A few years ago, my mom told me about the Palmetto Trail, a trail route stretching across the state of South Carolina.  Over the past few years, the Palmetto Trail Conservation has worked to put in as much trail as possible, link it up as best as possible, and present it as a traverse of the Palmetto State.  For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in SC….1st grade through high school.  I grew up in the Lowcountry where it is pancake flat, swampy, marshy, and the roads are heavily traveled by people who aren’t necessarily in a rush, but they drive like maniacs.  Owning a mountain bike in 1983 meant hitting up defunct rail lines and woodsy play areas where the BMX’ers hung out.  I did make it to the Upstate a couple of times to ride, and even up into North Carolina where I rode in the Smokey Mountain National Park before it was illegal to do so.  My first visit to the Nantahala Outdoor Center was so early in the sport, there was one Stumpjumper parked outside the shop, and one inside.  The shop was closed….for lunch or something.

Here I am 30 years later.  A few emails and forum posts and I’ve got a full gps track of the Palmetto Trail.  I never heard back from these guys (college people tend to come and go).  A bit of nervous fretting began to occur as I first acquired a SPOT recorded track from this guy in Asheville.  SPOTs only send out a signal every 10 minutes or so.  Needless to say, this track was almost worthless.  I sold a seat bag to a guy in Greenville….Mark Sackett the current Trans North Georgia SS honch.  He emailed me with a phone number and said he had info on the PT.  He also emailed me a gps track of his ride from this past summer (’13).  UGLY.  Apparently he and a buddy gave the route a go starting in Spartanburg during some pretty massive rain storms.  His track had probably 25 spots where he went into the trail, but then had to back out and detour.  Not pretty at all.  He also had to bypass most of the passages in the Lowcountry.  Finally, I got a call from Steve Collum (he was a Vulcan operator with Air Defense here at Ft. Bliss) who is the lead cartographer for the PT Conservation.  YAY!  He had delayed contacting me because he was connecting all the trail passages with road and working up suitable bypasses for me around passages closed to bikes and around areas that are exceptionally swampy right now…just for me!  This came in the form of a Google kml file which I had to put into Topofusion, fiddle with a little more, contact Topofusion developer/owner Scott Morris, fiddle with even more, then finally…I had a complete .gpx file for my gps. I will be traveling in the opposite direction indicated by the arrows.

pt pic






Now I don’t have to carry all of these….and that doesn’t include the other sheets, one for each map, that give other details to the passage.


I do have a small bit of paper….the cue sheet you see to the side in the picture above and the weight weenie’d state map shown below….with all chances of a side trip to visit Dicky cut out of the picture.


I was hoping this bad boy would be here by now.


I’m kind of glad it’s not here yet as I’m sure I would have pulled several all-nighters making bags for it and getting it all dialed.  Instead, I just stayed up late a couple of nights getting Dirty Girl packed up and also packing up Jen’s road bike to send back to SC for the 10 days we’ll be there.  Dirty Girl got some new brakes, smaller rotors, new tires, and some extra parts to help with all the flatness.

So here are the plans:

Plan A – If weather is good (no snow or rain in the Upcountry), I will ride the first 3 miles of open trail at the western terminus of the PT starting on the 27th.  I’ll then take the Cherokee Scenic Parkway for close to 70 miles or so to more trail near Spartanburg and hopefully complete the route by the 30th.

Plan B – If weather isn’t looking so good in the Upstate, I’ll start on the 28th (maybe the 27th still if the weather looks better that day) closer to Spartanburg….skipping that huge road section that bypasses the Wilderness.

If things start to look too sloppy in the Lowcountry, I’ll see how long I can tolerate the roads before I call one of my parents to aid in my abortion of the ride (that sounds so wrong).  I’m hoping things stay sunny and dry and I’ll see nothing but rainbows and unicorns (more likely to be Texas wheel chairs and Phil wannabes) in route to Buck Hall Landing on the coast just a few miles north of my Dad’s place.  My mom is pretty pissed that I won’t stop back at her place on the way down as she only lives about 5 miles off route.  She doesn’t get it.  I am trying to put down a fairly fast time and I want to give the PT Conservation feedback on their route as seen from a very jaded mountain biker with a little bit of experience under his belt.

Wish me luck.