Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ups and Downs on the Bartram Trail

My goal was to complete my last two mile section of the Bartram Trail in Georgia as a dayhike on the Fourth of July holiday.  I've hiked some sections of the Bartram Trail in Georgia dozens of times but I'd never done the remote section between Rainy Gap and Wilson Gap.

Rather than drive to Wilson Gap on a forest service road, I got a very early start at easily accessible Warwoman Dell (1884 feet), and headed north towards Rainy Gap.  

Miles 1-2 =  A promising start.  Sun rising, forest dripping from last night's rain.  Passing Martin Creek Falls, I smiled at happy memories of previous trips and firsts.  

Mile 2 = I felt my spirits start to droop.  Gnats were buzzing in my eyes.  I got tangled in countless spiderweb traps (if there are so many spiders, why are there still gnats?).  Crankiness crept in. 

Mile 3 = Sticky rhododendron petals glomed pounds of crud to my boots.  I tried to pry it off with a stick.  More leaves and sticks accumulated.  Every. Step. Was. Hard. Uphill.  I kept thinking, "I thought I liked uphill?!?!  I thought I loved rhododendrons?!?"

Sticky crud caked to my boots maked walking difficult.
Mile 4 =  Blackberry brambles were overtaking the trail and slicing my legs/ arms.  Hot humid sweaty itchy scratchy.  "Why am I doing this again?" I asked myself every few minutes.

Mile 5/6 = Seriously considered turning around and going home and taking a nap.  Decided instead to have another snack.

Banana waffles with peanut butter.  High point of the day.
Mile 8.5 = Arrived at Wilson Gap (3200 feet) relieved I had reached my destination and it was finally time to turn around.  I had thought I'd been to Wilson Gap when I had dayhiked Wilson Gap to Rabun Bald in Fall 2008.  I looked around expecting to see familiar territory.  I realized that this place was not where I'd started hiking before.  After consulting my maps and guidebook, I figured out where I started last time was 0.5 miles beyond where I was, at another place where the trail crosses the road again.  I fumed.

Where I turned around on this hike.  5.5 miles from Rabun Bald.
Where I ended a previous hike.  5 miles from Rabun Bald.
That meant I needed to keep hiking another 0.5 miles before turning around in order to complete the Bartram Trail in GA.  Dang I did not want to do another freaking mile!  I was out of snacks, I wasn't having fun or seeing anything pretty, and I couldn't see the point.  It might have taken me an extra 20 minutes to do that last mile, and it was taking me a full day (3 hours total driving, plus 7 hours on the trail), so logically, it didn't make sense to not "finish".  But at that moment, completing the GA section seemed like some arbitrary goal that didn't feel right.  I decided to turn around and hike back.   Even though that means I've not done the entire Bartram Trail in GA.

It turned out to be a good decision.  I flew on the return trip.  Bugs, briars, heat-- none of it bothered me.  I freed myself from my arbitrary pointless goal, at least for the day.

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