This past weekend, I sort of almost completed the second annual Mountain Marathon at Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina. I say almost because by 5 or 6 pm I had done enough to make me happy, and my body was in full-on “screw you I’m not going any farther” mode.
The task was set up by our meetup group leader, as a way to try and strain yourself almost to the breaking point, and to see just how far you can go in a day. It covered the Jones Gap and Caesar’s Head state parks, all part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area in upstate South Carolina. I know some of you are thinking “Oh, South Carolina, the flat place with beaches and rednecks”. Well, that’s the coast. This is the Upstate – the Dark Corner. Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was told afterwards that some of the terrain we were doing was worse than any part of the southern Appalachian Trail.
Our track was a combination of what you see below. We left Jones Gap Site 3 (Woo Hoo! Party at Site 3 – top right corner) after an all night rain. The rain started at around 8:30, and rained pretty darn hard until around four in the morning or so, then slacked off to a steady drip, just enough to require a rain jacket. It would keep raining, until around eleven or so. At 5:30 or 6am, we left the campsite. Taking the red/blue lines, we worked our way southeast up the mountain and then southwest along the Pinnacle Gap trail. It was steep going at first, which then led us to a boulder field that was scary in the fact that slipping at certain points would lead, at BEST, to severe injury. After crossing 276 twice, there were out-and-back trails to Raven Cliff Falls, and then I gave up at about 20 miles. Two of the party continued back along the yellow track, east to the start.
Kim enjoys the view of the stream as we head into the park to do our overnight camping. We set up at Site 3 pretty quickly. It was a half mile back to the car from the site, so it wasn’t classic car camping, but it was close enough. When you half to take a dump and there’s a flush toilet, that’s car camping, no matter how far the bathhouse is. When you’re digging your poop hole in the woods, THAT’s backpacking. After getting set up, Jim led me and Carol to Rainbow Falls, called that because in the morning, the sun will hit the falls right and cause a rainbow.
Yes, that’s me in the falls. I see your “Cold Water Challenge”, and Raise you a “Cold Waterfalls Challenge” It was my first time in the Hiking Kilt. The kilt was awesome, despite the weird looks. And the waterfall was trying to blow it up. Also my first time with a “Buff”, which I tried to roll into a sweat band. It worked pretty well most of the time.
The rain and fog in the morning turned the woods into a misty, Jurassic Park-looking place. Very cool. I couldn’t get the iPhone to do the place justice, it kept trying to make everything brighter than it was. The cool air on the ridge lines was very nice after some hard climbs.
Kim and Carol tented right next to each other on the little pad. I took this from next to my tent, so you see how far I was. I tend to fight my hammock to sleep and don’t like disturbing people. I also don’t like snoring so I figured if I was this far away from some of the others, I wouldn’t hear anything.
My home away from home. I had to bring the old Hennessy Hammock back out again. It has the bug net, which the ENO hammock does not. I like both of them, but the net-less ENO is SO much easier to get in and out of, and to organize stuff, because you have the double ridge line between the tarp and hammock. In the Hennessy, Everything hangs on the ridge line, or sits beside you.
Just one of several rock ledges leading to who knows where. The misty fog and whiteness really his a lot of the landforms and ledges from view. Not that I’m complaining, I was there to hike, not be scared of falling to my death.
Our profile for the day. Some places we were walking along nice flat areas at close to three miles per hour. Some places it took ten minutes to go a hundred yards, mainly due to rocks and the aforementioned fear of death. I really wish I could have gotten more pics, but with the rain and time limits, I was trying to get as much done as possible and not dilly-dally around the woods with a camera. The GPS did well enough in the woods, only losing track for a little bit in a couple of places. I still think it overestimated our climbs. I don’t think we did nearly 10,000 total feet of ups. Thats a LOT of ups. I’ll believe 7000, but 10,000 seems high.
It was very nice to only carry a little day pack with water and food, and not lug everything through the forest. I didn’t think I would like the combination of car camping and day hiking, but I fun. Oh, there were some problems. Being wet half the morning made my feet unhappy, and there was the constant threat of slips and injuries. We had to do about a quarter mile through stinging nettles, which is sort of the plant version of a jellyfish, and avoid most of the poison ivy. Stopping to filter and drink enough water, and have enough food to carry us through 12 hours of hiking was also a strain. All things that road marathoners don’t half to contend with. If my shoes and socks would have behaved a bit better, and I wasn’t scared of running out of time (trails closed at 8), I might have been able to finish, but after walking around 11 hours I was done. Overall, a challenging experience, but a rewarding one.