Sunday, October 28, 2012

BMT Sections 9 & 10: Rain and more rain

My friend, Salt, and I went for an overnight backpacking trip of Sections 9 and 10 of the Benton Mackaye Trail in Georgia.   The forecast: 10% chance of rain. 
Trailhead at Dyer Gap
 There was light drizzle at the trailhead.  Wet fog passing through Watson Gap.  Mist at Mill Branch.
Grass of parnassus at Mill Branch, gone to seed.
More rain at Double Springs Gap at the Tennessee state lane where we turned around after getting water.

Thick, soupy fog and even more rain when we finally tucked our hammocks on a mid-elevation slope that seemed to be in the "wind shadow" of Big Frog.  The wind howled through the tops of the trees but only occasionally made it down to rustle the tarps. 

Can you guess what the next day brought?  Yep, more rain,  and tree foam!   Which is why the moral of this story is pack your rain gear no matter what the forecast.  I was glad I did.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Duncan Ridge via the Coosa Trail

The next trail on my list is the Duncan Ridge Trail, considered the "toughest trail in Georgia."  I accessed the DRT via the 13 mile Coosa Backcountry Trail, which might sound totally inefficient, but that's just the type of thing I like to do.

After getting my permit at the visitor's center at Vogel State Park, I hiked clockwise on the Coosa Backcountry Trail, which shares tread with the Duncan Ridge Trail for three miles over Slaughter Mountain.   After spending so much time on the Bartram Trail wondering where all the people were, I can now report that all the people (or at least quite a bit of them) are at Vogel State Park. 

At the point where the DRT and Coosa Trail split, I took a little out-and-back trip on section 2 of the DRT.  I passed over Coosa Bald, descended to Whiteoak Stomp, and hiked for another hour, then turned around and returned to the Coosa Trail.  Not sure how far I got on the DRT but I'll find that out when I do the next section from the other trailhead.  Again, this was an unconventional way to tackle the DRT, but it allowed me to do the entire Coosa too.

Continuing on the Coosa Trail clockwise, I reached the end of the trail in early evening.  I hadn't expected to make it so far, and in retrospect I should have spent more time on the DRT, or at least not carried my full backpack the whole way.  I had to head back up the trail to find a stealth campsite, rather than camp near the trailhead. 

The next morning, I circled the Lake Trail, swung by the falls, then drove over to Yonah Mountain to scout that for a Trail Dames trip I'll help lead next month.  All in all my legs were sore by the end of the weekend, so it was a successful trip.

Lake Trail at Vogel State Park

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hiking while sick

Do you still hike when you are sick?  I sure do.  As soon as I can drag myself out of bed, I head for a local trail.  There are some physical health benefits of exercise for a mild cold, but the biggest benefit for me is the mental boost.  Being stuck at home gets me down and depressed, and the only cure I know is some time outdoors and a little activity to give me a mental pick-me-up.  
Being near water always makes me feel better.
Sandy Creek Nature Center, just north of Athens, GA in Clarke County, has 4 miles of easy, interconnected trails, and is my usual destination when I'm too sick to go backpacking in the mountains.  I really like the Levee Trail that goes out to the confluence of the Sandy Creek and North Oconee River.  Boardwalks cross wet areas in the floodplains, but expect mud after rains.  Early morning is the best time to avoid runners and dogwalkers, and, as a bonus, the early morning light reflects off the water.
In the early 1900's, the Georgia Brick Company dredged clay from this site for bricks, creating this pond.
Tips for hiking when feeling under the weather:

    -Stay close to home.
    -Take it easy.  Keep your pulse rate down, your pack light, and your pace slow enough so you don't sweat.  Strenuous exercise can stress your body and prolongs recovery.
    -Stay hydrated and snack often.  Listen to your body. 
    -Rest often.  Find benches or fallen trees and lay down.  Or bring your hammock.  Watch birds and clouds, or take a nap.