On October 28, for the first time in over a year, I went out for a trail run along the Peak to Prosperity Passage of the Palmetto Trail. I took enough pictures and had enough things to say about it that I’ve decided to dedicate a post to it.
Unlike most state parks or wherever else you typically go trail running, the Peak to Prosperity Passage is an old converted railroad, so your trail run (walk, hike, whatever) is along an historic corridor. And there is plenty of signage along the way to remind you.
The Alston trailhead is known to all who have been there for the old train trestle that takes you over the Broad River where it flows through western Fairfield County. It was calm and quiet the last time I was there, but in the summer, you can see people on the water in canoes and kayaks enjoying the sun and flat-water conditions.
About halfway from the Alston trailhead to the Pomaria trailhead, you will cross a road (which was still a big construction project last summer; I kinda miss getting to hop through it) that brings you to the former site of Hope Station, where this pictorial shows you what you might have seen in that same spot over a hundred years ago.
It’s actually kind of spooky, since there are almost no visible signs of the old railroad itself, just a couple of footbridges and old numbered sign posts every half-mile or so. And after 6.5 miles (according to Strava), you will arrive in the weird, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Pomaria. There’s a fun trail display “where the train platform used to be” (she typed in the best Jeff Foxworthy imitation she could muster)…
but the town itself is, well…this.
Type-A trail runners beware: This trail, as I’ve said elsewhere, is stupid easy. It’s flat, it’s straight (the trail map shows a gradual curve over 6.5 miles, but you won’t notice it while running), and you really don’t even have to worry about standing water after heavy rainfall because of the way the trail slopes down on either side. The main “challenge” to running this trail is the abundance of loose gravel along much of the trail corridor.
It’s easy to take the trail-snob attitude and dismiss it as not worth the drive out of your way when you’re training for a race on more technical trails, but I would entreat you to look at it from another perspective. This is an excellent hiking route, it’s part of something much larger than the contained state-park trail system where you normally go running, and it’s a chance for you to experience the “tree tunnel” that so many long-distance hikers talk about. There are a couple of small camping areas off the side of the trail that do get used by section-hikers and thru-hikers; in fact, the last time I was out here, I crossed the paths of two old men hiking with full packs who had just broken camp (and there was a still-smoldering firepit to prove it) a couple of miles from Pomaria and were headed toward the Alston trailhead. As an enthusiastic reader of other people’s thru-hiking adventures, I really like seeing that the Palmetto Trail has these every so often so that hikers don’t have to figure out something else or pay to camp at a site where they’re just stopping for the night and not really using the trails for recreation.
If you enjoy reading the memoirs of people who have thru-hiked the PCT and/or AT, then it’s easy to see the appeal of terrain like this after miles of uphills and technical downhills (and zig-zaggy trail miles that don’t seem to be getting you any farther along your journey). Trail runners can experience it in much the same way, as a “break” of sorts from more rigorous trails that will still keep you in good trail shape.
(To see what I’m talking about, check out the books I blogged about here and here as part of my 2015 book-a-week challenge. David Miller’s AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is another good one.)
And did I mention that it’s historical?
Driving directions can be found here on the Palmetto Trail Foundation website. Check it out the next time you’re looking for a different trail to run!