Saturday, December 15, 2007

Natchez Trace Trip

This is the first trip that our group has cancelled due to weather. I guess that we have been pretty lucky over the last year and a half. There have been a few trips that people have thought that we are not quite right for going, but we have never cancelled before.

We studied on the weather all the day before and even suggested that the weathermen were wrong. Not that it has ever happened before. So when we got up this morning we stared longingly at the radar screen. We studied hard and we studied thoroughly. We figured in the wind and time factor. Well since the West side of the state was covered in green and it was not hardly moving, it was pretty obvious that yes, it was going to rain for sure all day and night long. It wasn't easy as we hung our heads listening to the comments from those that have never step foot on a trail before in their lives. You have to know firefighters. We harassed everyone for everything no matter what we know about the subject. We called it a day and pushed all of our hikes back three weeks.

We were going to have a full crew this time. Greg and his boys, Troy, Marco, Me and a new guy at the fire hall, Lassiter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nathan Bedford State Park

Nathan Bedford State Park
November 2007

Trail....................Rated..............Miles...........................Outcasts Total:180.8
20 Mile Trail........Moderate..........16.5

On this trip, we had in attendance: Jason, Marco, and Craig. Greg had to spend quality time with his significant other, in other words shopping, and Troy had a two-day remodeling job that he should finish up sometime before the New Year. We are rating this trail as moderate because of the rather steep hills which they didn't waste a lot of space with switchbacks. Basically when they came to a hill they just popped a chalk line and went with it. The trails were covered with loose rocks, which would roll an ankle pretty quick. I would guess that about half of the trail was old roadbed.

We started out from Jason's house and it took about two and a half hours to get to the trailhead. The trip there was pretty much uneventful with just good company. When we got there we went to the park office and got signed in. This took a little while because they were busy with cabin renters. Here they handed us a new hand drawn trail map with color-highlighted trails. No distance was put on the map other than the trail names. With a string and figuring from a three-mile trail and five-mile trail, I came up with an estimated length for the mile. The map was drawn pretty much to scale so we have to give that to them. They also notified us that the Boy Scouts were hiking the same trail and there was about twelve of them. From the office, you go to the highest point of the park to the trailhead. It was hard trying to get Marco to believe that we wouldn't have to hike uphill to get back to the Jeep.

We made it from the highest point in the park to the bottom before a chocolate lab joined us. He came running straight down the hill and headed straight for Daisy. We were not sure how this was going to turn out, but the dog was just interested in playing and going hiking with us. No matter how we tried to run him off he kept following us. I was thinking that Jason was just going to have to carry Daisy all the way to camp. After a couple of miles we came across some duck hunters taking their boats out of the river and pawned the old dog off on them.

It was exciting to see water in the creeks. Yes, we actually had water crossings that were wet this year. The trail snakes back and forth between the hills and lake and then does one of those straight up things to the first shelter. The shelters here were built by the Boy Scouts and were basically an open front box. We stopped for a lunch break here and then headed out. Here the trail followed an old roadbed all the way to the next shelter, which was about seven miles from the trailhead. We originally talked of staying at this shelter, but with the Boy Scouts coming we figured that we would go a little further. On top of that, none of the shelters were anywhere close to a water source. We figured that we would hike down to the river and make camp there. We hiked further toward the river, but we never lost any elevation. It kinda made me wonder if we were going to be about three hundred feet above the river when the trail turned to go along it. Right at the river was a bluff with a few buildings on it. One looked as though it was a camp chow hall and the other buildings looked like councilor houses. They were all made of block with the wooden roofs falling in. We did a little exploring here and then took the trail, which did a steep drop to the river. We decided to hike along the river to the next stream that fed it and camp there.

We found a spot not far from the big river and close to a feeder stream to make camp. It was about eight and a half miles from the trailhead. There were lots of fallen trees to get firewood from and a couple of large logs to use as seats. We set into making camp, gathering wood, fetching water, and getting the fire started. Life was looking good. After everything was set up we got dinner going. Jason was trying some homemade spaghetti that he had dehydrated and was quite pleased with the results. As the food was cooking in the bag, Marco was tending to the fire. We heard a great pop as Marco stood on his dinner. It was pretty impressive, as you would think that something would be left in the bag. When it popped the entire dinner launched through the air. It looked like someone had wiped the inside of his bag with a rag. We got some pictures as Marco was collecting his food from the leaves. After partaking in some drinks for medical reasons, the rain started coming down. We decided that it was bedtime and everyone climbed in the sack. The rain continued through most of the night. Somehow Marco managed to keep the fire going all night. I got up at some point and figured it was morning as my tarp was completely lit up. When I got up a found that the full moon had lit up the woods. OK, so I went back to bed. In the morning we tried out Jason's homemade granola and Raspberry breakfast, which turned out really well. Jason has this really cool platypus bladder with a Velcro top on it. It comes in really handy as you can just scoop up the water and filter it back at camp in a comfortable position. Well, Marco proudly said that he would go get some the water this morning and off he went. I was wondering if something had happened to him as he was gone quite a while. Finally he showed back up and with some laughter he explained that he was trying to fill up the platypus through the little round hole that is used to pour the water out if you needed to. After about four attempts he finally found the Velcro top and things went better after that.

We started out our hike this morning with a climb that my Dad would be proud of. After we recovered from the straight up start, it turned into an old roadbed. The trail cuts back by the second shelter and there was sign that the Boy scouts had actually made it there that night. We knew that it was going to rain, but we thought we had a while longer than we did. We got the raingear on and started thinking about an out that we could take. We caught up with the Boy scouts where the five-mile trail connects with the twenty-mile trail. The Scoutmaster said that the guys had been complaining about the rain since last night. They were going straight out using the five-mile trail. We let them head out and had a snack in the rain. A vote was taken and we decided to follow the Boy scouts out. When we got back to the parking lot we did a tour of the museum they have.

Now it is Waffle house time. Jason did the GPS thing and found the nearest one, but you know us. We knew that there was one closer and preceded to search. We did find one, but it was further than the GPS one. I'll figure this high-tech stuff some day. So we took the twenty-mile trail, but only got sixteen and a half miles. Only us!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pickett State Park

Trail.............................Rating.........Miles...........Outcasts Total 164.3
Natural Bridge Trail.........Easy..........1.1
Hazard Cave Trail............Easy..........0.4
Lakeview Trail.................Easy..........0.8
Back to Ranger Station.....Easy..........0.8
Hidden Passage Trail.......Moderate....4.4
Double Falls Trail............Difficult.....0.7
First Day..........................................8.2
Double Falls Trail...........Difficult.....0.7
Hidden Passage Trail......Moderate....0.6
Rock Creek Trail.............Difficult.....2.6
Road Walk......................Difficult.....1.8
Second Day......................................5.7

This trip we had in attendance Craig, Marco, Greg, Nathan, Chase, and Jason (My neighbor). Troy bailed out at the last minute due to knee problems. Greg brought his two dogs Duke and Anna. Jason brought his dog Daisy. This is the first time that Jason has hiked with the Outcasts, but he is an experienced hiker. I never checked into the exact distance that we would be traveling to get to the park. I estimated about and hour and a half due to seeing the sign for the park just past Cookville the last time I took I-40. Right before we left, Jason notified me that it was closer to three hours and we have to go though Crossville. Close enough.

Well we didn't run into anything exciting until we got about five miles into our trip. A deer came out a driveway and run out in front of us. Luckily we all got stopped before we hit the deer and the only damage was to our pace makers. After we got those reset off we go. The guys put me in charge of the maps for this trip and as usual I was misunderstood. We stopped at our exit for cigarettes and drinks. When we headed north I told them we had to go 33 miles to the next road change. Well somehow it came out 3.3 miles and everyone was wondering, except me, when we were going to come across this road. I might have gotten a little harassed about that one. I told them to listen to what I think and not what I say.

When we did get to the park Greg pointed out the Bear proof trashcans. I didn’t even think about being in bear country and the guys were not impressed. There was a sign for them to read all about how to handle bear. This is one reason that nobody wants to hike in the Smoky Mountains with me. The Ranger Station was closed and they left a note on the door stating, “out to lunch”. On the signboard was two numbers to get a hold of the Ranger, a home number and a cell number. I called both to find out when they would be back and of course nobody answered either number. We decided to start our day hike and then check back on our way to the campsite.

We took the Natural Bridge trail to the Hazard Cave trail and looped around on the Lake View trail back to the campground and back to the Ranger Station. We had just started on the trail when Chase did a fancy tuck and roll over a root and laid out on his back. Well we knew right then who was going for the graceful trophy. The trail took us over the Natural Bridge and then down under it. We got some pictures taken, as this was an impressive structure. Then we head out to Hazard Cave, which was a large cave carved from sand stone. This area had a lot of these caves and we checked them all out. As I sat eating a sandwich, I noticed that someone had carved a girls name and his on the top of the cave toward the entrance. This was rather impressive as there was no way of getting up there. Then as we were climbing around outside the cave Nathan and I found the path up to the top, which had a hole in which you could climb through and end up where the carving was. The other guys were quite surprised to see Nathan stick his head out and yell to them. After that the trail headed through a lot of Rodadimdrim bushes and dry creek beds back to the picnic area. When we got back to the Ranger Station there were three ladies in there all eager to help us out. We got registered and then drove down to the Hidden Passage Trail Head parking area.

We stopped on the road there to wait on a car that was pulling out. It took about fifteen minutes for the old man to get his car turned and out to the road. It was an old man with the mouth wide open. We were hoping that he would live long enough to make it to the road. We pulled in and packed up for the hike. This trailhead is also the start of the Sheltowee Trail, which runs up 260 miles through Kentucky. We hiked to the Double Falls trail and then on to the Double Falls campsite. The trails were very narrow with overgrowth and a few places we knew when they made these trails that they used Donkey’s due to how close they were to the edge of the drop off. The guys were worried about making to camp before dark. I didn’t want to tell them that I didn’t have a trail description and was guessing on the miles. I didn’t even figure on how long the day hike was going to take. Not much information about this park was available on the Internet. We did come across a sign that was broken off and laying on its side saying that the Double Falls Trail was a mile and a quarter ahead. That was a long mile and a quarter. The other sign that was helpful was the one pointing out the power lines. Not much use for us. On the way Jason pulled out the old GPS and was going to lay out some high tech information. Well we didn’t get too impressed as the Double Falls location that he put in was definitely the wrong one and then it didn’t make any difference where we were on the trail we were always a mile and half from the cars. With my old fashion map reading skills I got us to the campsite and pretty close to the time we thought.

As the rest of the guys started making camp, Jason and I went on to collect the water. When we had entered this valley, you could hear the roar of a fast moving river. Now we were standing on an extremely dry riverbed wondering where the water was. We walked down toward where we thought the falls were and found nothing. Finally we got back on the trail and followed it about a quarter mile down to the fall. There was a little trickle coming over the rocks and a large area where there had been water at one time. Unfortunately you could not get to either because of the rocks. Finally Jason did some professional rock climbing to get to a pool of water and handed the water back down to me. We got back to camp and set up our sleeping quarters as Greg started the campfire. It was kind of odd that the only dry wood was in the riverbed.

As we set by the fire drinking Marco’s Margaritas and smoking Moonlight ecstasy cigars I pumped the water that we had collected through my filter. Or at least I tried to. My filter pump quit working and was squirting through the bypass, which kind of anode Greg and Chase as the water would squirt on them. They kept giving me dirty looks for some reason. Jason of course pulled out the old I pod and showed us that he had a movie we could watch. Anyway it was time to put out the old bear bag. I had a single strand parachute cord and a couple of Kroger bags. Wasn’t really thinking about bear on this trip. Jason volunteered to climb up a tree to feed the rope over the branch. So he puts the rope in his teeth and begins to climb. After a couple of seconds Greg starts doing the pee pee dance. Well, the rope was wrapped around Greg’s feet so Greg was dancing trying to get out and Jason’s head was bobbing like a bobble dog in a window as the rope was in his teeth and his arms wrapped around the tree. I was of course crying and rolling on the ground, which didn’t really help at all. Finally Greg got out and the rope was in place so we hoisted the food up and all was well.

The temperature was dropping and Jason went to get his thermometer. We were all surprised when he came back with just a plain old thermometer. We were expecting something that lit up and talked or at least digital. Looks like somewhere below freezing tonight. I don’t know if Marco’s head hit the pillow good before he started snoring. Other than Marco snoring and Duke walking back and forth that was all that was heard most of the night. Not even a siren in the distance. I did get up around two thirty for a bathroom break and made a little or maybe a lot of noise getting the fire started again. Nathan got up thinking that it was morning and visited with me for a little bit before I told him that I was going back to bed.

The next morning Jason told us that he had forgotten his trail mix and was using it as a pillow when he remembered it. The morning was mainly kicking back and watching the dogs play. Daisy and Anna looked like the cartoon Butch and Spike. Anna was walking around and Daisy was a running circle around her saying “What are we going to do now Spike?” We tried to get a picture of Daisy and Duke who looked like Samson and Goliath, an albino bear and a poodle. After exploring a little bit, we found that the river ran to about fifty foot of the camp and then went underground. Right across the riverbed from the camp the water from the waterfall came right to the riverbed and then went underground. It might have saved us a lot of work if we would have found this the night before. As we packed up it sounded like it was raining with the frost melting off the trees.

We took the steep climb out of camp and then continued the Hidden Passage trail to the Thompson Overlook. We had a beautiful view from here and took some pictures. From here we went to the Rock Creek trailhead and took Rock Creek to the Railroad Tunnel. While on the goat trail overlooking the canyon the boys met what they thought might be a bear, but ended up being some other hikers with a hound. The hound sounded off when he met Duke, one of those “You might win, but you will know that I was there” type of things. The poor dog was trapped between Duke and a drop off. Rock Creek trail is more of a rock face trail. It is a very challenging trial with a few straight down parts of the trail. Once you got down it followed an old rail bed along a river. Not a very well marked trail, as Greg picked up a sign that said, “trail” off the ground and held it up for us. The trail finally ended up going through an old train tunnel. Here Nathan showed us the slow motion logroll as he didn’t quite make it up the slope. After passing through the tunnel there is a swinging bridge with one cable broke so it was sloping steeply to the left. We started with the lightest first and took it one person or dog at a time until everyone made it safely across. On the other side of the bridge was a sign saying the Hidden Passage trail was through the tunnel. Of course this could not be right, as we had just come that way. This is where the mistake was made. The trail actually went over the tunnel not through it. We ended up following the John Mir trail back to Hwy 154 which was a little out of the way.

Once we found out that we were on the other trail and came across the sign showing hwy 154, we came across a side path that was unmarked. Out came the GPS, a little measuring on the map and a lot of figuring, and yes we had a short cut. Jason and I were the only ones willing to try it so off we went and found ourselves in a campsite. I called everyone else back because I thought it was the group campsite on the Hidden Passage trail. I was wrong and there was no more trail to follow so back to the John Mir and out to the Highway. We had a little over a mile of highway walking which of course was a gentle slope straight up to get back to the cars. We passed a sign, which said to watch out for falling branches and trees on the road. About two steps past the sign, a big branch fell right in front of Nathan and I. I told him that was why they put those signs up.

When we got back to the trailhead, the people with the hound were there and had sent a couple of guys to pick up the other vehicle they had to drop at the other trailhead. We went for the traditional Waffle House meal after the hike. Greg thought that he had seen a Waffle House between I- 40 and the park, which we verified, with a big NO. There was one that we all had seen on I-40 and there we celebrated another wonderful trip.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Long Hunter II

October 2007
Long Hunter.........................Trail Rating.............Outcasts Total: 150.4 Miles
Volunteer Trail...6.0 Miles.........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Volunteer Trail...6.0Miles..........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Total………………16.0 Miles

The Outcasts decided to start out the hiking year with an easier trail that we had already checked out. We took a vote and Long Hunter won. We had a couple of guests on this hike. My Dad and a fellow firefighter joined us. This would be Marco's first backpacking trip. He might have had a couple of questions, a few doubts, and definitely a few concerns. Basically he called me every day for the three weeks before the hike. He did take the hike serious and broke out the scale to weigh everything that he had. After we were misled by Marco about the conditions of the water in the lake, we carried all the water that we would need. So after adding food and water, he came up with 30lbs for his first hike.

The weatherman said that we would be having some cold weather coming in so we packed a little extra warm stuff. With the history of our hikes, cold is not a surprise. As it turned out the weatherman, surprisingly enough was wrong and it never did cool off. It was beautiful hiking weather and we really enjoyed getting out. My Dad came in the night before.

Troy and I wanted to keep with the tradition of staying up all the night before the hike making fire calls. We got off work and headed to the trail. Troy went home and picked up his dog. I went home and picked up my Dad. Marco went home with me just encase he came up with some more questions. Greg went to pick up his son, but as some of us know teenagers have a way of making life difficult. I got a call later saying that neither of them would be joining us today on the hike due to disciplinary problems. Been there, done that!

We signed up at the ranger station and met Troy at the trail-head. The dog and four of us headed out. The hike in went pretty much uneventful. We met a lot of dog walkers on the Day Loop, but had the Volunteer Trail all to ourselves. There were five other hikers that came in later that evening and took the other campsite. We never saw or heard from them after they went by our camp. After we soaked our feet in the lake, we set up camp. Marco got a chance to check out the hammocks. I found me a flat rock by the lake and took a little nap. When I got up I found that Troy had followed suit in his tent.

We had our dinner, which was made up of some experimental meals. Everything turned out OK and we all got full belles. When darkness caught up we got the campfire going and sat around and told lies. I called it an early evening and Marco said that I didn't have any problem getting to sleep. He said that my tarp was going up and down with my snoring. He was quite glad that I wear a breathing machine at work.

The next day on the way out we got to see a Black snake and Box turtle. Being the one to start all of this lightweight backpacking, We were quite amused that after hearing something hitting my plastic bottle in my pack pocket, I found a railroad spike that I had picked up in the Smokey Mountains last July and never took out of my pack. Actually I was trying to show everyone how tuff I was and threw in a little iron.

After all of the complaining about everyone walking too fast at work when we exercise, Marco took the lead and left everyone behind. I was expecting him to want to skip the extra couple of miles on the way out, but when it came time to pick the way when the trail split, he was all for the long way out. Marco has been back into gear talk since we got off the trail so I think that he may actually join us again. We had a wonderful hike, but missed our partner Greg.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Craig's Pack

Weight (oz.)
Weight (oz.)
Pack, Hyperlite 4400 southwest*
First Aid Kit*
Trash bag liner
Camelbak Water Bladder*
Antiseptic Towelettes
Shelter / Sleeping
Roll Gauze
Skitter Beater Hammock Modified*
Latex Gloves
Enlightened Revelation 20 Degree Quilt*
Enlightened Revelation 0 Degree Quilt
Wal-Mart Pad 
11x10 Superfly Tarp w / stakes*
Iodine Wipes
Fleece Blanket
Burn Cream
Etekcity Camping Stove
Coleman Fuel 8oz
Toaks 1100 Pot
Plastic Spoon
Platapus 2 liter
Scooping Platapus 5 liter

Pro Hiker Water Filter Modified

Emergency Kit*
Micro LED Light
Winter Gear
Fleece Gloves
Fleece Cap
Zip tyes
Long Underwear
Needle & Floss
Fleece jacket

Regular Gear

Outdoor Research Rain Hat*

Equinox Ultra light poncho*
Wind Breaker*
Polyester Shirt
Wool Socks
Pocket Knife
Nylon Pants with zip off legs
Water Proof Wallet
Polyester Underwear*
Money, Insurance, ID, Key
Wal-Mart Crocks*
Merrell Moab Shoes 
Coleman Head Lamp*
Walmart Hiking Poles
Foam Kneeling Pad
Tooth Brush
Bear bag Ziplock 5 gallon
Knee brace
Scotch in 8oz Water bottle* 9.25
Chap Stick
Toilet Paper
Extra Contact
Contact Cleaner
Total Weight Winter
18.8 lbs w/o food and water
Total Weight Summer*
15.32 lbs w/o food and water

Monday, May 21, 2007

Savage Gulf to Hobbs Cabin II

May 2007
Savage Gulf to Hobbs Cabin II..... Trail Rating........Outcasts Total: Miles 134.4
Savage Day Loop.......4.1 Miles.......Easy
Savage Day Loop.......2.0 Miles......Easy
North Rim Trail.........0.3 Miles......Easy
North Plateau Trail....7.1 Miles......Easy
North Rim Trail.........3.5 Miles......Easy
Mountain Oak Trail...0.8 Miles......Easy
Big Tree Spur Trail...0.8 Miles.......Easy
North Plateau Trail...1.2 Miles...... Easy
North Rim Trail.......0.3 Miles.......Easy
Savage Day Loop......2.0 Miles.......Easy
Total……………….......22.1 Miles

This was a make up hike for me. Since we had a date picked that Greg couldn't make we changed the date for the Mousetail Landing Trail. No use in just throwing away the other reserved date. Troy and I made this trip.

When we got out at the ranger station I asked if Troy had decided which trail he wanted to take. Before I got it out of my mouth he informed me that we are hiking ten miles in. He had the trail figured out. The man was on a mission. He had originally thought that Hobbs cabin was a ten mile in and ten mile out trail. He had worked to get to this point and after the last hike to Hobbs Cabin he found out that it was a little short. We were going to hike twenty miles. He had his mind set. He said ten; I say thirteen and a half. I always have to raise him.

The lady at the Rangers station remembered me. She was in her usual clever state. Well we ended up doing the Day Loop as a warm up before we got serious and headed down the Plateau Trail to Hobbs Cabin. This threw off a young couple as we passed them going both ways. We passed another group of guys that were leaving and they looked like death warmed over. Troy said that they looked like they just finished the Appellation Trail in record time.

Mother Nature didn’t see us sneak in. The weather was wonderful and the sights beautiful. We jumped up some deer and seen quite the array of birds and squirrels. There was some discrepancy in the map and the number of old roads. They had labeled four of the nine roads we crossed. We finally figured out that the Old Hobbs Cabin road was the one gravel road we crossed. We sat down here and removed about twenty ticks apiece. At the start of the trail we covered ourselves with a new orange scented bug spray that Troy found. It does not bother ticks. The best that we can figure, we must have hiked through a nest of ticks. We pulled them off all the way down the trail and including in the campsite.

There were two guys staying in the cabin, one guy in a campsite, and the young couple finally showed up later. Troy started a fire as I went and collected some water. Later that evening, the same Ranger that drove me out of the woods for my family emergency last trip, showed up and we had a nice visit with him. He asked about Samantha and said that he had a mother at a church picnic whose child had a seizure. He told her that he had just been through the same thing and everything was going to be all right. We told him about some trees down and he said that he was getting a new man next week. We noticed that the spring was a lot lower on water than last time and asked the Ranger about that. He said that he never saw it dry, but if they didn’t get more rain he wasn’t sure it would last.

After a good nights sleep we got up and hung out at the camp for a while. I went and checked out the outhouse, jiggled the handle, headed back to camp and stood frozen in the entrance. There was Troy sitting by the fire petting a doe. Over his shoulder was a ten-point buck. Where was my camera? In my backpack across the campsite. I started toward my pack and the buck walked off in the woods and the doe walked to the edge of camp. When I started unzipping my pocket the doe walked off. No pictures, so you will just have to take my word for it.

We headed off taking the North Rim Trail and cutting across the Mountain Oak Trail. The Big Tree Spur Trail is a trail that the Boy Scouts made. It is worth checking out. This hike was a record-breaking trail for old Troy. He told me back in October before our hiking began that he was good for up to five miles. Well thirteen in one day is quite an accomplishment. He was even impressive at the end making the last two miles in forty minutes. Reminded me of our horses when we were heading back to the barn.