Hiking Best Practices

1.  Be sure and bring a map when hiking. Don’t just rely on a GPS.

2.  Dress in layers when you hike and avoid cotton as it doesn’t breathe.

3.  Carry a first aid kit with you when you hike.

4.  Bring plenty of water with youDSCN1233 when you hike or be prepared to purify.

5. Wear appropriate hiking shoes or boots. If you think flip flops are appropriate, we need to talk.

6.  Don’t kill the snakes. Avoid them. You aren’t food so they aren’t interested in you.

7.  Watch where you sit or put your hands when hiking. You don’t want any nasty surprises!

8.  Always carry extra food on a day hike. You never know when you are going to get held over.

9.  Hike your hike. Not the guy’s in front of you.

10.  Add some duct tape to your hiking pole.  It’s great to fix lots of things in a pinch!

11. Don’t overestimate your hiking abilities. Know your limits and start slow and easy.

12. Stay off waterfalls and the streams above them. No exceptions! None of them are safe.

13. Carry the phone number of the closest ranger station in case of emergency.

14. Don’t panic if you get lost. Most lost hikers are typically found within 3 days.

15. Learn some survival skills just in case.

16. Take a first aid class. Hopefully you’ll never need it when you hike but better to be prepared.

17. Trust your instincts if a stranger on the trail is making you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let politeness get in the way of your own safety!

18. Always carry a pocket knife and at least one kerchief when hiking.

19. Keep an eye on the trail and watch your footing when you hike. Falls kill!

20. Stop at all turns and make sure you have everybody before you move on.

21. At every turn, check where you are on the map (even if you think you know).

22. TBD

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Paynes Creek Trail, Hartwell, Georgia

Yesterday we hiked with Upstate Hiking at Paynes Creek Trail in Georgia.  This is a biking/hiking trail that follows Lake Hartwell for much of its length.  The trail was engineered mainly for biking but is a great trail for hiking as well. 20150228_124408 Mileage for this hike was about 7 miles with what we think may be an additional 2 or 3 miles on a trail called Heartbreak Ridge. We did not do the extra miles as we had only planned to do 7 but know it’s an option for another day.

We saw a few bike riders yesterday, one runner, and several locals who were clearing off a large tree that had fallen across the trail but other than that the trail was not heavily used when we were there.20150228_113409

The trail itself weaves through the woods with what I would describe as moderate amounts of elevation gain.  I would call it a moderate hike overall, not very technical. I did note that some of the biking descriptions called it a “good ride” and “fun.”

There were several small beaches off the trail to stop and enjoy the views of the water and to have lunch.  This is probably not a great place to hike in the summer as it can get warm here. 20150228_120802

In addition to hiking, there is a boat ramp and a great parking lot with lots of parking. The site is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and has a campground which was closed when we were there.

If you are coming from South Carolina, it’s not too far from the state line off I-85.20150228_104421


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It’s Good to Have a Dream

I know I’m supposed to be talking about hiking but sometimes it is good to talk about something else.

As we get older, we start to experience death in the generation before us.  We even start to experience it in our generation.  Hopefully this makes us thoughtful.  Specifically in my case it makes me think about how short life really is and how much of it we spend being afraid.  We all have fears but I have come to realize that we need to push past those fears because we really have nothing to lose when the end result is the same for all of us.  If we let fear hold us back from accomplishment, then we have failed to live fully the one life that is given to us.

20150221_113557I’ve also learned too that it is good to have a dream, of something we want to be or something we want to accomplish. Whether or not we actually attain our dream is something else but if we strive for it, we will be a lot closer to it than if we never started.

I can’t tell you how to live but I can tell you not to wait to start examining your life and your fears and find the courage to face them and take the next step. Live your life fully and happily unencumbered by the regret of not having tried to go after what you want.

And if you fail, so what?  Pick yourself up and find yourself a new dream and keep moving forward. You only have one life! This is it.

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Chattooga River Trail (Georgia): Dicks Creek Falls to Hippie Beach and Back

Yesterday we hiked with Upstate Hiking on the Chattooga River.  We parked right before the ford on Sandy Ford Road and hiked in on the trail that heads south towards the river. Much of this trail follows Dicks Creek and had lots of greenery on its banks even though it is still winter in Georgia.  This trail comes out right at the Chattooga Trail and there is signage here.  If you continue on straight downhill, you will run into Dicks Creek Falls and Ledge.DSC04635  This is a beautiful spot on the river with a nice view of the ledge from the top of the waterfall.DSC04641

DSC04642Take great care if you stop here as these spots are always dangerous.

The group spent about 15 minutes here taking pictures and wandering around.  I continued down the trail and around the corner by the river as I wanted to see where it went.  Just more river there but you never know. It was a very sunny day and hard to take good photos but we did get a few.

We returned back up the trail to meet up with the Chattooga River Trail and headed west towards Hippie Beach.  It is approximately 3.9 miles from this intersection.  The trail was rolling as I’ve come to find out it is for much of its distance.  We intersected Sandy Ford Road again on the trail and at that point we took a detour down the road to the River. If you hike with me, you know I am all into exploratory. I figure we may never get back! There is a parking lot for several cars there, a nice sandy beach, and a place in the river they call “Double Drop.” DSC04652 We wandered down the river trying to see if there was any trail to the Narrows but nothing promising. DSC04656A few people found some rocks to stand on in middle of the river.

Someone spotted what they thought was a trail that went uphill but it wasn’t. Miss D volunteered to see if she could find a trail and headed up. It turned out to be an old forest road so the rest of the group followed her uphill, and we took it back to Sandy Ford Road which was a very short distance away.

Continuing uphill on the dirt road, we returned to the intersection of the road and trail and headed west.  Some way down the trail, I could hear what I think was the Narrows which we have visited before from the South Carolina side but there was no visible way to get down there from the trail.DSC04659  At one point, I spotted a small waterfall on a feeder stream and took this photo. DSC04654

The group finally stopped about 1:30 p.m. for lunch.  We are not positive that what we found was Hippie Beach but there were two nice campsites divided by a small stream with a bridge crossing. It’s called Hippie Beach because it is said a group of hippies lived here at one time. You could get several small tents on each site and a few hammocks but that’s about it. DSC04661What might have once been a beach was overgrown. Several of us decided to sit on the river on some rocks for lunch. After lunch, a few of us wandered across the bridge just to check it out.  This was our turn around point.

The group returned back the way we came. At one point, we met some hikers from the Charleston meetup and had a nice conversation about their upcoming backpacking trip to the area.  DSC04666We did see another small group of hikers earlier in the day, and 2 other hikers. That was like running into a crowd on this trail.  The few other times we have hiked it we have had it mostly to ourselves with a few exceptions.DSC04664DSC04655

It’s a pretty hike and about 8.8 miles approximately not including the detour.

Hike:  In and Out

Difficulty :  Difficult due to mileage

Mileage:  About 9.6 miles (including detours)

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Timms Mill, Pendleton, SC

Mr. T and I decided to take a ride in the country last Saturday. It was supposed to be a not so nice day but it turned out to be very sunny and beautiful here in South Carolina. I love to combine history and hiking when I can and am always looking for places that might be interesting.  A Google search turned up a place called Timms Mill which is a restored working gristmill out in Pendleton, SC so we got in the car and headed out.


The mill itself is located on Timms Creek which when we arrived was actually a pretty decent size creek with a steady flow of water.  I understand that in the summer it can get pretty dry but in January it was flowing very well.

The water to power the mill is actually pumped under the road and down a wooden sluice where it hits a bright green water wheel to power the grinding and sorting machines inside.DSC04601 Dave (the owner) was very friendly and invited us in. Dave very patiently explained how the machines work and let us wander around. DSC04596They only grind corn on Saturday and sell grits and corn meal to small, local stores that carry food products.  There are still a few locals that bring their corn to the mill to grind.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of dust from the corn grinding so I mostly kept my camera covered while I was inside.

Bill, a friend of Dave’s, who also helped with the mill restoration, shared stories about the mill with us making this a very nice experience.DSC04594DSC04592

They tell me that the first Saturday in December they have an open house where they have a bluegrass band and sell cider and corn products. DSC04600Lots of people come for the music and to buy grits to put in their Christmas gifts!

We sure will plan to try and stop by in December and maybe sooner if we can get a hike together over in that area.

We topped the day off with a stop at the Pendleton bakery and small cafe next door.  The food was great. There is also an artist co-op right next door with some very nice art work. A great place to take a ride in the country!

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Virginia Hawkins Falls on the Foothills Trail, South Carolina

Last Sunday we hiked to Virginia Hawkins Falls on the Foothills Trail (“FHT”) in South Carolina with Upstate Hiking.  The group started out from the Laurel Valley parking lot off 178 (Rocky Bottom, SC) which can be reached via an approximately half mile (a guesstimate) one lane dirt road.  There is lots of parking at Laurel Valley so no worries there. No restroom facilities.

DSC04579The trail starts past the signboard on your right up a steep set of stairs and then makes its way westward.  Horsepasture Road continues straight ahead. If you continued straight down Horsepasture Road you would quickly reach the trail on your left that goes to the Narrows, a very pretty waterfall, and a great place for spring wildflowers!

Footing is an issue on this section of the FHT as it is steep and narrow in places. I slipped on leaves several times (which would have resulted in a tumble down the hillside) so great care needs to be taken here.  The winter views were beautiful and we were illuminated with bright sunlight for the duration of our trip.  As usual, it seems I had brought too many coats and so had two hanging off my pack. (I’ve got to stop doing that.) We eventually arrived at Virginia Hawkins Falls, after crossing several small bridges and passing through a copse of green rhododendron. This twenty-five foot waterfall was renamed after a former executive secretary of the Foothills Trail Conference in 2004.  It was known as Double Falls prior to that time.DSC04582-001

After lunch and some photos (I didn’t take many all day), I decided we would just loop back around through the Laurel Fork Heritage Preserve and hook back up with the FHT via Horsepasture Road just for a change of scenery.  Fork Creek Road (trail) can be found on the free Department of Natural Resources Map which you can pick up from the Jocassee Gorges Visitor Center off Highway 11 or some of the local outdoor stores may carry it. If you continue down the FHT you will run into a large campsite. Don’t cross the next bridge but rather walk through the campsite to an opening in the trees and you should run into this trail. Make a left (right goes to Laurel Fork Falls) going approximately east.

Instead of heading uphill at the marked turn to Horsepasture Road, we continued on to look for a scenic overlook which is marked on the map.  Not sure if we found it but we did find a good view of what we think was Drawbar Cliffs in the distance which is also on the FHT. That’s a great place to stop and have lunch with nice views. My rough estimate is it is about 15 miles on the FHT from where we were. DSC04572-001

As we stood in the middle of the road, a pickup truck came by and stopped. The driver had recognized me (even without my signature orange hat) and stopped to ask if we were lost! I replied no, we knew where we were (very funny! ha). You have to be able to take some ribbing out here.

After an uphill road climb, we finally looped back on the FHT and started our return trip to the Laurel Valley parking lot. At one point, we ran into a group of young men who seemed to be out for a stroll of sorts. Some of them did not seem to be particularly well prepared for hiking as I noted one was wearing what looked like rain boots but so it goes.  They did share with me a photo they had taken of a small waterfall right off the trail which intrigued me but it had already been a long hike and I did not want to call the group back to take a look as I thought I might have a mutiny on my hands. I decided to save it for another day when we were fresh.DSC04586We finally made it back to the parking lot after a very satisfying hike in the Jocassee Gorges.

If you stick to an in and out to Virginia Hawkins Falls on the FHT, the mileage is about 9.4.  It’s rated moderate in the “Guide to the Foothills Trails.” I’d rate it strenuous for distance.

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Hike to Thrifts Ferry on the Chattooga River, Georgia Side

Several weeks ago we did a meetup hike to Thrifts Ferry.  Apparently this was an old ferry crossing that is no longer in use.  We started at the Bull Sluice parking lot on Highway 76 in South Carolina and crossed the bridge heading towards the Georgia side of the river.  The trailhead is down the stairs to your right so you never have to get on the road.  The trail itself to Thrifts Ferry stays mainly on the ridgeline so although you see the river sometimes through the trees you never really get close to it until you hit Thrifts Ferry.DSCN1116_tonemapped

It was a beautiful but cold January day.  I hardly noticed the cold though as I was dressed fairly warmly in layers and the up and down nature of the hike kept me warm enough.  The hike itself was fairly short (as my hikes go) being about 9.2 miles in and out.  We had hiked in this area before although it was on a faint path down by the river where we passed Mr. Joker Grotto, Bull Sluice, and Eight Ball among other sites. That path though would probably be quite overgrown in summer so not recommended at that time of year from my perspective. It also has lots of downed trees to cross over and under.  I did like our visit to Bull Sluice from the Georgia side.  There is a little creek crossing and you have to remove your shoes but worth it. You can get to these particular places from side trails off the main trail in any event.


Once we got to Thirfts Ferry at the 4.6 mile mark, we noted a nice campsite above the river.  There is also a sandy beach for sunbathing and some of my fellow hikers took some time even in January to catch some rays! You can see on both sides what looks like an old road bed going down to the river.  We had our lunch here and observed several kayakers entering the river across from us on the South Carolina side.  They made it to Bull Sluice about the same time we made it back to our starting point.

There are several places on this hike where you can look across to South Carolina and get some nice views. Winter is a great time to see views you would not normally see when the trees are fully leaved.  I noted several campsites before we got to Thrifts Ferry, one very small one close to the trail.

This is an in and out hike, 9.2 miles in length, and I’d rate it moderate. Definitely a do over!

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