Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eastatoe Gorge Backpacking

This past weekend's hike was intentionally selected as a simple, short hike. Dad & I wanted to take a break from the longer mile trips that we've been planning lately so we could relax and enjoy some leisure time in the woods. We settled on the last spur trail on the FHT that we hadn't seen yet. Eastatoe Creek Trail is a spur trail on the Foothills Trail System. The trail is only 2.5 miles of easy hiking from the parking lot to camp (1.7 miles of pure trail). Trail access is located at the parking area of the Laurel Fork Creek trail head. This spur is marked with yellow blazes. There were more blue blazes than yellow but don't worry - you'll have to try hard to get lost on this hike. Here is the trail description from SCTrails.net:



This moderate, 1.7-mile path takes you into the 373-acre Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve, which is a wonder nestled within a pristine mountain gorge. The Eastatoe (pronounced “EAST-a-toee”) Creek Trail is relatively easy for most of the way, but drops precipitously down into the gorge for its last .5 mile (Of course, that means you’ll have to hike back up to return!). The forest teems with large beech and hemlocks as well as wildflowers such as partridgeberry and jack-in-the-pulpit. Switchbacks make the going a bit easier, and stairs are provided where the trail descends/ascends more steeply. Following a rain, footing can be difficult (at one point, the trail borders a 100-foot cliff). The rewards, however, come in Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve, which is home to a beautiful stream filled with naturally reproducing rainbow trout. Across the creek is a cliff with a small, attractive waterfall. Due to the unusual humidity in this area, three rare tropical ferns grow here that are not found anywhere else in North America. Yellow blazes on the Eastatoe Creek Trail are sometimes confusing, but the end of the trail is well marked with a triple blaze. Return the way you came.



I was able to test several pieces of new gear including my Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo, Serenity and my MYOG GoLite Ion. I'll be posting more on those topics very soon. If you can't wait, the short version is: if you are considering any product from MLD go get it now and if you're planning on using an Ion, pack light! The hike in took about an hour. There are plenty of camp sites and unlike most areas with easy access they were all clean and well maintained (read: not a mudhole with broken glass and rusted beef stew cans). After getting set up we napped through a 45 minute afternoon shower which seemed to send most of the mosquitoes packing. Since we had a lot of energy left over at camp we were able to do some bushwhacking to find the gorge and waterfalls on Eastatoe Creek. I'd definitely recommend this trip.
Eastatoe Creek Trail


My MYOG GoLite Ion and my new favorite trekking poles, Gossamer Gear LT4s

MLD Grace Duo In Action
(notice the generous dry patch left behind after a 45 minute afternoon shower)

A Small Falls on Eastatoe Creek

Eastatoe Creek

Looking up a 75ft Boulder Wall

Eastatoe Gorge

Another Waterfall Down The Gorge

Documenting my sacrafice of dry feet for a hike up the gorge for a great photo


Stinging Nettles - pesky little buggers





Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo & Serenity Review

I recently purchased a Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo tarp in spectralite and a Serenity shelter. The pair weigh 16 ounces including all required tie outs. I'll use 4 titanium shepherd hook stakes for the Serenity, 4 to 6 MSR Needle stakes for the tarp sides depending on weather conditions and 2 MSR Groundhog stakes for either end of the tarp.

Here is a short video showing the setup and features of the gear. I intent to follow up with a field report after my first trip with this gear the weekend of July 12th. Stay tuned!


video