We were a little concerned when we went into the woods during the second week of turkey season without any blaze orange... but we survived without incident or injury. The trip itself, however, was anything from problem free.
Friday we got to Harrison Crawford National Forest a little after noon, chunky sub sandwiches (lunch and dinner in a single package combined!) in hand. We stash our water at our planned points without problem (although camping partner and brother-in-law Matt had a tick climbing on his leg before the second stash was complete - a theme for the weekend) and were parked and chomping down our lunch while readying our packs.
It took an hour - and three failed attempts - to find the trailhead. Eventually, we swallowed our pride and called the office, who sent out Larry the happy employee with two laminated much nicer topo trail maps than are available online. He also gave us a lift to a more accessible and obvious trailhead. We were off!
Before hiking an hour, we came to the first of many, many multi-tree trail blocking blowdowns. The first of these put us off trail for two hours. Compasses in hand, maps in pockets, and two hours of unexpected bushwhacking later, we finally found ourselves on a road and nice place to sit and finish our sandwiches. The cheese had melted into oil so we ate what we could. We had also started wondering if we had enough water to comfortably make it to our first stash. We didn't.
We trundled into "Cold Friday Hollow", our first water stash and camp, just as our legs were starting to cramp (yeah, I know) and had just enough daylight to get camp set up. Our first night was MREs by LED and to bed with a 'tomorrow will be better' attitude. What a great way to start the weekend - and our first attempt at backpacking.
Saturday morning - after a night of restless sleep in my hammock (my first overnight...) - we set off with spirits high. We found that morning that our bushwhacking and lack of adequate breaks for our feet had led to some blistering. Again - a great way to start the weekend. Saturday was better - we were making great time, taking plenty of breaks nursing our feet, but again were realizing we were short on water. The AHT is known for its lack of water, treatable or otherwise, so we had stashed what we thought was enough water for each of us. We had put aside a gallon each - but hadn't accounted for cooking. We were carrying 2.5 liters of water each to start the day with the plan of getting to our second water stash for camp.
For lunch, we were stopping at the lauded "Indian Creek Trail" shelter. Feeling our Friday afternoon, we got there around 1pm, as ready as we could ever be for a "real" break and lunch. Sleeping pads were unrolled, shoes removed, water was boiled. An hour later, stomachs filled and feet dry, we set off. Another hour later, we arrived at a shelter that made the lunch stop look like a shack... because it was.
We had stopped at the wrong shelter (assumably a horse trail shelter) and only now arrived at the true "Indian Creek Trail" shelter. Hopes dashed, we could do nothing but hike on, hoping to find some treatable water at the upcoming stream bed the topo showed to be ahead.
We did, in fact, find some water, but it was even further down the trail. We treated a full 6 liters of water and carried it on - and it was gone before we got to camp. Inexperience, pack weight, dehydration and fatigue had taken their toll and we camped 3 miles short of our goal - even with that goal cutting off 2.5 miles of trail and substituting in a mile of road. I hiked ahead to bring our water stash back with me and our camp was almost enjoyable after an hour of rest and hydration.
Sunday we hiked out to the road and caught a lucky ride from an SF employee pickup 3 miles back to our car, hit the DQ on the way home, and are both home, tick free and quite sore.
I was blessed with the chance to field test a 4300ci Gregory Reality pack and had no complaints whatsoever. It took me the entire 3 days to get "comfortable" fit and I spent the weekend wondering how it would feel with a "professional" fit. It was loaded with 34lbs including food and 3.5 liters of water. I slept (when I did) quite comfily in my "Skeeter Beeter Pro" travel hammock and atop a 7 year old Guidelight Thermarest SI pad. I wore my cross training tennis shoes, which fit well until the 6th mile gets to my feet and have served me well in the past - until I have to go off trail. Some acrylic socks kept my feet dry, but didn't leave much room for my toes by the end of the day.
- 1 gallon of water per person, per day, is enough if you're sitting at home, not moving.
- Always bring a compass, and know how to use it. Fortunately, Uncle Sam taught me well and I haven't forgotten.
- Ticks will find you. Yellow dotted ticks like me, apparently.
- There is no such thing as a "well groomed trail" if you're anywhere near the Ohio Valley storm corridor. -.-
- Finding and tasting the cool, cool water fresh out of the spring after drinking the almost hot water from my bottle all day long.
- Falling asleep - and waking to - the sounds of the forest.
- Eating 'cheesy mashed potatoes', stove top stuffing, bacon and lemonade for lunch after an assumed morning of 'making good time'; could not have been a better lunch. (Ok, maybe with a cushy arm chair to sit in...)
- Blooming Trillium and Dogwoods!
Ok, if you've made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling and here are a few pics:
The trail was hardly ever this obvious; can anyone ID the 'umbrella' plant in this pic? (I grew up with it all over the woods in Michigan and we simply called it umbrella weed... but I've always wondered.)
:edit: Apparently, it is called a "Mayapple" plant. :/edit:
Waiting for the lunch water to boil at the "fake" Indian Creek Trail shelter. Bushwhacking in shorts = tore up shins.
Best trail meal ever... in my limited experience, of course.
Camp Sunday morning; note trail blaze on left - blazes like this were rare - most were hardly visible, faded green paint blotches on trees or vinyl squares on 4x4s. -.-
My wife might call me crazy - and likely Matt would too - but I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Of course, I'd be better prepared this time... wouldn't I?