Well, I survived. So here's a brief, albeit choppy trip report:
Goal: to come aside for awhile so I don't come apart; to go on my longest most challenging solo hike; long and hard relative to "me"
-As stated, I survived; I'm sore but feel good; covered approx. 23 miles in 3 days on a knee that's waiting for a replacement and a bad back. Lesson; Black Diamond Z trekking poles are worth their weight in gold (9 oz to be precise)
-Sleep; terrible; first night zero degree full length underquilt wasn't rigged right, left a pocket of air under the butt so I got chilly. Also, don't know about you but I have a hard time going to sleep at 6:00 pm. It's dark at 5:00 pm, I read, made a small fire (in a Vargo Titanium Wood Stove), to pass time; fitful sleep until 1:00 or 2:00 am
-Sleep; terrible; 2nd night; figured out what I was doing on the underquilt and WHAM someone turned on the electric blanket! I was burning up; temp was around 40 but I was HOT; had to vent and fuss for hours; then...
it got veeeerrrrrryyyyyyy quite and still; I'm talking the world just stopped! I was in this bottom at a place called Fiddler Spring and nothing was moving. I'm telling you I've been in the woods since I was a kid and have never seen the woods that still, that quiet. Not even the slightest wisp of a breeze. I couldn't sleep at all, it was simply too quiet. Read, listened to music, vented and basically tossed and turned until 2:00 am or so.... Next time pills?
The Hike; it was good; 1st leg from Camp Five Pond to Bliss Springs, 8.5 miles; rolling hills, pines, oaks, then some small bluffs, it was nice. Bliss Springs is nice but understated and someone built a huge fire ring right beside it. There's a chimney from an old homestead near buy. I bushwached to the Eleven Point River and hike upriver a half mile or so and camped just back in from the river.
Day 2 the hike is from Bliss Spring to Fiddler Spring; this was "supposed" to be my easy day. This hike is high above the river; good views, I'm coming back in the spring to fish for smallmouth bass. And then the fun began..
....lost the trail....twice...
In both cases the trail would head up unto high ground in wide open oak forests; in both cases the hill faced the same direction and the wind had swirled the dry leaves enough to erase any sign of the trail. There's hardly any blazes on the trees. In the first case I used map and compass to plan an "arc" that I was confident would bring me back to the trail at a point where the terrain was likely to be different and hopefully where I could see the trail. This added maybe 1/2 a mile and I found the trail; felt down right smart...
Later in the afternoon I lost it again; if you hike here you really do want a map and compass, no joke. This time I decided to plan a detour that would take in a huge arc to explore some of the interior of the loop and go to the highest ridge. It was hard work and I underestimated how far my detour really was but I had water and everything I needed to make camp where ever but I persisted. I ended up getting back on the trail close to where I expected and got to my planned campsite for the night just before dark. I can't honestly say how far that detour took me out of the way but at that point I only had 5 miles to hike back to the car on the 3rd day. I think I added a good 2 to 2.5 miles with all of that. I felt exhausted, sore, and like I'd really hiked for the first time since I was a young man.
The final days hike was easy compared to the first two days. The whole loop is supposed to be 19 - 20 miles but with my detours I'd guess I was somewhere between 23 and 24 miles total.
What I saw;
-A tree blown apart by lightening; there's a picture; I could see where the bolt hit it up high, went through the tree for 5 - 7 yards and then exited the tree; when it did; it blew out the side; sent a 5 ft long sliver down that stuck in the ground; you can see it in the pic
-Lot's of deer rubs but then i was a big tree all scratched up; you have three choices and I attached a pic so you can make up your own mind; either it's the largest buck rub I've ever seen in my life or...it's a bear scratch, or it's a mountain lion scratch. I can't say for sure but I think it's bear. The reason is I could actually see the claw marks and i'd seen bear scratches when I lived in Northern Maine and this looked like one. Saw it on day two; maybe another reason why it was so hard to sleep that night...
-Saw deer, hawks, eagles, owls, super huge red-headed woodpeckers (very cool birds!)
FOOD: DISGUSTING! My freezer bag cooking effort was more than subpar. I probably lost 5 lbs...I learned...
-buy good dehydrated food
-try your freezer bag recipes or ideas at home first
-I don't like eating out of a plastic bag in a cozy....I'd rather eat out of some kind of bowl and have the clean up chore than to do the bag thing
....so, back to the drawing board on food/dinner planning for longer trips!!!
-Granite Gear Vapor 60 liter pack is simply the best I've every had; it's only 2 pounds and feels like they made it for me personally
-BlackDiamond Z poles; the best thing since peanut butter; I'm not kidding
-Stove; bought a number of them including from TinMan and Zelph Stoves; at the end of the day I made one out of a WD40 can (the smallest size) and it works better than all of the others; 1/2 oz will boil (rolling boil) 2 cups
-Mountain Laurel 475 ml titanium mug; I used it as my cooking pot; works great
-Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber tarp with 12ft ridge line; works great, the suspension, guy lines, shock cord on doors; the ridge line riging, everything is perfect now and it's simply a pleasure to have and use. The only minor adjustment is to make sure the trees are far enough apart.
At the end of the day I had a great time and enjoyed pushing my personal limits. I liked how it felt leaving the trail knowing I had everything on my back and just going the way I wanted.
But at the end of the day, the lack of sleep and bad food did take a little away from it and I missed my family.
So if you're looking for a good place to hike in Missouri, I'd really recommend the Irish Wilderness but it's definitely a late fall, winter, very early spring hike. Once the leaves come out I think it'll loose a lot as far as view goes.
...and the forecast was for rain showers Friday and Saturday; never a drop!!
Enjoy your day