Yeah, I know it's not Oct 2 yet, but some of the guys are still out on the trail and will finish tomorrow. Work made me come home early.
We ended up with 10 guys getting together for a backpack on the Eagle Rock Loop in SW Arkansas. We had guys from all over the DFW area (Pat, Hampton, Keith, Jacob, Andy, Eves, Paul, and me), Missouri (Burningcedar), and Arkansas (Smokehouse).
The group from DFW met Burningcedar at the Winding Stair trailhead Thursday afternoon and camped there Thursday evening. We had some non-hangers in the group, and I brought along my SBLH, netless SB, and WBBB for them to play around in Thursday evening. Burningcedar also had his DIY hammock and they tried it out to. Great design. Smokehouse joined us early Friday morning.
Friday morning, we drove down FR106 to the Blaylock Creek trailhead and began the hike. 11 miles later, we had 4 big ups and downs behind us and had passed the Little Missouri Falls area. We all tried out Smokehouse's 11' hammock - still the flattest hammock lay I've ever tried out. Smokehouse is a hammock ambassador deluxe, and I think he converted a couple of my non-hanging buddies over to the dark side. We had a great evening around the campfire ring - no fire - just telling stories. It's pretty cool how a group of guys who just met can bond so quickly. Weather was PERFECT. Not too warm. Nothing but blue sky. Nice breeze. The creeks were low, but running, and water was never an issue.
It cooled down nicely overnight to around 40 degrees Saturday morning. Our plan was to hike down to the winding stair area that day - a hike of about 9 miles. We moved quickly, and were back around at the Winding Stair parking area around 10:30am. That left just another mile and a half to the campsite. Weather was even better Saturday. Temps hovering in the 70s, a slight breeze, and nothing but blue sky. We walked by the Little Missouri River all day, so again, water was never an issue.
We had a couple of guys with hurting knees, and they decided to stay at the trailhead. The rest of the group decided to hike another 3-4 miles past Winding Stair, either onto the Viles Branch or on to the Athens-Big Fork trail. I had planned on camping at Winding Stair with the group Saturday night and hiking back to my car at the WS trailhead early Sunday so I could get back home in time for a mid-day flight. Since the group decided to hike on, I decided to call it a trip, come home, and get some work done. There is always next year.
I'll post some pics later. I hope David and Mike post some pictures, too. They took a lot more pictures that the rest of us. UncleMJM & Alan - you guys were missed. We'll plan on another trip to ERL next spring (and a possible long Colorado hike in 2013).
Gear shout outs:
TtTTG SBLH - Love my hammock. 'Nuf said.
Hammockgear.com summer Phoenix & 3S Incubator - used the Phoenix the first night and the Incubator on the trail. Nothing but warm, downy goodness.
ULA Catalyst - I can't stop saying "Wow!"
Gear let down:
My Keen Newport H2s finally died a wicked death. The right heel strap gave way on the third climb Friday. I stitched it back together with some para-cord and made it the rest of the way. Had to. My only other option was a pair of Crocs with no heel straps. I think I'm going to move on to actual trail runners now.