‘The Palmetto Trail, it’s for me’: Rain adds variety to veteran hiker’s vacation adventure | Features

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On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Erik Schlimmer bought ramen noodles, Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse biscuits and other snacks at Eutawville IGA.

It’s halfway through Schlimmer’s 218-mile hike on the Palmetto Trail from Columbia to Awendaw, and the Eutawville IGA is the perfect place to replenish his pack with consumables.

“It’s fine, the Palmetto trail is for a certain personality and it suits me,” Schlimer said. “There are scenic trails, there are longer trails, there are ‘better’ trails, but I I like being alone.”

“We’re exactly halfway there, I’ve seen zero backpackers, and I don’t think I’ll see anyone going to the coast,” he said, removing the snacks he just bought from their original packaging and reassembling them into more A bag suitable for a backpack.

The 48-year-old New York native, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, used the two weeks of the Christmas break to go hiking.

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In 2020, he spent two weeks hiking 210 miles of trails in Texas and decided to hike half of the Palmetto Trail during the Christmas break in 2021.

This year Schlimmer said he plans to hike the first half of the Palmetto Trail during his two-week vacation in December.

The Palmetto Trail is a 500-mile hiking trail from Walhalla to Awendaw.

The following sections of the Palmetto Trail pass through Orangeburg County: a portion of the Lake Marion Passage, the entire 13.9-mile Santee Passage, and more than half of the 21.3-mile Eutaw Springs Passage.

On the evening of December 30, Schlimer spent the night at the Santee Hotel.

He laughed and said his decision to stay at the hotel was “a moral dilemma”.

On Schlimmer’s long hikes, he usually doesn’t sleep with a tent, but under a sleeping bag and tarp.

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“I don’t like being in a building—whether it’s a hotel, motel, or hotel,” Schlimer said of the hike.

“When I think about backpacking, it has two components: You’re hiking during the day of course, but you’re also spending the night outside,” he said.

“It’s a legitimate thing for me because if I’m staying in a hotel, I’m going to ‘get weak’ or I don’t plan things properly,” Schlimer said.

“I’m in biblical rain,” he said.

He then texted some of his friends to tell them about his plight at the hotel.

A friend asked him to send him a screenshot of the rainfall map from his phone, and he sent it.

“It looks like the end of the world,” Schlimer said.

His friend replied, “Eric, when was the last time you stayed in a hotel on a long hike?”

“2002,” said the worse answer.

His friend assured Schlimer that it was 19 years ago, and he was going to splurge on a night at the hotel.

Schlimer enjoyed a hot shower, a real bed, laundry in the sink, and a hairdryer.

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He had a big pizza delivered to his room for dinner.

“That pizza has no chance,” he said. “Neither did the seven bowls of fruit rings this morning.”

Schlimer spent two years as a mental health therapist in Colorado Springs, and after three years as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, he developed a love for frequent hiking.

Over the years, he has written books on hiking and backpacked in multiple states.

“I describe my job as: the stress of the field is only offset by its rewards. If you think about it, my job is to sit in an office – which is fine, I love my job – people tidy up God told me horrible things. That’s all they did. Then people wondered why I was spending so much time in the woods by myself,” he said.

“I’m good at not taking work home. I’ve been backpacking since 1985 and I love it because it’s quiet,” he said.

Schlimer estimates he has hiked 16,000 miles since then.

On his Palmetto Trail hike, he says it was mostly peaceful—except for the sambar moccasins curled up on the boardwalk at Wateree Passage.

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“Well, I’m glad I didn’t step on it,” he said. “I just happened to look down and it was there.”

“It sounds cliché, but I love animals. I love small animals. If it’s a venomous snake, it’s as cute as almost any other animal,” he said.

Water moccasins “just sit there and do their own thing,” Schlimer said.

He said the veteran hiker was thankful that the boardwalk was 8 feet wide so he could put a wide berth around the venomous snake.

Schlimer said it was the only snake he saw when he got to Utoville.

For first-time hikers, especially for the Palmetto Trail, he encourages the “Goldilocks of Hiking,” as he describes it.

“Not too short, not too long, not too hot, not too dry, not too wet – it can be done,” he said. “It’s not difficult to find the right conditions in South Carolina.”

“It doesn’t matter which part of the Palmetto Trail it is, it just needs to be a good introduction for beginner hikers,” he said.

Palmetto Trail is a project of Palmetto Conservation.

Schlimer said he sought advice and advice from the Palmetto Conservation staff before and during his hike.

“They’ve been very supportive and, of course, very friendly. It’s also been great to work with them,” he said.

Schlimmer completed his hike from Columbia to Awendaw on Tuesday around 4pm. He spent 9 days walking about 24 miles a day on average.

To learn more about Schlimmer, his hikes and books, visit his website: www.thehikingveteran.com. He is also on Instagram @the_hiking_veteran.

For more information on the Palmetto Trail, please visit: www.palmettoconservation.org

Contact the author: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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