It rained the entire time I was in South Carolina.
It rained in Greenville where I shopped at the small but meticulously curated GBX, just south enough that spring grasses were beginning to unfurl from the cold soil beneath the vibrant bloom of the plum trees.
It rained at the trailhead I chose, hopping onto a leg of the 77-mile Foothills Trail at Chimneytop Gap, and it was cold. I hiked as fast as I dared through the slippery wet red leaves that carpeted slippery wet red mud, occasionally broken by a huge mossy boulder. Bare rhododendron sprawled their spiny tendrils on both sides of the trail, whispering promises of a beautifully fushcia-flowered tunnel in the summer.
My path crossed the road twice. The first time the pavement was clear and steaming lightly and in the cold rain I regretted not driving to the top, but at the second crossing the steep road was now glazed with water and a flowering fractal of ice crystals, threatening to turn the slick ribbon of pavement into a bobsled run.
It rained at the summit, which like the rest of South Carolina was under construction. According to a posted notice, it had been stripped of vegetation as “phase I” of an improvement project that would eventually see a brick lookout tower here. I’m sure the clearcut was meant to improve the view, but on this cold rainy day there was no view to be seen, and the shorn peak looked sad and abandoned in the mist, wiped clear of the sassafras that lent their name.
About the beer:
Pluff Mud is– apparently– the thick brown-grey muck swelling in the Carolina lowcountry marshes after the tide goes out, a viscous dark shoe-sucking substance that everyone I asked screwed up their faces and said had a “distinctive” smell, but not a one of them could describe it.
The Pluff Mud Porter from Holy City Brewing, fortunately, doesn’t seem to share the scent or texture of its namesake. It smells like the crispy crust on the edge of pan of brownies, and tastes just like toasted malt, a tiny bit of char like the amber edges of air-popped popcorn. It’s a little thin for a porter with an unusual citrusy brightness, but overall it’s a tasty and easily drinkable brew.