Friday, April 06, 2012
I made it safely to the eastern terminus of the Palmetto Trail and took a moment to enjoy the rising sun before heading off into the unknown. The trail meandered through all types of terrain, burned forests, pine forests, hardwood forests, swampland, gravel/sand roads, single track etc. I was never in the same type of surroundings for long and it was amazing to see the different kinds of flora.
First up is the Awendaw Passage of the Palmetto Trail. From the Conservation web-site:
"The Awendaw Passage is the coastal terminus of the Palmetto Trail, ending at the intracoastal waterway, the "sea" part of the Mountain-to-the Sea Trail. This is also where you'll see palmetto trees along the trail. The trail follows Awendaw Creek through a maritime forest and offers sweeping vistas of the salt marsh. At Walnut Grove, look for a scenic overlook and boardwalk. The trailhead at Buck Hall National Recreation Area provides parking and bathroom facilities for trail users".
In addition to being extremely well marked, bridges and boardwalks have been built at most river, creek of swampy crossing.
After 7 miles the trail enters the Swamp Fox Passage:
A 47-mile journey through four distinct ecosystems, the Swamp Fox Passage is currently the longest section of the cross-state trail. There are three trailheads, which means you can either do the trail as a three or four-day trip or in shorter sections. Any access point makes for an enjoyable trip and diverse views.
My goal was to complete this section on day one and then some. About 20 miles into the trip, I realized that I had underestimated the difficulty of the terrain. I was expecting little to no elevation change, and in that I was correct. What got me was the actual trail. Mostly single track, I can only liken the conditions as riding through my back yard, for 47 miles. The trail was grassy and well kept but bumpy with no coasting down hills. This meant that I had to pedal, constantly in order to make progress. I was moving along at 7-8 mph avg, and less at times. I stayed optimistic, but realized that I was going to have to reassess my daily mileage goal.
Around mile 36.5 I was planning on stopping at the Witherbee Ranger station and hoping there was a Coke machine. This section is remote in that there are no towns/gas stations near the trail. I was glad that I had packed extra food and did not need to rely on re-supply for this section. When I arrived at the ranger station, it was deserted, so I filled up on water, behind one of the buildings, and hit the trail again.
There is a cool little, remote campsite to the right of the above picture that I highly recommend. It is Cane Gully. Interestingly, I crossed paths with Dane, the guy responsible for the Palmetto Trail, and he was planning on camping here tonight. I was tempted to stay and enjoy the company, but it was mid afternoon and I wanted to get some more miles.
I decided to get to the end of the section, the Canal Rec Area, and set up camp there for the night. The map said there was a campground, and water. When I got there, I found an overgrown picnic area with half burned outhouses, and I immediately knew that this would not be a safe place to spend the night. I headed to town and found a hotel for the night. It was well worth the money spent, to get a good night's sleep.
Next up: The Lake Moultrie Passage
Posted by Stephen at 4:02 PM