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Columbia SC Palmetto Trail Adventure

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 at 1:59 am

Columbia SC Palmetto Trail Adventure
April 8th, 2010 9:15 PM

Life is strange. It seems that whenever you learn something new or read about a particular event or experience, it has a way of working its way into your own reality. The latest example of this phenomenon for me happened when I finished reading A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson. The book was a hilarious account of the author’s attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. I was very intrigued by the fact that Mr. Bryson just decided one day that he was going to attempt such an ambitious hike and that for the most part he carried through with the plan.

About two weeks after finishing the book I was having a conversation with Mike, the minister of my church. He was telling me about a hike he had completed recently. Mike said he had hiked a 6.5 mile section of the Palmetto Trail from Peak, SC, to Pomaria, SC; I had a vague recollection of reading something years earlier about a trail that stretched across the state of South Carolina. Immediately the wheels started spinning in my head. I could be the Bill Bryson of the Palmetto Trail. I could walk each section and then recount my adventures to my adoring fans: the Today Show, Jay Leno, maybe even PBS.

The next day I was on Google getting all of the pertinent information to start my adventure. I found it very interesting that one of the sections of the trail actually crosses over the grounds of the State Capitol in Columbia where I reside.Mike had mentioned that the section he hiked did not have any real scenic vistas since it went through mostly bottom land. I was not sure what bottom land was, but it sounded okay for my first attempt at the trail.

Not being a person that likes to go into remote areas by myself, I had to rally the troops on the home front. I have been known to get lost in a subdivision after making two turns and then spending the next 30 minutes trying to get back out. I needed someone with me that could get us back out alive. My almost fifteen-year-old son and my ever skeptical wife were likely suspects. I really had to sell the adventure side of the hike and then throw in the educational element for good measure.

My son, Drew, had the brilliant plan to share our adventure with one of his high school buddies. This was perfect: another kid violently torn from his PS3 and forced to walk in the wilderness. How could I resist?

The morning of the hike was a gorgeous spring day with the temp around 58 degrees. The forecast was calling for the low 90s by the afternoon. Only in South Carolina can it go from 58 to 90 in three hours. The trip to the trail head was uneventful except for my attempt to turn east from the main highway instead of the clearly marked west on the map and the big green sign that pointed to Pomaria the other direction. With disaster narrowly avoided the adventure continued.

We arrived at the first trail head, which was a small parking lot next to a trestle bridge that spanned the Broad River. This was starting to get exciting. The old iron bridge formed part of the trail. I looked at my companions to try and gauge their excitement. Let’s just say it was getting exciting for me. We left one car and continued the trip to the second trail head. This turned out to be a grass parking lot behind Wilson’s Grocery, bait, beer, gas, and stuff store.

After reading a brief history of the town, and about the rail line that formed the trail on the information board we finally started our hike. There was nothing but nature for the next 6.5 miles. I don’t know if you have ever walked on a railroad bed that has been converted to a trail before, but we quickly found that the gravel used for the bed made for a challenging walk. The trail itself was perfectly flat. I marveled at the fact that no matter what the land was doing beside the trail, the actual trail was always perfectly flat. I tried to imagine designing the perfect shoe that would adjust to the infinite number of angles my foot would contort to on each step in the gravel.

Certain sections of the trail had more dirt and grass built up, and the gravel was more embedded in the soil. These were welcome sections along with the smooth boards that spanned the 13 or so trestles along the trail. It was easy to imagine an old steam engine in the 1800s puffing and hissing along the narrow corridor. I couldn’t help wondering about the men that actually built the line. I could almost hear them say after the track crossed the same river for the third time, “Really, do you think this is the best route?”

We did not encounter another soul on the trail, although there was one other vehicle parked in the grassy lot where we started. I proudly informed my son and his friend Hunter, that they were probably now in a very elite minority for having hiked this trail. I don’t believe I heard any response from this proclamation.

We did encounter some wildlife along the trail. A large bird that I quickly identified as a Turkey Hawk flew across the trail, and I was told in unison that there was no such species. We also had some quail half scare us to death as several took off just inches from where we were walking. I have heard helicopters take off with less noise.

All in all I was pleased with the adventure. It took us approximately 2 ½ hours to complete the hike. All of the surrounding woods and grass lands were in full bloom, and the brilliant colors of the wisteria against the green backdrop were beautiful.

I had noticed a small diner on our way into the town of Pomaria earlier and I suggested we reward our accomplishment with a cheeseburger. This time I got a reaction from the teenagers.

We arrived at the M&N Café and ordered cheeseburger baskets and cold sodas. The food was delicious after the long hike; the French fries were especially crisp and fresh. The M&N is a family-run restaurant. Two of the owner’s daughters were running the place the day we stopped. The friendly service combined with good old American food is worth the stop.

After proudly announcing to our server that we had just completed the trail, she said we were only the second group that she had ever met that hiked it. I quickly looked across at my son to see if he had grasped the significance of that statement. I got the universal eye roll that told me all was well with the world.

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