My journey begins
Anticipation, nervous excitement, and curiosity fluttered in me, as my tires bumped along the washboard road leading up to Flagg Mountain, and the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail. Months earlier I’d felt the call to hike Alabama’s “long trail” growing strong, and a few days prior I decided the time had come. I loaded my pack, left my toddler with her grandparents, and set out to section hike 172 miles of Alabama’s Appalachians. (Keep reading past the video for the full story).
Dirt, gravel, pavement, pine straw, and rock each supported my feet during my 29 mile journey across sections 1 and 2 of Alabama’s Pinhoti. I’ve been impressed by the trail community surrounding the Pinhoti, and found support from family, friends and strangers as I prepared for this trek. While the first leg of my trip was a solo hike, none of my miles would have been possible without their assistance, but actually carrying my 25 pound pack over unfamiliar terrain was all on me. This was a challenge I relished and am excited to continue again soon!
I’m a hiker at heart, and no matter where I am in the world, the woods feel like home. These two facts fueled my uncertainty and apprehension of sections 1 and 2, because I knew many of the miles would entail road walking. The idea of my feet pounding pavement under a heavy pack, as I traversed county roads with “troublesome dogs” and state highways full of log trucks, was anything but appealing. However, the goal is to take the good with the bad (as is often true in backpacking) so my decision to hike the Pinhoti northbound (NOBO) was, in big part, so I could knock out the bulk of the road walk early in this adventure. While I am grateful to have the road walking under my trail-runners (lighter than boots), I was also pleasantly surprised by the experience.
Day one came with a late morning start, and some mingling on the trail with other hikers. The terrain was challenging, with beautiful vistas and easy to follow trail. My first section of road walk was mentally uncomfortable due to the common sights of Confederate flags and “keep out” signs, but the landscape and actual road were quite enjoyable. I also had beautiful weather and a very comfortable new pack. I was grateful to re-enter the woods, and planned to camp around mile 12. An early dinner, clear flowing streams, and the life of the forest filled me with a second wind. I hiked on by moonlight about 3 miles past my intended camp, then slept under the stars without setting up my tent.
Rain drops softly woke me before dawn, but the light rain quickly dissolved and I was left refreshed with an early start to my day. I felt wonderful and completely at peace. I trekked the last three miles of woods before beginning my 11.5 mile road walk to complete the first two sections of the Pinhoti. Past barking dogs and highway traffic, through neighborhoods and rain, I put one foot in front of the other, and with newfound joy from outpacing my own goals I completed sections 1 and 2 a full day ahead of schedule. More importantly, I debunked my own preconceived notions that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience, and I found a new confidence that only comes from stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.
What to know?
- Be prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, water, snacks and other essentials
- Tell someone your plan, and hike with a buddy
- Know your limits, and those of your children and pets
- The Pinhoti crosses several land management districts and municipalities. Be aware of local regulations and hunting seasons
- To learn more on planning your Pinhoti day trip, section hike, or thru hike check out the resources below:
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