Date- March 13, 2020
Location- Gennette Poplar
Elevation- 1,923 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 24.9 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 339.9 miles
Weather/Temp- Rain, fog, overcast, 60s
Injuries- cuts, scrapes
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- Turkeys, Whitetail, Lost Dog?
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
Alas, the second to last day, and what a day it was!It was raining when I awoke, and still raining as I packed up and started hiking around 9am. The rain held steady until almost noon, as I carried Katana beneath the umbrella. I really wanted to get as big a day as possible so that tomorrow could be carefree-ish. I think we did good.
The Beast Released
We had a pretty standard day, but there were a few noteworthy highlights. First off, I want to say that Katana was on FIRE today! I carried her just until after noon (when the rain stopped). After that, she was an absolute BEAST on the trail! She was literally pushing me out of the way to get ahead. I could barely keep up with her pace, as she led the way. I’m not sure what got into her, but I liked it! Maybe she was feeling my enthusiasm for pushing hard and finishing soon.Early in the morning we came across a half-dozen turkeys milling about on the trail. They flew off noisily when they eventually noticed us, a little over a hundred feet away.
A little later in the morning, something strange happened. At least it seemed strange, based on our location. The rain was falling heavily as we made our way along a creek. Suddenly, a very big – very shaggy dog (of a reddish, brick-brown color) leapt clear across the trail. It sprinted down a short embankment, slashed right through the 20 ft wide creek, and then disappeared up a hillside covered in rhododendrons. It happened wickedly fast!As far as I could tell, it never even knew we were there. The point at which it shot over the trail was totally obscured from sight. I’m 95% sure it was a dog, because I very clearly saw a large collar around its neck, as it dashed by (about 50 feet in front of us). When I got to the spot where it crossed, there were no prints. I could see no further sign of it. I whistled and called out a few times, but could hear nothing over the rush of the creek. Very strange. I imagine someone is missing a dog up here…
Nose to the Grindstone
We kept on our grind all day, and only stopped for three breaks. The elevation gain was over 6k feet. When the rain stopped around noon, it never came back (aside for a few very light sprinkles). The clouds persisted while the humidity and temperatures remained surprisingly high. I don’t think it reached 70, but it felt pretty close. I was sweating hard the entire day.While navigating a large blow-down (with Katana under my arm), I managed to smack the top of my head on a bough. It was hard enough to make me sick to my stomach. Also hard enough to scrape the skin and bleed. It was a scab by the end of the day.
Despite the elevation changes, it was good trail and mostly very well graded. We made excellent time by not taking many breaks. I believe a lot of cyclists use this stretch of trail; therefore the trail is very well maintained. I’ve come to discover that the more expensive the hobby – the better maintained the land associated with that hobby. No complaints.
A Poplar Spot
We stopped at a spot called “Gennette Poplar” (with about an hour of daylight remaining). This poplar tree is MASSIVE! It looks like a good portion of the top fell off at some point. I’m hanging between two trees right next to/under the giant poplar. I’d love to do some research later, and find out the age of this tree.Tomorrow we’ll finish the Pinhoti. We have 8.4 miles left, so we can afford to sleep in a bit (if the weather is bad). The trail will finish in the middle of nowhere. As a result, we’ll have to do a little bit of sideways hiking to get to a road. But, it won’t be too bad. I have a few friends driving up from Florida to get me. They’ll bring me back to my van in Sylacauga (at the Pinhoti Outdoor Center).
The End in Sight
This is officially the shortest thru-hike Katana and I have ever done (when we finish). I still don’t feel emotional about it. I wouldn’t even say I feel overly excited. This was just a really nice getaway for me and the pup. It was an opportunity to spend some quality time together and get her out and about (after 11 months of household living)… AND that we did. We hiked a smart hike, didn’t do anything dumb, and didn’t torture ourselves unnecessarily. We worked around the bad weather every chance we got, and enjoyed every moment we had on trail. It’s been a memorable journey. I’m so glad I got to finally experience the Pinhoti; and with Katana, no less! I’ll give my overall take on this trail in tomorrow’s entry, or on a “post trail” blog post.This camp spot is down in a holler, and even though it’s not supposed to get terribly cold tonight… I bet it does. I’ll let y’all know tomorrow.