I didn’t shower. Not once. I had a shower thursday morning, a shave Thursday night, and that was it.
I didn’t shave, at all. I’m normally clean shaven, but I didn’t shave until my shower, Sunday night at 7:30.
I didn’t change my pants or underwear. Same pants, Same Underwear, three days.
I didn’t come inside when it started to rain
I didn’t use a toilet. Oh I performed the regular excretory functions all right. Just not in a toilet.
I didn’t use deodorant, or soap (except on my hands).
I didn’t eat off a plate
I didn’t sit around watching TV
I didn’t look at Facebook or use the internet or tweet or post on WordPress
What I DID do was walk 40 miles and up and down 10000 feet along the Foothills Trail in South Carolina.
It was an interesting experience, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to my body.
We started out shuttling ourselves to Oconee State Park, and began walking somewhere around 11:00. Our goal was about 10 miles in to the Chattooga river corridor where the map said we could “camp anywhere we wanted to”. Sounded great, anyway. We went ahead and left, knowing the shuttle drivers would catch up eventually. Just half a mile in we passed a group from Minnesota that were coming back the same place we were going. They didn’t look too tired and miserable… plusses for us.
Our first stop was at the long branch mountain tower. Its an old fire tower that’s now fenced in and closed up, but someone thoughtfully cut a hole in the fence and laid down plywood, so hikers can crawl in and not get their pants dirty. The two brave women climbed to the top. I made it to the second landing where my terrifying, paralyzing fear of heights took over. I sat down on the landing and tried to breathe, and finally made my way back down.
From there we went back to the main trail and discovered our shuttle drivers had caught up. They can really walk fast… From there it was mostly woods without many views, until we got to the Chattooga River corridor. We passed a few decent campsites, but it was too early and we hadn’t gone far enough. So we finally ran into the river. Great, we could camp anywhere. The problem was, the river was downhill a good ways from us, and the trail was narrow, with a steep hill on the other side going up. Nowhere to camp. So we keep going, and we ran into PigPen falls towards the end of the day, and were a bit dismayed by a bunch of smoke in the air. Kim, Mike and I were thinking, “Forest Fire?” Hopefully not…
My backup plan is Burrells Ford road camping area, but at 14 miles it’s a bit farther than I planned to walk the first day. The group spreads out, as they tend to do, over the course of the day. Mike is with us for a little while at the back of the group, but soon goes ahead, and I wind up in the back with Kim again. I guess we are the out-of-shape ones. Finally stumbling into a decent campsite at 12 miles, tired and hungry, we set up our first campsite right on the shores of the river.
The campsite was large and pretty flat overall. I set up my stuff and then lounged around the fire until after dark. Just getting set up and eating took a bit of time. I was worn out and hadn’t eaten or drank enough, I don’t know which, but I was feeling a little queasy. After taking it easy and eating slowly and drinking a lot, I feel better, and finally about 9:00, head off to sleep. It’s a bit cold, but not terrible, and I sleep pretty well, not even getting up to pee. So maybe water was the issue after all.
The next morning I pack up to leave, with the mindset that I need to make sure everything is ready for another night. Ususally I just toss it all in, because other than food, I don’t need it any more. On this trip I know I’ll have to depend on my stuff again.
Michelle, Paul and I are the first to be ready to go. Several others are already packing up, but aren’t quite ready. We agree to meet ahead at a waterfall, and the three of us wander off. We get to the falls area, and see that it’s WAY down the hill in a precarious area. We drop packs and clamber down a steep trail, holding onto branches and using poles to help balance. A slip and fall here could be dangerous. Finally we reach the falls. I look out over one section, and decide I don’t want to risk it. Michelle goes around me and shows it’s easier than it looks.
Once out on the rocks, Paul goes a slightly different, higher way and we all sit together on the edge of the raging river, looking over the falls.
The climb back up is just as interesting. Looking up the “trail” the first thing I said was, “Shit. We came down That?” When we get to the packs, Jim is waiting on us. No one else wanted to descend to the falls, most of the just looked from above, where you really couldn’t see them very well. They missed a good experience. Climbing up and away from the river, it was amazing how fast we gained altitude.
The next part, and possibly my favorite, was King’s Creek Falls. It was very impressive, and cold. Just a third of a mile off the trail, it was an easy side trip. Michelle, Paul, Jim and I were alone again by this point, and had the falls to ourselves. Most of the water in the creek was flowing through the side close to us, leaving a shallow section across the creek. I crossed over on some logs and rocks, and was able to stand pretty close to the bottom of the falls. The only thing keeping me from getting any closer was the fact the water was very cold. My poor feet were in pain.
The pause at the falls was nice, but soon it was time to go. We had to get our packs and move on. By the time we were back at the trail, we were all together again, and started climbing the hill and going away from the river.
We were spread out again when we reached Sloan Bridge access, at Hwy 107. MY email instructions had led me to think there would be a campsite across the road, and Paul and Michelle had already crossed and headed up the hill. Wait. Up the hill? The campsite was supposed to be DOWN by the stream. A quick discussion with Jim and Thomas, and I headed back down the way we had come, to a campsite about a quarter mile. It was just far enough from the road that light traffic didn’t bother us, and close to the water.
It was a bit smaller than we hoped, but it fit the seven of us well enough, as long as no one snored. At 3 am I woke up and had to pee. Great… all crammed in together and no where to pee and not be rude. I wandered off towards what someone had decided must be “the brown blaze trail”, peed, and turned around. Damn… I couldn’t find the way back. I went the wrong way for a minute, then got my bearings and headed back in, and climbed into the hammock. At 5 the next morning, I thought I heard a raindrop or two hit my rainfly. There was a 20% chance of rain for the day, I was just hoping it wouldn’t hit us that soon. I began the process of putting on my pants and jacket and finding my socks (try that in a hammock sometimes, it can be time consuming).
At 6 I got up and got my food down, and ate my last hot meal for the day. Cowboy stoked the fire up, and we proceeded to get packed, all without rain. Everything seemed damp, though. I don’t know if it was just cold and foggy, or being by the river, or what, but my hammock and rainfly were damp. We started out on what was supposed to be the short, easy day. Just 8 miles back to the car. The first thing we did was go up. and up and up. Michelle, Paul and I were together, Thomas having left first, leaving three to close up camp.
The rain started easy as we climbed the hill, and then the breeze hit and the rain really started good and steady. I broke out my rain jacket, and the rain Kilt that I had made to keep my pants dry.
The Kilt worked pretty well. The right leg kept riding up, but I know why. I can’t fix it, but if I make another one I know what to do differently. And yes, I had my shorts on underneath. We finally hit a road crossing leading to Whitewater falls, and stopped to wait on Mike and Kim. After ten minutes or so, everyone had gone ahead, and pretty soon Kim and Mike showed up. Someone stopped by in a pickup truck and asked if we needed a ride. We said we were going on in the rain, and he left… Had we not thought the others would worry and maybe spend all day waiting on us, I would have asked for a ride to the end.
The rest of the day was a climb up and down over rocks and steep trails along Upper Whitewater Falls, the highest falls east of the Mississippi (or something like that). They were impressive, but a series of cascades that went way up a mountain and were kind of obscured by rocks and trees. To me, King’s Creek was even better, because I could wade right in there with it. Doing that with Whitewater falls would lead to death.
Kim, Mike and I walked out from the falls, again at the rear of the pack, and finally found the turn off to Bad Creek access. Kim went ahead of us and I waited a few minutes for Mike to catch up. Thomas, who had been in the parking lot waiting for ninety minutes, had come back down, and he headed up the hill, leaving us behind. Mike and I finally came over the rise to a few whoops and hollers. It was like watching one of the AT films where all the hikers are yelling on the peak of Khatadin. Exhausted, smelly, thirsty and hungry, we headed off to Cracker Barrell. 2/5 of the foothills trail done…
I need to work out more. Seriously.
Thanks to everyone I stole photos from. I couldn’t put them all up here. We have over 300 pictures on Facebook of this event…