleeping bag up around my ears.

Day 7 The next morning I wake up around 6:30 am, but lay in my warm hammock for another 1/2 hour. It's cold! What strange weather! Finally, I coax my body out, pack up camp, eat the last of the granola bars and hit the trail by 8:15am. I feel good today, even though it's a bit chilly, my hair is greasy, and I am filthy. I feel good. I feel accomplished and confident in knowing I will complete this hike today. It's a far cry from where I was 6 days ago. Wondering if I had it in me to finish. Now, I know I have what it takes and it's a very powerful feeling. I really did enjoy myself, other than the climb up Sassafras, which I chalk up to no energy, exertion, and starvation. I really did enjoy this solo hike.

The trail is rolling with a few steep switchbacks, a few wooden bridges, lots of huge boulders, and a nice steady climb up Pinnacle Mountain. I hear Charlies name called and when I turn around I see it's JERMM. She's started early this morning and we hike together for a bit. When we get to the stunning morning views of Pinnacle Mountain we snap photos of one another and I leave her waiting on Don. Charlie and I finish the climb up to the yellow blazes that take us to Table Rock. When I see the 4 miles to Table Rock sign, I get a rush of adrenaline and finally let me self dream of Table Rock. We made it! 4 more miles to go, all down hill and we will have finished our thru hike! I take a moment to remember this feeling and then Charlie and I start descending down.

Now if you think climbing up 5 miles was tough, try climbing down 4 miles in rooty, rocky, rhody trail. There were places I had to take my pack off just to squeeze through. Charlie had no problem wriggling through the low hanging rhody branches and narrow rocky trail, but I had to contort, backward bend, crouch, and crawl through some of this section. It was crazy! Then, there was a detour trail that I didn't bank on. It had me climbing UP this beast of a mountain on Mill Creek Pass for awhile, til it met up with the Foothills/Pinnacle Mt. trail again. We hiked along this stream for the rest of the way. I met a couple of older gentlement day hiking up to Pinnacle Mt. and back. They congratulated me and Charlie and seemed really happy for us. An hour later I met 6 young college guys just starting out. We chit chatted a bit about the trail and they loved the fact that I had Charlie out there with his own pack. They congratulated me and I wished them well on their hike. I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear from all their attention. I felt great! I finally got down to the Carrick Creek Nature Center Trail signs and I knew I was very close. It was only 10:40am and I wasn't tired, but I wanted to stop, take my pack off and let Charlie splash around in the water. I wanted to enjoy the last possible moment on this trail. As I sat there reminicing my last 6 days, it finally caught up to me. I did it. I finished this trail all by myself. I solo thru hiked and I survived.

At 10:55am, I put my pack back on and hiked in the last mile, passing by a nice, clean family and an elderly couple out taking photos who stopped to ask me lots of questions about my adventure. The last .2 miles of the trail are paved. I put away my trek poles and pulled out Charlies leash. It felt weird to have him on a leash after such a trip. I wonder if it felt weird for him too. Anyways, I finally spotted the East end Foothills Trail sign and at 11:09am I made Charlie pose in front of it. It was Friday, so not lots of people at the Nature Center. We walked out to our car and as soon as I opened the doors of the car, Charlie jumped in and laid down. That's how he stayed the entire drive home. Oh... and he got his promised 3 hamburgers, which he gobbled down, when I stopped for my cheeseburgers and diet coke.

What an amazing trip. I learned so much about myself and what I can and am capable of doing. I learned so much about my dog and what he is capable of doing. He climbed ladders, jumped over trees, rock climbed, stair climbed, wriggled thru boulders, and kept me company over the last 6 days. He totally earned my respect and if they sell it, I will buy him a thru hiker patch of the Foothills trail for his little backpack. He was awesome.

I want to thank my friends that came to see me off. Thank you Kellye and Hemlock. You have no idea how much I appreciate your support and friendship. Thanks for being there for me those first couple of days. It really made a big difference in my mental state for this hike. Like I told you both, you brought my anxiety level down from a 9 to a 4 by just being there. Thank you to my wonderful, understanding, loving husband who lets me venture off on these crazy feats because he knows there is some innate need for me to be out in the woods. I know you were worried those first 5 nights (I really didn't have cell service, promise) and I am sorry I put you through that. But I did it and I am a better person for it, and thank you for "allowing" me to do this solo. Thank you Foothills Trail what a beautiful, well maintained, challenging trail. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Til next time... GET OUTDOORS!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greenway Hike

I met up with Dame Maria after work and we hike 3 miles at a nice pace within an hour.  It was hot and there was lots of foot traffic, but it was nice to get out during the middle of the week.  :)

SC Hike

Several of us carpooled from Charlotte and drove the 30 mintues to Anne Springs Greenway, in Fort Mill SC, where we met up with Joy and Nina. After paying our $3 entrance fee, we parked and got ready for our hike. It was a beautiful day and we had 11 Dames enjoying the outdoors. It was Beth, Karla, Kimber, Sarah, Joy, Dierdre, Nina, Barbara, Linda, Wendy, and me.

At first we had some trouble locating the Timberline trail, but once we found it, we were good. We hiked up the Timberline trail to the top, where we passed by a Peach Farm. Lots and lots of trees dripping with almost ripe peaches. Sarah was curious about the peach tree, so Dierdre gave her permission to have one and she did! haha! She plucked one right off the tree. Oops.... ;)

We continued on, looking for the Blue Star trail. We were supposed to hop on the Blue Star trail, but some how we passed it. Must of been all the chatting we were doing. haha! We ended up on the Dogwood trail and decided to hike down it to the Muscadine trail. After hiking by a couple of ladies out their horses, we find the Muscadine trail just fine. But some how we managed to make a big loop and end up exactly where we started! I called that section of trail the twighlight section, because it was so confusing! Deciding not to hike the Muscadine trail loop again, we road walked it on a gravel road down to the lake. We met a nice man renting out kayaks for $5 an hour and then found the Haigler lake trail. We finished up the hike all safe and sound and then made our way to the Peach Stand for some rewarding, well deserved, yummy, cold ice cream!

I learned that Joy lived in China for a long time while teaching and has hiked all over the Great Wall. Sarah, literally, did a 180 of her life. She sold her house, moved to a different town, started a new career, and began living a life SHE wants. Lots of yoga and hiking! Wow, I was so impressed with her bravery. I learned that even though Kimber was in the Navy, she can't swim! haha! Too funny, we all had a nice laugh. (Sorry Kimber!! We still love you! haha!) Linda is about to go to Alaska to visit her daughter for vacation. I am so excited for her, I hope she has a wonderful time. Diedra had a wonderful time in Charleston, but I the ghost tour wasn't that great. I learned that camping with Wendy will be an experience! haha! She brings everything but the kitchen sink with her. I wonder how long it takes her to set up? I wonder what she's gonna think of my set up? Everything I have for camping fits in my backpack. Hee Hee! Barbara had a brace on her left knee and told us she had surgery for a torn meniscus a while back. She seemed to be doing great on the hike and I hope me asking if her knee was ok didn't bother her. Nina's birthday will be next Wednesday. Happy Birthday NINA!! Even though Beth is stealthy quiet, she has an eye for the trail. How about she knew we missed the Blue Star intersecting trail but kept quiet and let us continue on our chatty merry way. haha! I think I see a trail name in here somewhere for her, maybe Stealthy. Hmmm.... Speaking of trail names, Karla was dubbed this hike with her trail name. Let me paint the picture; It's about 90 degrees out, the sun is shining bright, and Karla busts out an umbrella in the middle of our hike because she doesn't want to get sun on her. We all laughed and that's when it came out. I called her Mary Poppins. So Karla is now AKA "Mary Poppins". HAHA!!

Local hike

After work, I zoomed to uptown to pick up Kimber. We were going to meet a few Dames at Ribbon Walk Park for an afterwork hike! Since it was a bit early, Kimber and I chit chatted for a bit til Beth arrived. Then, Dianne, who lives right around the corner, dropped by to say hello. She was sore for her early morning workout so didn't hike with us, but wanted to welcome us to her neck of the woods. Kelly pulled in and then Barbara jumped out right behind her.

After a quick chat with Dianne, who gave us some good advice about the trails, we started our hike. The hike was pleasant and easy. We found a nice bench and took a "Trail Dame" pose photo. As we continued down the trail, we noticed that some of the trail markers were missing. There were lots of unmarked trails winding all through the park. At one point, we got so confused we ended up making a big circle. We did pass by an old abandoned little red house that I said was probably a wicked witches house (haha! sometimes I have an over active imagination.) After finally finding the right trail, we continued over the covered bridge and through the birch tree forest where we struck a pose for pictures. haha!

Everyone kept up a nice steady pace and were soaked with sweat by the time we finished up. We had such a great time cracking each other up and laughing that the hike didn't seem like a work out at all. I asked the girls if they wanted to add in another mile and they all agreed. So we climbed up the gradual hill and started looping back thru the forest.

We came up on a few guys fishing in at the pond and I asked if they had caught anything. Not yet, but they were working on it. I also asked if any of them knew about the old little house in the forest. They told us that it was an old slave house, that the property we were hiking on was once an old plantation. WOW, it was an old historical relic, now I wish I had stopped to explore that house a bit. Maybe next time.

We finished off our hike in the stifling southern heat and said our goodbyes. It was a nice workout and a great group of ladies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Foothills Trail (Day 4-5)

Day 4 After waking up around 6am, I eat an oatmeal breakfast, feed Charlie, grudgingly change out of my warm sleep clothes, pack up a wet camp, and hit the trail around 8:am (in the rain.) Since we did most of the climbing already, our first 2 miles are nice and flat on a wide road bed trail. We pull into Bearcamp creek, near Hilliard Falls and see that JERMM and Don are still asleep, so we continue on, crossing several small wooden bridges over small streams.
The rain lets up as the trial starts to descend steeply, I mean really steep! We climb down a 20ft wet wooden staircase, embedded in earth. Seriously, this is like a steep ladder and I go super slow so I don't slip and tumble down. Charlie does amazing during this section. He actually preferrs to hike off the stairs and on the dirt, so he's next to me. We finally get down to Horsepasture river and take a quick break befor crossing the 115ft wooden bridge. We climb steeply up out of the ravine and continue down the trail, crossing several more large bridges. Around the 8th mile, my stomach really started grumbling. For some reason, I've been ravenously hungry all day. I eat a granola bar every hour on the hour, but can't seem to satiate my hunger. I'm worried I'll eat all my food for the rest of the trip. I decide I need to stop soon. Just as I get to a turn off near an iron pipe gate, JERMM comes up from behind and tells me she has plans to stop for lunch at Bear Creek campsite. I decide to hike with her to camp and take a much needed lunch break. As we enter the campsite, we see a tree trunk littered with hundreds of butterflies. I take a picture and as we move into the campsite the butterflies start swirling around us. I felt like I was in some magical movie! We find a nice log to rest on and Charlie finds the stream. He takes a quick splash while we eat lunch then comes and sits by me and naps the rest of the time. Don finally rolls in and pulls out a ziploc bag of pickles. He says pickles are his favorite trail food. Ok... to each his own. What shocked me was that fact that he carried these pickles for 4 days, in a ziploc bag, full of hot pickle juice (belch) Oh man... just the thought of that ziploc breaking all over my gear and having that putrid smell all in my stuff made me gag. But hey, everyone needs their trail luxury item. For some it's a pillow, for others it's, evidently, 4 day old pickles. After a nice laugh at Don's expense, I filter some water for the next climb and then Charlie and I are off.

During lunch I looked over my Foothills book and read that Canebrake, the lake Jocassee boat access was 5 miles away. It would mean a 13 mile day, but I thought very doable. We just had one climb, then the last 3 miles was down hill. So we pushed on. During this climb, there were several times the trail crossed a dirt road and it got really confusing. I had to bust out the guide book to make sure I was turning the right way. It was like a spaghetti bowl of trail intersections. I even almost stepped on a snake! He was curled up on the trail, trying to sun itself, when I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. My next step would of been right on it. All I know is that it was a brown, beige snake that barely moved as I jumped around it. Not sure of the variety, but I'll say copperhead. It's the right color and makes the story sound more adventurous. haha! I finally weave my way though the crazy trail and get to a section that has alot of big boulders in the middle of the trail. Well, as a human, I can pretty much contort myself through a maze of rocks. My poor doggie can't. You see we came to an impass of sorts. There were two big boulders that I could squeeze my feet and legs through. But it was too narrow for Charlie and his pack to squeeze through and too high for him to jump. Also, one side of the trail went straight down and the other side was the boulder. After I passed through, I was going to take my pack off and then take Charlies pack off for him to squeeze through. Well, when I turned around, I saw Charlie attempt to ram through the rocks. He backed up and attempted to ram thru again a couple more times. I laughed so hard, pulled out my camera and snapped a few more attempts. Just before I go to help him out, he wriggles his body so he's leaning on one boulder and walking on the rocks sideways. He slowly pushes his pack and himself through the rocks. Then he looks at me, wagging his tail like nothing happened. I just laughed and gave him the biggest hug. I love that silly dog. We continue on and stop at a stream about a mile away to load up our 6 liters of water.

We finally make it down to the lake around 5:45pm and I am exhausted, hungry, and filthy. Guess what... there is no good place for a campsite. One side is a steep climb up and the other is the water. I almost cry b/c my feet are feeling the 13 miles. After a quick rest, we decide to hike one 1 more mile to the designated campsite on the otherside of the lake. Just as I climb over a little hill, I see the sweet stealthyish campsite. It's on a wooded peninsula jetting out into the lake. We walk off trail and find the perfect spot to camp. As soon as I unfold the poncho liner, Charlie climbs on and lays down for the night. He is out! Poor little buddy. I suppose today was a long and tough day. I lay down for a few minutes, then change clothes and air out my wet gear. As I wander off to hang my bear bag rope, I find a nice size stream and dip my aching feet in for a few minutes. I decide to do some much needed laundry, so I go back, grab my hiking clothes and convince Charlie to walk back to the stream with me. As soon as we reach the stream, he plops down in the middle of it and lapps up water. I rinse out my clothes while my feet luxuriate in the cold stream. We head back and Charlie plops back down on his blanket and I hang all my clothes on every branch, rope, tree I see. It's a warm night and the slight lake breeze feels amazing. I snap a picture of my hobo homestead and start boiling some water for dinner. I'm having maxpatch mac -n-cheese tonight with 2 chocolate bars. I'm still ravenous after dinner, so I have a breakfast granola bar and hope I won't run out of food on this trip. After dinner, dessert, second dessert and two liters of water, I lay down with Charlie and flip through my next days itenirary. As I'm reading the mile markers section, it dawns on me that Charlie and I have passed the halfway point! I let the wave of elation wash over me as I let a huge grin spread on my face and hug the crap out of Charlie. He doesn't seem to understand my excitement as he lays there, thumping his tail, taking the hugs, and listening to me coo, over and over again, in my doggie mom voice (really baby talk voice) that we are over half done and that I am so proud of him. Then it hits me. We can do this. I can do this. Though I feel fatigued from the day, I still feel good, strong, healthy. I can finish this trail. I let myself briefly think of Table Rock and it feels awesome. I love today. For the first time, I truly feel like I can finish this trail. We go to sleep tonight to the sound of bass fish piercing the surface of the lake.

Day 5 I wake up renewed, revised, refreshed, reenergized, and happy. I know we have a tough climb today. We have a section called "heart break ridge", but I am ready. We pack up a dry camp, eat breakfast, and around 7:50am we step foot back on the trail. In a mile we cross over a 65ft bridge and pass the designated campsite where Don and JERMM are still sleeping. So we continue the lake side trail for another 1/2 mile before we turn away from the lake and begin our days strenous climb. We literally have to climb 5 sets of steep staircase. As I climb up the first one, I realize why it's called heart break ridge. My heart is pumping so hard I feel like it's going to fly out my chest! Not to mention it's hot and muggy out already. I get to a wooden bench and take a quick break. Then we start climbing again. We climb 5 sets of steep ladder staircases to get to a steep roadbed trail. We finally make it to the ridge and start a nice rolling section. We cross 35 footbridge near a designated campsite, hop back on a roadbed trail, and that's when the sky opens up. I stop to get my rain jacket out and soon we are walking with rain pelting down on us. Poor Charlie gets soaked thru, but he's still wagging his tail. He is such a great hiking/backpacking dog. I don't put him on a leash, b/c I don't need to. He hikes directly behind me and when I stop, he stops. I couldn't ask for a better outdoor dog. I hope he was enjoying the trip as much as I was.

The rain finally lets up and we continue with a gradual climb on an old logging road trail. We stop for a quick lunch at the Laurel Fork boat access spur trail intersection. I rehydrate another blackbean salad burrito and scarf it down. By now I am hungry all day long. I need to remember to readjust my food supply the next time I do a long distance trail. After 20 mins. we pack back up and continue up the trail. For the next four miles, we cross over several large wooden bridges til we reach Laurel Fork Creek. Where we stop to filter some water and relax a bit. Here, we meet a westbounder. You see, I am hiking the Foothills trail from west to east, so I am an eastbounder. Anyways, he just started a couple of days ago from Table Rock. We chit chat and exchange info on trail details. He says I have a rough climb to look forward to at Sassafras Mountain. He pets Charlie and tells me he wishes he had brought his black lab. He was lonely. I wish him good luck and he tells me the same, then we part ways.

Soon Charlie and I start to climb and we see signs for Virginia Hawkins waterfall. We get to the overlook and I snap a few photos. I hop back on the trail and that's when I see them. Stairs... stairs that go on forever. I'm tired from already having hiked 10 miles, so I stop, take off my pack, eat a granola bar, and pull out my Foothills trail book while Charlie lays down for a rest. I read that I have 100 stairs to climb to get to the top of the falls. After a 10 min. rest, we start climbing. About mid way up is a nice wooden bench, I take advantage of it and rest for a second. Then I fnish off the stairs and enter a thick rhododendrum tunnel. I climb through the rhody trail and pray that all my climbing is over. It's been a pretty long, rainy, exhausting, hunger pang day. I'm looking forward to changing into some dry warm clothes, eating a hot dinner and relaxing in my hammock. We finally reach the top of the mountain, cross a gravel road and start descending. About a mile later I cross a wooden bridge and see the designated campsite. It's huge and really open. I look at Charlie and say no, not here buddy. I hike down past the stream and start the small climb up the other side and that's when I see it. A stealthy campsite. We walk 10 yards off the trail and I take off my pack and take Charlie's pack off of him. I pull out the poncho liner and we both spread out and lay there for a few minutes. My grumbling stomach urges me to finish camp chores so we can eat dinner. I look at my watch, it's only 4:30pm, too early for dinner. So I eat another granola bar and start putting up my tarp and hammock. Then, I change out of my grimey clothes, give myself a good wet wipe bath and put on my warm comfy camp clothes. I feel 80% better. My feet still ache in my red croc wannabe's so I decide to reward myself with a nice cool foot bath in the stream, but only AFTER I hang my bear bag rope and I filter our 6 liters. So off I go to bear bag. I've been pretty lucky in my bear bagging this trip. I usually make it in the first couple of tosses. I coax Charlie into coming down to the stream with me and he slowly gets up. I see it's been a tough hike for him too. I make a mental note to give him an extra few minutes on his nightly rub down/massage.

I get to the stream, ease my feet in and feel the cool water envelope them while the pain slips away. ahhh.... Charlie climbs in the stream and lays down lapping up water. I start filtering and get to 3 liters when JERMM and Don roll through. I chit chat a bit before they take off for another mile or so to their campsite. After they leave, I go back to filtering and almost get another liter in, when the sky opens up and rain comes pouring down. Charlie and I bolt back to our campsite and sit under our tarp, watching the rain stream down. I eat dinner under the tarp, (Enertia El Capitan Chili) and when there's a lull in the rain, I quickly bear bag the food. For the rest of the night, I hang out with Charlie on his blanket, keeping him company. Around 8pm I slip into my hammock for the night. It's still raining and the winds have picked up, but we are in a nice protected valley like area so I mainly hear the wind. I read my next days itenirary and slowly doze in and out of sleep while the rain beats down on my tarp. I try calling Boo from my celly (I've had no service the entire trip) I get through and that's when I find out the storm I'm in is really a tornado! I also get a text from Kellye and an email from Hemlock. Both are worried about me in this weather. I sent out mgs letting them know I was safe and then shut off my phone and went to sleep.

Around 11pm, the thunder started rolling, crackeling, almost growling and clapping. Then the lightning came and iluminated the entire area every few seconds. The wind was howling and the rain came down in buckets. I heard Charlie stirring about, so I stuck my hand out from my hammock to pet him. He poked his snout into my hammock as if to check on me then he sat there, making sure he was touching my hand. We stayed awake for the next 2 hours, with the weather getting worse. Finally, around 4am, it let up a bit and I was able to fall back asleep. What a crazy night. Thank goodness for my OES tarp. We stayed warm and dry.