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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Land Between the Lakes, North end


Land Between the Lakes, North end

North / South Trail………Rating…………….Miles…………Outcasts Total:224.3
Day one……………………….Easy……………………..7.2
Day Two…………………….Easy……………………11.6
Day Three……………………Easy……………………13.4
Day Four…………………….Easy…………………….2.6
Total Miles…………………………………………………..34.8

This is the first trip that all of the Outcasts made together this year. Troy, Greg, Marco and myself took time off together to make this an extended five day trip. We chose this trail because we weren't sure how many miles we would make over a five day period and this trail has a lot of roads that cross it encase we called it quits, someone gets hurt, or weather sets in. We started at the North end of the North / South trail and positioned a car at the Golden Pond visitor center. My Dad and I hiked the trail last fall so I had some idea about the terrain, water location, and what I felt that we could do as a group. When my Dad and I hike this last fall, the streams were all dry from the drought as well as most of the springs. This was not the case now.

We got off work that morning and I think everyone has some kind of errand to run before we met up and headed off. We stopped at the Cadiz exit and went into the Shell station. I was waiting for the guys to get though the line, when an elderly man came in the door and asked if I could help him. He said that he was going to St. Louis and wanted to know how to get there. I asked him which way he came from and he said Nashville. Well, I guess he screwed up in Nashville because that is where the highways divide. The cashier heard what he was saying and gave him a highway to head that way. When we left, we turned out of the drive and there was a car with Utah plates standing in the middle of the left and right turn lanes with a green light. I recognized the old man so we pulled up on the driver's side and pointed to the interstate and told him to go that way. He will never make it.

Around 11:00 we arrived at the Golden Pond visitor center where PAT tried to help us. Not the sharpest tack on the board. After he made up the other three permits on the guys it was my turn. I spelled my name out for him and when he asked if that was Murfreesboro TN or KY, I had to tell him that it was indeed the same state that the other three guys came from. The first one had my name misspelled and by the third permit printed for me I didn't even care that he misspelled Murfreesboro. He didn't have any answers for any of the guys' questions so we felt pretty good as we left. We drove around behind the visitor center and parked in the gravel parking lot. We loaded up the truck and headed north.

We finally got on the trail at 12:15. The temperature was in the 30's with a mild gale force wind blowing in from across the lake. We stopped an hour in on the trail and ate some lunch at an old house foundation. Not much wildlife out in this weather, but we did come across a dead mole which was around four inches long. The duck hunters were out in force as we heard the shooting all along the hike. One of the things I noticed was that the stream banks had rock beds. When my Dad and I hiked this trail there hadn't been any water in the streams and the beds were full of leaves. I guess when Jason hiked between these two hikes and said that all of the rivers to include the trail were full of water is when the leaves washed clear.

We made camp just past the South end of Pisgah Bay around 5:00. We had gotten a ways off the lake on purpose and Marco and I walked back to the lake to fetch two pails of water. The lake was shallow and it made water collection a challenge. We got camp made up and a fire started. This was supposed to be the coldest night calling for temps in the high 20's. Marco found a frozen salamander which he was quite proud of. We ate dinner to the sound of Coon hounds treeing a Coon. The hunter must not be very proficient at shooting as it took about twelve shots to get the Coon. After that we listened to the coyotes.

I woke up to the sound of every tree in the forest cracking. Oh, that was Troy getting the fire started. I stayed up a while after Troy went back to his tent. You could hear a Barge going down the river. Marco made the dreadful mistake of not putting any wood on the fire when he got up to use the bathroom. That is an Outcast rule. Greg had the fire going when he woke us up at 5:30. We knew that we would have to get on the trail early to make the miles that we wanted to make.

We got on the trail at 8:30. Crossing the river, which was about twenty yards from the camp, you couldn't help but notice it would have been a great water collection spot. We made Hatchery Hollow by lunch. We took an extended lunch and warmed up some soup. We did have a couple of guy's in a pickup truck stop and check on us while we ate. The 50's were never hit, but it did warm up enough to melt the trails and now we slipped through the mud. This is the mud that took our good hiking partner Greg. We were heading past Sugar Bay boat launch when Greg called it quits. After lunch he had slipped and aggravated a bad back. He was heavily chastised later for not letting us know when it happened. We hiked back to the boat launch and set up camp at the campground.

Our fire was at the camp ring, but we had to walk a ways out in the woods to put up the hammocks. Once again the coyotes entertained us with their calls. That night when we climbed in the hammocks frost had already formed on the inside of our tarps and on the sleeping bags. I guess around 2:00 I woke up with that good old cold feeling. Greg was already by the fire because his bag had failed him too. We got the fire warmed up enough to put on the long underwear while listening to the barge going down the river. Troy was the smart one and brought his 45-degree bag to slip over his winter bag. I saw the light on in his tent when I got up and by the time I came back to get my long underwear he was snoring quite loudly. Of course I would have brought mine if the weatherman had let us know. Actually the temperature was 30 when I checked. It just didn't take in the humidity.

When I couldn't stand it anymore I got up and got the fire going. After everyone got up Greg called the Ranger. We left out at 9:30 after the Ranger arrived. The Ranger took Greg to the North end and picked up the truck. He had lunch at Cracker Barrel and let us know that he would meet us at Dead Beaver Spring. We stopped for lunch at Buzzard Wing Spring and aired out our gear that was wet from frost this morning. We warmed up some water for tea. Marco decided then that he wouldn't mind being British and having tea every afternoon. Some of the biggest hills are just before Dead Beaver. We met Greg at the road where he gave us a breakfast feast, sodas, and candy bars. You should have seen old Marco get at that plate. Greg and I stood watching amazed at how he shoveled the food in. You would have thought that he hadn't eaten in a week.

After our meeting with Greg we headed out for Brush Arbor camp. After loading up with supplies, our packs weighed more now than the entire hike. This is the first place that we saw other hikers and they were day hikers. We arrived at 4:30 and ended up hiking back a half mile to water. We set up camp in a pine thicket with plenty of firewood. The storms held out until after we went to bed. Marco had a goal of finishing his hiking medicine before he went to bed and managed to tell me about fifty times that he had a buzz going. The weather was a lot warmer that evening because I was carrying Gregs bag for backup. Anyway, we all sleep well.

When I woke, I heard firewood cracking and the sound of rain on my tarp. I lifted my tarp and saw that Marco had a fire going and had gone back to bed. About the time that I got my breakfast cooked the rain had stopped and everyone came out to the fire. The rain held off until we got camp broke down and were ready to hike. Time to try out the new ponchos. It only took about 45 minutes to make the car from camp. With the rain setting in for the day we decided to call the hike over and head for the house. Congratualations to Troy and Marco for breaking their record on miles on a single hike.


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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Natchez Trace State Park


Trail......................................Miles.................Rating....Outcasts Total: 189.5
Red Leaves Trail North..........0.2 Miles........
Red Leaves Trail South..........8.5 Miles.........Moderate
Red Leaves Trail South..........8.5 Miles.........Moderate

This Trail turned out a little tougher than we expected. There are some major hills to climb and they told on us. We were planning on doing the total trail and ended up just making it to Browns Creek Lake.

We started off with seven people going to hike and by the time we left to head West it was Marco, Troy, and myself. It was calling for a thirty percent chance of rain and we drove through a few small rain storms on the way to the trail head. When you get off I-40, you drive straight into the park. At the Park office they have two owls and a hawk in cages there.

We had called ahead to get our permit knowing that this park is closed on the weekends. We still don't know why they close on weekends, but they do. They left us a couple of maps and our permit on the coke machine outside. Marco and I arrived about an hour before Troy, who had driven home to pick up his dog. It started raining just before Troy arrived.

After Troy arrived, we gathered our packs and headed down the trail. It didn't take long before we came to a campsite, which was our first sign that we were on the wrong trail. After a quick study on the map we headed back to the office and across the road to the other Red Leaves trail. Yes, you have two trail heads across the road from each other and both just read Red Leaves trail.

The trail cuts through the woods and across a road to start. The first thing that we noticed was that roads are not marked on the map. Neither are other cross trails. Most of the hike we never knew exactly where we were. Once again the maps are in need of some detail. Our trail started out with white marks on the tree. The next trail that joined us was an orange spot and the next blue. On the map there is one other trail that is marked but no name given on the map. The orange one left us early and the blue one stayed for quite a while. With the different logging roads and dirt roads, it would have been really easy to judge where you were if they were on the map.

Mother nature and I came to an understanding. I put my poncho on and it quit raining. I took my poncho off and it started raining again. After four or five times I understood that I was to hike in my poncho. Troy and Marco could hike without rain gear on, it was just me. OK, I will take one for the team.

When we came along a paved road, we crossed with our map to find that there would be a fire tower next to the trail. We found later that the fire tower is never visible from the trail. When the trail turned and actually crossed the paved road, we studied on the map and figured that we really didn't know where we were. Troy said that while we study, we should be standing by the road just encase a ranger was to drive by. Boy is he good. No sooner had we got positioned by the road, here comes a ranger. Unfortunately the ranger couldn't find us on the map either. That was our second opinion that the map needs to be better marked. He did say that we were close to the fire tower.

We did spook quite a few deer and remembering that this was deer season we kept an eye out for hunters as well. When we crossed a major dirt road, there was a clearing and in that clearing was a doghouse style blind with a color of orange showing. We made sure that we looked like people and headed across. By this time we were seeing that it was starting to get dark and it was looking doubtful that we would make it to camp. We started to consider just making the lake.

Darkness came upon us and still no lake to be seen. Now I was just looking for a water source to make camp. All at once the armadillos started coming out. We saw three of them within a ten minute period. That was kinda cool. Of course when you hike in the dark, that is when the trail is no longer flat and your walking around the hills sideways. It seemed like we hiked for a half an hour in the dark before we finally saw the lake. Once we saw the lake we started to look for a campsite.

It has been bugging Marco that he was not a member of our hiking club. He has felt that since he made more hikes than the other members that he had the right to become a member himself. After thinking this over, Troy came up with the deciding factor. Since it had been raining off and on and all the wood was looking wet, if Marco could get the fire started at camp, yes he could be a member of the Outcasts. Before Marco set up his hammock we had a warm fire to sit by.

We did experiment with our new Heineken Can pots and they seemed to work out well. For your drink you do not want the water at a full boil or you will burn your lips off with the can. My experimental Pepsi can stove worked as planned also. Jason had sent an experimental meal of chili for me to try. I gave it two thumbs up, but would have like to have more. We have always used the Mountain House meals, this time Marco tried a backpackers' pantry which was very good and enough for two.

After dinner we got things put up and were just about to sit by the fire and have a stress relieving drink, the rain kicked in. To our tents we went. Marco spent his first night in the Skeeter Beater hammock and like it pretty well. His tarp, which was a fly section of a tent wasn't quite wide enough but he managed it. Everyone had a peaceful night.

The next morning we got up and Marco again fell into getting the fire going. We were quite proud of Troy's dog. In one walk around the hammocks he managed to pull three tent spikes out. After finally finding them, Marco and I decided to paint our stakes florescent orange. I tried the Mountain House Eggs and Bacon and thought it was pretty good. We had breakfast and hit the trail about nine o'clock. We decided to head straight out because if we finished the loop we would be looking at fifteen miles.

Walking out we released that we didn't spend as much time hiking in the dark as we thought that we had. It took about twenty minutes to get back to where we started in the dark. Once again we kicked up some deer, but this time we didn't see any hunters.

When we crossed the paved road that we saw the ranger on, Troy said that he had had enough and wanted us to pick him up. A very wise decision to save the knees. After we left Troy is when I realised how steep the hills really were as we went down some long steep ones.

When Marco and I came across Club creek lake, we had noticed that it looked frozen. We noticed this on the way in, but were surprised that it would still be frozen. Marco threw a log at it and the log never broke through. It just slid out across the lake. We stopped at the creek there and filtered us some water. We saw some people out hiking on the trail here and also passed a couple as we were coming out the Red Leaves Trail.

After we got back to the car, we went up to the office and there were some park maps there that showed where the fire tower was. It didn't take us long to find Troy. It was another good hike and we are looking forward to coming back here to hike some more.

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