Another cold start to the day. I wake at 6am. It’s about 46F and a bit windy. I notice my face and eyes are puffy. What’s that from? Too much sodium in our food? Too many electrolyte drinks yesterday? Am I allergic to something? Who knows? I peek at my sleeping beauties and they don’t appear to have any puffiness going on.
As I coax myself out of the tent and begin morning camp chores, the temperature drops a few more degrees. Brrr! It’s harder to get started when it’s cold, but I very much prefer hiking when it’s cool, even cold. Even though I’m a Florida native of 44 years, I have grown to hate the heat. I can have a full gas tank, but as soon as it gets hot, my energy is almost instantly zapped. So, I’m happy it may be a cooler day! I’m trying to convince myself to start cold…meaning wearing my shorts and tank top instead of my leggings and hoodie…but it’s not happening. Several days have been in the upper 70’s and low 80’s so far and that’s hot when you’re climbing mountains! I’m sure I’ll wish I had put my shorts on, but for now, I can’t be convinced. Most of our camp mates have also begun packing up, so the excited stir in the air is a fun energy!
The girls get up and going about 8am. We talk about the big day ahead. We look at the FarOut map and realize it will probably be our most challenging day yet. The infamous Heartbreak Ridge lies before us. It’s 298 steep steps and the reputation that precedes it sounds pretty intimidating. But, we’ve found that most things people amp up ends up being mid to us, so we’re not intimidated. Plus, we’ve already traversed hundreds of stairs so far over the last 4 days, so how bad can this ridge be? I’m not into anything breaking my heart!
The first few miles are filled with the usual PUD’s (pointless ups and downs), but nothing too terrible. We even get a cell signal for the first time in a few days. We talk to my husband, son and oldest daughter. That conversation eventually brings me to tears as I realize how much I miss them. Our family is very close, all 6 of us, and I’m so thankful for their encouraging words. They cheer us on and my husband, my best friend, reminds me that we are all badass and that he’s so proud of us!
The trail continues to run along a huge and beautiful body of water. I think it’s the Toxaway River. We decide on taking a long lunch break at what’s called “the last campsite on the river.” It’s complete with a gorgeous view of the river and a picnic table! Glorious! Packs and shoes off before we tackle Heartbreak Ridge.
Up along the ridge, we meet a girl and her sweet dog. That’s always a blessing and a huge lift to our spirits! We chat and pet her pup and wish each other well. We also run into 2 nice men coming from the opposite direction. We meet at the half way point on the landing in between the two sets of stairs (300 stairs broken up into 2 sets of 150). We discuss knee pain and I remark that I’m glad I’m climbing today because descending hurts my knee much worse. The one older gentleman shows me his knee wrap and highly recommends it. I take note, and thank him. I also advise him that he still has 150 stairs left. He thought he was done. Nothing like spreading hiker good cheer!
Within a short time, we indeed tackle all of Heartbreak Ridge. All 298 stairs (which doesn’t account for a lot of the incline, by the way). We all agree that although it wasn’t easy, it didn’t nearly live up to its scary name. Our hearts are still in tact as we rest for a bit and preview via FarOut what’s next. And what’s next looks entirely more difficult than what we just did! WHY doesn’t anyone talk about this mountainous beast?!?! Oh boy. Whew. Ok. If I had planned better, I wouldn’t have planned Heartbreak Ridge and this dang climb on the same day. But, we press on! The girls seem unphased at the next challenge. I’m a bit more skeptical, although they don’t know that.
I notice my left knee is definitely aggravated again, swollen, and I’m feeling pain. I regret forgetting my knee wrap. The show must go on, so I take a Vitamin I and hope that it helps.
We successfully get up and over that beast, and luckily, the Ibuprofen helped with the pain. I’m so thankful for that. We’re about .1 away from the campsite we planned to stay at, Laurel Falls. We get our first view of the falls and decide to take a packs off break to enjoy the view. It’s stunning!
Even though we’ve had a pretty strenuous day so far, we all feel pretty good. As we don our packs and push forward, we quickly come upon Laurel Falls and decide to push on about another mile. We end up at the best campsite yet: Dawkins Flat! It’s right alongside a decent sized stream and a little waterfall! We have the whole spot to ourselves.
We make dinner and chow down. We’re all very hungry and have earned our meals! We sit around and enjoy not walking for awhile.
Eventually we decide it’s bedtime and retire to our tents. Our bellies are full but not as full as our hearts. This trail has been such an amazing journey so far. We have all overcome some difficult challenges, pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone, established new personal limits, and have been inspired beyond words. This is a life shaping experience for all of us. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. As I drift off to sleep, my conversation with God is similar to what it’s been all day…everyday of our trek…praising Him, full of gratitude, confident in His complete protection over us. I have peace.
Story by Karen Delos Santos.
Read more :
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park part 1 – From Florida to Table Rock State Park
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 1 – Oconee State Park to Crack in the Rock Campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 2 – A Crack in the Rock campsite to an unnamed campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 3 – To Whitewater campsite