Hiking the Palmetto Trail out of Fairfield’s Alston Trailhead is for everyone

Ann Chadwell Humphries and Furman Miller on the Broad River Trestle at Alston Trailhead, located in Fairfield County at the Peak Passage of the Palmetto Trail. | Contributed

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – Some people let their perceived limitations limit their lives.  Others are determined to live life to the max, regardless of the hurdles that may appear.  That’s the case with Ann Chadwell Humphries who is blind but that did not stop her from enjoying the great outdoors on Saturday with a hike on the Palmetto Trail that started at the Alston Trailhead in Fairfield County.

Ann began losing her sight while in her 50’s to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes cell loss in the retina, ultimately leading to blindness.  As her field of vision narrowed, she continued to read, write and work at a local hospital.  By age 55, however, work became too difficult, and Ann retired. 

She acquired and trained with a guide dog, Brego, and together they earned the state’s Ultimate Outsider T-shirt by hiking in every state park.  She continues to hike in the company of friends and has become an excellent birder by ear. 

To celebrate National Trails Day on June 3, Ann hiked The Palmetto Trail Peak to Prosperity Passage from the Alston trailhead in Fairfield County, into Newberry County with a group of 30 hikers.  Furman Miller, Midlands Region Trail Coordinator, led the three hike.

While the trestle at Alston over the Broad River is a major draw for many who hike the passage, for Ann, it is a much more physical element of her hike, as she feels the changes in air currents and sounds.

Furman Miller assisted Ann and her hiking companions, describing the rich history of the area as they walked. She reported “we had a wonderful hike! Furman looked out for me.  He is such an excellent guide and that trail is so historically interesting.” 

Ann encourages hikers and The Palmetto Trail to “invite people with differing abilities to join them on walks. Hikers might learn more than what their eyes see.”  She mentioned things such as the feel of gravel underfoot and the echo beneath a bridge that she called to her friends’ attention, as they in turn let her know about a soaring eagle. 

The Peak to Prosperity Passage crosses the Broad River on a spectacular 1,100-foot-long trestle bridge, but there are 20 trestles spanning the many creeks crossed by the 11-mile trail, which follows an historic railroad line.  The 200-foot-wide right-of-way was purchased from Norfolk Southern Railroad using the railbanking program. Partners SC Parks, Recreation & Tourism provided funds to convert the river trestle to a passage treadway, while Fairfield County provided the funds to develop the Alston trailhead park. 

The Palmetto Trail stretches from the mountains of Oconee County to the Intracoastal waterway at Awendaw, allowing for hiking, cycling and occasionally camping and kayak/canoe access.  The organization celebrated National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June, by providing guided hikes and healthy food in a Farmer’s Market setting to familiarize the local community on both the Fairfield and Newberry County sides of the passage with the opportunities offered by the Trail.  A similar event was held at the Wateree Passage in Richland/Sumter counties.  Both events were supported by a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Connected Communities program.

Ann is also a published poet, with numerous honors to her name, so it is likely the Peak to Prosperity Passage, with its history and dramatic trestle will find their way into her work.

For information future Palmetto Trail led trail hikes and events -https://palmettoconservation.org

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]