Alligator Branch Swamp to Four Notch Trailhead
March 12, 2019
Despite going to bed early last night, we ended up getting a late start this morning. We didn’t begin to eat breakfast until around 8am and still have to pack up camp and filter water. It was 9:30am before we headed out.
The hike out of the swamp would be as you expect in any swamp area, but it didn’t last long as we started ascending out of the swamp and on our way to Interstate 45 where we would begin a 1.5 mile road walk along the service road and onto a busy Park Road (I swear the speed limit was 70).
Unlike our first road walk this one was much more “intense” due to the traffic on the roads and speed at which the cars were going combined with only being able to walk in the tall grass with all the litter. There were several crossings as well across very busy roads that made it a little uncomfortable.
Once we reached the road that led to the Phelps section we notice a man on a bicycle with a dog right near the entrance to the trailhead. By the time we got to the trailhead they were no longer on the road but were behind a gate. It was a little unsettling as we noticed as we passed that they were watching us and only continued on down their drive after we passed their gate (which is literally right next to the trailhead).
I told Clayton we needed to hurry and get well into the trail quickly in case the dog (who seemed aggressive) decided to come back. The fence that separates the trail from their property is only a couple of strands of barbwire that the dog could easily get through.
Once I felt we were a safe distance in, we stopped to have lunch and drink some water with electrolytes before continuing on.
The trail for first part of the Phelps section was pretty dry which made for a nice change. This section (Phelps section) of the trail is also the driest as far as water sources go.
The Phelps section is split into two parts via a road walk that tends to have loose dogs running around. There are several dogs at a house directly across from the 2nd entrance after the road walk. A couple of them ran up barking and growling at us until we turned into the trail. Thankfully we were not bit, we ignored them which I think helped in that aspect because they were growling and barking just inches from behind us (following us).
The 2nd section of the Phelps section was considerably more “wet” as we navigated through the mud. The trail itself has huge ruts left by mountain bikers and ATV’s that clearly have been “mudding” on the trail despite the fact they aren’t even supposed to be on the trail.
We decide to sit down and have a snack break and try to start figuring out where to camp for the night. I take my phone out of airplane mode and decide to check Facebook. It’s then that I have several notifications and messages of my friends either tagging me in comments or sharing with me information on incoming possible severe weather the next day (beginning in the morning).
After some research I made the tough decision to call Jerry and have him come get us from the trail. There was no way I was going to chance it with having my son with me.
It would take him 3 hours to get to us so we decided to go ahead and do the 3 mile road walk to the hunters camp to wait for him.
The road walk was the worst yet, although we did come upon a creek that looked to be reliable if water was absolutely needed (although due to it bordering farm land, I would use it only as a last resort and would filter and boil).
The road walk itself was mostly on a road where the speed limit was 30mph but many of the cars (it was semi busy) were going much faster. The only place to walk for most of it is on the road itself which has many blind corners and man were there a bunch of hills.
We finally made it to the hunters camp and my shoes immediately came off. Man that is the best feeling in the world!
Jerry showed up 30 minutes later and we said goodbye to the trail for 2 days.
Trail Condition: Mostly dry with only occasional muddy sections in the second half.
Camping: There is a primitive campsite shortly after mile 38. Possible camp areas around mile 41-42 along with a utility right of way before getting to the road walk heading to the hunters camp at mile 45.
Water Source: No reliable water source other than the along the road walk which crosses a creek near pastures and farmland. Would only recommend as a last resort due to pesticides and being near cow pastures. There also appeared to be a lot of trash in and near it.