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FOOTHILLS TRAIL THRU-HIKE 12/3/17 TO 12/8/17 THAT WHITE BLAZE ISNT THE A.T.!

 

 

That might be a white blaze but it isn’t the Appalachian Trail it’s the Foothills Trail!

 

I knew at least two people who have hiked the Foothills Trail and spoke greatly about it so I knew I would hike it at some point in the future.  The great part is that it’s easily attainable for those of us who are fully employed because it’s only around 76-77 miles.  I hiked the Wonderland Trail a few years ago which was also considered a long trail but also attainable because of it’s short length.  The Foothills Trail is a little easier in the distance category but a little tougher in the logistics category because it’s point to point and a shuttle or car-spotting is required.  Fortunately there is the FOOTHILLS TRAIL website that makes planning so much easier as well as educates you about the trail experience.

My chance came to hike it in 2017 when I reached out to a few friends whom I knew were already interested from our previous conversations.

So once we determined the exact dates that we wanted to hike, we proceeded to work out the logistics portion of the hike.  An excellent place to start is the official Foothills Trail website.  This website has a wealth of information that is essential for planning a hike on this trail.

 

RESOURCE: https://foothillstrail.org
DATE OF HIKE  We went in December and there were only 2 other groups of 2 people each on the entire trail.
HIKING DIRECTION – EAST TO WEST OR WEST TO EAST  We hiked from West to East so we wouldn’t have to climb Sassafras Mountain immediately.  We started at Oconee and hiked to Table Rock.
SHUTTLE OPTIONS There are options
PARKING FEE AT STATE PARKS
HIKER REGISTRATION
ACCOMODATIONS/FEES THE DAY PRIOR/AFTER HIKE
TIME OF ARRIVAL TO PARK AT BEGINNING OF HIKE (GATE CLOSES AT SPECIFIC TIME)
TIME OF ARRIVAL TO PARK AT END OF HIKE (GATE CLOSES AT SPECIFIC TIME)
WATER SOURCES  There are lots of water sources on this trail.
CAMPSITE LOCATIONS / AVAILABILITY  Campsites were not an issue at all.  At the time we went there were only two other hiking groups on our entire trip.  Also, there are quite a few campsites that are quite large.
WEATHER   Our weather ran the gamut.  We started out with warm beautiful weather the first day or two.  The third day we got rain and by the 6th day we got snow. 
FOOD  I splurged pretty good unlike most long distance trips.  I brought a frying pan,  egg powder, bacon and generally ate very well.
BEAR HANG or CANISTER  We went with the bear hang to keep pack size down.  It worked out pretty well.
 
 
 

 

 

Standing at the back of the Table Rock State Park visitors center – We registered here and paid for our parking permit.  The parking lot is about a mile down the road at the actual trail entrance/exit.

 

We began our trip on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 by departing from our homes in the Cincinnati, Ohio area.  This would be the first leg of our trip and which is predominantly a travel day.  We arrived at Table Rock State Park around 3:30PM  where we met our prearranged volunteer shuttle driver Jim ‘Taz’ Simpson.  He met us there promptly and right on time.  He’s a wealth of knowledge about the trail and I have to say that our shuttle drive went by rather quickly because of this and we learned a few things along the way.  He was great company and the drive was a great start to a wonderful hike!

We stashed food at Whitewater Falls where the Foothills Trail crosses 107.  This is a fairly common place for people to stash half their food so it was well known to Jim.  We used a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and hid it in the woods just over the hill from the pull-off at the trail crossing.

Jim pulled over at a lookout where we took some pictures of Lake Jocassee where we would actually hike past in about 4 or 5 days.  It was a gorgeous view.

We arrived at Oconee State Park around 5’ish where we camped for the night.  This was a great little campground and a pretty nice place to kick off our adventure.  I reserved the campsite online which required a 2 night minimum.  But, the ranger said if we would have just waited and paid for the campsite when we got there we could just paid for one night.

 

My overall take on the Foothills Trail is that it’s an excellent, well-maintained trail.  Now, at the time we went there was still some trail blockages that we had to climb over.  This was due to the hurricane last year which took down a lot of trees.  There were a lot of trees that had already been cut and removed but still quite a few more that needed removed.  This wasn’t a major problem for us at all and just added to the personality of the hike.

Litter on this trail is virtually non-existent until you get down by the river.  Our first night campsite was next to a small trash pile from someone who left their sleep pad and a lot of supplies buried but it looked like a bear dug it up.  It was pretty sad but fortunately people like this aren’t common on the trail.  Another section was pretty bad as well and basically this trash heap consisted of two cheap poly tarps that were up as if someone was still camped there but it was obvious that no one was there.  There were beer cans all around the tarps and downstream there was another pile of cans that had washed down from the campsite and got trapped in an eddy.  There are several access roads at different locations on this trail so unfortunately you will get the worst trash within a mile radius of these roads.  All in all it was still a very clean trail.

 

GEAR LIST FOR THIS TRIP

FOOTWEAR/BACKPACKS/CONTENTS WEIGHT OUNCES
SHOES/BOOTS NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT  
VASQUE SCREE LOW SHOES 36.00
TREKKING POLES NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT
BLACK DIAMOND FL ULTRA DISTANCE TREKKING POLES 16.00
BACKPACKS  
ULA CIRCUIT BACKPACK 41.60
TENTS
NEMO VEDA 1P TENT W/FOOTPRINT (NO LONGER AVAILABLE) 39.00
SLEEPING BAGS
COLUMBIA LINER BAG 10.20
QUILTS
ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT HOODLUM APEX 20-40 DEGREES   2.1 OZ 2.10
ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION PRO 20 DEGREE QUILT W/STUFF SACK 29.00
SLEEPING PADS
THERMAREST NEOAIR XLITE LARGE 16.00
THERMAREST RIDGEREST SOLITE REGULAR CUT DOWN TO 20X60 12.00
TARPS
SEA TO SUMMIT SILNYLON PONCHO TARP 12.90
FOOD
5 NIGHT FOOD – LOKSAK ODORPROOF BAG / ZPACKS BLAST FOOD BAG 128.00
BASICS
BEAR BAG KIT-CORDAGE / BLACK DIAMOND NEUTRINO CARABINER 4.50
MINI COMPASS AND TEMP GAUGE 0.70
SAWYER FILTER MINI(2OZ), ONE SQUEEZE POUCH(1.5OZ), SCOOP CUP(2OZ) MESH BAG 5.50
SAFETY LANYARD – BG COMPACT SCOUT KNIFE/ADVENTURE MEDICAL RESCUE HOWLER/PICO LIGHT 2.80
TOILETRY KIT – MEDICINE/TOOTHBRUSH/TOOTHPASTE ETC IN OUTDOOR RESEARCH SMALL DRY DITTY SACK 10.40
FIRE KIT: DRYER LINT/LIGHTER/LIGHT MY FIRE FIRESTEEL 2.80
POTTY KIT – DEUCE OF SPADES, TOILET PAPER, HAND CLEANER BOTTLE/HOLDER IN NYLON SACK 4.30
CLOTHING
WINTER CLOTHING BAG 5 NIGHT QUILT: (2 PR) WOOL SOCKS/MIDWEIGHT WOOL THERMAL BOTTOMS/(2 PR) DRYMAX HEAVY SOCKS/SHORTS/(2 TSHIRTS)/MISC. ITEMS IN ZPACKS MEDIUM PLUS PILLOW 67.00
EDDIE BAUER IGNITELITE HOODED JACKET 13.00
SEIRUS GLOVES WATERPROOF FLEECE LINED 3.60
NIKE RAIN PANTS 12.40
RAB LATOK GAITERS LOW 5.50
Frogg Toggs Men’s Ultra Lite Rain Jacket, Blue, X-Large 5.80
ZPACKS CUBEN FIBER KILT 1.20
COOKING
MSR SKILLET & FOLDING SPATULA 5.40
LARGE GSI FAIRSHARE MUG 2 32OZ/TOAKS TITANIUM POT/HOMEMADE PLASTIC CUP 10.50
MSR POCKET ROCKET STOVE 3.10
OPTIMUS LONG FOLDING SPOON 0.80
WATER BOTTLES – BLADDERS
SOBE BOTTLE EMPTY 1.50
PLATYPUS 1 LITER SOFT BOTTLE EMPTY 1.50
LIGHTING
BLACK DIAMOND STORM HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK W/EXTRA BATTERIES 5.30
LUMINAID PACKLITE NOVA 5.00
TOOLS
LEATHERMAN TOOL 5.30
MISCELLANEOUS 32.00
Bahco 396-LAP Laplander Folding Saw, 7-1/2 -Inch Blade, 7 TPI 6.70
EXTRAS
CROCS SHOES 14.60
TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES 522.00
TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS 32.63

 

 

 

This is a very handy little guide with fold out maps and elevation guides. It contains all kinds of facts.

 

 

Overlook showing Lake Jocassee in the distance. The trail crosses the Toxaway river at the headwaters of Lake Jocassee. There is a suspension bridge over it that is pretty awesome.

 

 

Jim Taz Simpson – our shuttle driver for this trip. Jim was a great guy and very knowledgeable about the trail and the area.  Cool fact about Jim – he picks up discarded beer cans and makes alcohol stoves out of them.  Me and my friends picked up some and they are very nice.  I can’t wait to use mine.  Way to go Jim for repurposing that trash that idiots chuck out their car windows.

 

 

JIMS CARD

 

 

 

Starting point for our hike

 

 

Let the hike begin!

 

 

Our starting point!

 

 

On our way

 

 

It was warm enough that I ended up wearing shorts for most of this first day.

 

 

 

Gorgeous scenery

 

 

 

 

Beautiful place – This is Hidden Falls. It was about a mile off the trail so we dropped our packs and visited it.

 

 

I forgot my battery to recharge my phone so unfortunately I couldn’t do much reading on this trip.  But I do purchase quite a few books from Kindle and usually read a bit at night.  Especially on winter trips when everyone goes to bed early because it gets dark at 5:30!

 

Beautiful – lots of little creeks on this trail.

 

 

Bridges – I think it’s possible that there are more bridges on the Foothills Trail than any trail I’ve hiked as of yet.

 

 

The trail signage was great!

 

 

The trail is marked by the old familiar ‘white blaze’ like the Appalachian Trail. Interesting – makes you wonder…..

 

 

Hmmm that guy looks familiar…

 

 

 

 

Excellent signage

 

 

These blue reflectors signify several cisterns along the trail that were installed by a troop of boy scouts.

 

 

Excellent future campsite – there were quite a few campsites on the trail and we had our pic because no one else was hiking our direction.

 

 

Standing on the one of the many foot bridges.

 

 

Tons of gorgeous creeks and water sources.

 

 

Excellent signage

 

 

Lick Log Falls

 

 

Hiking along the Chattooga river

 

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Beautiful river views

 

 

Night one campsite next to the Chattooga River… beautiful place.. This is my Nemo Veda tent….This is an amazing tent!

 

 

Nemo Veda

 

 

The moon was big and bright on Sunday night and we were trying our best to stay up late enough to get a picture. We were in a very tight valley between two high hills.

 

 

Awesome little foot bridge

 

 

Beautiful river

 

 

More river view

 

 

Evening view of the river

 

 

Gorgeous river

 

 

Beautiful view

 

 

Love this trail

 

 

More views

 

 

Lots of rapids on this river

 

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The trail

 

 

One of the many waterfalls on this trail

 

 

Some of these bridges were slicker than snot!

 

 

Right about here is when we were accompanied by a female walker hound name Big Girl. She lived on a farm not too far but took up with us and hiked for the next two days. We finally got ahold of her owner and he met us at a pull off where the trail crosses 107 at Whitewater Falls.

 

 

Another cistern location. Fortunately there was enough water that we didn’t utilize the cisterns. If it was summer I could see where these cisterns would be valuable.

 

 

Marker

 

 

Cranking along on day 2.

 

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Great signage

 

 

Beautiful falls

 

 

Signage

 

 

Heading down to Whitewater Falls

 

 

Crossing the river by Whitewater Falls

 

 

Crossing Whitewater Falls

 

 

Gorgeous creek

 

 

More trail signage

 

 

Signage

 

 

Came across this bridge next to a bench and plaque. Didn’t cross the bridge but took a quick break here.

 

 

There was a marble bench and plaques next to this river. We wondered what it took to carry the marble bench to this location and how they did it.

 

 

Interesting plaque

 

 

Interesting plaque

 

 

This is on Duke land – this bench is all marble.

 

MountainGear.com

 

Some of these bridges are slippery.

 

 

At this point the trail runs on and off some forest roads at different intervals. It’s pretty easy hiking. Generally it was relatively not rocky and very slight elevation.

 

 

Beautiful creeks and rivers.

 

 

Some kind of fungal growth!

 

 

Another bridge and fortunately they installed traction grating that helped tremendously!

 

 

More awesome campsites!

 

 

I really like some of these small bridges. This one has treads cut into it that are greatly appreciated.

 

 

More awesome scenery.

 

 

Yet another foot bridge

 

 

 

This was cool so I had to get a pic.

 

 

More signage

 

 

Gorgeous water crossing over Bear Camp Creek

 

 

This was a time consuming section for several reasons. The steps were steep, slick and aplenty! Also, the trail was tight and pretty steep.

 

 

Large bridge over a dry creek. Not quite a suspension bridge but close.  Pretty cool!

 

 

Here is the bridge again. You had to watch that you didn’t clothesline yourself on the support cables on each end.

 

 

We aren’t far from the big suspension bridge over the Toxaway river.

 

 

Entering Gorges State Park

 

 

Small creek…

 

 

Laurel Fork Falls

 

 

Laurel Fork Falls

 

 

Another awesome bridge

 

 

Another bridge

 

 

 

Virginia Hawkins Falls

 

 

Which way??!!

 

 

I see a lake!

 

 

Lake Jocassee

 

 

Lake Jocassee

 

 

The big suspension bridge.

 

 

The big suspension bridge.

 

 

Toxaway river

 

 

Toxaway River

 

Just after we crossed the large suspension bridge we passed through a small park and immediately headed up Heartbreak Ridge.  It was a pretty tough climb up 4×4 steps that are small.  Once you get to the top you follow the ridge for a bit then drop down and cross a creek that opens up into some gorgeous campsites.  This was a beautiful area.

 

Climbing up the Heartbreak Ridge. I didn’t count the steps but there had to be about a hundred. It went straight up from the lake to the ridge. Pretty strenuous.

 

 

 

Great campsite just after Heartbreak Ridge

 

 

Lake Jocassee

 

 

Heading up Heartbreak Ridge. Lots of steep steep steps!

 

 

Signage

 

 

Signage

 

SierraTradingPost.com

 

Another gorgeous waterfall!

 

The snow started on our sixth day.  We woke up around 6am to the sound of snow-sleet pelting us – it wasn’t much and was very small.  However, over the course of the day snow came down and we ended up with about 8 – 10 inches of snow at the upper elevations.  As we descended the snow got wetter and I was soaked by the time I got to the bottom.

 

The snow is coming down!

 

 

Some of the trails on the way out were flat and with a little more snow on them would make great cross country ski trails.

 

 

Snow just kept coming!

 

 

This is an awesome section of trail.

 

 

I’ve never been on the Palmetto Trail but I’ve heard of it.  It’s a conglomeration of trails intended for hiking and biking across the state of South Carolina.  Apparently there are about 500 total miles at this point.

 

 

Love the snow! At the time we hiked the Foothills Trail there was some trail maintenance going on up on Sassafras Mountain so we had to detour and take about a 1 mile road walk. Not too bad.

 

 

One of my friends left me a little trail inspiration.

 

 

 

 

Signage

 

 

 

 

 

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