It’s here! I’m awake and excited! Today is when we will summit Table Rock and finish our thru hike. It’s cold but I’m determined to start cold…meaning wear my shorts and tank top instead of my leggings and long sleeve shirt. After yesterday’s 85F weather and exhausting heat, I think it’s the best decision. To initially stay a little warmer, I’ll wear my rain jacket. When I warm up down trail, it can be quickly taken off and easily tucked in my outside pouch. The girls can’t be convinced to wear their shorts though. They’re up earlier than usual and excited, too! We pack up for the last time.
All geared up and ready to go, I let the girls spend a few more minutes atop of that big rock they like so much. I peruse FarOut and out of curiosity, check to see what our elevation gains and losses were from yesterday. Wow! Over 3,100 feet gained and over 1,200 feet lost in 11 miles. Hahaha and it was sooo hot! The heat made that trek way more difficult than had it been cooler. I’ve decided not to even look at what’s ahead for today. It doesn’t matter anyway! We’re going!
As we hop on trail, we climb the rest of Sassafras Mountain and marvel at the views from the observation deck. They are incredible! It elicits even more excitement! We feel like we’re on top of the world! Wow. Just wow! Baby Bear says that she wants to live right here. We hang out for about 15 minutes just to soak in these views. We find a trash can and a bathroom at the base of the deck. We utilize both and carry on.
The next 3.5-4 miles presents more PUD’s. Nothing too strenuous and also nothing too exciting. We meet a few section hikers and have idle chat. They are also from Florida and previewing the trail to bring their children on a backpacking trip. They are homeschooled as well and tell us that we have inspired them.
What a good feeling to know that! I’m thankful to have met them! All along this trail, and every other trail we’ve traveled, we’ve met great people. I always tell my friends and family that backpacking restores my faith in humanity. People on trail are complete strangers, yet despite any differences we may have, can engage in kind conversation. People are willing to help people, encourage each other, and expect nothing in return. This is one of the many reasons I love hiking so much. And although I’m well aware of bad characters being everywhere, even the trail, we haven’t met many of them. My lifestyle back in the matrix, including my husband’s job and my careers haven’t allowed me to be naive of that fact. When and if we do encounter any, we’re ready. But, by and large, the trail has always been a very positive place for us. And for that, I’m thankful.
We get to a pretty cool section of the trail that is made up of tons of boulders and rock outcroppings. It’s so beautiful! We enjoy a few small rock scrambles, just enough to break up the trail and make it interesting. We take a break at the Cantrell Campsite, right before we’ll do our last climb. After this climb, we have 4 miles straight down….which normally would be exciting, but downhill aggravates my knee the most and it’s already pretty angry. At our break, we thrillingly discuss taking the warm shower that awaits us; the long list of food we plan to eat; and the soft snuggly hotel bed we have to sleep in tonight. We’re motivated to finish, yet all acknowledge that we will miss being on trail. We have loved our time here, but it’s time to head home.
We climb up to the top, summiting Table Rock and enjoy the big views here! Another breathtaking place to take it all in. Moonpie says this is her favorite part of the whole trail. We walk over this hill and begin the 4 miles down the mountain. I’m slowing the girls down significantly, walking only about 1.5mph, as my left knee is really hurting. I’m taking these steps one at a time, as a baby would with two feet on each step. I develop a new tactic of descending the stairs sideways. It’s slow, but helps some. I can’t control it, so I’m embracing the pain. It’s become a part of my journey. I don’t know what’s wrong, but it doesn’t matter. I have determined to stay on task. It will be no factor. I must walk and finish. No other option is acceptable to me. I’m not calling someone to help me off this mountain.
I often battle the argument going on in my head of listening to and honoring my body, with pushing my limits. We do hard things. And this. This is hard. As my husband has reiterated to me on numerous occasions over our 25 years together, my level of toughness can be risky, and even detrimental if I’m not careful. It certainly comes with a cost. But my level of resiliency, grit and determination has paid off for me my whole life. Whatever is going on, I’ll deal with it when I get home. Now is not the time. Time to move.
About half way down, we get to a cool little stream and bridge. We take a break here because it’s too nice not to! The girls play in the water, finding a few cool creatures to examine. We camel up, have a little snack, and decide it’s time to keep moving. The finish line is close. Our journey is only about an hour from being over. It’s so bittersweet.
We make it to Table Rock State Park. This place is crawling with people! Wow. Not something we’ve experienced in the last 7 days. We walk down the paths and are closing in on the last .1 when we get to an intersection with a confusing sign…. The FHT is marked with an arrow pointing to the way we’ve just come from…so that can’t be right! And, the sign shows 3 other arrows labeled with trails to Table Rock, Carrick Creek, and Pinnacle Mountain. AND, the blaze colors have changed to green and red. Where did the white go?! We’re only supposed to follow the WHITE blazes. We still have .1 left..1 separates us from our car.…a way to a hot shower, food, civilization! We’re tired and ready to be done. The red blaze indicates to Table Rock….so as we stand there trying to make sense of whether we go right or left, and I look at FarOut for guidance (and find none whatsoever…which means this isn’t an issue for most people), we collectively decide on the red blazes. So far, in all of our hikes, including this one, we have been pretty good navigators and haven’t ever gotten lost. Even on this trail where FarOut warned of “confusing intersections” with pics and directions to help guide you, we did just fine.
We start traveling down the red blazes, saying hello and getting distracted by all the day hikers and beautiful scenery here. We also start noticing the day hikers are all watching us. I can’t tell if it’s because they can smell us coming or if it’s because we’re clearly not day hikers. Or, maybe it’s because WE’RE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. Even despite me asking 4 different day hikers if we were headed the right way, I realize once again how much your words matter…especially when asking for directions for clarification. I asked everyone if this was the way to Table Rock (stupidly assuming they could read my mind and knew I meant the parking lot of TR.) Everyone confidently said yes with a smile, followed by thru hiking questions for us. We happily answered questions and had fun talking about our experience. Finally, some very nice people, who are prospective thru hikers themselves, stop us to ask if we’ve just thru hiked. We confirm and talk with them for a bit. Before bidding farewell, I once again ask these people if this was the way to Table Rock…this time I clarify with “parking lot.” I’ll cut the story short because I could add a few choice words the girls and I all shared with each other once the nice day hikers pointed us in the right direction, and bid us farewell…but I won’t. We are soooo ready to be done. And adding an additional .8 wasn’t in our plans for today and definitely wasn’t fun.
So all in all, not counting the side trails to various waterfalls, etc, we logged at least 76.9 miles versus the 76.1 miles making up the FHT.
We get to our car to find trail magic from our shuttle buddy, Jody. We almost cried at the sweet and thoughtful gesture. I think our emotions of completing this trail have started to surface and to overcome us. He had written a postcard to me and to the girls, left us candy and me some coffee. We hadn’t run into him since the ending of day 1 and wondered how he was doing. This just affirmed, once again, how truly magical trails are.
As we jump into our car and dig into the snacks, we all sit silently for a bit and reflect quietly on our journey. This has been one of the best experiences of our lives and I’m so thankful we were blessed with the opportunity to experience it together. We break the silence with an out loud prayer of thanks to God, each lost in gratitude and praise. We call my husband and other 2 kids to share the good news, and head to the closest fast food possible as we sing our heads off to some of our favorite worship songs.
We did it. We really did. We thru hiked the Foothills Trail just as we set out to do.
We each stepped outside of our comfort zone, pushed our physical bodies to new limits, trusted our skills and abilities, challenged our mindset, stayed focused on the task, remained mindfully rooted in gratitude and savored each moment, worked together as a team, and conquered this thing. We’re unstoppable.
I thank God for this opportunity and experience, but I’m even more thankful to be able to give my girls an empowering journey that will continue to shape them into strong, powerful, independent and resilient young women. We do hard things. And we did this.
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
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 5 – Bear Gap Campsite to Dawkins Flat Campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 6 – Dawkins Flat Campsite to Big Rock Campsite