Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fork Mountain Trail

I had a very rainy backpacking trip this weekend on the Fork Mountain Trail (and a few other trails) in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness at the NC-SC border.  Wildflowers were spectacular, the salamanders were out roaming around, and I tried out my new hammock.

Fork Mountain Trail
From the Sloan Bridge Picnic Area, the start of the Fork Mountain Trail is found by walking north along SC107 for a short distance.
Well-marked trail.
Tangled rhododendron and doghobble.
This easily walked trail has several good campsites and connects to lots of other trails.  I enjoyed the solitude, soft gentle footing, and abundant, diverse wildflowers.
Sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) in the lily family.
Explosion of ferns.
  Huge clump of dwarf iris.

Gigantic yellow poplar.
Showy orchis, a type of orchid.
Bad Creek Trail
I also took an out and back detour up the Bad Creek Trail (2.3 miles each way) to Bull Pen Road (not to be confused with the Bad Creek Spur access trail).  This trail was flat and mostly followed an old roadbed.  At the end, I sought refuge out of the cold rain under the narrow covered map and trail sign board.  It was a good opportunity to warm up after my poncho, overmittens, and rainpants all wet through.  I got lunch and dried off a bit.  Simple pleasures. 

All the kinds of rain
It rained the entire trip.  And there were all the kinds of rain, with different intensities.

First, there was light mist.  Which barely gets you wet at all.  I took lots of photos since I didn't have to worry about my camera getting soaked.
Catesby's trillium.
Then there was the steady rain.  This is the rain that smells like my childhood in Oregon.  I could hike forever in this rain.
Fog forms during the steady rain.
Then there were the heavy downpours.  Sloshing feet.  Rainpants sticking to my legs.  Swollen streams.  Squishy mud.  My camera got soaked when I dared to take it out of my pocket, and my photos came out dark and blurry.  There was a ton of tree foam during the heaviest rain-- looking like mounds of bubblebath, forming at the bases of the large trees as water flowed down the trunks.  Most people haven't seen it.  But most people don't hike in heavy downpours.  Seeing treefoam makes me happy because it reminds me of the rewards of hiking in all seasons, under all conditions.
Tons of tree foam at the bases of trees.
Testing the new hammock
I brought along my new hammock, the Darien UL, to test for the first night in the field.  I'd set it up in my backyard, but I hadn't tried it with narrowly spaced trees.  My old hammock, the Warbonnet Blackbird, has adjustable webbing suspension which I can set up effortlessly.  But the tree straps with whoopie hook suspension were new to me.  So I started setting up camp early. 

And good thing I did because let me tell you-- problem solving is a different story in the cold rain, stooping under a tarp, with coolish hands, wet-through rain pants, and soaked feet, after hiking for 8 hours than it is in the backyard testing grounds.  It took me a while to figure how to adjust everything  to get a good lay and get it perfectly centered under my tarp.  But I finally did get it right to my satisfaction.  I fell asleep listening to the sweet sound of rain on the tarp, slept soundly, and woke warm and dry. 
After a good night's sleep, breakfast under the tarp.
Backpacking in the rain is always more challenging, especially with new gear, but the rewards and simple pleasures make it all worthwhile.


  1. Beautiful hiking even in the rain! Really love that trillium. I wish we had rhododendron tunnels here, they are so enchanting to walk through.

  2. I totally agree- there's something so wonderful about walking though those tunnels.