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The Wildland Journal – Pinhoti Trail

Location: Alabama’s Talladega National Forest
Submitted By: Corey Beavers

One of my favorite aspects of backpacking is getting to introduce new enthusiasts to it. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to introduce half a dozen young men to this worthwhile pursuit, and this trip was a long awaited opportunity to take my fourteen year old nephew and eighteen year old brother on their first and second backpacking trips respectively. Tackling a 24 hour Greyhound trip each way from and to his home in Houston, my brother and I laughed at the fact that he literally spent more time on the road than we did in the actual woods.

For this trip, we chose a section of the famed Pinhoti Trail, a trail that traverses a good chunk of Alabama before cutting northeast into Georgia. I’ve been gradually exploring west into Alabama in recent years, and I have been very surprised at what an overlooked place of beauty it is – particularly the northeast corner of the state. Our hiked portion of the trail was on a stretch known as “Section 10” where the trail passes through the Talladega National Forest. A place of contrasting woodland beauty, the trail passes through areas of both managed and un-managed forest. After miles spent in low, dense growth, the trail will suddenly lead up and out into airy, almost western looking, mountain forest. Up there, the grassy forest floor is interrupted only by straight dark pines, offering beautiful views and mentally surprising contrasts.

We stopped for a short while at an old cemetery and church tucked just off trail, Shoal Creek Baptist Church, to inspect the tombstones, some of which dated back to Civil War era, and wander through the open church. Few places could offer more of a contemplative setting, I think. A remote grave site provides such an abrupt opportunity to consider one’s own life, purpose, inevitable future, and held beliefs.

Our camping spot was on a hilltop of the peninsula that sticks out into Sweetwater Lake. Although usually plagued by character building hardships, this backpacking adventure was one of surprising peace, disrupted only briefly by our firsthand encounter with the creatures called “seed ticks“. Otherwise, beautiful weather, unbeatable temperatures, scenic vistas, and nearly complete solitude. Happily, my nephew has joined the ranks of enthusiastic backpackers, and I see more remote adventures in our future!

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