|The symbol marking the Pinhoti Trail is the turkey foot.|
|Winter views from the Pinhoti Trail.|
Why the Pinhoti
I choose this trail for two reason. First because it is a good place to hike in winter. It is lower elevation and has more mild weather than other places in the southeast.
I’ve also heard this trail offers quiet and solitude. My experience confirmed this- I only saw other people a few times- one family out dayhiking and another family camping at a shelter. Though there were the sound of gunshots from hunters in the distance and one time uncomfortably close (so wear blaze orange if you go). Other than that, no one. The solitude of the Pinhoti Trail seemed to facilitate a spirit of reflection and contemplation. Something I tend to seek out this time of year.
|Crossing a meadow on a frosty morning.|
The trail itself was well marked and signed. Shelters in this section were spaced about 10 miles apart. I looked forward to reading the shelter registries telling stories from dayhikers, section hikers, and even a few long-distance hikers of the Great Eastern Trail.
|Shelters and trail signs.|
|Leaf-covered path through the boulders.|
I met Bob and Sue at Cheaha and they drove me to High Point. They provided a wealth of information and I was delighted they could shuttle me- they are no longer doing this service except rarely to friends (or friends of friends).
Weather was variable. Rain fell on and off the first day. At night temperatures dipped below freezing and when I woke my tarp was coated in a thick frost, even though I'd done my best to camp high up near the top of a ridge away from water. My feet got so cold and numb on the fords across the streams that I began to wonder what the heck I was doing out there. I imagined there might be less painful ways to have fun.
|One of many chilly wet-foot fords.|
|Sunset comes early.|
As I relaxed into my hammock each night, I could feel my tight muscles slowly release. Coyotes howled back and forth, then there was quiet. Clouds blocked out the stars and sliver moon. The darkness was thick. I thought about how different life must have been before artificial light. About how rare it is to have extended times to be still. To go within. To just be out there. This appreciation for darkness is what I’ve come to love about winter trips. The Pinhoti Trail is a great place to just be in winter.
The trip continues in Part 2...
For more information:
The forest service map of the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama has been updated in 2014. The elevation profiles are a bit annoying because points of interest aren’t marked on them, only section mileages, which are not marked on the map. (Guess I’ve been spoiled by these features on PCT maps.) Reliability of water sources are also missing from the map, though these are given in the Alabama Trail Alliance’s Pocket Guide.
Alabama Trail Alliance- the Pocket Guides had information about water sources, road crossings, shelters, and directions to trailheads. I printed them out and found them handy and reliable.
Pinhoti Trail subform on whiteblaze.
Christine (German Tourist) describes her thru hike of the Pinhoti here.