Foothills Trail Conference Annual Meeting Nov 2015

Vicky and I drove down to Table Rock State Park in Pickens, South Carolina this weekend (697 miles) to attend the Foothills Trail Conference. As a member of the organization since I thru-hike the foothills Trail in January of 2014 (here), I have been invited to the conference each year. I could not attend last year, but this year the guest speaker was going to be Jennifer Pharr Davis. Certainly a big inspiration to hiking for lots of people including myself.
The weather has been really nice here in St.Louis the last few weeks as we have been enjoying a bit of Indian Summer, but the forecast for Table Rock State Park was almost 100% chance of rain all weekend. None the less we got up early on Friday to make the 10.5 hour drive to make it there by the 6 pm dinner Friday night.

We arrived just at 6 pm to check into the B&B I had booked for the weekend. It was a good thing I had made reservations weeks in advance as we found out that there was no accommodations anywhere around and one group had 5 people in a one bedroom cabin and others were tent camping in the Park.

We drove over to the "Barn" a multipurpose facility inside Table Rock State Park. Our B&B was less than a mile from the park.

We checked in for the weekend and the table were set up for the evening festivities.
The dinner tonight was a "pot luck" with everyone bringing something. We brought some homemade pies from Mannino's market here locally to us
The entertainment was a blue grass group and they did lots of original songs

They were very good musicians and really nice to the younger kids that attended 

 They spent some time getting them involved in the music and it was a great night. They played late and a few of us stayed to listen to the entire set. 

 The weather had called for almost 100% chance of rain, but the rain held off and with the overcast sky the remaining colors in the hills and the leaves that had already fallen on the ground, almost glowed! 

Trees outside the Barn
 The breakfast this morning was catered by Aunt Sue's a local restaurant just down the road from the Park.

Saturday morning was the official start to the meeting and the attendance swelled. The more informal dinner last night had about 70 people, Breakfast this morning had over 100 people
 After breakfast you could sign up for various hikes that were being lead by  Foothills Trail board members. We happened to sign up for a hike that was short a leader, so having done the trail before, me, Vicky and our new friends Holly and Tommy headed up to Sassafras Mountain. I had wanted to go to the top of Sassafras to see what had happend with the clear cutting that was done since I had hiked the trail.
 This is the highest point in South Carolina (approx 3600 feet). A new overlook has been installed just below the summit off the parking area. 

Panorama from the overlook. The weather is holding up and creating some nice cloud inversions in the valleys

From the summit of Sassafras looking north. 

this is what the top of Sassafras Mountain looked like in January 2014 (below 2 pictures) 

Unfortunately this is what it looks like today. (below) I am not sure why it has been so completely clear cut and not in a particularly clean way

 Dropping off the summit is just as pretty as I remember it. A tunnel of Rhododendrons sets you on the path.

We made an easy hike (actually it was a bit strenous going down hill on wet leaves with many hidden roots because of the leave cover on the trail along with a bit of mud).

 We parked a car at each end and hiked the 3 miles from the top of Sassafras to Chimney Gap Rd.

The day was a bit muggy being in the high 60's with very high humidity, but no rain and in general a good day to walk (it is always a good day to walk!)

 After this hike we said goodbye to Tommy and Holly as they went off in a different direction ( we would see them later at dinner) Vicky and went over to Table Rock State Park to hike a loop there.
I got a good reflection in the Table Rock Park sign (below) 

We hiked the Carrick Loop and just enjoyed the colors and the afternoon.

Just a great 2 mile loop close to the Nature Center.
After a "rough" 5 mile hiking day we went in search of refreshment and found the Victoria Valley Vineyards
It was a lovely new vineyard (10 years) with fantastic views of the hills.

We had a wine tasting 
Enjoyed their patio while splitting a salad and a good Sangria for lunch.

it might have been a few weeks past peak here in the south for fall colors but it was spectacular none the less. 

 After we went back to clean up for the main event. The social hour at the Barn and then the catered BBQ dinner, again by Aunt Sue's staff and the talk by Jennifer Pharr Davis.
She was introduced by Heyward Douglass the Executive Director of the Foothills Trail and the person that shuttled me to my hike a year ago.

The talk was excellent and inspirational. The talk was very well attended by 200+ people.
It was also good to finally met Jeremy from Bonefire Gear at the conference. Jeremy was instrumental in peeking my interest about the Foothills trail when we corresponded on Hammock Forums . Thanks Jeremy!

Afterward the Foothills Trail board members were introduced (above) and many awards and prizes were handed out to worthy volunteers. 

 The evening ended with a big raffle that had enough for almost everyone.
I did manage a picture with Jennifer when she wasn't surrounded by fans.

 The next morning there was a continental breakfast and more hikes, but we had to get back to St.Louis for work on Monday, so it was out the door by 9 am and across 6 states to get home.

The weather did hold out all weekend and we even got a clear shot of the name sake of the park Table Rock on our way out. 

1400 hundred miles and 12 states there and back in a weekend, but it was a great trip and worth the effort- thanks to the Foothills Trail Conference staff and volunteers for putting on such a great event.

1 comment:

  1. The colors were absolutely breath-taking!! You all are certainly enjoying your weekends together and doing some mighty neat stuff! Glad you had a chance to attend the conference since you missed it before. Wish we could get some weather and fall colors like you all are experiencing!


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