Two puppies and a large dog

Gone too far, and I hate to admit it

Day 3, U.S. 280/Pinhoti Outdoor Center to Rebecca Mountain

Thursday, April 14, 2022

A heavy downpour with occasional thunder rumbled through our area starting at 10:30 last night. The storm continued until past 3 a.m., and I felt grateful to be inside a hostel instead of a tent.

I know the times this happened because I didn't get a solid night's sleep. The storm woke me up several times.

Weather Thunderstorm ending around 3 a.m., with light rain and drizzle later; clear sky in the afternoon; temperatures from the low-50s to mid-70s
Trail Conditions A long road walk, followed by a well-marked trail with a small number of blowdowns
Today's Miles 15.5 miles
Trip Miles 38.9 miles

When Tengo Hambre and I talked to Nathan yesterday, he told us his wife Kimm would come to the hostel this morning to settle our accounts. He also said she could likely drive us back to the trail. This was good news because I'm no different than any other thru-hiker. We may be willing to walk hundreds or thousands of miles, but we never want to walk any that aren't trail miles.

Tengo Hambre walks along a road

As we hoped, Kimm returned us to the trail, which was less than 1.5 miles from the hostel, and we began walking before 8 a.m. There was a bit of lingering drizzle at first, but that ended soon after we started. Nevertheless, the sky looked iffy, so I kept my rain gear on for the first 1.5 miles.

Walking on a section of road past our turn

I stopped to remove my rain gear when a little sun finally appeared. I had just arrived where County Road 41 intersected Old Rockhouse Road. Tengo kept walking, so I hurriedly stashed my jacket in my pack to not fall too far behind.

Tengo tries to keep away from loose dogs

Four loose dogs soon greeted us. Two were puppies, none wore collars. They barked and followed us along the road for several minutes. Though they weren't threatening, they were bothersome and stayed with us for at least a tenth of a mile.

Tengo and I didn’t stop walking until we approached a "T" intersection. As soon as I saw it, I had a sinking feeling we had walked too far. I knew we needed to make a left turn but thought I remembered this was at a four-way intersection. A quick check of our location on the FarOut app confirmed our mistake. The turn we should have made was nearly two miles behind us.

We discussed turning here to meet up with where the trail crossed but decided to backtrack to where the trail turned. Of course, that meant we had to walk past the loose dogs again.

Intersection of Old Rockhouse Road

The dogs were less annoyed by us this time. They didn't bark nearly as much when we passed them again.

Returning to Old Rockhouse Road, I looked to see if there were any trail markings I missed. Sure enough, a double blaze was painted on a utility pole. I then realized I failed to see that because this was where I was in a hurry to take off my rain gear.

A large truck carrying logs

After we made the turn, I heard a lumber truck approaching us, so we stepped far off the road to stay clear of it. We had already walked through several timber-harvesting plots on this trail, but until now I hadn’t thought about big trucks being an obstacle on our walk.

I wondered how the local citizenry felt about these large trucks on their narrow country roads.

Direction arrows nailed to a tree

One thing I knew was at least a few of the locals appreciated that the trail passed their homes. Yesterday, I saw a mailbox with a sign that identified the homeowner as a Pinhoti Trail volunteer.

I walked by a tree today with four arrows pointing in the direction of trail landmarks. One arrow said Springer Mountain was 192 miles away. The Pinhoti doesn't go there, but it is reachable by way of the Benton MacKaye Trail, which intersects with the Pinhoti at the eastern terminus.

Walking past Lake Joy

We soon turned to walk past Lake Joy and through a residential neighborhood. This section, including the tree with the arrows, would soon no longer be on the Pinhoti. A reroute was planned to be completed this fall.

Walking on a gravel forest road

After another loose dog greeted us, Tengo and I followed the trail to a gravel road maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. This led us to Trammel Trailhead, where we met two day hikers. They mentioned we might see some turkey hunters ahead because this was spring turkey hunting season.

One told us we had nothing to worry about, however. "If a turkey hunter shoots ya," he said, "it was probably on purpose."

Walking on single-track trail near Trammel Trailhead

We picked up a single-track footpath at the trailhead. The trail took a zig-zagging, up-and-down route from there that never seemed to have an intended direction or destination.

Walking through a forest

A large swath of the underbrush in this section had been cleared with a controlled burn. Tengo and I continued walking until the trail left this burned area and we reached a small stream. We stopped there for lunch, and I collected two liters of water.

Not counting the "bonus miles" we added this morning, we had only walked 7.4 miles so far. That distance wasn't an enviable achievement, but we had time to make up for lost mileage in the afternoon.

A hiker named Fruitcake was at the stream when we arrived, but she didn't stay long. She and a friend who wasn’t hiking the whole trail stayed last night at Pinhoti Outdoor Center.

The trail makes a climb up Rebecca Mountain

After lunch, the trail followed a logging road before beginning a climb up Rebecca Mountain. The mountain's crest stretched eight miles along a ridge, and the trail followed it for nearly the whole distance.

The route was made possible thanks to a purchase of 1,100 acres made by The Conservation Fund in 2009. Some of the money raised to buy the land came from a fundraiser at Talladega Speedway fronted by NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman and Bobby Allison.

A view through trees

The clouds that stayed behind after this morning’s rain were now long gone as we walked along the ridgeline, and the temperature was rising. With the exertion of going up and down the top contour of Rebecca Mountain on this warm day, I wanted to drink more water.

Except for an intermittent spring a short distance off the trail, the FarOut app said the next water stop was eight miles from the last one. I didn't want to take a chance that the spring wasn't flowing, so I rationed the two liters I collected during our lunch stop.


A few wildflowers appeared on the ridgetop. The first I saw were fire pink, which grew from a patch of lichen. Nearby were small patches of Virginia spiderwort. Both species can be found in woodlands in much of the eastern U.S.

Timber rattlesnake

Late in the afternoon, I found Tengo stopped on the trail. His attention was focused a short distance away on a timber rattlesnake.

Timber rattlers normally grow to 36–60 inches in length. It was difficult to tell how large this one was because it was coiled in a pile of leaves. If I had to guess, though, I'd say it was on the longer end of that length.

We were glad the snake was safely away from the trail, and only paused there long enough to take a few photos.

Tengo and I caught up to Fruitcake again a short distance later where she had stopped to take a break. She told us she never saw or heard the rattler.

A lightly-used section of trail

The trail dropped to White Gap, where a road crossed it before climbing back to roughly the same elevation as before on another part of Rebecca Mountain. The climb wasn't steep on this end, taking about a half-mile to go up less than 200 feet. The trail then made a more gradual descent and ended at another gap that was nearly the same elevation as White Gap.

The FarOut app said a reliable spring was located in the next gap. Getting to the water required following a steep side trail down about a tenth of a mile. When we arrived, Tengo and I agreed the gap was a good place to camp, so we dropped our packs and headed down to the spring to collect water.

We found Fruitcake was camping near the water. We chatted briefly with her before getting our water and climbing the trail back to where we intended to the gap.

The afternoon's temperature had risen into the mid-70s. By the time we had set up our tents and began preparing dinner, it was dropping quickly. As soon as I finished eating, I didn't spend much time preparing for bed and was in my tent by 7:30 p.m.

My FarOut app said we walked 15.5 miles today. That didn't include the nearly two miles we walked before realizing we had gone the wrong way. The bonus miles made this nearly a 20-mile day.

No wonder I was tired tonight.

Gone too far, I don't know how I did it
Gone too far, and I hate to admit it
But I spend all my time thinking of you
Gone too far, there's nothing I can do now
Gone too far, it'll work out somehow
But I spend all my time thinking of you

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