Frozen Creek Trail in Gorges State Park to Laurel Fork Creek
Seal Mom: A mom who takes her children backpacking during flood conditions and survives to tell the story.
Brawny Man: 1. Iconic, manly lumberjack with epic strength. 2. What our husbands think of themselves on the Foothills Trail.
After our first trip on the Foothills Trail, when Diana and I unknowingly backpacked with our beloved children through areas zoned with active flood warnings, we didn’t know if our husbands would trust us in the backcountry again. After our return, when I heard John christened us with the trail name “Navy Seal Moms,” I was reassured that he had much more faith in us than I had in myself at that point.
After having one misadventure after another on subsequent trips to the trail, I kept waiting for one of them to announce, “You know, maybe you should take up something like base jumping with them instead. These backpacking trips are just too hazardous!” Thankfully, it never happened and they were all too happy to send us out the door for another weekend in the woods. I suspect it was a calculated risk they were willing to accept so that they might enjoy their own “staycation” of sorts in a quiet house.
What we didn’t recognize was that they were just biding their time, waiting for us to invite them so they could prove how smoothly a trip would go with their Y chromosomes in tow, ready to rescue us in any perilous situation we might encounter. You can imagine our reaction to that opinion after having taken multiple trips and returning with (mostly) unscathed children! We decided to let them come anyway. Clearly, we needed to prove, in the field, our mountaineering prowess and ability to handle a crisis with both brawn and brains.
So off we went, Memorial Day weekend, to the next section we needed to complete. We decided to take it easy on the guys and make the mileage light. And if the truth be told, we wanted to give the kids a more leisurely start to the backpacking season as well, giving them time to frolic in camp side creeks rather than running from countless yellow jacket nests on the trail!
We started in Gorges State Park, hiking down the Frozen Creek Trail which intersects the Foothills Trail, close to where we were picked up by a boat on Lake Joccassee last fall. The hiking was easy, and save for Diana, Teagan, and Ella all independently smelling the scent of cucumbers when they stopped for a water break, which apparently Copperheads emit when they sense threats nearby (for real!), we made it down without anyone seeing a venomous snake!
We set up camp on the shore of Lake Joccassee along with the rest of the free world, luckily securing the last viable campsite on the lake. This was an entirely different scene than what we were accustomed to on this trail. We would sometimes go an entire day without seeing another person, and this was worse than a KOA! Boaters could easily access the site, and that made up the vast majority of the crowds. Unfortunately, boats can also carry massive quantities of alcohol, which we discovered as the night wore on.
We packed up and moved out at a leisurely pace, knowing we had to face Heartbreak Ridge very shortly after leaving our campsite. Heartbreak Ridge is an infamous climb on the Foothills Trail that consists of hundreds of steps built into the side of the mountain (Teagan call tell you exactly how many, by the way–I love that he counted them!) The guidebook makes sure you know how difficult it’s going to be by writing in bold print, “The next 0.7 miles is VERY strenuous as it ascends and descends a steep west ridge…There are hundreds of wooden steps and great caution should be taken.” Maybe because we were expecting the worst, but it was a far cry from anything our crew couldn’t handle with ease. They have come soooo far with their strength and endurance since last summer!
We reached our camping destination with plenty of day to spare, and with kids and husbands who were more than happy to take naps, play in the creek, and bask in the glory of having absolutely no crazy incidents the entire day!
After a much quieter night, with the only noise around us coming from the nearby creek, we packed up and headed out towards our waiting cars we had previously shuttled to our end point. The kids had the Chinese buffet heavy on their minds, as they always do on the last day of our backpacking trips, so the miles ticked by very quickly.
The guys, well, what can I say?! I must admit that it was quite enjoyable to have two extra adults to help distribute the weight of our tents, food and other shared gear! Okay, and yes, it was nice to have their company too, despite the fact that they gloated about the trip going off without a hitch with them there. Completely coincidental, but hey, I’ll take good luck, even when it’s attached to our “Brawny Men.” 🙂
It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how. –Dr. Seuss