Jason, Bill, Eric and I went hiking in Georgia on the Bartram Trail last week. This is the fourth multi-day hike I've been on. The others were in Colorado and New Mexico. This time the altitude was alot less. The elevation ranged from about 1600 feet to 4700 feet above sea level.
It was a 14 hour drive from Houston to the trail (near Clayton, GA). We left Houston at the crazy hour of 4:30 am. We arrived at the trail head at about 9 pm. The last 5 miles or so to the trailhead was memorable. Jason's Tom Tom GPS decided to take us down something less than a road. It was little more than a trail. Barely wide enough for the truck. It was two ruts with weeds in the middle. I would have never turned down that "road" no matter what the GPS said. However, I think Jason was looking forward to using his truck offroad. Although this clearly wasn't the proper route to the trailhead, we did eventually make it.
It started raining just after we arrived at the trailhead. Eric and I slept in the cars. Jason and Bill pitched their tents just in time to avoid hard rain. The next morning, we parked at car at each end of the 37 mile trail and headed out on our adventure.
Day 1 - 7 miles
The weather wasn't great for Day 1. It never rained hard, but it misted much of the day. There were also low clouds/fog all day long. The first day was one of large elevation changes. We started at 3200 feet, hiked to the top of Rabun Bald mountain (at 4700 feet), and then hiked back down. Rabun Bald is the second highest point in Georgia. The view should have been amazing. Unfortunately, the view was nothing but white. White as in clouds. We should have been able to see for miles from the observation deck built on the top of mountain (it has been there since 1933). However, the clouds were so think that we couldn't see more than 50 feet. While this day had alot of elevation change, I felt pretty good when we arrived at the campsite. The campsite wasn't great. Everything was pretty wet, but at least it was level. It of course rained overnight to ensure our tent rainflys were nice and wet in the morning.
Day 2 - 9 miles
The weather was better for Day 2. It wasn't exactly nice, but it wasn't raining. Day 2 was almost all downhill. However, that doesn't make it easy. I hate downhill. It isn't as tiring, but it is alot tougher on your feet and your knees. I also had an equipment malfunction on Day 2. About 12 miles into the hike, the sole of my boot came off. It actually didn't completely come off. The front was still attached. However, more than half came loose. There is no way I could continue the hike like that, and I would have never made it in the sandals I wear in camp. Luckily, Jason had gators which he didn't really need. Gators are things that keep stuff like snow out of your boots. The good part is they have a strap that goes under your boot. I used that strap to keep the sole of my boot on. It wasn't perfect, but it kept the sole on for the rest of the hike. By the time we made it into camp my feet were on fire from the downhill. Luckily I didn't get blisters and I felt pretty good after getting out of my boots. The campsite was nicer the second day. Of course, it rained overnight.
Day 3 - 7 miles
The weather was great for Day 3. It was nice and sunny. It was a little hot, but otherwise great. Day 3 was almost all uphill. It was a much tougher day than we expected. However, we all made it and I felt good when we came into camp. The camp was really nice (probably the nicest of the trip). It was at the top of Rainy Mountain. The camp grounds most distinguishing feature was tons of vines. Some of them were huge (thick). The campground even had some vines perfect for swinging on. Bill and I took turns swinging on the vines. Jason even tried it. My tent was surrounded by huge vines growing along the ground. They were perfect for draping my stuff on. Given we were camping on Rainy Mountain, it of course did NOT rain on us overnight. This was actually the only night of the trip in which it didn't rain. For once, we woke up and could pack a completely dry tent.
Day 4 - 6 miles
Day 4 had the most beautiful views. The weather was very nice. The highlight of the day was a little detour off the Bartram Trail. We dropped out packs and headed on a short hike down Dick's Creek towards the Chattooga River. There is a waterfall where Dick's Creek flows into the Chattooga River. The Chattooga forms the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It was beautiful. The water was crystal clear. The rapids and the trees made for incredible views. The trail also paralleled the Chattooga River for awhile. This made for great views. We ended up camping by the river. The campsite was small, but it was nice being near the river. We actually came into camp early and finished hiking at about 2 pm. We used the time to rest and hang out at the river. I actually went into the river. I planned to go swimming, but the water was super cold and the current was stronger than I expected. I did end up wading well past my waist in the river. It was tough but I actually made it all the way across the river at one point. That was alot of fun and allowed me to get some nice pictures. Bill waded into his knees, but no one else decided to really go into the river. The only bad part of the day was for Bill. He started pitching his tent over what was apparently a yellow jacket nest. He got stung three times and the yellow jackets swarmed along the ground for hours. Bill ended up pitching his tent somewhere else and the swelling didn't last long. As we were no longer on Rainy Mountain, it of course did rain (though not too bad) overnight.
Day 5 - 8 miles
Day 5 was the last day of hiking. At this point, we were all ready to get off the trail. Jason's feet were blistered badly. We were all craving Mexican food after days of granola, protein bars, and dehydrated food (and 3 lbs of almonds in Eric's case). The last day of hiking was a little harder at first than expected. It was pretty uphill for alot longer than we thought. However, the second half of the day's hike was pretty level. It was so level that we went quite a bit faster than the other days. Despite the relatively easy hike, I was pretty tired when we reached the trailhead where the car was parked. The hike wasn't as nice as the other days. The last couple of miles was pretty much just through the weeds. There were a few nice views of the river at the very end of the hike.
After the hike, we headed to a Mexican food restaurant in Clayton. After days of hiking food, it was awesome. Overall, it was a good hike. Other than Jason's feet, Bill's yellow jacket stings, and my boot malfunction, everything went well.