Heading to Alabama
Starting the Pinhoti Trail
The day before I started the Pinhoti Trail
Early in the morning on February 24th 2023 I went to the airport in Boston. I got on a plane and flew to Birmingham, Alabama. I had reached out to the Pinhoti Outdoor Center in Sylacauga, AL and was able to schedule a shuttle ride from the airport.
The POC is an incredible resource for hikers doing the Pinhoti Trail. Not only will they help get you from the airport and to their hostel, but they will also take you to the trailhead as well.
Nathan and Kim who run the center are immensely knowledgeable and want nothing more than to help hikers on their way. If you are a novice hiker who may have never done a long hike like this before then the POC could definitely set you up for success. They would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Tigger, a former AT hiker, picked me up from the airport and made me feel right at home. She even stopped off at a nearby Walmart so that I could buy a fuel canister. You aren’t allowed to fly with a fuel canister so that was great.
And then we got to the Pinhoti Outdoor Center where I would be spending the night before hitting the trail. The hostel has bunk beds, a bathroom and shower, a small store, and a kitchen area. Everything that a hiker needs.
Two other hikers were already at the POC and welcomed me. One guy TABA (There and back again) has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to thru hiking. He did the AT in 2022 and since then has done trails all over the country and even started some trails of his own.
Another hiker Shane had done the PCT in 2022, which I had also done. But sadly just a few days before he had slipped on trail and broken his leg. So he would be heading home in the days to come.
Both guys were planning to do the Bama to Baxter hike just like me; combing the Pinhoti, parts of the Benton MacKaye trail, and Appalachian Trail.
I got settled in and talked to TABA, Tigger, and her husband Chuck Norris. Everyone was so welcoming and I knew right away that I was in the right place. TABA, Shane, and I stayed up talking and joking around before I eventually called it a night. I wanted to get a good night’s sleep before hitting the trail the following day.
Pinhoti Trail Day 1: 12.4 miles
This morning I got up nice and early and packed up my things. Then Chuck Norris brought me to the trail head around 8:30am. He had told me that the last mile of road to get to the trailhead was pretty washed out. I would likely have to walk down the .8 miles and then walk back up. But as we got closer he said that the tires on the POC van were good enough. And he wound up taking me all the way if he could.
Chuck Norris was such an incredibly kind man. He dropped me off and took a picture of me. Then I headed out on my own!
My one plan for this thru hike is to start slow and ease in, something I’ve never managed to do before. So I paced myself and took it slow! I climbed Flagg mountain and then enjoy a pretty easy first day with few climbs. Alabama is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Everything is blooming here! The forest was lush and there were loads of rivers and streams.
About 7 miles in I met another hiker and we hiked together for the rest of the day. He was an Alabama local and it became clear that we came from very different backgrounds. But I listened to what he had to say and he was clearly a very kind and educated family man.
We wound up hiking together too the rest of the day and camping together that first night. He made a fire and we sat out for hours. It was a perfect first day. The icing on the cake was that my knees felt strong! No aches and pains.
Upon finishing the Pacific Crest Trail this past December 2022 I had injured my IT bands, so part of me has been nervous to start another long hike. Only 5 week ago I was still walking with a limp. It eventually healed and I was able to do about 4 weeks of training and strengthening before setting out to do the Pinhoti Trail.
I am determined that if I take it slow, keep up with my stretching, and continue to do strengthening exercises, I will be able to accomplish this goal.
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