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View Full Version : Foothills Trail, Dec 20-23 '08



Bearpaw
2008-12-27, 18:06
I finally had the chance to finish my Foothills Trail hike which I began in March. I returned to a rainy start at Whitewater Falls around 2 PM on Saturday afternoon.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/028a.jpg

The trail was slick from all the rain and the Whitewater River was roaring, but I was able to make decent time. In the end, I chose to stop a bit short of my goal for the day as light rain began to pick up. I hung my hammock at Thompson Creek for the night after 5 and a half damp, slick, rocky miles.

The next morning the rain had stopped, but temperatures actually dropped instead of increasing due to a cold front pushing through. Combined with high winds, it proved to be a chilly day.

However, there were many outstanding payoffs, including the side trip to Hilliard Falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/038a.jpg

The tread was a mix of fast travel along old logging roads and slow grunts up and down very steep inclines along an incredible number of wooden steps, more than I've ever seen on any trail.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/036a.jpg

I was amazed at how well maintained the trail was.

The miles fell away as I passed many many small waterfalls, cascades, and streams. I was finally open to a nice view as skirted the boat landing where the Toxaway River flows into Lake Jocassee.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/042a.jpg

My last mile over a steep ridge to Rock Creek Gap was exhausting after the previous 15 cold miles. I was beginning to resent those steps...

But once I got to Rock Creek, I was glad I made it there. The wind was significantly reduced on this side of the ridge. The temperature was already below freezing. I rigged my Speer Winter Tarp low so I would get better wind protection.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/046a.jpg

I was grateful for the end flaps which allowed me to close off the ends for all except the hammock suspension lines.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/047a.jpg

Despite an overnight low of 18 and wind gusts of 30-40 MPH, I slept warm and happy.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/032a.jpg

The next day I got off to a late start at 8:30. It was just plain cold to start off the day. I was set to meet my wife, Sleeps With Skunks, where the FHT crossed Horsepasture Road (a gravel access road) 3 miles before Highway 178.

I pushed off quickly and made decent time. I enjoyed the upper level of Laurel Falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/048a.jpg

I pushed on ahead, getting to the road about 10 minutes after my planned meeting time. A short time later, I made radio contact with SWS. She was a half mile down the very steep Horsepasture Road, unable to make it up in her 2WD Scion. I headed down.

While having a soda and a Subway meatball sandwich, I discussed options. In the end, I decided to ride Horsepasture Road, bypassing the mostly featureless 3 miles of connector trail to the the Laurel Gap parking lot.

Now, with vehicle support, I chose to throw a fun loop into the hike, riding up Sassafrass Mountain and hiking west, the opposite direction of the previous miles. This allowed me an easy downhill hike back to 178 with a tiny daypack. It seemed nearly effortless.

Afterward, SWS and I headed back to Table Rock State Park, where she was set up with our 6-person Base Camp tent,
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/072b.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/074a.jpg

The next morning, SWS again drove me up Sassafrass Mountain, and I stepped off with my happy little pack to finish the final 9 miles to the trailhead in Table Rock State Park.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/053a.jpg

While Sassafrass Mountain offered virtually no good views, the lower slopes of the Pinnacle, just inside Table Rock park boundaries, provided breathtaking vistas.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/061a.jpg

As I descended the last 3 miles, I was further treated to a new state in the many cascades and waterfalls, as several were now frozen.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/066a.jpg

As I neared the finally quarter mile, SWS met me and we strolled past the many small falls and streams and pools inside the park. Sleeps With Skunks snapped a photo of me as I reached the final trailhead of the Foothills Trail.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Foothills%20Trail%2012%2008/071a.jpg

For more details and many more photos, you can also read my trailjournal (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=259329).

Just Jeff
2008-12-27, 18:21
Great report - the FT is definitely one of my favorite trails. I'm jealous of the Pinnacle view...I was socked in by fog when I went by. Good pics of the SWT, too!