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.
» 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.
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.
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.