Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cave Spring and Beyond!

I woke later than normal the next morning, but only because I was now in the Eastern time zone and the sun didn't rise until an hour later than it did in Alabama. =) But I was still on the trail by 8:30 with, what I thought, was five to seven miles of hiking into Cave Spring, Georgia.

The trail, after a couple of miles, I realized had been changed since the cliff notes I carried were created. It described turning left and right on various dirt roads and the lack of blazing since the trail was on private property and negotiations were going.

I guess the negotiations paid off, because the trail generally crossed each road it came to, and the trail was well blazed. The blue blazes stopped at one point, replaced exclusively with the white diamond with a turkey print on it, but they were easy enough to follow.

When the trail reached Highway 100, I noticed the first serious discrepency between my trail notes and the blazes. My notes said to turn left (north) on 100 and head about four miles directly into Cave Spring. The blazes, however, went right (south) on Highway 100, completely 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Hmmm.... What to do?

I decided to follow the blazes, which only went south on 100 a very short ways before turning onto a dirt road called Santa Claus.

I suspected the trail was rerouted through country roads to avoid the busy traffic on 100, but would eventually lead to Cave Spring. The 'scenic route' as one would say.

The problem I have with those country roads, of course, are those uncontrolled dogs. The busier a road is, the less likely that dogs are allowed to run loose.

Not knowing with any certainty about where the blazes went, I figured it was safer to follow them than to follow 100 directly into town and try to pick up the blazes again there.

The trail meandered on several roads, and multitudes of dogs chased after me as I knew would happen by following that course, and eventually the blazes led me into downtown Cave Spring, right by the library.

I stopped to use the phone at a convenience store and the Internet at the library, which generously allowed me to use the computer for as long as I wanted so long as nobody was waiting for one, and I spent a couple of hours catching up with all the posts related to the April Fool's joke on Atlas Quest. Over a thousand in all, and the day was only half over!

When walking into town, I wasn't sure if I'd stop there for the night or not, but I figured I probably walked an extra five miles more following those blazes into town and after two or three hours catching up on the computer, I figured a hotel was necessary.

I really needed one, frankly. My last one was ten days earlier at Wetumpka, and I had several errands to get done. I got my clothes washed and dried at the hotel--the first time they'd been washed since Andalusia over 300 miles back.

The nice lady at the front desk of the hotel let me borrow a needle and thread which I used to stitch, restitch, and restitch again the tear in my pack. I think it's a pretty good sewing job, but I'll be happy as long as it holds up for just two more weeks I expected it to take to reach Springer Mountain.

I walked to the grocery store where I filled up with all sorts of food items, and ate dinner at a restaurant ordering a pizza with nearly every available topping on it. I ate most of it, and took the three slices left in a doggie box which went into the microfridge in my hotel room, figuring to eat it for lunch the next day.

I got a lot of work done, and it was nice to rest and relax in a clean hotel room. This had been my longest trek yet between showers, and I needed a day off, or at least a short day after averaging more than 20 miles per day every day I was in Alabama.

One problem, however, I was unable to solve was exactly where the trail went. I followed the blazes into town, and at the main intersection in town, I looked in all three available directions and found additional blazes both to the left AND to the right. Which was the correct direction?

Oddly enough, the direction I really wanted to go (north, which would have been straight) had no blazes at all.

And the only map I had left in my arsenal was an underpowered AAA map of Georgia.

So the next morning, I returned to the library to do a bit of sluething on the Pinhoti Trail.

Surpringly, the library didn't seem to have squat for local maps, so I resorted to some Internet searches and found a couple of routes the Pinhoti Trail followed after Cave Spring.

My notes took me all the way into Rome, then back east towards Holland. An alternate route I found seemed to take me about halfway to Rome then northeast towards Holland.

And frankly, neither of those routes made sense nor appealed to me. They were all road walks, and by heading west then back east, it added an extra ten to twenty miles (MILES!!!) of road walk (ROAD WALK??!).

And I thought, "Screw that. I'm making up my own road walk."

I decided to continue following Highway 100 straight to Holland. It was a straight shot, through and through.

I knew this route would have a lot more traffic, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing in my opinion since it meant fewer uncontrolled dogs to worry about. Additionally, a particiularly nice benefit, it would cut a full 20 miles of road walk off my hike. My hiking notes led me in circles on country roads that would have required 40 miles to reach Holland, while by following Highway 100 instead, it was only about 20 miles away.

So I blew off the Pinhoti and went with my own road walk. I just hoped I could pick up the trail easily when I reached Holland.

The highway, naturally, had a lot of fast moving traffic, but it wasn't terribly bad. Perhaps one car every few minutes, on average, and during the entire day, only one dog tried to go after me and nearly got hit by a car as a result. After that, he just barked at me from the other side of the road, afraid to come any closer.

The one sketchy part of the hike involved a bridge crossing a substantial river. The bridge had absolutely no shoulder at all, built decades before, and was too long to cross between breaks in the traffic.

I did wait for a break in the traffic anyhow then started across. I saw a car pull onto 100 coming towards me, so I moved into the opposite lane of traffic. When he passed, a second car was coming up behind, so I crossed back into my original lane of traffic. I criss-crossed the road five times, literally dodging the vehicles in both directions like a wild game of chicken.

And it hit me--this dangerous bridge was probably the reason they routed the official Pinhoti Trail so far west--to cross a safer bridge across the river.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like Frogger!

Anonymous said...

mike, you are so right on that thought.....

oh, my day one off the hike and i still have my ALW post to read..... ryan might be in withdrawl from the trail, but i still have my stories to read........AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH, now that is relief :J.

can't wait to see where they lead you next......or where you choose to hike.

keep us posted, even though we know you are no longer on this trail.