Yesterday a group of eleven avid hikers trekked to Jumping Off Rock in the Jocassee Gorges of South Carolina. This hike takes place on old forest and dirt roads. The trails are unmarked and mainly little cared for although they are very passable.
It was a lovely January day with highs in the low 60s after several weeks of temperatures dropping into the teens. Earlier in the week we had been dealing with icy roads, but yesterday the roads were clear to the trailhead several miles from Highway 11. I had planned to do a loop hike so we took the right fork immediately starting uphill which continued for at least the first half hour of our travels. This trail, while leveling out in spots, continued its gentle but relentless upward climb towards Horsepasture Road. We stopped several times to remove layers of clothing and once to allow me to explore a faint side trail probably used by hunters. Much of the Jocassee Gorges in South Carolina is managed by the SC Department of Natural Resources and is used for hunting. We typically check the DNR web site to make sure there is no hunting going on before we hike or we hike on Sunday when it is prohibited.
The trails were starting to thaw with a few places holding on to a little bit of snow in the shadows. The group was fairly spread out on the trail and pockets of conversation ongoing as we progressed forward.
Right before we crossed a small wooden bridge over a small creek, there is a trail to the right that goes uphill. Crossing the bridge there is an obvious trail to the left that goes off into the woods. We have been down it before and know that it eventually tapers off so we bypassed it. I also noted right after that a somewhat hidden trail to the left which I might explore at a later date. Within about 15 to 20 minutes, the trail splits but you have to watch for it. You can continue forward on the trail you are on and will end up eventually much farther down Horspasture Road than I had intended for yesterday’s hike. The group took the left fork which immediately started uphill.
After some time, we reached Horsepasture Road and took the left turn towards our destination at Jumping Off Rock. Footing is easy here as it is a well traveled dirt road. We passed several viewpoints looking north, stopping to take some photographs and snacking briefly before moving on.
At one point, we passed a campsite in use, smoke rising from their campfire. A few cars passed us on the road heading towards Jumping Off Rock.
Later in the hike, I had occasion to talk to one of the male campers (young son in tow) at the short trail to Jumping Off Rock and we discussed hog hunting and camping gear. Wild hogs have become a big nuisance in South Carolina and I was told their reproduction rate is quite staggering. He also pointed out the hunting season for wild hogs with high-powered rifles is short. They have pretty tough hides so I gather it is hard to kill them with a 22. I’ve been told this before by another hunter so not surprising. I am not anti hunting as long as people eat what they kill. I’m sure that many a poor (and not so poor) family has subsidized their pantry in the woods.
Our hike started under completely blue, cloudless skies but as we approached our destination I could see that clouds were starting to form. Nevertheless, as we reached Jumping Off Rock, the view was quite beautiful despite the harsh winter landscape. We lunched, chatted, took selfies (and other photos), and hung out for what always seems like too brief a time but unfortunately the hike has to go on to its natural conclusion.
We backtracked to the next dirt road up, bypassed its locked green gate, and took it down in what I would call a southerly direction. This portion of the hike is mostly downhill but easily navigated. The last leg of our hike was off this dirt road, down an old red gated forest road where we eventually made it back to our cars. You know you are at the right place because almost immediately across from it is a wide open field which we thought might be a dove field (but not sure what it is actually used for). This trail is pretty flat by most standards and the worst of it is crossing a small creek while attempting to balance on unstable rocks to avoid getting wet feet. No one fell into the creek yesterday so that was a good thing.
Back at the cars, we said our goodbyes to those heading straight home, the balance of us stopping for a leisurely dinner and a chance to connect with those hikers we hadn’t connected with much during the hike.
A nice end to a great day in the woods!
Map: DNR Map of the Jocassee Gorges
Mileage 11.45 miles
Gain About 1743