Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Wateree Passage

Oh, what a wonderful feeling!  To be out in the woods on the Palmetto Trail!
November 9th, 2014. My plans were to head on over to the Wateree Passage--which I thought was near Lake Wateree.  That was my first mistake!

The day was an adventure, for sure. Funny how a 4 mile hike turns into 10 when no phone reception drains the phone battery to 6% and is your GPS breadcrumb trail back to the car. Love the Palmetto Trail!

My girlfriend Stephanie and I started out the day with breakfast at Cracker Barrel with her mom, Geraldine.
We got the map out to pick the route we would follow. This is nowhere near Lake Wateree.  Instead, we had to go south and east toward Sumter off Garners Ferry Road toward the town of Wedgefield. Since half of the 7.2 mile trail was straight and flat and the other was of higher and more rugged terrain, we decided we'd take the high road.  It looked like it was a bit shorter on the map--my guess was about 2 miles.  So--4 miles round trip was what I thought we'd be doing. Wrong.
Driving Instructions: 
Foxville Rd. Parking Area: From US 378
near Sumter, take SC 261 south through
Wedgefield for 5.8 turn right onto Middleton Rd.
opposite Orangehill Church. Paved road
becomes unpaved after 1.4 miles; continue 1.2
miles. Turn left and another immediate left onto
Foxville Rd.(unmarked). Take the left fork at .7
miles, .7 miles further is a small parking area
with a kiosk on the left, yellow gate on right.
Note: Foxville Rd. is deeply rutted in places
and may not be suitable for vehicles with low
ground clearances.
ADVICE: When the map tells you the road may not be suitable for vehicles with low ground clearances, take a TRUCK, not a Ford Taurus. I was dodging potholes 2 feet deep! I took a picture of the car because I wasn't sure we'd see it again!
Bad Start: We really weren't sure where we were and if we had parked at the correct spot. Didn't know if we should keep driving or park.  It LOOKED like it could be a primitive parking spot. There was no kiosk. The yellow gate on the right was where we were SUPPOSED to begin our hike--but we didn't figure that out right away. 
Here's a pic of Fred in front of the gate with the tiny little Palmetto Trail sign on it. It took us 10-20 minutes to find the trail head. We went up one road and down another. I was using my iPhone Map app to find the trail. I even took a pic on my phone in case we were lost and needed to be rescued: 

We hiked along a railroad bed for a bit and then headed up to a high ridge. Molly's Ridge. It was beautiful!

The fall leaves were spectacular, the weather was cool, and the hike was high enough that it got our blood pumping rather quickly. 
Advice: Never lean on a rotten log to pose for a picture.  It might crumble under you!
Little Dixiana led the way.  She was out front, pulling us along the entire time.  She was in beagle heaven!
 After the high bluffs on Molly's Ridge, we came down to a swampy lake with knobby Cyprus trees. It was beautiful. But at this point, we had gone a lot farther than 2 miles.
We kept thinking that the end of the trail would be just around the next corner. Boy were we wrong. I was using up the battery on my phone by using Map My Walk, Google Maps, and the Map App to see if we were still on the trail after hiking so far. Mile after mile we kept going. I brought one bottle of water with me and kept the other in the car with snacks for our return journey, but I sure do wish I'd brought them with me, now!  We started seeing other people on the trail coming toward us. They'd say it wouldn't be far to reach the trail head . . . but they were wrong.  It WAS far!
After a total of 5 miles hiking, we wound up at Poinsett State Park. I'd never been there, but Stephanie had grown up in SC and had gone camping there with her family and youth group at church, too. It was time for a break! We drank our waters and split a granola bar.

Leaving Poinsett State Park, my phone battery was below 20%.  I had to put it into Airplane Mode while we hiked on the trail we recognized. The rest of the hike was wonderful, relaxing, and beautiful. I won't say I didn't wonder about the time.  (We have gotten stuck by the sundown on earlier hikes.)

Christmas Wish: I told my husband I'd like an external cell phone battery charger for Christmas for these hikes. There isn't much cell phone coverage out in the boonies.