SOUTHERN TERMINUS | PINHOTI TRAIL
334.9 miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia
23-24 MAY 2015
Weogufka, Alabama– Just west of Weogufka, the 1,152ft Flagg Mountain is recognized as the southernmost and last Appalachian mountain along the eastern seaboard above 1,000ft.
For hikers going north from Key West, FL, on the Eastern Continental Trail(ECT) or from the Alabama/Florida state line to New York state on the Great Eastern Trail(GET), Flagg Mountain is the first mountain they’ll come to. Standing Stately is the Flagg Mountain Fire Tower beckoning upon this Alabama pinnacle. Constructed in 1935 in the “Arts & Craftsmen Movement” architecture style, Flagg Mountain Fire Tower is the fraternal twin of the Bunker Fire Tower that sits atop Alabama’s highest peak; Cheaha Mountain (2,413 ft). Flagg Mountain Fire Tower was 1 of 190 built in Alabama from the 1930’s to the 1970’s.
THE PLAN – My initial plan was to solo hike the newly blazed section of the Alabama Pinhoti Trail (Ala PT) located in the Forever Wild Land Trust Weogufka State Forest Addition in Coosa County in an “Out & Back” fashion. The newly constructed Section 1 includes a 5.3-mile section of trail, a previous road-walk that was re-routed through the forest, and a trailhead located at the base of Flagg Mountain.
After about 1.5miles into the hike, Weogufka Creek came into view through a clearing.
Shortly after that view came the Weogufka Creek shelter.
However, when I got to the end of the 5.3 mile hike, I decided to take a left instead of back-tracking (If you go right, you would come the Weogufka Crossroads to continue on the ALA PT for 17.6miles of road walking through Sylacauga, AL to reach the woods trail again of Rebecca Mountain via 603A Trail head) to make it a loop using Coosa County Road 56/55/CC Camp Road ending at the new trailhead from whence I came. The choice to make it a loop resulted in road walking around 6 miles (3.2 on CR56/55)(2.5 on CC Camp rd). I had decided that I would either stealth camp in the state forest or if possible atop Flagg Mountain.
While on the road, to pass the mileage, I began to search out Alabama roadside wildflowers…and man did I find some.
I found myself exploring a little more since I was solo for this trip. I found the “ATHS Flagg Mt Yellow & White Trail System”, the dilapidated-renovated-beginning to dilapidate again CCC cabin area just across the Gap from the Flagg Mountain Fire Tower, and of course the Flagg Mountain Fire Tower.
I wasn’t really sure what I would find as I ascended up the road to the tower location. I guess that was the adventure of exploring the area…not knowing.
Once I got to the top of Flagg Mountain, I found the grass was tall and the bushes un-kept around the tower and pavilion. Nothing was locked and there were no “No Trespassing” signs to be found. The only sign I found was one that read…
“Stairs not safe!” leading to the top of the fire tower.
After some examination of the lower stairs, I took the risk of ascending to the top for a view of the surrounding landscape. As the sign read, the stairs were very suspect and their life was on borrowed time. I stayed as close to the tower’s walls as I encircled the stairs that were winding to the top, stepping over a few that had already surrendered their life to rot. Once atop the still stately fire tower, the flooring was amazingly solid (A lot more solid than the AT’s Shuckstack in the Smokies). A few windows were open allowing the near-constant wind to blow through the 1,182 ft southern Appalachian pinnacle. From the tower, Rebecca Mountain was off in the distance beckoning a hiker to make the trek through Sylacauga…and on to Katahdin. After spending the moments there in the observation cabin taking in the high-light of the trip, I decided to descend albeit ever so gingerly to set up camp for the evening. The tower had a pavilion connected to it making for a great open shelter. I assumed I would be the only tenant on the mountain for that night, so I decided to place my tent and lounging hammock under the pavilion. The quarried stone pavers made for a very flat and easy set-up and the stone walls provided excellent shelving for my pack’s gear.
QUICK GEAR REVIEW – This would be the first night of use for my new Exped SynMat UL7 Medium (16.7oz). As I try to go lighter and lighter, this mat offered a good amount of ounce savings and my current sleep pad, Exped DownMat 9, was overkill for spring and summer trips. I still plan to use my DownMat on 30 degree or less trips due to it’s high R-value. Another new item was the Exped UL Schnozzel Bag (2.2oz) use in dual fashion as a water-resistant pack liner and as an inflation device for the SynMat. I couldn’t be any happier with these two items (Unless they were less than 16 ounces). I had a restful night of sleep and the Exped quality is exactly what I expected…STELLAR!
Overall, my “BIG 3” backpacking items came in around a little over 9lbs minus consumables (Gossamer Gear Pack – 1.85lbs, TNF Sleeping bag/SynMat pad – 3.5lbs, MSR Shelter – 4lbs). I will continue to work on getting the “Shelter weight” down as 4lbs sounds absurd to me as I refine/purge my backpack weight and learn from new friends & thru-hikers ( http://www.sticksblog.com , http://www.hikelighter.com , http://www.followingredbeard.com, http://www.backcountrybanter.com ) whom are well ahead of me in their own ultra-light quest. My next gear refinement will be..as you guessed, an ultra-light tent. My wish is the ZPacks™ Duplex Tent – New Camo weighing in @ only 20oz.
As I was lying in my ENO hammock (a luxury item thrown in the pack at the last moment before leaving), I texted my wife and waited for the sun to set to the west. The wind helped to rock me off to a nap until I got chilly, so I moved into the tent and proceeded to really test that SynMat out for the rest of the evening and night.
The next morning, I slept in as I only had a ½ mile or so to hike back down to the Pinhoti trailhead that I had started from around 24 hrs ago. This loop with all of the exploring accounted for 16miles.
After leaving the trailhead (on my way out driving) on the mountain-side, a large Oak tree caught my eye. It seem to be oddly different than the trees around it or the trees you typically see in old growth forest. Could it be what I’ve read about of the Cherokee and other Native Americans marking something of importance…an “ INDIAN MARKER TREE!” It had all of the characteristics of one. The horizontal bend, upright trunk, the elbow (or message nose), scars left by controlling thongs, and judging by the size of the tree & upright branches; age appropriate (100-150+ years old). I took a picture that did the size of the tree no justice. On the backside of the tree (not in the picture), it looked like another horizontal bend had been present making it a three pronged marker tree. This was an absolute icing on the cake of a quick trip! I feel very lucky to have witness this “Steward Tree of The Mountain.”
Weather was nice…low humidity, no rain, and the temperature high was upper 70’s and low was lower 60’s. What a way to spend the weekend…”Any day on the trail is a good day!”
I will leave with a few more random trail pictures…
Until next time on the trail,
For a quick read on the Fire Towers of Alabama, go to: http://www.forestry.alabama.gov/Publications/TREASURED_Forest_Magazine/2010_Fall/Alabama’s%20Lookout%20Tower%20Legacy.pdf