Thursday, March 1, 2007

Montgomery Bell

March 2007
Montgomery Bell.......................Trail Rating........Outcasts Total: 65.8 Miles
Jim Bailey Trail........0.5 Miles........Moderate
Wildcat Trail............1.4 Miles........Moderate
Overnight Trail.......10.4 Miles........Moderate
Woodland Shelter....0.3 Miles..........Easy
Total……………….....12.6 Miles

When it comes to temperature, there is no record that we won’t break. This time we went with record highs. 81 was our record breaking high for this time of year. Out with the cold weather gear and in with the summer.

This park actually has shelters to stay in on the overnight trail. Three of them to be exact, and you must reserve them ahead of time. It was a good thing that you did because none of us thought about Spring Break and all of the campgrounds were full.

This time Greg brought the two boys, Nathan and Chase, and two of the girls, Mia and Paige. Unfortunately, Troy who came down with some serious illness, had to cancel out on this trip.

We were quite impressed right of the bat with this State Park. The lady at the counter was quite knowledgeable of the park and they handed us a 3D GPS Navigation Map of the park to include details of the trails. They checked our reservations and then said that the park ranger would usually be out to check on us except that this was an extremely busy weekend.

After a minor delay of gathering the family together and all equipment/food accounted for we headed off. Basically we wanted to wait until it was HOT. We started off with the Jim Bailey Trail, which was a good warm up and then headed out on the Wildcat trail, which we took to the end and turned around and hiked back to the Overnight trail. We didn’t quite explain this to the kids and the facial expressions where quite impressive when we came to the end and said to head back the way we came. They were not impressed with the “switch back” trail.

As we were heading past the children playing in the river at the campground I notified ours that they were having a whole lot more fun backpacking than those “sissy” campers were having in the river. Again this did not go over well.

Anyway, we started off on the Overnight trail and all of these trails were hilly but not hard on the body. Mia was the tough one who was not impressed with having to wear boots and insisted after many warnings from both Mom and Greg to wear short socks to look fashionable. Greg offered her some other socks numerous times as we were hiking and we could see the redness on the back of the ankle. When we came to the second water crossing she stopped and poured water down the back of her boot to extinguish the fire. This time I suggested she change her socks and because this was not a parental unit, she said OK. With some liquid New Skin and a band-aid she walked off a happy camper. Let me tell you, those young ladies were impressive. They hiked a long way for the first backpacking trip that they have ever been on and no complaints.

When we came to the Creech Hollow Trail I told the group that we could add three miles on the trail if they wanted to do another switch back. No takers, even from Greg who had been up all night making calls and had also caught a good house fire earlier in the day. He had been out at another station.

You should have seen the smiles when we saw the shelter. I had experienced shelter camping on the Appalachian Trail and gave them some pointers as I strung up my hammock outside between two trees. Putting anything that has smell or flavor in a tree, open all pockets on backpacks so the mice would have to open them themselves, and try to find some padding. We had a very nice fresh water spring right in the campsite which sore feet were cooled in. The kids learned about filtering water and even did it all by themselves the next morning. Time was spent catching crawfish, tadpoles, lizards and frogs. We added this to the list of deer, owls, snakes, and one coyote in the middle of the night. We also sharpened our rock throwing skills as many targets were chosen with a direct hit by Chase spinning a can lid being the most impressive. We told ghost stories and other stories around the campfire until finally everyone was ready to call it a night. For some reason, I guess God’s since of humor, on every trip except Long Hunter we heard a siren in the distance during the night. We got that, a train, some owls arguing and a visiting Coyote that night. It was good sleeping weather as long as the wind kept blowing. Greg enjoyed his shelter experience and said that the hammock would be brought along on all further trips. It’s hard to make plywood comfortable. Paige’s clothes sack was the only mouse casualty. She had even left it open.

As we were stoking the fire during a good breakfast, I heard some people talking and look to see a couple in their sixties JOGGING down the Overnight trail. I looked at Greg and he looked at me and said that he didn’t even want to hear it.

We might have misled the kids by telling them that the hike out was fifteen miles. For some reason they were not looking forward to it. We passed quite a few people today out hiking, none with backpacks. At one point the girls had asked if we could take a break and Greg said sure at the top of the hill. When we got closer we noticed a covered bench at the top of the hill and headed for it. You know what happens when you find a parking space open in a big parking lot. Yep, a couple coming the other way parked in it just before we walked up. They looked tired after carrying NOTHING for a mile or two. After all of the packs were dropped around them they got the hint and headed out. Chase had asked me about any “switch backs” today and couldn’t help but laugh and say, “of course we wouldn’t tell you, I mean of course not.”

Well when we got to the next shelter the trail led right to it and they didn’t see where it continued. They all turned and asked if this was where we were going to turn back. Greg and I got a good laugh out of that. After seeing the other shelter locations, I could see why ours was the most popular. The Wild Cat shelter was on a good river but right on the trail and the Hall Spring shelter was right on the trail but looked like a possible mosquito breeding ground. The shelters were of the same size, but the Wild Cat and Hall Spring shelters both had bunk beds where the Woodland shelter just had one plank all the way across.

I don’t remember even having to step over one tree across the path. The trails were extremely well taken care of and all of the bridges were in good shape. The Ore Pit Loop trail was the most difficult trail and it wasn’t too bad as far as hilly. The girls earned their Merit badge and we had a wonderful hike.
PS. In regards to our missing hiking partner, who was talked about and was with us in spirits. He too missed us and sends this creed to show he had not lost his heart.

Troy’s Hiking Creed:

This is my pack
There are many like it, but this one is mine
My pack is my best friend. It is my life
I must master it as I master my life
My pack, without me is useless
Without my pack, I am useless
I must shoulder my pack true
I must hike longer than my enemy
I must finish the trail before he finishes me.
My pack and myself know what counts on this hike:
It’s not the pounds of gear we carry
It’s not the sweat and blood we shed
Nor the body and soul we test and punish
We know it is the completion of the hike that counts
My pack is human, even as I, because it is my life
Thus I will learn it as a brother
I will learn its weakness, strengths, its parts, its accessories,
Its shoulder straps, its zippers and pockets, and its limits
I will even guard it against the ravages of weather and damage
I will keep my pack clean and ready, as I am clean and ready
We will become one with each other.
Before GOD I swear this creed. My pack and myself are
The defenders of my country.
We are the masters of the trail, we are the saviors of my life
So be it, until there is no trail un-hiked, only peace.