Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pine Mountain Trail - Day 3

After my unexpected ground sleeping, I was happy to only have 5.5 miles back to my car. I left early in the morning to get it over with. The only noteworthy event was a unexpected, uncontrolled lunge landing on my left knee caused by my right foot slipping on the gravel. After a few angry words to myself, I was able to walk it off back to my car. On my way home, I stopped at the FedEx Store to get my new trail runners (irony not lost after slipping with inadequate traction earlier in the day). I am very glad I made it out early in the morning, as big storms rolled through later in the day. Overall it was 38.6 good miles over 3 days and I have completed all but 4 miles of the trail. I will certainly be headed out there again soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pine Mountain Trail - Day 2

Today started heading east to the Eastern Terminus of the trail, then heading back west to Brown Dog Campsite. Weather was perfect and the hiking was fairly easy. The last 3 miles to the end of the trail are along a cool stream and it was very pleasant hiking. My original plan was to do about 15-16 miles, but I had finished 7.5 by 10 AM so I figured I could push on further today and make the last day's hike short and sweet. I was glad I made this change. When I reached the Eastern Terminus I called to change my reservations for the night to Beech Bottom Campsite.

It was a great day for hiking. The sun was out but there were enough clouds to keep it from being miserable. I was astonished by the tornado damage and the efforts of the PMTA to clean up the trail just a few months after. Within just a half mile, the trail would go from being deep in the forest with a cool creek to out into tornado damage where the soil was dry as the desert and the sun baked everything. Mother Nature's destructive power left quite a mark on the trail. Ended up going 19.8 miles, my longest day backpacking. It was a Saturday and there were a lot of Boy Scouts out on the trail. Some of them were hiking in jeans and I could not even imagine how hot they must've been. There was a troop playing in one of the streams so I had to head upstream to pick up my water!

I took a short white-blazed trip of the main blue-blazed trail (backwards from what I'm used to!) to see the top of Dowdell's Knob where FDR used to come to picnic and not far from where he died in 1945. There was a beautiful view from the top.

The campsite was again next to a stream which made water collection very simple at the end of a long day. I had cranberry pecan ranch chicken salad wraps for dinner and once again didn't eat any other snacks besides my fig newtons. I am starting to realize I don't quite develop the appetite I think I will when I'm out hiking.

Once again set up my hammock and retired early. I slept very well until about 3:30 AM when I started hearing something that sounded like splintering. Turns out the plastic rope that tied around the tree for my hammock and breaking strand by strand and reverberating through the netting of the hammock. As the strands kept breaking and finally gave out, I went straight down on my butt! Luckily I had set the hammock up low so I didn't fall more than a foot. I debated in my head about just night-hiking out to my car, but figured I shouldn't take a risk like that. I also had my blue pad that I was so unhappy with yesterday so I put that down on the ground and slept like a baby the rest of the night. Good thing it didn't rain so I didn't have to mess with my tarp.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pine Mountain Trail - Day 1

It's been about a month since I did this trip but I have my notes on my phone so it should be pretty accurate! (Writing on June 6)

The semester had just ended and I wanted to get out and do some backpacking to relieve the stress of nonstop studying. I found the Pine Mountain Trail was the closest option to Auburn so I did my research and decided to head out there. I left AU on Friday morning for the hour drive to FDR State Park to register and get my backcountry permit. Georgia State Parks charges $9 a night to camp but those fees are waived for Pine Mountain Trail Association members. Since membership is only $25 and includes a map, it was worth it to become a member.

The first day I hiked east from FDR State Park visitors center to Sparks Creek Campsite. I barely saw anyone out on the trail that day, just 1 couple and a dog in 13 miles. In general the walk was fairly flat with a few little uphills that got me sweating but nothing like the mountains I've hiked on the AT. It rained off and on throughout the afternoon, but the canopy kept me mostly dry. I used my pack cover as well just in case it started pouring. The water was flowing nicely and it was cold. A little aquamira and it tasted delicious. I saw a bajillion lizards throughout the entire day. I only got one picture as I tended to scare them away before I could get the camera out of my pocket. There were also a lot of woodpeckers and the bugs were worse than I expected. I had a few bites on my hand and found a tick on my leg. When I got to the campsite I was only one there, but someone came in later when I was in my hammock.

When I got to camp, I found plenty of trees to hang the hammock on but settled on a spot as far away from the trail as possible. I had taken some ranch dressing cups from ChickFila to make chicken salad wraps which were good. I overestimated my hunger for this trip and ended up not eating most of the snack stuff I brought, but I did take down most of my trail mix and all the fig newtons. I settled into the hammock early and wrote my notes for the trip. It was warm but got a little chilly in the night. I had written down in my notes, "Blue pad was a waste of money and weight" because I couldn't get it to stay in the hammock for under-insulation. By the end of the trip, my feelings about the blue pad would change...(foreshadowing)...