Last weekend we had planned a 14 mile backpacking trip on the another section of the Foothills Trail in SC. We have already done 8.1 miles of it on our first backpacking adventure (you can read all about that trip here) where we started from A4 and went to A6 (we went in and out the same way totaling the miles to 16.2+). This time around we stared at A4 and went to A1 which had us ending in Table Rock State Park.
We drove up after an early work day on Friday so we left our house about 1pm, hoping to get to the trail head before it got too dark and get a few miles in before setting up for the night. Then continuing on Saturday to do 10 more miles and setting up for the night then finishing up the last few miles Sunday morning. Well in true Sheena and Todd fashion that didn’t quite happen. Todd had arranged a shuttle service for us from one of the friends of the Foothills Trail members. She met us at Table Rock State Park where we left our car and drove us to our starting point, which was A4 of the Foothills Trail. Unfortunately daylight was not in our favor and by the time we were ready to start it was pitch dark and about 6:15pm. We found a couple that had just completed the trail and were waiting to be picked up, they said the first few miles were incredibly steep and due to the rain that had been coming it wouldn’t really be safe to start our hike in the dark.
So we took their advice and camped off a closed forest service road near the parking lot of the trail head. It rained that night (we knew there was a high probability of rain the whole weekend, clearing up by Sunday) so we had anticipated it, yet it is still never fun trying to pack up everything in the rain. But we got to it the next morning bright and early ready to start our adventure. We had our homemade instant oatmeal packs for breakfast along with some trail mix. This time I mixed it up a bit and added freeze dried strawberries to the vanilla mix, it was good. The protein I use still seems to take over the flavor for the most part, but good none the less.
We started on the trail about 9am. Instantly we were grateful we ran into those people and took their advice, the trail was super steep and full of roots. Even being able to see where we were going it was still slippery. I am a firm believer that random people come into our lives for a reason, I was determined to start on Friday night and had we not ran into them we would have.
Anyhow, the trial was gorgeous despite the on and off again rain. The fall foliage was vibrant and begging to be photographed. We hiked until we got to Chimney Top Gap about 2 miles in and took a small break for a snack.
We then went another 2.7 miles to get to the top Sassafras Mountain (this is the highest peak where the entire mountain is in South Carolina, topping out at 3553 ft.) and took a break for lunch. The views were beautiful, there was a nice layer of light fog blanketing around us but not too much that you couldn’t see the views.
Right past Sassafras we ran into this cute guy on the trail.
After we rested for about a 1/2 an hour we started back on the trail. We were feeling a lot better and more energized hoping we had most of the steep stuff done. Our goal was to get to the top of Pinnacle Mountain and camp for the night. On our route there we ran into what would have been an awesome campsite for the night (unfortunately it wasn’t far enough in, it would have left way too many miles the next day). Someone had stacked tons of large rocks to create a campfire and tons of rock chairs all around the fire pit. It also looked like there were remnants of an old stone chimney. The place was EPIC! Definitely noted so that if we hike it again we can plan to camp there!
When we thought we only had about 2 more miles more to get to the top of Pinnacle Mountain we ran into a large group of boy scouts and their leaders setting up camp. They said that we only had about 4 more miles until the park entrance where we parked, at this point it was about 2:30pm. This is where we had to make a decision, do we stick to our plan and start to set up camp in the next hour or 2 or do we push on through and drive home tonight. Another thing to be noted is that you are not supposed to camp in Table Rock State Park and we were about to cross over in to the park territory (they do have camping but you have to reserve a spot and they were full; plus they are all at the park entrance). We figured with only about 4 more miles or so and mostly being down hill we could easily make it back before dark.
So we made the decision right there to push through. Granted, we had mapped it out and we knew that it was supposed to be 14 miles and we were still around 8.?? miles, we should have known it sounded to good to be true. However the decision had been made and we had to keep on trekking. Once we reached Pinnacle Mountain those last 4 miles or so past it were beautiful. The best view of the whole hike was from the top of Bald Knob, it is this huge rock that is completely open on one side to amazing views below, it sits about 2649 ft. up.
Sorry this photo is blurry, it’s the only one we got of the Bald Knob sign.
I am not afraid of heights but you won’t catch me getting close to the edge. Thankfully for most of the afternoon the rain had seized, otherwise I can see where the rock could be slippery and very scary (for someone like me!). We would have loved to spend more time on Bald Knob, but with the daylight closing in on us it was a bit of a race. So we continued on.
The dark came too quickly and by 5:38pm we were pretty much in the dark. Todd got out his headlamp and we trekked on knowing we had about 2 more miles and wouldn’t be able to camp in the park territory, plus we were sooo close! At this point we were definitely getting tired and sore. This part of the trail was beautiful and deserves another trip back to see it all in daylight. We made it back to the car about 6:30pm. Changed in the car and went to get Mexican food before starting the 4 hour car ride home.
We crammed what was supposed to be a nice relaxing 14 mile 3 day backpacking trip into one day. It was worth it to be home in our bed that night, but I do wish we would have stopped to enjoy it a bit more. We love hiking but sometimes you just want to be home and for some reason home was calling us. On a side note, once we got to our car it started dumping rain again. So we kind of lucked out!
Happy Adventuring! What is the highest peak you have been to in your state?