Just Jeff's Hiking Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Foothills Trail
Day 4 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Today’s miles: 12.3
Trip miles: 50.3

I’m three pounds lighter today…

Breakfast: Pop Tarts, Crunchy Peanut Butter Tortilla roll, Oatmeal Crème Pie. Have you ever tried to lick Peanut Butter from a plastic spoon with a burnt tongue? Not fun.

My feet were still complaining from the long day and late night, so I didn’t get started on the trail today until about 10a and knew I’d hike a short day.

At about 1p, I had just rounded the inside curve of a drainage when I heard a commotion up near the ridgeline (the trail was about ¼ of the way down). It sounded like 4-5 dear, maybe scruffing out a bed for the night. Sure seemed early for that, but they were making a lot of noise. So I stood still to listen and tried to see them…when I saw a dark brown shape lumbering down the mountain towards the trail, pointed slightly away from me. Ok, black bears can have brown fur…no problem. I picked up a stick (just to make me look bigger – it was too rotten to do any good) and started walking the other way. Cool, I finally got to see a bear this trip. Then I heard it turn and start following me! Uh oh…pulse quickens. Maybe he smells the sausage I just opened for lunch. Stop. Look. Listen. Then I hear another sound up the ridgeline, and see a brown shape make a hopping motion, like a deer. Only it was too dark and bulky for a deer, and bears don’t hop. Then I saw another near the little hopper – wild pigs! I saw three of them and heard at least one more, maybe two more, farther to my right. Now I’m looking for trees to climb ‘cause them thangs ain’t skeered of NUTHIN! They went up and over the ridgeline while I started walking again, listening intently up the ridge, especially as I rounded the end and started back in their direction. I think I heard them again about 1/3 mile later but they weren’t close, and I spent the next hour daydreaming about what I’d do if a family of pigs had me marooned up a tree overnight. Love my hammock and JetBoil!

Ok…I have a complaint. Actually, it's a bitch. In the FT Guidebook, for Whitewater Falls it begins describing a spur trail before the FT. No big deal, except it says to cross a bridge in that section, then it says, “To continue on the Foothills Trail, go right…” Before the river are several trail signs and a billboard, none of which say anything about FT. So I crossed the bridge and saw a sign saying “Foothills Trail .1mi -->”. Look right, and there’s a heavily traveled trail – must be it! So I walk along, paying more attention to the Whitewater River paralleling the trail than to the trail itself, when I come to the end. Of the trail. No more trail. Then I realize it’s been while since I’ve seen a blaze. Hrm…I actually can’t remember a blaze on this trail, so I backtrack all the way to the sign, and it says “Foothills Trail .1mi -->”. Only there’s not another trail .1mi that way, so I cross the bridges again. On the other side, by the big billboard with the map on it, behind the sign that talks about every other trail besides the FT, I see a big log, freshly cut, with a double blaze on it. Whatever genius decided to put the double blaze BEHIND THE SIGN where NO ONE CAN SEE IT needs to be KICKED IN THE BRAINS!! I walked an extra three miles because of that! Well, that and my apparent inability to read an extra paragraph in the guidebook (which doesn’t even talk about the trail I’m on).

After sorting out which way was up, I had a nice and relaxing lunch on the way to Upper Whitewater Falls: Tortillas and cheese with bacon bits or sausage. Pretty good. I split up my food into what I need for the rest of the trip and what I won’t need, and gave about 3 pounds to three girls in the parking lot. Oh, and I saw my first trash cans in 50 miles, so I finally got to throw away my trash! It’s the little things.

The falls are awesome, btw. I’ll have to bring Jennifer and the kids back here for better pictures…I took my last few here, so no more pics for the rest of the trip. The trail’s a helluva climb, but the 130+ steps from the overlook to the parking lot aren’t so bad after that little spur connecting the trail to the overlook. That was pretty steep.

I met Wendy at the intersection of the spur trail to the bathrooms, trying to figure out why the trail guide didn’t match the sign. The trail has been rerouted through the parking lot because of dangerous mudslides, but she had gone right through the mudslides because the “Trail Closed” sign was turned around. She said, “I thought that place needed some trail work!” Understatement. She’s a nurse from Aiken who started with her friend and is finishing solo because her friend had to go back to work.

Wendy said that lightning bugs that stay lit for more than 6 seconds area actually faeries. I thought that was funny since her name is Wendy. We passed through a magnolia tunnel, and I said I think that’s where the faeries live. As long as they can fly and don’t have to walk these hills everyday, it would be nice. Then we talked about wood nymphs stealing stuff out of your pack at night. Funny girl.

Dinner was another Lipton. I got the water right this time at one cup, and it would have been perfect if I had waited longer, but I was too hungry so I ate it while it was still a bit pasty. Wendy shared some hot chocolate with me and we camped together on a semi-exposed hilltop just before the SC/NC border; that site had the best view yet since I wasn’t in a valley this night – city lights twinkling in the distance, bright stars everywhere…very nice. She cowboy camped under the stars, but I pitched my tarp to cut the wind since we were exposed on the ridge.

Just before the border puts today’s mileage at 12.3 (plus my extra few miles), and my feet are thanking me for calling it a short day!

Today’s animal count:
- 4-5 wild pigs

For the trail crew:
- Fix the double blaze at the base of Whitewater Falls
- Fix the “Trail Closed” sign at the Whitewater Spur trail

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