Apr 14, 2016

Lessons Learned on The Foothills Trail

I first completed the FHT as a "shakedown" thru hike in the summer of 1993 as practice for the 12 days I would spend in Philmont Scout Ranch the following summer in 1994.

I fell in love with Long Distance backpacking on that trip. I had been on many weekend outings in the past but this trip ensuing with the following summer at Philmont was a game changer for me.

One of the main things that stands out in my mind about the '93 thru is it's the only time I've ever seen a Bear in the wild....

I have done some sections of the FHT many times since. Some the most visited have been OSP to Burrell’s Ford Road, Bad Creek to Hilliard Falls area, Gorges State park area, and Laurel valley Access to Laurel Fork Falls.

Flip flop Section hike 2009-2016:

In October of 2009, my brother and I did Sloan Bridge to bad creek of the course the weekend of 10/9-10/11. The first night we rode out a pretty good storm in our hammocks. The next day, a lady at Whitewater falls told us there had been a tornado in the area.

That trip was highlighted by the unfortunate twisting of my knee at the bridge on the Whitewater River just below the overlook. It was quite the painful walk to the car at bad creek from there.

The next section was 4/18-20/12, Table Rock State Park to Laurel Valley Access. Just days earlier, I found out my grandfather had stage 4 terminal cancer. I set out on the trail to just clear my mind more than anything. Among nature I found peace and acceptance  with the fact that my grandfather, a man I looked up to and admired, would not be there for much longer.
Between 2012 and 2014 I spent some days and weekend along the Chattooga River, usually entering at Nicholson ford road.

In 2014 I started to think, I might as well finish out the trail as a section hike. So Easter weekend of 2014 (4/18-20/14), I picked up where I began in 2009 with my brother. I started at Sloan Bridge and proceeded to Oconee State park over the course of the weekend. It was quite rainy for most of this trip but spring was in the air and as I observed the liveliness of the song birds and the neon greens of the new foliage of the trees, it felt as if I was breathing in new life with every breath.
Unfortunately shortly after completing this section, I began having issue with my ankle due to the cerebral palsy I have had since birth. Hiking and backpacking took a back seat to getting myself healthy enough to get out on the trails pain free or at least mostly.
Spring of 2015, I began to see significant signs of improvement and by fall, I was full blown back on trails.

Thanksgiving Weekend of 2015 (11/26-27/15), I did Frozen Creek Access in GSP to Bad creek as an overnighter. There was quite a bit of traffic on the trail those days as the weather was quite pleasant for late November from I what I recall. I met a lot of nice folks but I primarily just pushed myself each day to see if I could do the miles like I use to. Although somewhat painful at times, it was at least pain I could tolerate. So for my next long weekend with decent weather was Easter weekend of 2016 (3/25-26/16).

This weekend, as an overnighter, I did my final and toughest section of the FHT. Laurel valley access to frozen creek access in GSP.

Those were some tough miles from laurel fork falls back to Gorges State Park. I ran into a group of FTC members on Saturday the 26th at Rock creek. Had a very pleasant conversation with the group before tackling the infamous Heartbreak Ridge and on tho the car.. Most memorable thing about those two days, other than just the awesomeness of being out in the wild, was how bad my feet hurt. I had cheapened out on some insoles for my boots and I paid for it anyway LOL.

As I was finishing up the last five miles up the canebrake trail. I began to think about the trail and my experiences out on the path. I found myself quantifying the trail with life and what I have really learned after all the years is that the trail, any trail, like in life, there are going to be good time and bad. Joy and heartache. You are going to have your ups and downs. There will be days when you feel like you can go on forever and days when you want to throw your hands up and say I’m done. But on the trail as in life, the only thing that really matters is taking that next step….