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Backpacker Magazine – September 2011

Rip & Go: Two Gorges Loop - Gorges State Park, NC

Trace the watery divide between the Carolinas.

by: Peter Rives

Toxaway Creek (Photo by Peter Rives)
Toxaway Creek (Photo by Peter Rives)
Morel (Photo by Michael P. Gadomski)
Morel (Photo by Michael P. Gadomski)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.
Key Skill
Staying dry
Gorges State Park gets more than 80 inches of rainfall each year distributed pretty evenly between months, and the air can get so thick with humidity it’s like backpacking in a greenhouse. Here’s how to avoid an uncomfortable and soggy trip: 
 
On the trail
» Problem The combination of rain, warm temps, and high humidity presents a formidable challenge. Hike hard in 80°F temps and 100-percent humidity, and you’ll get wetter from the inside (sweating under a shell) than from out.
 
» Solution Carry a lightweight umbrella (we like the Davek Traveler, $79, davekny.com) or rig it to your pack. Bonus: You have a protective dome for bathroom runs and camp chores.
 
In camp
» Problem Pooling water, constant dew
» Solution Pack a tarp for a cooking area, and choose a well-drained campsite under trees—sheltered spots are less prone to morning dew. Beware widowmakers: The saturated ground accelerates root decomposition on dead standing trees.
 
In your tent
» Problem Condensation and rain-soaked gear
» Solution Bring a pack towel to sponge up condensation. Rig a clothes line inside your tent to dry soggy gear, or bring them inside a synthetic sleeping bag.


See This
MORELS
Looking like a cross between a spearhead and brain tissue, but tasting divine (“On the Menu,” below), morels draw salivating, amateur mycologists to the Gorges’ wet forests from mid-April to the first freeze. Spot the fungus by its looks (yellow, gray, or black and typically standing between one and eight inches), and location (well-drained soil at the base of apple, elm, ash, and maple trees, and trailside on ascents or descents). Important: Morels are tasty, but similar-looking false morels are poisonous. Slice one open to tell the difference: Morels are hollow from tip to stem, false morels are solid. Still unsure? Found Fungi Farfalle (see “On the Menu,” below) is always safe sans the ’shrooms.
 
Locals Know
Want to make your weekend last a little longer? Continue west on the 77-mile Foothills Trail from Bear Gap (mile 9.7) and wend past ancient petroglyphs of unknown origin, travel an early pioneer wagon road, explore 19th-century homesteads, and reach South Carolina’s highpoint, 3,560-foot Sassafras Mountain. You’ll travel from rocky outcroppings with long vistas to deep, forested valleys that murmur with the passing of cool mountain waters (many with pools and waterfalls that are perfect for a dip). End at Oconee State Park, near the Georgia border if you’re tackling the whole thing. For the best weekend-length addition, add on 33 more miles of remote hiking through the 33,000-acre Jocassee Gorges Management Area to SC 130. The FHT is maintained by the Foothills Trail Conference (foothillstrail.org), which also produces maps and a trail guide.
 



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READERS COMMENTS

Jon
May 24, 2012

The park map gives out-and-back distances for trails. Canebrake is five miles one way, but the map says 10.

Jon
May 24, 2012

The park map gives out-and-back distances for trails. Canebrake is five miles one way, but the map says 10.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

We just finished this loop and would call strenuous, but we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off. The first day works out to 11.5 miles (the miles from the suspension bridge to the auger hole trail is 6 miles not 3.9)and the second day is 8 miles. We shared the campsite with a couple that were following the backpacker route (Hi Mike and Randi) and they ran into the same issue with the mileage. It was a great loop overall, and we would do it again.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

We just finished this loop and would call strenuous, but we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off. The first day works out to 11.5 miles (the miles from the suspension bridge to the auger hole trail is 6 miles not 3.9)and the second day is 8 miles. We shared the campsite with a couple that were following the backpacker route (Hi Mike and Randi) and they ran into the same issue with the mileage. It was a great loop overall, and we would do it again.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

Sitting at the brewing company having just completed this loop and for us it was strenuous, although to be fair we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off both ways, it is 11.5 miles the first day(it tells you 3.9 to the turn off and its 6 miles) and 8 miles the second day. The first day mileage can make you question if you missed the turn off for the auger hole trail if you are like us and know your distance per hour. We shared the campsite with a couple (hi Mike and Randi) that were also following these directions and they had run into the same issue. Over all a good loop, just leave yourself enough time for day one.

J Welch
Sep 22, 2011

Does anyone know how accurate the distance and difficulty rating actually is? The link to the free map shows the first trail being 10 miles and the second 14.5 miles; considerably longer than the 16.8 listed. Also, the trip data ranks the difficulty at 6/10 while the state park map lists both main trails as "strenuous."

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