Palmetto Trail Day 13 – Fear…Doubts…Magic
Overcoming Sickness in a Beautiful Place
It feels like a lifetime since I have been out on the trail. I am really blessed to have people in my life to help over come challenges. But there is a special place for people who come to your rescue when you do not even know each other. Frank and Frankie hosted me for almost two weeks while I recovered from Bronchitis. Initially I was worried that I would have to call off the hike in South Carolina and rethink how to get ready for the Pacific Crest Trail.
Throughout my time in their house they ensured I was comfortable and well cared for. We watched TV at night, had plenty of homemade Southern food, and numerous discussions of everything under the sun. I can not truly repay them for the hospitality I received. But the best gift was meeting people I never new and left as friends.
Frank brought me back to the trail where I left off. I would finish the last part of the Saluda Mountain Passage which was a 1.5 mile road walk to the Orchard Lake Campground. This involved one climb up around Mine Mountain then down to the lake where the campground was located. I stopped in for some gummy bears and juice. It’s much to early in the day to stay here but if I didn’t go into Saluda this would have been a great place to camp and get a shower. Not much food but snacks.
The Poinsett Passage starts on the Southside of the campground. Start off following a paved road but soon a trail takes you into the woods that follows the same road up to the top of Brushy Ridge. There was no water on this section since it’s a ridge walk the entire way. You can barely see through the trees to the next ridge, but you can tell you are high up. On the ride up I was really doubting myself on how this day was going to turn out. Being out on this ridge felt so right and I did not feel any of the problems I had walking into Saluda, two weeks prior.
This Passage is only six miles long. I stop at the kiosk on the East side of Brushy Ridge for lunch. This next portion will be following Hogback Mountain Road for two miles to Vaughns Gap. This is a gravel road with amazing views to the East as far as you can see. I’m around 2800 feet high looking out to land that drops directly in front of me down to 1000ft. It was pretty impressive. I arrive at Vaughns Gap with a 250ft drop at the kiosk for the next section.
Blue Wall Passage
This is a 14 mile Passage and I know I will not be able to finish tonight. After studying the map, I start down a dirt path with a huge drop in elevation. Steep enough that I use my poles to help with the steepness of the trail. While I saw no water on the previous Passage, in no time I am surrounded by water. I stop to fill up a liter and am amazed of the surrounding area. The creeks that have sprung up around me must be coming out of the mountain. Everything right now just feels right, melting the fear and doubts I started the day with.
After this water break I set out again and follow the trail until it starts to level out and turns into an old forest road. I run into a couple at an intersection that inform me that there is a waterfall nearby. So I detour from the trail and take a side route towards what will be Blue Wall Falls. Along this detour, I run into three separate groups of people before coming up to the waterfall. I’m a couple miles into this Passage so decide to take a break and have a snack while studying my map.
The Trail Provides
I first heard this saying when I thru hiked the AT. Sometimes on a long-distance hike there are just times when things just all seem to click into place. It’s the most purist of trail magic that can happen to a hiker. As I am enjoying a break at the waterfall, a few more people come and go. I say Hi to be friendly when a guy starts asking me questions. I’m sure it is easy to see that I am out of place with a large backpack. Especially since this popular path is full of people who are out on a short stroll with no extra gear.
Our discussion moves to what I am doing for the night. My choices right now are trying to get service and see about a ride into town for lodging. Or finding a spot to stealth camp, where in this Nature Preserve are very slim at the moment. He then offers to give me a ride where ever I need. I agree to this and we get to know a little about each other, as we walk up the trail to the parking lot.
Turns out he lives just around the corner from the trailhead and we ride to his place on a golf cart. I start looking for some sort of lodging while he gets a couple beers. I am introduced to his wife and we sit on the porch and start talking about the trail, hiking, family, and everything else you can think of. My lodging search isn’t going well and I ask if it would be OK to tent in the yard. Permission was granted and a discussion on what to make for dinner as well as getting me a shower. Dinner was amazing, the shower felt so good, and the conversation with a couple I have only known for a couple hours, lasts well after dark.
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