Cliff and Tom...about to embark on their two day journey
through the Francis Marion National Forest and Palmetto Trail...a.k.a. the Hell-a-Thon.
Cliff and our friend Tom embarked on an adventure a couple of weekends ago that many would shake their heads at. It took place partly in the depth of the Hellhole Swamp area. Aptly named? Obviously! A challenge of epic proportions? Absolutely!
You thought I was kidding, didn't you?
Cliff and Tom were going to run two - back to back - marathons through the Francis Marion National Forest and a portion of the Palmetto Trail that runs from the coast of SC to the mountains in the upstate. Cliff planned this for months. He made several trips to the trail to chart, map or plot GPS coordinates. The plan was to begin at the trail head near Moncks Corner, SC and run for 13 miles or so, stop for lunch, rest a little while and then run another 13 miles or so for marathon #1. And then do the same thing the second day until they ended their journey at Buck Hall on the intracoastal waterway near Awendaw, SC. Part of the plan was to have someone to meet at predetermined points with nutrition and hydration and then at the end of the day with their camping supplies.
That someone was me! And let me tell you, this turned out to be an adventure for me as well. Now, Cliff and Tom can tell you all about the trail...about carefully running the course dodging holes, small stumps, roots, logs, a snake and the list goes on. They can tell you about the beautiful scenery along the way and the people they encountered in the deep woods. That is their story to tell. This is my story...the sag story.
It began early Friday morning. Cliff had prepared all sorts of backpacks, coolers, sleeping bags and other gear to embark on his wicked cool adventure. I was the sag, not to be mistaken for hag. Sag, people, sag! As in 'support and gear'. We drove to Buck Hall to drop off his vehicle and to meet Tom who was also dropping off his vehicle to have there when they finished Saturday. They piled in my car and we drove to the Palmetto trail head in Moncks Corner.
I made an observation. They both smelled really nice and fresh. Bet that wouldn't last.
The Palmetto Trail
It was cold that morning. Cliff and Tom were putting on hats and gloves and extra shirts. Cliff filled his water bladder and Tom strapped on his nutrition belt. They were so excited. I nearly wanted to join them, but then I thought better of it. Trails through the deep woods, the unknown, snakes, possibly bears and wild hogs, coyotes, gorillas (well ok, I made that part up), 52.4 miles in 2 days, banjo music...no thanks. So, I watched as they descended upon the trail and then left to go perform my first duty....to make lunch.
I stopped by the store to pick up ingredients to make chicken noodle soup. I hurried to buy them because if all went well, I would need to meet them in roughly three hours at their half-way point with lunch. Now, I live at least 40 to 45 minutes away and it took about 20 minutes in the store so that only left me about an hour and a half to prepare lunch and then drive about 30 minutes to get to the lunch rendezvous. I arrived home and as I pulled into the driveway, I hit the remote garage door opener in my car and nothing. The door on my side of the garage wouldn't open. I tried the second door...still nothing. So I got out of the car and tried to open it manually....you know, typing in a code. We have two codes, one for each door. I tried both and it was not working. I beat on the box and still....nothing. My mind started racing. What was I going to do. I couldn't get inside to prepare their lunch. You are probably thinking, just go unlock the front or back door, right? The problem with that is that I lock the storm doors from the inside and I have no key to unlock them. Well, I knew for sure the front storm door was locked. My only hope is that the back storm door wasn't.....yet again, there was only one problem with that option. I saw a snake on the back door steps the day before. OMG! OMG! OMG! So I slowly started around the back of the house, looking everywhere to make sure I didn't see the snake. I was freaking out! I made it to the top of the steps and grabbed and jerked the handle to the back storm door so fast that it would make your head spin. Lo and behold, the storm door was unlocked. I quickly unlocked the back door and ran in. Thank goodness I had remembered to disarm the alarm system with the remote before entering the house or that thing would have been blaring. And it's loud enough for the sheriff two counties over to hear. Anyway, I went to the door that enters the house from the garage and tried to open it using the door openers there...still not working. All of a sudden, it dawned on me. There were no lights on in the house. I tried an overhead light and nothing. Ahhh, that's why the garage wouldn't open....we had no POWER. And I have to cook chicken noodle soup. Well that wasn't happening anytime soon. I called the power company and reported the outage. Apparently, there was a tree down across a power line and a team had already been dispatched to remove the tree, but it was going to take at least 30 minutes before the power would be restored. Well that's just great. My cooking time was diminishing by the second. So, I did what any red-blooded American woman would do....I called Mama. She makes the best homemade vegetable soup eva and I was hoping she would have some in the freezer that she could thaw and heat for me to take to Cliff and Tom. Oh...the C-word...she did not. Next, I called a restaurant in town to see if they served soup. After making my request to the young girl that answered the phone, she yelled back to the kitchen..."Neesie, do we sell soup?" Then she laid the phone down, y'all, and didn't come back. I hung up and decided that I would try the Piggly Wiggly on my way out of town. So, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, packed some cookies and was getting ready to head to the Piggly Wiggly when, all of a sudden the lights came back on. Well, Praise Be! I had just enough time to make the soup after all. I headed to the rendezvous point for lunch on day one.
I arrived there just minutes before Cliff and Tom came walking up. They sat and rested while I served lunch.
Cliff and Tom picked up a stray....
A few minutes later, another man walked up. Scared the bejeebies out of me. Cliff and Tom didn't seem alarmed at all. Come to find out they had met this guy out on the trail. Huh, just goes to show you can make new friends anywhere. I fed him, too. He thanked us profusely and then he was off to finish his own adventure. All rested and refreshed, Cliff and Tom were ready to head on down the trail, too. So I packed up and drove back home because now, I had dinner to make. Dinner tonight would be chicken pilau (pronounced per-lo, this is a chicken and rice dish we make in the low country), string beans and rolls. Cookies for dessert. They needed their carbs.
Dinner and a fire....ah, the life of an outdoorsman.
Dinner done...they starting setting up their hammocks. Sleep would come soon.
Some thirteen miles later, Cliff and Tom met me at their campsite for the night. They did it! Twenty-six miles later and Day-1 Marathon was complete. Cliff started the campfire, I served them dinner and then I was out of there. I wanted to get out of those woods before dark. Didn't quite make it, but it was close enough. I drove home and settled into the recliner for the night. I was going to just relax and watch a little television. At 7:30 p.m., I started dozing off. Then I got a text from Cliff that he wanted me to meet them the next morning at 6:30 with breakfast. So at 8 p.m., I thought it would be best to just go on to bed. I went to the bathroom to get ready for bed, closed the door and then OMG!! Sirens! Sirens were blaring! The house alarm went off. Scared the bejeebies out of me! Good thing the sheriff from two counties over could hear it, because I was sure someone was breaking in. Then I realized I had closed the bathroom door too hard and the glass-break option on the alarm was set off. HaHa! The things I get myself into. I disarmed the alarm and gladly went to bed.
Day 2 - Finishing breakfast and waiting for the fire to die down.
Waiting on Kenny. Just wait, you'll see.
Do you think Cliff looks a little tired?
Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 5 a.m. And I kind of hit the snooze button a couple of times, which made me late getting up and preparing breakfast. But, I worked quickly and made the guys egg sandwiches and coffee for breakfast. Tom had also brought chocolate muffins that his wife, Cammie, had made. So their little breakfast was shaping up to be quite scrumptious. I arrived back to the deep woods of the Palmetto Trail in the Francis Marion National Forest in the Hellhole Swamp area and noticed that they had already starting packing up their gear for me to take back home. They still had a small fire going and we sat around it while they ate breakfast. I got to hear all the stories about what happened during the night. The darkness, constant fire stoking (no wonder Cliff was still tired), the noises, Tom having seizure-jerks in the hammock, speaking in tongues, the sounds of twigs being stepped on, the coyotes howling, the owls screeching, a man with a flashlight and more. Physically, Cliff's legs were sore and his feet were starting to hurt. Tom seemed to be okay. Now, it was time to head out on Day 2. So, they walked me and the rest of the gear to my car. Cliff needed to retrieve his phone that he had put on the car charger earlier, when I first got there. I got in to start the car and nothing. Tried a couple more times and still nothing. Dead battery...right there in the middle of the Francis Marion National Forest...13 miles from the nearest town. Good thing Cliff had people he could call. He called Kenny. Kenny was deer hunting, but came to our rescue. He jumped me off and I quickly headed back home. On the way, I was trying to decide how I would go about parking the car when I got home, just in case I had to call someone to jump me off again. But then thought, heck no.....I'm going straight to the parts store and that's just what I did. Bought a new battery and they installed it for me and I was out of there within 30 minutes. Good thing, because I needed to prepare lunch for Day 2. Today it was left over chicken pilau, sandwiches and cookies for dessert. I also had grapes and bananas and all sorts of other food stuff for the two days. Cliff and Tom ate good. As I was preparing lunch I got a text from Cliff who had decided that he had determined by physical examination on a log that the ailment in his feet was MENISCUS HURT FOOT. I know him well enough to know that they were really giving him problems. And just as I was about to leave to take lunch, I got a second text that read, "I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it, let me know when you leave and I'll give you the coordinates to find me."
The two day Hell-a-Thon was about to come to an end. I found them just shy of the half-way point. Cliff had had it. No more running or walking for him. His feet were hurting pretty bad. This was the perfect opportunity to get back at him for all the times he told me to hurry up or run faster during my races. I said, "Cliff, you were almost there. Couldn't you just go ahead and finish?"
And then I asked, "Why don't you just have your lunch and rest and then try to finish?"
He finally said, "No, I'm done. I can't walk another step. My feet hurt too bad." Alright...I took pity, and left him alone. But not before telling them how bad they stunk.
Giggle, giggle, giggle.
We headed back to Buck Hall to get their vehicles and then headed on home. What a weekend. I'm telling you, when we have adventures in our neck of the woods......we have us some adventures.
What's next? Lord only knows, but I hope you stick around long enough to find out.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's my favorite time of year! And, I may have a little Thanksgiving adventure to report. I'm just saying.......