Last weekend I decided to try to push my normal dayhike a bit further to try to get a feel for what sort of daily mileage I could expect (and be capable of) on longer, multi-day hikes. I choose the Pine Mountain Trail which lies just north of Columbus, Georgia in the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.The forecast called for a 30% chance of thunderstorms, but I decided to try my luck nonetheless.
I left Atlanta well before dawn so that I could start the 23 mile trail at first light.Traffic was light and the whole drive was shrouded in a cool mist that was starting to burn off just a little by the time I reached the park. Though you’ll encounter about half a dozen exits marked with the FDR State Park sign, the following route seems to keep you on the best roads and maximum speed limit (Pine Mountain Trail Association):
Take I-85 south out of Atlanta to I-185. Continue on I-185 to exit 34 which is Georgia 18. Go (east) toward Pine Mountain on Ga. 18 for 6.7 miles and be near Pine Mountain, Georgia when you see Callaway Gardens on your right.
Georgia 18 and Georgia 354 come together right in front of Callaway Gardens. Go straight on Georgia 354 for another 3.9 miles till you see a ramp off 354 and signs for Georgia 190. If you go under a stone bridge, you have gone too far! Turn right onto Ga. 190 and the FDR State Park office is just .4 down Ga. 190 (it is a big stone house looking building on the left). There are two parking areas for the office, one on the left of the building which is a loop and the other smaller area on the right.
I decided to us the east trailhead which is very near a massive television tower, my plan being to hike a little under half the day then return back. Unfortunately, the weather which initially seemed to be clearing took a turn for the moodier.Determined to make something of the drive and the day I set off in my poncho.
The heavy vegetation deflected most of the occasional showers and the rainfall actually made for some beautiful, color drenched sights.The numerous streams and falls of the area were running vigorously but not dangerously, actually making me happy I didn’t visit under dryer circumstances.
The Pine Mountain Trail is about 23 miles from the east trailhead to its terminus at the western end of the park. Along its route there are numerous loops, primitive camping sites, features and road crossings.The latter which allows hikers to choose shorter outings and access to some of the park’s sites without undertaking the full trail.
The recent rains had coaxed new ferns from just about every river bank and clear patch, as well as driving earthworms to the surface. One of these monsters I found was two feet in length (a picture appears in the gallery below).Overall, with the rain and vibrant undergrowth one can easily imagine oneself in a lush jungle.
The trail does cross some interesting and undulating geology, providing more exertion, but the trail as a whole is in very good shape even considering the rain and obviously well maintained. At only one point did I encounter a mire, and this was probably just the temporary result of some resent improvement more than any neglect.
As much as I enjoyed myself after 3 hours, approximately 8 miles and a thoroughly soaking I decided that the full trail might have to wait for better weather and probably an overnighter. Returning back to the eastern trailhead rounded my dayhike out at about 16 miles which, as I understand is very respectable for a day’s hiking under such conditions.Additionally, I decided that about 15 miles a day is as much as I’d like to do under a full load and a desire to take in the sights rather than simply pound miles.