Mile 27.1 – 16.1 miles
I jerked awake as something crashed through the bushes near my campsite in the dark!
This was to be the night’s theme. It was probably a deer since I had heard it blowing once or twice. I had ensured no game trails to the water and camped far enough away from the water that my campsite should not have been an issue. Sometimes though, the deer like to mess with hikers.
About an hour before dawn, and after being startled awake for about the tenth time, I finally gave up on sleep and sat up to begin packing. It was a little cooler than the day before, so I stayed in my sleep clothes and puffy while I ate my cereal, putting on my damp hiking clothes as close to leaving as possible.
The first five miles along the Chattooga River were slow as I picked my way over roots and rocks in the dark, but I picked up speed as the sky lightened. There were sections where the river lapped up against the edge of the trail, and I could imagine it would be tough to hike this section after heavy rains if the river flooded.
Where there were beach areas along the river, there were clear fire rings where other hikers had camped along the edge of the river. Camping near water is popular, but I usually try to stay back from the water but close enough that I can walk down and enjoy the views.
About five miles into the morning, I left the river and began a slow, moderate climb up Fish Hatchery Road. There was a nice view of Whiteside Mountain near the top, and I stopped for a snack to enjoy the views since the sky was beginning to clear.
Passing over Fish Hatchery Road, I came to a cooler about 100 yards down the trail. It was full of sodas, and I chose Dr. Pepper Cream Soda, a flavor I did not know was ever produced. Maybe it’s a southern thing?
It was only the second day on the trail, but it is always lovely to see unexpected trail magic, although “trail magic” is up for debate since the trail angel also left their Venmo information. Regardless, I consider any cold soda in the middle of nowhere magical.
There was no lack of water and bridges today. As a matter of fact, this trail has to be maintained by an engineer! Even the small streams have rather elaborate bridges. Honestly, though, this person may be pretty forward-thinking because, in the long run, this is far less maintenance that needs to be done, and my dry feet are certainly not complaining.
There was a nice campsite on top of the mountain above the girl scout benches, but not much of a view, so I hiked about a quarter of a mile further and camped off in the woods. I hoped the Girl Scout benches would have some views in the morning. There had to be benches there for some reason.
Night came quickly once I stopped and set up camp about 100 yards from the trail. The spot was nice and leafy, on the other side of a large log. You could see it from the trail if you looked hard. I left my tent fly off to watch the night around me.
Within about an hour, two people passed with headlamps. I’m not a big night hiking fan because I love to see everything around me. Glowing eyes, tree frogs, and crickets are nice occasionally, but they don’t stir my imagination positively.
I usually start thinking about nocturnal predators that I won’t see coming. Of course, it probably would not matter in most cases, even if I did see them coming.