Chatooga Trail Hike

Journal entries from the trail via iPhone

Day 1 – 7/4/12

We left the house at 10 am July 4th.  Luckily the luggage rack for my Miata arrived the night before, and it installed in a snap. Otherwise we would have been stranded at home without a means of backpack transportation. We arrived at the trailhead just before 1 … Lots of white water rafters and tubers using this lot as their launching point.  We were on the trail by one, and hiked about 1/2 hour before stopping for lunch at a scenic creek crossing. After that we did two 90-minute legs for a total of &;7 miles on the day. I was disappointed that the trail did not follow the river, and also that the river is broad and slow along this section. When we scouted the trail last spring, we were much further upstream where it is rough and wild. Today We hiked mostly in the woods, with only occasional glimpses of the river. Tomorrow promises to be more of the same. Its a relaxing camp by the riverside. No people around – we only saw day hikers and swimmers once on the trail.

Day 2

… So far. Up at 7:15, walking by 8:15. Or first leg brought us to the Bartram Trail intersection. At two other dirt road intersections we passed some campsites with people, mostly of the local flavor. Second section it started to get hot. Still not much of the river to be seen. A stretch along Warwoman Creek has been nice. We are taking a break for lunch now, just before the trail breaks away from the creek and back in to the woods. Thunder in the distance – same as yesterday but we have yet to see rain.

(6 hours later….)  The lesson for the day is “every day on the trail I not going to be totally awesome”.   After lunch it was nothing but woods until we crossed West Fork towards the end of the day. The last 2 miles were densely overgrown with weeds and brambles that we had to push through. When we arrived at Hwy 28 we had 10 minutes left on out “leg”, so we pushed on with the intent of stopping just past Russel Bridge to camp. So far it has been the case that good camping sites are to be found all along the river – not so much in the woods.  We never found Russel Bridge.  From the Hwy 28 trailhead parking, the trail enters the woods beside a large rock engraved with Bartram Trail. Then it disappears into a warren of confusing meandering rabbit trails through dense thickets and a muddy creek. Several times we thought we’d lost the trail. Finally we gave up when the trail seemed to peter out in a muddy thicket of laurel. We could sense the river nearby, so I bushwhacked over to it and peeked out. I was on a bluff 15 feet above the river. The highway bridge was to my right a few hundred yards off, but no sign of the foot bridge, which should have been to the left or right in front of me. We decided to make this our turnaround spot, and head back down the trail to find a camping spot. We had not passed one for the last several miles, so figured we were in for a stealth camp. We found a spot just beyond the West Fork bridge, which we are sharing with some college age dudes (or beefy highchoolers – thankfully not drinking) on a fishing expedition. It had been thundering for the last two hours and now it has started to rain. Straight down, nothing too severe. I think the edge of the storm grazed us.

Day 3

Up at 6:15, walking by 7:40. I’m not sure why it took us 25 minute longer today than yesterday. Perhaps the wet gear. My intent was to hike 3 sections in the morning, and two in the afternoon. Playing it by ear of course, adjust as necessary. We made great time all morning. It was cool and damp from the rain. We sidestepped to check out Dicks Creek Falls, which we had skipped on the way in, and decided to stay for lunch. We were at mile 8. We took a long break relaxing by the falls. The afternoon was more difficult due to the climbing heat. However it seemed more scenic than it did on the way in. And for me at least the climbs seemed easier. I hardly noticed them, until we were going down the other side. At our first after-lunch break (mile 11) Jason said his feet were hurting. I gave him my Superfeet inserts and we started on our last leg of what was supposed to be a 15 mile day. Less than a mile later we passed a camping spot that had a beach with a swimming hole and a rope swing. Wednesday evening when we passed this spot it was occupied with swimmers, but today it was vacant. I made a last minute executive decision to stop at this spot rather than hike the last 2 miles. I figured a swimming hole would make for better childhood memories than a tiresome 15 mile day. We set up camp and headed to the beach. By this time – after 5 pm (we stopped hiking around 4:30) – it was no longer hot. The shadows were all the way across the river and touching the opposite shore. After a swim we built a fire (a bonus) and started cooking dinner. A storm started to roll in just as we started eating, and we had to finish up under our tarps during a downpour that lasted 40 minutes. The next hour was relaxing, spent adjusting the tarps and talking. Right around darkness, 9:00 pm, we started hearing voices and motors coming over the hill. Suddenly 4 ATVs pulled in to the campsite, loaded with local good ol boys and camping gear. They told us they were here for a weekend of catfishing, and not to mind them. They were good country folk and would be no bother. They had been coming here all their lives – used to drive their trucks in here before they turned it in to a national forest – hope we don’t get caught with the ATVs. They started unloading coolers, lanterns, tarps, folding tables, frying pans. One of them rode down on to the beach and fired up a chainsaw to cut down a tree for firewood. So here we are. They keep threatening to go night fishing, but they are still here getting ready. The adventure continues.

Day 4

Text here.


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