BAMA BLUE BLAZE
The Alabama Pinhoti Trail is not a trail for the weak of heart. It has some real challenges with many rewards along it’s 171.2 miles. It continues to impress as it proceeds 167.8 miles into Georgia. I don’t understand why there aren’t more long distance hikers utilizing this trail. The trail journals had few and far between entries. Hikers you are missing out! While out on the trail we had COMPLETE solitude. Shelters are placed strategically every 10 miles or so. We saw no mice because there are no people to entice them with their goodies. There are good water sources accessible mostly as needed. Luckily, when we did meet one other person we found him to be a true trail enthusiast. His trail name is “Mother Nature’s Son”. He volunteers and works to maintain the trail regularly. We found his hiking experience and volunteerism extremely impressive. Most impressive was his generous offer to help us with any thing we might need while hiking including shuttle or to use of his vehicle. Our hike began when we were dropped off by our daughter at Heflin where the Shoal Creek district forest office is located. The trailhead is just behind the office. We ended our hike 5 days, four nights and almost 50 miles later at The Chief Ladiga Campground where we had left our truck. Below is the account of the information and enjoyment experienced on our journey.
It looks like we’ll have beautiful weather for our shake down hike. Hurricane Joaquin is on his way out. Beautiful weather is expected on the Pinhoti Trail for the next week or longer. Our packs are ready, Larry is on the mend, Rudy, our dog is staying with the grandkids (he is too short legged to stand up to long hikes even though he would certainly try he loves hiking). Our Daughter will drop us off at one trail head and we’ll hike home over the next 5 days. The hike will be slow and easy testing our shoes, our pack weight, food and water supplies and most importantly us.
The Weather is perfect! The Pinhoti Trail is a great introduction to what will come. Man are we beat and we only hiked 8 miles. I take the slow and easy I said yesterday back. That’s ok though we realize that it’ll take time to get our hiker legs. Our packs are under 30 lbs but we’ll see what else we can shave off. I see a swap out for new ultra light gear in our future. Without the packs we would have been able to start later and do the 8 miles before lunch. We camped for the night at Lower Shoals Shelter. It’s peaceful, the only sound is the stream in front and a few birds here and there. Thank you “Mother Nature’s Son” for taking such good care of such a beautiful trail.
Special day actually met “Mother Nature’s Son” as we were leaving Lower Shoal Shelter. He tirelessly works on the Pinhoti Trail and could use some more volunteer help. His real name is John Calhoun and has hiked the triple crown. (The AT, The PCT, and The CDT). He encouraged us to keep on hiking and reminded us that it takes a while for your feet and body to get used to the demands of hiking. He is a super nice and giving person. He was working getting the trail ready for The 100 Mile Pinhoti Run to be held in November. I’m sure information can be found on line if anyone is interested.
After we left John on the trail we saw 3 deer, a red eyed turtle, and Larry got to catch and move a rattlesnake out of our path. Check one thing off his bucket list. Yes, he has always wanted to catch a rattlesnake this one was not large enough but I’m hoping he will settle. It was almost 3 ft and rattled at us. Day two ended with us staying at Laurel Shelter. We feel like we hiked 12 miles and thought we would never get to our nights home. Thank goodness John encouraged us to stick it out. He assured us we would get better at it. I sure hope so. Going to sleep now. Tomorrow will be a ten mile hike to Choccolocca. We love the hiking but not the pain.
Laurel Shelter to Choccolocca Shelter. What a day! Lots of storm damage? Our ten mile hike felt like twenty. Of course, that maybe because we are not in tip top shape. Did pass two lakes. Hiked through streams. Not sure of trail at times but we found our way.
I said this was a practice hike for the Appalachian Trail. Lots of wondering about our abilities today. The weather is beautiful so no rain to deal with that will have to be a different hike hopefully. Still not ready to give up. I did mention that Mother Nature’s Son could use some volunteer trail maintainers. Just go do what needs to be done to make the already great trail better if interested.
Choccolocca to Dugger Shelter best scenery yet even thought the others were not bad either. We saw deer, turkey, squirrels, varieties of woodpeckers, and signs of a menace; the wild boar. The view from the top of Dugger Mountain was spectacular; looking north the Piedmont Valley, west was the Lookout Mt. Range, south the vast Talladega National Forest with Mt. Cheaha in the far distance and to the east more trail with more mountains. Between the mountains we came across watershed lakes here and there after walking and hiking suddenly, surprise a lake! The leaves haven’t even changed colors yet so just how beautiful can this get?
Worn out but in a good way! More beautiful scenery today again with lakes and vistas dabbled here and there. We are now about 8 miles from our truck. We have learned a great deal about what it’ll take to hike the Appalachian Trail. (Jeanne if you see this we are no longer worried about water and now I know what you mean about treating it at the stream. Larry refuses to give up coffee in the morning though. We’ll just make adjustments.) The sky began to darken around noon and it began to look like we were going to try out our rain gear! Yep rain gear! The Pinhoti is located in a rainforest so rain can be expect at any time just like in the Smoky Mountains. This trip gave us a small, small taste of the experiences in a variety of circumstances. Hot, cool, wet, dry, public areas, secluded areas, we have a deeper respect for all it takes from the many people and organizations to be able to enjoy our national forests.
Home now and no longer novis hikers.
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