pinhoti national recreation trail / pinhoti millennium legacy trail
a 337.1 mile southern region appalachian trail connector
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current weather @ pinhoti trail mid-point ~ s14 - 7.3 ~ cave spring trailhead
9.8 ~ Horn Mountain Fire Lookout Tower
building section 4.
Hugh Hickman / Horn Mountain Trail Club / Dec. 05
0.0 ~ Bull Gap Trailhead / 18.0 ~ Porters Gap Trailhead
Section 4 is the new 18 mile southern extension of the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama. It lies between AL 148 on the southern end, 10.5 miles east of Sylacauga, and AL 77 on the northern end, 8.9 miles east of Talladega.
While trail construction only began this past February, there has been an amazing amount of progress from a constant stream of folks working on it since then and it's about 90% complete.
hand built sections.
The local Trail Clubs have been assigned a total of 3.44 miles of the trail to be built by hand in 7 different locations.
All of this work has been completed.
Also, as of November, 2005 all of Section 4 has been blazed with the Pinhoti's blue rectangle.
0.0 ~ 0.1 / ATA ~ HMTC ~ finished
1.9 ~ 2.2 / ATA ~ HMTC ~ finished
3.2 ~ 3.3 / ATA ~ HMTC ~ finished
3.7 ~ 4.2 / ATA ~ HMTC ~ finished
5.2 ~ 5.9 / ATA ~ HMTC ~ finished
6.4 ~ 8.1 / ATCA ~ HMTC ~ finished
11.1 ~ 11.3 / ATCA ~ HMTC ~ finished
Trails Unlimited, a USFS trail construction crew stationed in California, was responsible for building 14.56 miles of the trail with a Sweco bulldozer (Bobcat on steroids). This rough cut was completed within the first 40 days as per contract and it may take the Local Clubs another 6 months or so to clear off all the exposed roots and loose rocks.
Be aware that the trail is still considered a diamond in the rough. You will probably have some navigation problems at times and until the USFS officially opens the trail, they don't claim otherwise.
There is still a lot of flagging tape hanging from tree limbs and big patches of blue spray paint on tree trunks that are left over from when the trail corridor was first laid out that you can follow. The trail bed itself is pretty well defined and fairly easy to follow in most areas. The most important thing is for you to pay attention to your surroundings so that if you do go off trail, you can back up to a known point and try again.
ridge walk section.
This section begins at the southern terminus of Section 4, at the 0.0 ~ Bulls Gap Trailhead and ends at the 12.0 ~ USFS 600 Crossing. This part of the trail will probably be rated as difficult because of a combination of things.
The first is that the trail doesn't cross any reliable water sources and only crosses one seasonal water source, which really just amounts to a wet weather run off. Section 4 does have two reliable water sources, which are located at miles 14.4 and 14.5.
The second reason for a difficult rating is the amount of exposed rocks here on the west side of the ridge, which is about 9 1/2 miles all together. The rocks don't make it especially difficult to hike but they will slow you down and of course stopping to gawk at the views from the cliffs and bluffs will slow you down quite a bit too. : )
The third thing, which will probably be the clincher for a difficult rating, is the elevation gains and losses. Once you gain the ridge line above Bull Gap, Trails Unlimited and the local Trail Club crews made a valiant effort to keep the trail as high up on the ridge as possible by building a total of 11 sets of switchbacks.
If there is anything that could possibly bring the rating down to moderate / difficult, it would be that the inclines and declines of the switchbacks are always kept at an 8% grade or less, which is very moderate.
foothills and watershed section.
From the 12.0 ~ USFS 600 Crossing, where you begin the 2.4 mile descent off the ridge with a series of 24 switchbacks, to the 18.0 ~ Porter's Gap Trailhead is the foothills and watershed section.
While the 12 mile ridge walk section on the southern end may swing a little wide of what you would normally expect from the Pinhoti, you will feel very familiar in this 6 mile section with its mostly side hill trail weaving in and out of steep forested coves as it crosses a large number springs and the 2 big creek crossings near Scott Lake.
Trails Unlimited did a fine job of bringing the trail to the 5 acre Scott Lake at a point about 50' above the water and then almost completely circling it before heading up to Porter's Gap.
So all in all, Section 4 is a very good reflection of the Pinhoti that so many hikers have come to know and love because of its constant variety, solitude and its unique ability to inspire a humbling awe at the natural beauty of the planet that we live on.