Chattooga – Part 6

23 10 2006

…continued from Thursday, October 19…

With the heavy packs tightened on fresh backs, the journey began. The path was well marked and had seen many visitors in its storied past. Two more pairs of worn, hiking shoes would make their mark on the trail.

As always, the walking pace was swift, although a bit slower than normal. Regulating speed is crucial when setting out on long hikes. Walk too fast and run the risk of collapse. Muscles can only take so much punishment before shutting down. Walk too slowly and consign yourself to staying out another night.

Less than 15 minutes in a familiar sight met us. The man and his dog came jogging along the path back towards the vehicles, both guy and canine panting in rhythm with their steps.

Check back soon for the next installment…


Chattooga – Part 5

19 10 2006

…continued from Tuesday, October 17…

Another car turned onto the road and parked across the way. An athletic man hopped out and opened the back door of his blue station wagon. Out came a diminutive, tan dog, hyperactive and ready for a jog. The man clicked a leash on the dog and they bounded off into the woods just behind the car. A swift pace stated that they would not be long on their outing.

The weather was pleasant for most anything but hiking. Temperatures in the mid-eighties with clear skies make for a hot day on the trail. The air stood thick with humidity, but not so thick that breathing becomes labored. In those conditions it takes about five and a half minutes for perspiration to soak through two layers of clothes, leaving the form of a backpack in sweat lines.

The entry point of the Foothills Trail into the woods is marked by an old, wooden sign just large enough to read within fifty feet. The hike from Table Rock State Park to Fish Hatchery Road is littered with grand vistas and steep mountainsides. Foothills takes you up Pinnacle Mountain, over to Sassafras Mountain (the highest in South Carolina), up and down the Jocassee Gorges, over the Toxaway River and then drops out of the forest on Fish Hatchery Road. The quiet nature of the spot can mislead the novice hiker into believing that Foothills is no challenge, but difficult travels are on either side of the road. A four foot wide gap in the trees points in the direction of the river and to another awe-inspiring expedition.

Check back soon for the next installment…

Chattooga – Part 4

17 10 2006

…continued from Monday, October 16…

The road to the fish hatchery is a winding, never-ending path down into the valley. After seeming miles of twisted, barely-two-lane back road, one finds the Oconee fish hatchery with its long, narrow pools brimming with beautiful, silver trout. It’s been said, “Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime.” A good tagline might be, “Show a man how to get to the fish hatchery; feed him without teaching him a darn thing.” The vehicles pulled off only yards down the road, a long way from the angler’s paradise.

The Foothills Trail makes its crossing of Fish Hatchery Road at a small pull off. Five cars could fit in the area if they were perfectly placed. The white sedan came to a stop on the far right side of the small clearing. Legs stretched after an hour of driving, almost mocking the trail which stood only yards away. Those same legs would be aching in a day’s time, wishing for a hot, soaking shower and a long sleep.

Check back soon for the next installment…

Chattooga – Part 3

16 10 2006

…continued from Saturday, October 14…

Mountain curves slalomed lazily back and forth through the countryside, rising higher with each turn. Issaqueena passed as she had many times before. Scenic overlooks, marked by small parking areas, are void of viewers at such an early time. A few hours later and vehicles would be driving by slow looking for places to park for the grand views.

The bridge over the Chattooga. Georgia state line. The cars parked just beyond the bridge in a small, gravel parking area lot along with several fishermen’s trucks. One backpack transfer later, a single car pulled out of leaving the other to “sit for a spell”.

Several miles back down Highway 28, a fork in the road awaits our left turn. Heading up Highway 170, the pavement narrows and the esses grow tighter. Climbing into the mountains, the automobiles snake by Burrell’s Ford and Oconee State Park.

Check back soon for the next installment…

Chattooga – Part 2

14 10 2006

…continued from Friday, October 13…

Morning packing measures included locating the last toiletries and completing a mental checklist of items at least twenty eight times. No amount of packing, repacking and confirmation of supplies can assuage the anxiety of leaving something behind…and not without good reason. “Change of clothes – check; extra socks – check; food, food and more food – check; maps – check; compass – check; BFK ‘Big Friggin’ Knife’ – check; trash bags for ‘Pack it in, pack it out’ – check; foam sleeping pad – check; 50 degree liner – check. That’s it…right? Ummmm. Ok, go through it one more time.”

The bags and bodies migrated to the cars and it was off to find sustenance for the rest of the morning. McDonald’s breakfast combos make an acceptable morning meal. Sausage biscuits and hash browns on both sides of the table were quickly consumed and the drive continued. Clemson disappeared and Seneca neared.

Middle class homeowners were already at home improvement stores buying fix-it-yourself items and lawn care products. The cars passed Lowes and turned just before Home Depot. Highway 28 took the tiny caravan through the tired town of Walhalla, a community still fighting the War Between the States and winning by many accounts.

Check back soon for the next installment…

Chattooga – Part 1

13 10 2006

Chattooga is a semi-fiction short story account of a hike that Andrew Pierce and I made this summer. The Chattooga Trail is a 15 mile trek that follows the famous river along the South Carolina-Georgia border. I hope you enjoy the story.

A light morning fog hovered in the distance, but would soon disappear with the hot, summer sun which peeked just over the pines. Preparations weeks in advance had been made for an adventure to come…which would be just that. Money spent was justified as necessary expense. Who wants to be stranded in the mountains without ten pounds of beef jerky?

Backpacks full and heavy sat inert in anticipation for the journey and their first true test of worth. Forgotten articles would not have fit anyway; at least that was the sentiment and justification afterwards. Good sleep was interrupted early and is as valuable as anything that can be packed. It would have been nice to have crammed in a couple more hours.

“To sleep; to dream…” When Shakespeare compared death to sleep, he could have said it vice versa. A sleep so deep that one is merely dead and dreaming. Even after climbing out of bed, one is not alive. “To sleep; to dream…” and Yeats then argued, “but I…have naught but my dreams.” If only dreams were reality, the trip would have been flawless – flora and fauna welcoming all visitors like in a Disney movie song. A nice, hot shower moves the mind from groggy, ethereal dreams to the awakened reality of the day.

Check back soon for the next installment…