It snowed in the mountains this week, so we changed our hiking plans. Surfing over to sctrails.net, we perused a couple of South Carolina counties for hikes we'd missed, and discovered the Big Bend Trail.
According to sctrails, the trailhead for this 2.7 mile (one way) hike through a "predominantly hardwood forest" is located just south of the Cherry Hill Campground. However, the website failed to mention the trailhead is on the west side of the road and difficult to see if driving past. After a few drive-bys, we finally located the small wooden sign that marked the beginning of the trail, and we were on our way.
Almost immediately after getting on the trail, we entered a clearing. The trail isn't clearly marked in this area, and we weren't sure which direction to go. We walked up a small rise and found FS 709, which is always a bummer when you want to be on a trail and not a road, but within a minute, we saw another entrance to the path and finally, we were on our way. Again.
Conditions for Big Bend this time of year are interesting. The entire ground is covered with a mix of fallen leaves and pine straw. In other words, we couldn't see the actual path. However, the general indention was there, and after we figured out the trail was a series of switchbacks, determining where to go became much easier.
The ground cover was thick and hid roots and other hazards, and we did a fair amount of tripping, stumbling and grabbing on to one another for support. It was also slick, and hiking became even more interesting when the trail narrowed to little more than a slight ledge on the side of a steep hill (dandy for someone who is afraid of heights.) It was a bit tedious at times, but challenging, especially when we came across one of the many tree trunks lying across the path.
Being January, it was cold, and I have a lack of experience hiking in low temperatures. To overcome this, before I left the house, I followed advice and layered my clothing. Good call, bad choice of clothes. In addition to silk thermals under my jeans, I chose a leather jacket (mistake), my pink Mt. Mitchell hooded sweatshirt (mistake), and a clingy thermal shirt, which I wore beneath the Mt. Mitchell hoody (loblolly of a mistake). The physical exertion in addition to the simple act of walking quickly warmed us up. Forty minutes into the hike, I was burning up. When hiking in cold winter, layer wisely.
The sctrails site stated Big Bend Falls is located .6 miles after the trail dead ends into the Foothill Trail. However, the sctrail site doesn't mention the fact that the trail splits. After going over a small bridge to our right and walking down that branch for a few minutes, we saw the Chattooga River below us through the trees but no falls, so we retraced our steps and took the other path. While we didn't locate the cascade, we did find steps that led to a solitary spot on the gorgeous Chattooga.
We stayed for awhile, but it was nearing three in the afternoon and the temperature was dropping. Time to head back. We never found the falls, but we had a good time.
Big Bend Trail is located on the west side of SC 107, approximately 8.7 miles north of SC 28. For more information, go to http://sctrails.net/trails/ALLTRAILS/Hiking/Upcountry/BigBend.html