Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pinhoti Trail through the Dugger Mtn. Wilderness

The Pinhoti trail extends 335 miles from Alabama to Georgia's Benton MacKaye trail and offers plenty of solitude.  We saw early spring wildflowers and heard spring peepers on our 12 mile hike through the Dugger Mountain Wilderness in Alabama but encountered no other hikers, even though it was a 70-degree sunny Saturday.  We started from the (well-marked and easily accessible) Burns Trailhead and went a bit past Dugger Mountain, the second highest peak in Alabama.  
Hepatica with its characteristic 3-lobed leaves

This little-used path weaved through remarkably varied habitats- dry open slopes, gleaming white boulderfields, mountain laurel lined stream banks, and forest types that were unlike ones I've encountered in Georgia.  The constant of this hike was the bright emerald moss lining the trail.

This section of the Pinhoti trail was exceptionally well-designed (and well-marked) and had the most gradual inclines I've ever encountered, like a long ramp--  as if the trail designer's main goal was to create a trail that's easy on the knees.  Often this required extensive detours up side-canyons, as we traced contour lines.  The Pinhoti trail also lacked any intimidating-looking inclines.  It spiraled it's way around the sides of the mountains, creating the illusion that the summit was just up ahead.  But round the corner, the gentle incline continued ahead still not looking difficult.  In this way, the trail tricked us into climbing 1500 feet while giving the impression it was just an easy stroll (though tired legs provided a reminder that we were really doing some climbing).

We never reached the summit of Dugger Mountain, or an overlook, making me grateful that the leaf-less trees provided winter views in both directions from the ridge-tops. 

The other impressive thing about the Pinhoti trail was the detailed website, complete with trail descriptions, maps, and driving directions to trailheads.  This trail is at lower overall elevation than the North Georgia mountains, making it a great place to go in the fall, winter, and spring.

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