Thursday, June 24, 2010

Snakes Have Cloacae. I Have Blisters.

Photo: audreyjm529, Flickr Creative Commons

I feel a little stupid using someone else's photo for a post about my hiking trip, but like I said. I killed my camera by falling into a river while trying to cross it a few weeks back and I'm stuck with mental images for a while, and those don't translate too well to these here Internets.

Regular hiking partner Mickey and I tried the Chattooga River Trail on the border with South Carolina earlier this week. My first reaction after the two-night trip is to tell you that it totally sucked and that you should never, ever go anywhere near this trail, but honestly, there were a few reasons to give this one a try. It just happened that they all occurred in the first 15 miles of a 30-mile hike. We got a late start on Monday, partly my fault and partly the fault of Roger Federer for almost losing in the first round at Wimbledon. When we finally got to the northern trail head, it was already about 2 p.m. Luckily, it was the first day of Summer, so we had the longest day of the year to work with and we made about 8 miles that afternoon. There weren't any complaints with this day. We found a really great waterfall in a little nook in the woods where we ate lunch and basked in the air-conditioning-like temperatures generated by the cascade. The next morning was more of the same. In fact, there were enough interesting distractions on the trail that we'd only gotten about four miles by 2 p.m. Honestly, this section of the trail is pretty awesome. It's not until you pass War Woman Creek (and the falls not long after the creek) that the trail turns into crap.

I probably should preface this with the fact that my interpretation of the southern half of the trail may have been colored by personal suffering. See, we started hearing a lot of thunder while on the top of a ridge. Luckily, we started to descend to lower elevations by the time the booms were surrounding us and we'd only been doused by the downpour for about ten or fifteen minutes by the time we found a campsite with a nice tarp gazebo that we commandeered for the remainder of the storm.

This normally wouldn't be a big deal. I'm used to being wet while hiking. My favorite trails require you to be wet from the hips down for pretty much the entire trip because of all of the river crossings. The problem was that I wore the wrong underwear and this water led to pretty much all of the skin from my waistline to my toes being removed by the power of friction by the time we left the trail. By the time that we got back to Mickey's truck at the southern trail head, I was waddling. Actually, I was waddling the night before. My solution of Moleskin, long underwear, and duct tape actually prevented much more damage to certain sensitive areas.

Still, most of the southern half of the trail is along ridges far enough from the river that you wouldn't even know you were following a river if it wasn't in the name of the trail. Plus, the spider webs. The god damn spiderwebs. Apparently, we were the first two people to ever walk the fucking trail so every three steps I was walking into more webs, which are apparently invisible until you find yourself wrapped in silken trailers.

And back to the storm. Apparently it had never rained in this area so just an hour of heavy rains led to every single freaking tree bordering the trail to fall down across the trail and make us wade through poison ivy and prickly holly bushes to get to the other side. Oh, and it flooded one creek and washed out the bridge making us have to bushwhack off the trail to find a spot that seemed safer to cross upstream.

But, yeah, the first half of the trail was pretty cool. You might want to do it in the spring or fall, though. The elevation just isn't high enough to provide real relief from the summer heat in the South.

Oh, and Mickey, I think that snake that scooted out from under your pack was a copperhead after all. Beautiful snake, though. Seriously, I briefly considered making love to that snake it was so pretty.


Chris said...

Uh, sorry about the chafing.

Strange that there's a river by the same name in this opposite corner of the state. I can't imagine it's the same river. Just a common name, I guess.

Mickey said...

Yup, it was a copperhead. And apparently poison ivy takes about 24 hours to manifest for me. My legs itch.

Courtney said...

There is no such thing as a beautiful snake. All snakes are scaly and hideous and slithery and terrifying.

If it makes you feel better, Mickey's legs are oozing pustules of poison ivy right now. It's disgusting.

Julie said...

Your dedication is... crazy. If I'd had one of your hiking experiences, I would have walked away.