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.
|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|
|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.|
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
|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|
|ULA CIRCUIT BACKPACK||41.60|
|NEMO VEDA 1P TENT W/FOOTPRINT (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)||39.00|
|COLUMBIA LINER BAG||10.20|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT HOODLUM APEX 20-40 DEGREES 2.1 OZ||2.10|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION PRO 20 DEGREE QUILT W/STUFF SACK||29.00|
|THERMAREST NEOAIR XLITE LARGE||16.00|
|THERMAREST RIDGEREST SOLITE REGULAR CUT DOWN TO 20X60||12.00|
|SEA TO SUMMIT SILNYLON PONCHO TARP||12.90|
|5 NIGHT FOOD – LOKSAK ODORPROOF BAG / ZPACKS BLAST FOOD BAG||128.00|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|BLACK DIAMOND STORM HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK W/EXTRA BATTERIES||5.30|
|LUMINAID PACKLITE NOVA||5.00|
|Bahco 396-LAP Laplander Folding Saw, 7-1/2 -Inch Blade, 7 TPI||6.70|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES||522.00|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS||32.63|
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!
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.
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.