January 3, 2014

Columbia man aims to run the 475-mile Palmetto Trail

A Columbia man is taking South Carolina by foot. Scott Hodukavich is running across South Carolina via the Palmetto Trail — a 475-mile journey. He started the trip in Oconee County on Dec. 28.

A Columbia man is taking South Carolina by foot.

Scott Hodukavich is running across South Carolina via the Palmetto Trail — a 475-mile journey. He started the trip in Oconee County on Dec. 28.

On Wednesday and Thursday, he ran along trail networks in Spartanburg County. He hopes to reach the coast by Jan. 12.

“It’s a pretty cool trail,” the 49-year-old said.

Hodukavich stood in the parking lot of the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind early Thursday morning, taking a brief break from a run on the Croft Passage. A backpack containing a poncho, energy bars and other essential items was draped over his shoulders. A bottle containing a water and protein mixture called Perpeteum was in his right hand. And around his wrist, he wore a Garmin device that tracks the distance he has traveled.

“I have run sections of it (the trail) before, and I have always really enjoyed it,” Hodukavich said. “It’s a really cool resource that South Carolina has.”

The Palmetto Trail was born in 1994 with the idea of creating a unified network of trails across the state that would feature all of South Carolina’s diverse natural beauty. Since then, more than 400 miles of trail have been completed, according to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation.

In Spartanburg County, the newly finished Peach Country Passage runs 14.1 miles through existing back-country roads from Landrum to Inman. The University of South Carolina Upstate Passage runs 1.3 miles along Lawson’s Fork Creek. The Hub City Connector, which includes the 1.7 mile Mary Black Rail Trail, runs through downtown Spartanburg. The Croft Passage takes hikers 12.1 miles by SCSDB through Camp Croft, and there is a 7-mile passage in Glenn Springs. The Blackstock Passage runs for 4 miles along the Tyger River near Cross Anchor.

However, the trail is unfinished, and many of the passages do not connect. So part of the challenge, for Hodukavich, is finding the best way to make it from one trail head to the next.

In 2012, Scot Ward traveled the entire length of the Palmetto Trail. His goal was to map a continuous route, integrating each section of the trail for those who want to hike it. Ward used public roads — small country roads, no highways — to connect the sections of trail, and then he wrote a book about his journey called the “Thru-hiker’s Manual for the Palmetto of South Carolina.”

This book served as a guide to Hodukavich.

“Ward beat me to it,” Hodukavich, who has been an avid runner since high school, said with a laugh. “But I have to credit him — he did it first — and he mapped everything out so I am taking advantage of his guidebook.”

Hodukavich still has to find his own way between some of the newer passages that were finished after Ward’s journey, like the Peach Country Passage.

Hodukavich said he is trying to run about 45 miles each day, but he says that’s a difficult goal to achieve because days are shorter in the winter. He decided to do the run now because he is moving to Seattle soon.

“I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while,” he said. “I either had to do it now, or it wasn’t going to happen.”

When it gets dark, he stops. A friend, Usa Engelbrecht, picks him up in a car and transports him to a hotel each night. Then, the next day, it’s right back to the trail.

Hodukavich isn’t just running the Palmetto Trail for himself. He said he’s also doing it to raise money for three organizations: The Palmetto Conservation Foundation, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer charity that funds research to find cures for kids with cancer, and the Carolina Wildlife Center, a nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitation and release of orphaned and injured wildlife animals.

He’s also blogging about his journey at http://vegandawg.blogspot.com/2013/12/rascal-run-plan.html.

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