Five Days on the Pinhoti
In case anyone forgot, rather than doing a traditional AT Thru Hike, I decided to add a “few” miles by starting in Alabama. This has me thru hiking the Pinhoti, doing 90miles on the Benton McKaye, and thru hiking the AT in one continuous adventure.
Day one (28 Feb 2017)
Flagg Mountain-> Weogufka Creek Shelter (3 Miles)
With all the last minute things left to do, I wasn’t able to truly enjoy my last night sleeping in a real bed. Instead, I only really slept for 2 or 3 hours and later laid down with alarms set from 2:45am-3:30am. I finally got all my gear packed for the final time and got picked by my cousin around 5am.
After a very long ride, we finally arrived to Flagg Mountain around 5:30pm. It was after dark before I even made it to the trailhead. Wanting to make it to Weogufka Creek Shelter, I proceeded to hike a little more than two miles by the light of my headlamp. I spent a long time tripping over rocks and losing the trail, but finally made it.
None of the logbooks had any recent entries, but to ny surprise, there appeared to be a pack in the shelter. I dimmed my headlamp and quietly got ready for bed so I wouldn’t wake the other hiker. Even though it got a bit chilly, I didn’t even get out my sleeping bag so I wouldn’t make unnecessary noise.
Day Two (1 Mar 2017)
Weogufka Creek Shelter-> “The Farm” (10 Miles)
When the Sun finally lit the shelter, I crept down from my bunk and quietly got started on my breakfast. But now that the Sun was up, I realized I was alone in the shelter. The pack I saw, turned out to be a hydration bladder. A roll of trash bags and various other items also cluttered the shelter.
But I didn’t have much time to lollygag around the shelter. A severe thunderstorm was due to hit in just a few hours, and I wanted to get off the mountain and finish the roadwalk section before it hit. I reached the Weogufka Dollar General around noon and knew it was unlikely that I would make it to Talladega National Forest before the storm. So I started asking around if there was anywhere I could set up my tent to wait out the storm. To my luck, a religious drug rehab facility (Nicknamed The Farm) took me in for the night. They let me sleep inside, use a real toilet, and eat a hot meal with them.
And before anyone in the comments says anything about them: everyone makes mistakes, but these people have volunteered to stay there and get better. These people are going through a real struggle and I fully support them for trying to change.
Day Three (2 Mar 2017)
“The Farm”-> Rock Overlook (17 Miles)
I left the church around 6am, just as the sun was coming up. Feeling refreshed, I finished the roadwalk by 9. My goal was to hike completely through TNF-> Bulls Gap section and make it to a small campsite a few miles into the next section. Unfortunately, I had not realized how much the uphills would slow me down. By 4pm, having not met my goal for the day, I was ready to set up camp near a rocky overlook. The winds never slowed down, which made it very difficult to cook dinner. That night, I decided to cook one of my favorite hiking foods, Tuna Mac. Unfortunately, I learned my lesson about cheap Mac. The starch from the pasta separated from the pasta and ended up making a rue. It kept thickening up until it was a pudding like consistency. It tasted so bad that it was hardly edible.
I also took some time to look at some of the photos I took during the day. I took some really good ones, but since I forgot to format my camera’s SD card to my phone beforehand, I can’t upload them from the trail. Luckily, I took plenty with my phone, and had 3 other SD cards ready to go.
By 5pm, I was ready to go to sleep and would continue to sleep all night long.
Day Four (3 Mar 2017)
Rock Overlook-> Scott’s Lake (15 Miles)
My goals were fairly simple on day four, find water. I hadn’t even seen a puddle since Weogufka Creek (left there at 6am day two), and had only about a quart left. Due to drought conditions, every seasonal water sources was dry leaving only extremely reliable creeks. Luckily, there was such a creek only 14miles down the trail. And at the pace I was going, I would get there for a late lunch.
Well, I would have made good time if it wasn’t for a few miles of poorly maintained trail. I spent a few hours trying to figure out which way the trail went in several spots. The blue blazes were extremely faded and too far apart to see the next while standing beside one. Plus, in these spots, the trail itself literally disappeared as nobody seemed to have ever walked the same path between blazes.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I was getting severe sunburn on the back of my calves. Having never worn shorts outside before, my legs weren’t prepared for the constant exposure they got while hiking. Since my upper body is well equipped to deal with the sun, I hadn’t even thought to bring sunscreen.
I finally reached the creek around 3:30pm, and pitched my tent a safe distance away. I filled all my bottles with clean water, drank my fill, and settled down for the night as it was supposed to get down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Day Five (4 Mar 2017)
Scott’s Lake->Small Campsite (8 Miles)
I slept warm through the night, but waited a bit longer to get on trail again because I knew how cold it still was outside my tent. Before I left camp, I topped off my bottles one more time, gave my cookware the thorough cleaning it desperately needed, and ate a tasty hot pot of Peanut-Butter-Maple-Brown-Sugar-Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal. Running near empty on fuel and in desperate need of sunscreen, I was determined to make it to a Dollar General 8miles off trail (total 19mile trip) outside Talladega.
I finally left camp by 8am and immediately had to cross two streams. I’m very thankful to whoever suggested I bring crocs for water crossings. They saved me from having wet socks today. It was only 4 miles after crossing the streams around Scott Lake that I made it to the trailhead. The Dollar General was 8 miles west, so u proceeded to walk along the highway, hopeful for a hitch. To my luck, I walked less than a mile before a brand-new looking pickup gave me a ride directly to the DG front door.
While there, I overfilled my food bag to the point that the brain of my pack rested 3inched over it and was tied down at 3 points….if only I thought to take a picture of it. I also picked up sunscreen for my legs, ziploc bags for my food/ trash, and 91% rubbing alcohol for fuel. I even took advantage of using a real bathroom while there and grabbed a few paper towels to clean my cookware with.
Only a few hundred yards from DG, I caught another surprising hitch. This time from a tiny 4 door car. Ironically enough, he turned out to be a section hiker of the Pinhoti trail who was trying to decide where to start a day hike. He hiked with me for around 4 miles before he had to turn back for his car. I then filled my water at a nearby creek as there wouldn’t be another reliable source for 13miles.
However, after setting up camp, I was so thirsty that I drank almost half of it. I guess that’s good motivation to make some miles tomorrow.
Final words for the week
I’ve never hiked more than a weekend at a time before, and though I knew a thru hike would be different, I didn’t realize how different it would be. The first thing I learned was that even though I did tons of research, it could never be enough. I didn’t even know that Alabama was going through a drought meaning almost all my water sources would be dry. Research is great, but you really need to experience it to have any idea what thru hiking is like.
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