Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Virgin Falls

Virgin Falls Trail……4.5 .................Outcasts Total 401.4
Caney Fork River Trail……1.4 Miles
Day one total……………....5.9 Miles

Virgin Falls Trail………….....3 Miles
Polly Branch Falls Trail …..1.8 Miles
Bee Branch Overlook Trail….6 Miles
Connector Trail………….…..3 Miles
Chestnut Mountain Ranch Trail..1.9 Miles
Day two total………………….7.6 Miles

Total hike…………………..13.5

It ended up just being Marco and me on the hike this time. This is the first time in the area and we wanted to check it out. If you have never been here before, there are no signs anywhere on the roads until you get to the only entrance and then there is a sign for Bridgestone/Firestone.

There were three other vehicles in the parking area for Virgin Falls Trailhead. Being a Sunday and with a prediction of 12 degrees tonight, we figured that they were weekend hikers and would be on the way out. We were wrong.

The sign states that this is a very strenuous trail. It starts off with a nice flat 1.4-mile walk through the woods. This is where we passed six hikers that were going in. There are a couple of stream crossings before you get to the first water fall, Big Branch Falls. The trail starts down hill here and will continue until you get to Big Laurel Falls.

The waterfalls were beautiful with all of the rain that we had gotten over the last two weeks. After Big Branch waterfall you come to a major water crossing that they have put up a cable to hold onto as you step across rocks. With the water being up as high as it was, we had to look for an alternative route. We found one just down stream where you have to jump to the first rock, but after that it was easy.

From here you have to option to take the loop to Martha’s Pretty Point overlook or stay on the main trail. We went to the overlook. There is a wooden set of steps to take to get up to the top of the drop off. The view was nice, but it was a foggy day.

The trail down to Laurel Falls was steep and Marco was falling everyway a man could fall and slipping the rest of the time. Laurel Falls is a beautiful falls with a large cave behind it. We stopped here and had some lunch.

From Laurel Falls to Sheep Cave Falls is a rather flat hike with a few hills. The trail is a loop trail to Sheep Cave Falls, Virgin Falls, and back. We went to the right to Sheep Cave Falls. If you take the trail up to Sheep Cave; you find that the water actually comes out of Sheep Cave to the falls. This is where we saw the other two hikers and their dog. This is also where I found that my camera batteries were going dead.

From this point we headed to Virgin Falls, which was really beautiful. There is a campsite at each of the falls on this trail. After Virgin Falls we took the trail to the Caney Fork River Trail. We got as far as Fish Hole ford when we found we had a problem with our trail plan. The Caney Fork River was up around 10 to 15 feet and around 60 foot wide. One look at the rapids and we decided against hiking any further.

We have about two hours of daylight left so we did some figuring. We could make it back to the truck about dark or stay where we were and hike out in the morning. We could then hike some more trails that afternoon. We did hike down to Davis ford down stream and with the wind picking up we decided to hike back to the Virgin Falls River campsite.

We gathered wood and set up camp. I walked back to the Caney Fork River and got water, while Marco started the fire. When I came back Marco was all frustrated and there was no fire. He said that he had got it going twice and it went out. So while he worked on his hammock, I worked on the fire. After I got it going, it just died back out. I looked at it and found the problem. Marco had read in Backpacker magazine, where you start a wet wood fire on top of a layer of wood. Well, just to be extra caution he builds up two layers of wood. Our fire would get going and then all of the ashes would fall into the basement. After we took all of the wood back off the fire we got it started again for the night.

Marco hung the thermometer on a branch and we watched the temperature drop to 18 degrees by 9:30pm. The sky was clear and we saw three different falling stars. I think
they froze and fell out of the sky. It really only got cold around the fire when the wind got gusting up. I woke up once in the night, got the fire going again hoping that there would be hot coals in the morning. I thawed out the water bucket and my platypus hoping that would last a while too. It didn’t.

My two bag sleeping method worked. I had my 25 and 45-degree Kelty Lightyear bags and I stayed warm all night. Early the next morning, I felt a bit of cold coming through the pad in my hammock and I just put my long underwear top under me and went back to sleep. When I got up I checked the thermometer and it read 5 degrees so I know that my bags are good down to that. Marco wasn’t as lucky as he said that his feet froze all night. He warmed them up by the fire and burnt his new Smartwool socks.

It got up to a balmy 18 degrees by the time we hit the trail. We hiked back to the parking lot seeing a lot of pretty ice formations on the way back. There were lots of ice cycles and around the falls it looked liked it snowed. We ate lunch at the truck and then headed out on the other side of the park. We had problems with the hoses on our platypus freezing. It helped to blow the water out after you took a drink, but still froze up. We swapped to water bottles on the second part of our hike, but now the bottle necks were freezing up.

We hiked Polly Branch Falls trail and took in a hike to the Bee Branch overlook. From there we hiked to Upper Polly Branch Falls and then took the Spur trail to Chestnut Mountain Ranch trail.

On Chestnut Mountain Ranch trail you need to keep an eye out for the little hiker dude that they mark the trail with. Twice, while talking, we ended up going back to find the trail. One time we ended up in a field by a ranch and the other time we ended up on the entrance road. We probably added a mile on our trip between our detours and the going down stream to find a place to cross on our many river crossings.

There are a lot of trails left here to hike. We will have to come back during low water and warmer weather to finish them.



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canal Loop Trail

Canal Loop Trail total 18.3 Miles................Outcasts Total: 387.9 Miles
West Canal Loop Trail…………..4.9 Miles
North/South Trail…………………4 Miles
Day One total…………………….8.9 Miles
North/South Trail………………..0.5 Miles
Hike/Bike Paved Trail………….2 Miles
East Canal Loop Trail…………..6.9 Miles
Second Day total……………… 9.4 Miles

We originally had seven people planning on hiking. When we got to the trailhead we had four. The weather was questionable with rain snow mix in the forecast. Hiking today were Dad, Marco, Raleigh, and myself. Raleigh is a firefighter who has some hiking experience. He had talked about hiking with us for the last two years and we never took him serious. This time he showed up to work with a backpack. We knew he was in this time. We did a quick shake down of his pack in the bedroom at work as I worked at lowering his pack weight. By the time I was done he was crying and sniveling looking over what was left. I left him alone and a short time later he was hiking around the station with his backpack on talking about how good it felt.

We watched as the weathermen talked of the snow to come, telling the children they may not have school, and the radar showing rain. First thing in the morning, I found Marco on his computer studying the weather radar. It looked like we would have to drive through rain on the way there, but it was clear on the other side until the snow got there. A vote was taken and we headed out.

I was use to heading in through Cadiz and taking 79 into the Land Between the Lakes. As we got to the North end we saw a sign showing 8 miles to I-24. I never even thought about just coming in the north end. I got a little ribbing about that. We went to the trail access parking on 101 to catch the Canal Loop trail.

Marco impressed us with his lightweight packing technique right off the bat. He threw his pack in the back of his truck to get organized. When he picked it up there was a puddle of water in the back of the truck with a stream heading off the back. He had put his pack on the mouthpiece of his bladder and drained half of his water out on the ground. He is always thinking about lightening the load.

We got on the trail by 10:30 which was earlier than I had expected. Our goal was Brown Spring which we made by 3. It was nice hiking weather with a cold wind off the lake. Marco was worried about the hunters, which we didn’t see any while on the trail. We stopped for lunch when we found a place out of the wind. The trail has some beautiful lake views. At Twin lakes boat launch we took our group picture. There was also a grave for someone’s cat and Marco found a clam shell. There was also a nice looking sailboat that was blown up on the shore. I’m sure someone was sick. At Moss creek day-use area we found a fish by the path which looked like a bird had dropped. Marco took a pose with it for the camera.

When we got to Brown Spring we found a camper trailer by the spring trail. We decided to fill our water bags and head further down the trail to make camp. We found a spot with some downed trees to use as firewood and a bench. It started to drizzle on us as we set up camp.

After I set up my hammock, I turned and saw some hunter orange coming towards us. This was one of the hunters that were staying in the camper. He said that he had seen the tarps and wanted to see what we were doing. He couldn’t believe that we were going to stay out here all night. He wandered off shaking his head and mumbling.

By the time we got fire wood collected and water filtered, the drizzle stopped. Marco used his Backpacker magazine training to get a wet wood fire going. The only problem was that he didn’t get the memo and put the fire too far away from the tree we were going to use as a bench.

It was still early and our next excitement was time for dinner. During our story time at the campfire we had to put on our ponchos about three times because of the sleet, but never for very long. After the coyotes started howling, Raleigh felt more comfortable. I did notice a couple of items that I had taken out of his pack showed up. When I asked about it he said that he was taking baby steps.

Dad was first up in the morning. I thought that I was going to have to make the fire, when I heard the breaking of sticks. Yes, Dad was making the fire already. We had a good breakfast then had a snow flurry while we broke down camp. We got on the trail by 8:30 and headed to 110. From there we took the hike/bike paved trail back to the North welcome center. When we got there we used the bathrooms and replenished our water supply. From there we crossed the Trace and hit the East side of the Canal Loop trail.

Right before we got to Nickell Branch boat ramp, we heard a scream behind us. We turned to find a woman on a mountain bike heading at us at full speed. This got our attention and brought on some good laughs.

We stopped at boat ramp and had lunch at the picnic area. This is where we got to enjoy seeing a Bald Eagle checking out some ducks in the water. We had a good lunch and tried to lighten our loads some more. It was cold especially on the hands while we ate but there was an outhouse here. Marco wanted credit for hiking more than the trail as we did the walk to the picnic table.

After lunch we continued our hike. There are some large fields to view and then we came to the north bridge. We didn’t see any deer, but we saw a mole, squirrels, bison, cranes, ducks, a bald eagle and a dead fish.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marco's Pack

Pack First Aid Kit 3
ULA Circuit 41 Aspirin
Trash bag Liner 1.8 Bandaids
Camelbak Water Bladder 1.8 Tums
Shelter / Sleeping Anti-Diarrhea
Skitter Beater Hammock Modified 20 Meds
Enlightened Revelation 20 Degree Quilt 22.43
Enlightened Revelation 0 Degree Quilt 25 Emergency Kit 2.75
Therm-a-rest Sleeping Pad 14 Hand warmer
11x10 Superfly Tarp w/stakes 19 Extra Spoon
Fleece Blanket 10 Zip Tyes
Etekcity Camping Stove 4.8
Coleman Fuel 8oz 13 MISC
Toaks 550 Pot 2.2 Pocket Knife
Plastic Spoon 0.1 Water Proof Wallet
Platapus 1 liter (2ea.) 2 Money, Insurance, ID, Key
Platapus gravityworks 4.0L filter 10.75 Soloman Hiking boots
Lighter Camera
5 Gallon Ziplock Bear Bag 2.5 Foam Kneeling Pad
Kelty 50' Rope 1.3 Phone
Knee Brace
Winter Gear Walmart Hiking Poles
Fleese Gloves 5 Wiskey Bottle
Fleese Cap 2
Long Underwear 16
Fleese Jacket 19
Regular Gear
Outdoor Research Rain Hat 2
Equinox Ultra Light Poncho 10
Wind Breaker 9
Polyester Shirt 6.25
Wool Socks 2
Nylon Pants with zip off legs 11
Polyester Underwear 3
Doggers Shoes 12.8
Black Diamond Head Lamp 2.75
Tooth Brush 0.5
Paste 0.75
Wipes 2
Chap Stick 0.5
Toilet Paper 0.75

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Savage Gulf South Rim Trail

Day Loop Trail……….……1.2...............Outcasts total: 369.6
South Rim Trail………… …5.8
Stagecoach Historic Trail…. 1.6
Connector Trail………………4
Day one total…………9 Miles
Day two total…………9 Miles

This hike we had a total of seven hikers, the most we have had so far. We had the usual four plus Taylor and Jason, who have hiked with us before, and one new hiker Craig. Jason brought his dog Daisy, Troy had Shadow, and Craig brought Rusty. It made for quite the crowd going down the trail. We did manage to get everyone, without much hassle, to the trailhead.

After we got everyone and all the cars written down on the permit, I heard the humming of angels and a bright glow arrived at the ranger station. YES, it was Troy with a Kroger sack full of his famous fried chicken. Tears came to my eyes and with over whelming joy, I ran over and gave my favorite hiker a big hug. This time Troy included biscuits and instant potatoes for each hiker. What a hero! The wondrous glory was passed out to each hiker and we headed down the trail.

As we arrived at the first waterfall, Savage Falls, just after you get on the South Rim trail, we noticed it was more of a water dribble. This got us thinking about the water supply at camp. There was a family there at the falls climbing all over. We continued on and checked out all of the overlooks on the way. It was overcast today so the colors where not jumping out as much as they could, but they were beautiful.

At eleven they asked me about lunch and I said I could hold off a little while since nobody else was hungry. A little while later, Troy stopped and turned to ask if I was hungry. My pack was already ripped opened and I looked like a vulture on a bad week going after my chicken. He said OK and they stopped to eat with me. We had an older couple with a dog hiking out pass us during lunch. I let them know that the dogs don’t bite, but I do if you get near my chicken.

We stopped for a break at the Stage Coach campsite. We were standing around talking when all of the sudden we heard a payphone ringing. We all looked at each other and were trying to figure this one out when Taylor finally relented and walked over to his pack and turned his phone off. We notified him that this was against policy and he came up with the weak excuse of having a pregnant wife at home.

Just after the Stage Coach campsite, I showed these younger guys how to watch the trail. With it being fall and all the leaves on the trail covering rocks and roots I was worried about them. With a quick twist of the ankle, I hit all fours. You really want to look at the trail closely to make sure you don’t miss anything. It wasn’t clumsy it was for a purpose.

Marco renamed the Stagecoach Trail as the Roll the Ankle Trail. This trail dropped down 700 feet into the Gulf. It is roadbed, but it is also covered with rolling rocks. It was a little rough on the knees and ankles. Greg tried to keep up with me here, but only managed a three-point landing on this trail.

We took a break on at the bottom of the Stagecoach trail and let the dogs run. Talk about a laugh, as they did circle after circle around us chasing each other. The two bigger dogs where running as fast as they could, and little old Daisy running after them being the only one barking provided quite the entertainment for us.

We took the Connector trail another 90-foot drop to the Sawmill campsite. Since we were the only people in the campground, we picked our site and set up camp. Jason, Taylor, and I headed out to fetch a pail of water. The sign said .3 miles to the Schwoon Spring. We followed the trail along the dry riverbed, checking every once in a while for signs of moisture between the rocks. Soon the trail crossed the riverbed and headed uphill. We did a little studying on this one and swept down the riverbed a ways to make sure that there was no water to be found. After not finding anything we started the steep climb up the wall of the Gulf. About 200-feet up the side of the Gulf was a cave that dropped down about 100 feet. Up above this cave was another opening and it dropped about 70 feet to water. With another climb up to the next level we found a place where you could climb down between the rocks about four feet and lean over the edge of a fifty foot crevasse to catch water in our containers. Luckily, I had my camera to prove this story as the guys at camp thought we were just trying to get out of gathering firewood.

We spent the evening around the fire telling lies and sipping on medication. It dropped down to 25 degrees so we got to test some of our bedding out. Greg did entertain us with the lighting of the stove with the campfire. There was a big flash as he disappeared behind the wall of flames and then he reappeared. Luckily he still had the mustache and eyebrows.

The next morning as we were warming by the morning fire, the discussion came up about the advantages of the Bivy verses anything else. Jason was making the point that he can lay in bed and start his coffee first thing in the morning. Greg perked right up and asked why he didn't just scoot his ass over and start the fire this morning.

Troy and Craig got an early start in the morning to climb the hill. The rest of us left out about 9am. The trip out was pretty uneventful. We had one lady hiker that was hiking in when we were taking a break. She asked if we were hunting or hiking. We just looked at each other. She wasn't too sure about this motley crew that she would have to go through. As she passed us we noticed that she had a stuffed turtle attached to the back of her pack. She said that it was because she was a slow hiker. Troy thought that it was an insult as we are constantly trying to lighten our packs and the professionals are bring stuffed animals with them.

Daisy didn’t like the swinging bridges at all. She provided some entertainment at the parking area when Jason hit her shock collar and she jumped hitting her head on the rear bumper of Troy’s car. She learned to listen though.

This was a good hike and for anyone that is heading down into the Gulf, I feel that the Stagecoach Historic trail is the easiest way down and up.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Montgomery Bell III

Outcasts total 351.6

Day one
Jim Bailey Trail .5
Campground Trail both ways .4
Overnight loop to Woodland Shelter 5
Bewildered 600 yards
Woodland Trail .5
Day one total 7 miles

Day two
Woodland Trail .5
Overnight loop 4
Ore Pit Trail 2500ft
Wildcat Trail 3710ft
Day two total 5.6 miles

Craig couldn't’t make this trip. He was hiking with his dad in the Smokies so he called on me to lead this. Not sure this was a good idea but the other’s seemed OK with it.

I picked up Marco at the fire hall around 7 and headed toward Nashville. We were ahead of schedule so we opted for breakfast at Waffle House. I had forgotten the directions to the park (not starting out as a good leader) but recovered nicely thanks to Google Maps on my phone. We finished up breakfast and headed to the trail head. We arrived about 9:30 and Troy was already waiting on us. He said he had gotten there 10 minutes prior so we weren’t doing too badly and Taylor was 10 minutes or so behind us. Craig called Marco while we were still at the parking lot making sure his group was going to make it without him. We assured him it would work out one way or another. I searched the ranger station which was closed looking for a sign in. Look, look…..nothing. Then Marco and Troy took a gander and still nothing. So Troy left a note with our tag numbers and away we went. Within 30 minutes I had made a wrong turn. Reviewing the map once more, we figured out where we went wrong and decided to hike the road for a couple hundred yards or so until we picked up the M Bell trail head. All was well and a fairly uneventful hike until lunch. We had stopped at the Wildcat Shelter to eat where we ran into a man, women, and dog hiking out after an overnight trip. We also found the humor of Marco texting Craig and asking if we were on the blue trail or white. And again later if we should turn right or left at the Exxon. Then Marco sent Craig a picture message of the shelter which got a quick reply of “First Shelter”. Ya think? Troy and I would have kept up the charade a bit longer before we let Craig off the hook. The game was over and so was lunch and we started out once again.

The farther we hiked along the water, the less it looked like a trial. A few more minutes and even less trail. We reviewed the map once again and saw that we should have left the shelter and hiked in the opposite direction. Strike two. Once again, we were backtracking a couple hundred yards or so until we picked up the right trail. An hour or so went by before we stopped for another break. Troy tied Shadow (his dog) to a tree and the dog begins to circle the tree. As we are getting ready to leave, I notice Troy trying to lead Shadow around the tree to untangle her. Next thing I know he has picked her up and now Troy and the dog are circling the tree.

We made the Woodland Shelter by 2….much earlier than we expected. Collected the fire wood and realized the fire ring was still hot from the hikers previous. I don’t think Taylor even struck a match to get it going. We made some coffee/tea each and were just talking when WHAM! After a few minutes of investigating we realize acorns are falling from the tree above and onto the shelter roof. Sounded like a gun going off according to Marco. Several more fell during the afternoon and we realize this is going to scare the crap out of us during the night. We each enjoyed a peaceful dinner with the recall of the 5 pound spider story from the trip before. I wasn’t there when it happened but Marco has a great recount if you missed it. My favorite part is when Craig called out “Marco..HELP ME!”

I was going to bake a brownie for dessert only to find that my large pan had a hole in 3 of the 4 corners. Not sure if the holes were a result of folding or riding in my pack all day. Since I already had the brownie mixed up, I decided to try it in my Jet Boil stove. Twenty minutes later I had successfully baked the brownie.

Just after crawling into my sleeping bag I heard a THUD! Wouldn’t find out until breakfast that it was the sound Marco’s body made as it hit the ground. It seems that his knot broke on the foot end of his hammock resulting in the brief fall and the thud as he slammed into the ground. He seemed relieved that it was the foot end and not the head that gave way.

Thirty minutes or so after crawling into my bag I am awakened by a familiar WHAM on the shelter roof. Not as startled as I thought I would be. Though I slept through, the others said they were awakened several more times during the night. I only woke again around 5:30 to find Troy poking at the fire and once more at 6:30 with Taylor stirring the fire this time. It was light out this time so I began the coffee.

Taylor asks around camp to see if anyone else heard the “Coaching” this morning. Troy agreed that he had heard something but wasn’t sure exactly what. Taylor said it sounded like a football coach in the distance yelling RUN, RUN! We finished breakfast and broke camp.

We resumed hiking at 9AM and made great time to McAdow Cabin. I suggested that we could add a few more miles onto the trip but it would require about 500-1000 feet of cross country travel. It didn’t seem too bad to me as it was only an 80 foot elevation change and would be downhill. I was quickly outvoted three to one. Marco was dead set against the cross country part, Troy needed to get out for his daughter’s ball game, and Taylor was ready to eat again. I see why Craig likes him!

We headed toward the parking lot and arrived at 11:30. After the traditional Waffle House post trip meal we called it quits. It was a great trip and I was careful not to get my third strike. Thankfully for the others, Craig will be leading the next hike at Savage Gulf.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Long Hunter III

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Long Hunter.........................Trail Rating.............Outcasts Total: 339 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

Once again the vote was taken and everyone voted to start out with the Long Hunter hike. It's a close and easy trail to start with when everyone is out of hiking shape. We met at the trail head and were on the trail by 10am. The whole group was together, which was the first time since the Land Between the Lakes hike last year.

There is always something different when we hike that we can laugh at. This time it was a beware of ticks sign. We have never seen that! Maybe bear, dogs, fires and stuff like that, but never ticks.

It was a beautiful day and we passed a few other folks out hiking the day loop trail. I tried to hide the sign where the trail splits at the beginning, but Greg didn't fall for it. We were planning on taking the long route anyway as I was just messing with him. The long loop goes along the shore line. We ate lunch at the map sign where the overnight loop splits off the day loop. After this time we didn't see any other hikers.

We spent most of the hike to camp just getting caught up with all of our lives. Marco I noticed, was studying the trail and off to both sides. When I asked about it, he informed me that snakes were out and that he was watching for them. I couldn't argue with him over this point so I just did the usual and watched the scenery. It was a beautiful day and the boaters were out in force. When we got to camp it was about 1:45 and there were six or seven boats out in the cove.

We set up camp and then I pulled out the old swim suit. Greg was quite surprised when he found out I was going swimming. I don't know why. Anytime there is water around, I am in it. Sometimes on purpose. I hit the water and soon afterwards so did Greg and Marco. It was refreshing and afterwards made it cool to sit at camp and get dinner going. A campfire was made, but you couldn't get near it. Too hot for that. We had some cocktails and told some lies until it was time for bed. We got a good nights sleep even though we all had to get in the bags sometime around 2am for warmth.

We got on the trail at 9am the next morning and stopped to get a picture of a rock wall that is near the camp. I don't know how long it was, but I know that it took a long time to build. This was the last time we saw Troy. He kept hiking and never stopped. He did leave us a note on the truck.

I got some pictures of the lake and the cactus that is everywhere on this hike. Marco was still studying for snakes as he stepped over a four foot rat snake. Greg was right behind him and had to call his attention to the snake. We did get a picture of this one and might have gotten some laughs.

We stopped for lunch at the same spot as on the way in and decided to take the long way out as none of us had to be home anytime soon.

I guess that once you get to know me very well you will find that I am a little terrified of spiders. It runs in my family, well at least with my brother and sisters. This might be a little frightening for some folks so beware:

I was following Greg and Marco was behind me. Greg stopped and was pulling some spider webs off him. As I was watching him, I glanced over his shoulder and there sitting on his pack was a spider that weighed in at at least five pounds. Because of the for mentioned, I did not pull out a camera so you will have to go with my version of the events.

Greg said he heard a gasp and then saw a hiking pole swinging at his head. By the look in my eyes he said that he knew it was bad and trusted me fully. I hit his pack and the spider went over the back of the pack. I yelled for him to turn around and he immediately did so. Once I saw the back of his pack I began to swing like a kid at a Pinata. Greg said that gave up hope when he heard me yell out in a school girl voice "Marco do something."

It was luck or just that plain fact that when you hit an area about a hundred times you would finally knock this spider off the pack. It just so happened that after I yelled I made the strategic blow. Don't worry, being the tuff type of man that I am, I was ok after about an hour.

The rest of the hike went pretty uneventful and we did have a great time.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Natchez Trace Red Leaves Trail

Trail................................Miles......Rating.................Outcasts Total Miles:323
Red Leaves North Spur.....17.2.......Easy
Red Leaves South Loop......25.35.....Moderate

Troy and I are going to break a couple of records for him. One, we are going over 32 miles and two we are hiking over three days which is also a first. We picked the Natchez Trace State Park Red Leaves Overnight trail North and South end. The North spur is 17.2 miles. The South loop is 25.35 miles. The goal is to break 40 miles. The weather was suppose to be clear with frost the first two mornings.

We do the regular running all night at the fire hall and then head out in the morning. We made good time and got on the trail by 10 am. We had decided to do the North spur first. This left us the option to go straight to camp at 6.9 miles or do the loop first and make camp at 10.3 miles. With the early start we picked to do the loop.

One of the first things that we learned on the trail is that horse riders cannot read signs. All of the hiking trails are clearly marked with a visual sign with a picture of hikers on the top. Below this picture is a picture of a four wheeler, a picture of a bike, and a picture of horse all with a circle with a diagonal line across it over the pictures. That would be an international sign for NO! I guess that the riders leave it up to the horses, which don’t really care either. Seriously these are beautiful trails that are all churned up with horse hooves. A horse will make a mud pit. The next horse doesn’t want to walk through the mud pit so it goes around. The mud pit gets larger and larger to where the hiker has to climb through the woods to get around it.

The flowers were abundant and beautiful. You could smell them all down the trail. We got pictures of these to share with everyone.

The first mark on the trail we looked forward to was the third largest pecan tree in North America. Legend has it that the tree grew from a pecan presented to a settler by one of Andrew Jackson’s men as they returned from the Battle of New Orleans. As Troy put it “I was expecting a lot of things about this tree, and this was none of them.” The tree is rotten and has had concrete and bolts holding it together from the inside. The tree was fenced off with a sign stating this was a hazard area where the tree may fall at any time. Oh well, we got to see the legend. From here we hiked to Maple Creek Lake.

Maple Creek Lake is a beautiful small lake. As I was taking pictures of the lake, Troy was saying that it was starting to rain. It never rained hard so we never had to put on ponchos. It kept this light rain going while we hiked into camp, which was up on a hill. Right between the campfire ring and where you set up tents was a big horse pile. Troy put some branches over it to help us keep from stepping into it. It rained while we set up camp, collected firewood, and ate dinner. After that it quit and that was the last of the rain for the rest of our trip. There was a water pump at camp. Troy pumped and gave up. I pumped and got reddish brown water. Troy pumped and I pumped trying to get some clear water. I went to the lake and got water for us. We sat around the campfire and told lies until 10pm and called it a day. That night we had a proud owl that had to brag two different times. We also had a pack of coyotes doing a little celebrating.

There was no frost when we got up the next morning. We got on the trail at 8:50am and hiked back toward the parking lot. On the way up the trail the day before we came to an intersection with a cross trail with the same white marks that the Red Leaves trail was marked with. We knew by the map that we had to head east so we did. On the way back we followed the white marks in the opposite direction. The trail met up with the other trail that we were on and was marked by a small red flag hidden in the grass off the left side of the trail. I guess that we were suppose to see and understand what this flag meant so that we could stay on the right trail. We found later that this is common in this park.

We got back to the car at 1:14 took us a small break and then headed out on the South loop. The South loop has the same horse problem to work around. There was a lot of standing water on the trail. We hiked to Cub Creek Lake, which is another beautiful lake. They have a campsite here, which we had originally planed to stay at. It was still early so we continued on.

After we left Cub Creek Lake the trail ran through a swampy area all the way down to Sulphur fork of Cub Creek. This area was surely the mosquito haven for all of West Tennessee during mosquito season. As we sloshed through the muddy trail skipping between logs and grass clumps, we had to worry about ticks, chiggers, poison ivy, poison oak, anaconda, alligators, and such. On top of not being able to find the white markers as the trail crossed other trails and or disappeared all together. At one point while trying to find a marker I headed up hill out of the swamp. Troy stayed at the last marker. At the top of the hill was a two-rut road, which I followed back down the hill. I found the trail again and followed it around to Troy. On the way back I told him that we were finally getting out of the swamp. Soon the trial turned back to swamp and I didn’t recognize it as the same trail. We stopped and hiked back and found where the trail I came down met with this one. Once again you had two trails marked the same way. Well by now it was getting dark and we were trying to decide where this Sulphur fork of Cub Creek was on the map. Finally the trail came out on a gravel road and there was the bridge over Cub Creek. Next to it was the trail from the swamp that we were following earlier. We hiked back up this trail to a pine thicket and set up camp. The creek made a wonderful bath and clear water source. We scrubbed like mad and hoped we weren’t broke out by morning.

We figured that we made 13.5 miles today. The campfire didn’t last as long tonight and we got in a good nights sleep.

I woke to the sound of a woodpecker wearing out a pine tree. We missed the frost again this morning. Got up made breakfast and hit the trail by 9:40. We are back up on dry land. It got pretty warm hiking and there was one time that the buzzards were circling overhead. Not sure what that meant, but we figured it wasn’t good. It was another day of searching for the trail numerous times. We did sneak up on a wild turkey.

We made Pin Oak Lake by 1:35 and ten minutes later was at the Pin Oak Lake campsite. This is a very beautiful campsite on the lake. Pin Oak Lake is a very large lake and a good swimming location. We stayed here about an hour and then headed for Browns Creek Lake that was our planned campsite. On this side of the park they used arrows on the trees to help locate the trail. This came in very handy with navigating.

When we signed in at the Park office the man there told us that they had done some maintenance on the trails and built some new bridges. By now we understood the government contract: They were allotted so much money. The engineer designed a bridge made of ten foot two by sixes and deck planks. They only had enough to make an allotted number of these bridges and they had to use these bridges only to replace broken bridges if they fit or not. They were not allowed to use any of these bridges to go in places that required a bridge where there was not already a bridge. Yea, that is how it went.

We made it to Browns Creek Lake, which was 10.5 miles for today. Troy took a nap and I went down to the lake to catch the sunset and chase water snakes. We made our campfire and called it an early night. Troy wanted to get an early start in the morning.

We got up at 5:30 and were on the trail by 6.30. Only 8.25 Miles to go today. We had quite a few stream crossings and some of the larger hills to navigate. Once again the weather was wonderful and we had a good hike back to the cars. We got off the trail at 2:30 and headed home.

As you can tell, I got a new camera and the dates on the pictures are wrong.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Fall Creek Falls - Lower Loop Trail

Trail.........................Miles.............Rating............Outcasts Total: 280.5 Miles
Lower Loop Trail.......12 Miles.......Easy / Difficult

Wow, what wonderful weather for hiking. Troy, Marco, and I hit the trail after a six week break. We were needing the outdoors pretty bad. We got on the trail at 11:00am and headed up the east side of the gulf. As I mentioned earlier Troy has attempted this trip twice and due to bad planning and drought conditions, has yet to make it through the gulf.

You start at the trail head and then hike a portion of the paw paw trail to the overnight loop. We planned on making it to campsite #2 for the night. This would get us halfway around the loop and getting the gulf over the first day.

When we signed in the ranger notified us that the boy scouts were staying at our campsite. Well, this is nothing new to us. There were three good water sources before we hit Pine Creek which the ranger said that we would have to carry water from there up to the campsite. This is always the case as well. On the highest climb we like to add water and a lot of it.

We stopped at campsite one for lunch, which is next to a nice creek. From there we headed into the gulf which is a 700 foot drop. Here the flowers were beautiful and plentiful. We stopped at the river for a rest and to gather our extra water. After we built up our strength we headed up to the campsite. The climb was very strenuous and I would rate it difficult to the average hiker and us. The West side is alot steeper than the East if you are making plans to hike. Of course when you reach the top you will hear the sounds of running water as a stream runs near the trail. They didn't rub it in by making us walk through it. We couldn't see the stream but you could hear that it was running well.

Just past the rim of the gulf is the campsite. You can hear boy scouts as soon as you can get away from the sound of water. We came into camp at 3:50pm and the scout leader said that we could share a site with them. We found a site down the road a piece. The scouts had come in the opposite direction and after our discription of the gulf he wasn't sure if they were ready.

They have a men and women bath house next to each other with a tree laid down across the doors. There is a separate out house nearby. If you walk down the service road a short distance there is another site and that is where we stayed.

We were not used to the sun staying up so late. We had plenty of camp time to bond. Marco entertained us once again with kicking over his hot chocolate and stepping in the dogs water dish. We enjoyed the campfire until 10:00pm and called it a night.

I had gotten up Saturday morning completely clogged up and thought it was allergies. I had taken some meds but had felt achy all day as we hiked. Well, I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. I pulled up the old bag and fell back to sleep. I woke up later burning up. Then I woke up and headed straight for the nearest tree. I have always carried diarrhea medicine and now it was going to pay off. A few trips later and I was hoping it was going to kick in soon. Well the next time I woke up my stomach was rolling. I sat up and ran for the open running from both ends. Well, for all of those LIGHTWEIGHT backpackers that count the sheets of toilet paper. THIS WHY YOU TAKE A WHOLE ROLL! IT DOESN'T WEIGHT THAT MUCH!

Troy was going to sleep in this morning, but was up by this time because his dog was not interested in sleeping in. This is vacation! I sat with him as he started the fire and then I headed back to bed. Troy woke me up to check on me. He had already broken camp and Marco was working on his. Let's start the day. We got on the trail at 8:30am.

The trail on this side of the gulf has all of the water falls and swinging bridges. The trail goes by the nature center and then you follow the paw paw trail back to the trail head. Beautiful sites and as we got near the nature center we started to see plenty of people. It was a great day for everyone to be out. We got back to the car at 12:50.

Marco drove me home so I got some rest on the way home. I called my wife and she notified me that my grandchildren had not been suffering from the shots they got from the doctor. They had stayed with us Friday night because of that. My daughter was now sick as well as my grandson. So as the boy scouts say "Always be prepared!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fall Creek Falls Lower Loop

We had to cancel today's hike to Fall Creek Falls Lower Loop due to the rain deciding to stay around all day and in the morning as well. Troy and I were the only ones that were going to make it due to everyone else being busy. It is disheartening because we really like to get out and were really looking forward to this trip. I have not been on this trail, but Troy had started it one time before with his brother and had to cancel because of lack of water. We will push this hike back to the next planned weekend.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Troy's Pack


slumber jack guide sleeping bag 2.3
kelty light year 2.0
walmart foam pad 0.12
snow peak solo cook set 0.6
walmart stove/ fuel/ spork/ lighter ect 1.0
ULA Catalyst 48
go lite rain poncho/ shelter 0.8
walmart sleeping cloths: long underwear/ hat/ socks 0.14
walmart camp shoes 0.6
walmart first aid kit 0.12
walmart head lamp 0.4
walmart backup head lamp 0.3
walmart trek poles 1.6
walmart rain cloths lite weight/ extra cloths 1.0
skeeter beeter hammock 20
warbonnet superfly tarp 19

all weights are approx.  

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Land Between the Lakes, South end

Trail...............,,....Miles..........Rating................Outcasts Total: 268.5
North/South Trail...29.7.........Easy
Day One..............1.5
Day Two.............12
Day Three...........11.2
Day Four.............5

Marco, Troy, and Craig made this trip. We got off work Wednesday morning. I had a class in Nashville and wouldn't be able to make it to the Park before 8:00pm. Troy and Marco headed out that afternoon and set up camp about a half mile down the trail from the Golden Pond visitor center. Marco had taken my hammock and tarp and set them up for me as well. I called them when I got in the area and they met me at the car. We took Troy's car down and left it at the South visitor station then took my truck back up North. If you ever drive down the Trace at night, the entire length is covered with deer. Be careful as someone had hit one this night.

The original plan was to have Marco stay with the fire and Troy and I would move cars. Marco wasn't going with that. He wasn't going to be left in camp by himself for a couple of hours. We hiked in, got the fire started, and settled down for the evening. This was suppose to be the warmest of the nights on the trail.

We got on the trail Thursday morning at 8am. The weather was cool so no shorts or tee shirts today. Most of the North/South trail on the southern end is old road bed. They had gotten a lot of rain recently so water and mud was plentiful. Just out of camp was our first water crossing. We had joked back and forth about the weather and one of the things that we figured out was that the weathermen watch this blog. When we are hiking they just throw up their hands and give up. Can't predict the weather when we are on the trail. We pack for everything and got to use it.

We made it to North of the Walker Line trail where the trace meets the trail at lunch time. About 2:30pm we passed the Cedar Pond area. I couldn't remember there being any water after the trail crosses the Trace so we stopped at the last water source shown on the map. Whenever you hike the Land Between the Lakes, make sure you take two maps. You want the Hike & Bike Trail Map and the USDA Public Access Roads and Hunt Area map. Between the two you can figure out what's going on and where you are located. Well anyway, Marco was having some feet problems and we told him to let us know when he had enough and we would stop for camp. He was now carrying about six liters, I was carrying about seven, and Troy had a gallon jug plus. Well we crossed the trace and stopped just before the wind damaged section of the trail. Marco said keep going. We went through the wind damage and Marco said keep going. We finally made camp at the hill before the Prospector's place which had a spring. We had carried our water about three miles.

Tonight the wood was drier so the fire got going alot better. Marco ate and went to bed. Troy and I stayed up telling lies for most the night. Some time early in the morning we got a little sleet.

Got on the trail Friday morning at 9am. We had a lot of laughs as we passed the Prospector's Place and spring. We decided for now on we will send a scout out when we stop to make camp. There is always water just past where we set up at. We stopped at road 211 and Marco wanted to do a group shot. He set up the camera and it flashed. When he got back to the camera to check the picture he said that he wasn't in the picture. There was just a space were he was. Then it dawned on him that the picture was gone and it was showing Troy and I waiting there for him. We might of had to laugh for a while on that one. The last water crossing on the South end of the North/South trial was just past the road.

We stopped at Iron Mountain Camp for lunch. There is a ranger building and fire tower here with a water hydrant which they advertise on a sign. It just happen not to be turned on today. It started to sleet so we sat in the shelter for lunch. Their shelters are half a culvert with plywood on the back and gravel on the ground. This is where Troy tested the half size zip lock bag to cook in. Not good! After he poured his hot water in the bag he zipped the lock and all of his food went out the end of the bag. Note to everyone, when you do zip lock cooking, make sure you have a freezer bag.

Since the sleet didn't let up I checked the radar and it showed snow was coming and a major storm at the bottom. I also received a text from Jason saying they were expecting around six inches. Troy made the suggestion of staying at the shelter until the storm came through. I told Troy, the major storm was two states away. Troy said there was no way a storm could make it to us when it was two states away was there? I told him how real men do it and off we went.

We had to put on poncho's before we got to Brier Rose Branch Spring where we filled up with water. The sleet was heavier and soon the snow began. We pushed on until we were about five miles from the car and it was 3:30pm. We set up camp in a pine thicket and quickly collected fire wood while we could still see it. By the time we got the fire going well the snow was just soaking us. We gave up and went under tarp. It was a wet sticky snow which we had to hit the side of our tarps to get it to fall off. This became a ritual that lasted all night long. We cooked our dinners and yelled back and forth to each other. There was phone service here and everyone got told how stupid we were. Nothing that we haven't heard before.

That night I got the system down with every time I rolled over, I would reach up and bang my tarp. By morning the snow off my tarp reached almost to just even with my hammock on the ground. We got a good six inches of snow. Troy came over and asked what my plan was. He suggested just pack up and go. I said we should make a fire and get dried up some and eat. Everything that Troy had was soaked. I guess the mixture of snow on top, not enough ventilation, and wet clothes already added up to no good in his tent. We ate, packed up, and hit the trail by 9am.

It was beautiful hiking in the snow. A little more work and a few hidden under snow lakes to add to the challenge. The guys put me out front as the fall guy. I had one puddle that I stepped into that I went to looking for my floatation device. We saw lots of tracks in the snow of various critters and saw deer, squirrel, and turkeys.

After we hit the Bear Creek Loop and about a mile from the visitor station we came along a hiker that looked like he just stepped out of the hiker magazine. He was sporting name brand clothes, boots, and backpack. He had GPS, Cell phone, and number of gadgets that I am not familiar with. He stopped at the side of the trail and waited for us. We sized him up as a military man from Fort Hood. When we met I asked about him enjoying his snow hike. He said that he hasn't had the opportunity to hike in the snow and wanted to check it out. He asked if we were heading back in and I told him that we had been out for a few days and yes were heading to the car. A big surprised look came over his face as he asked again had we been out all night in the snow. Yes, we got three days of hiking in are you camping tonight? No, I'm just out for a five mile day hike. Oh, OK. We left him filling like the sissy he was.

When we got to the car it was buried in the snow. The only other car was one with Ft. Hood plates on it. We went to the visitor station which had a sign in the window stating that they would be closed Saturday due to the weather. That's what happens in the South when someone mentions snow. The Outcasts just go hiking.

This was Marco's first snow hike. He has been waiting since he heard about our snow hikes last year. This was also the groups first multi-state hike and we have completed the North/South trail. Troy says that we still have to do the whole trail in one hike. Always thinking ahead.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Collins Gulf

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Trail......................Miles.........Rating................Outcasts Total:239.3
Access Trail............25...........Easy
Collins Gulf Trail....6.2........Moderate
South Rim Trail.......1.0.........Easy
Day one total.......7.5

South Rim Trail.....1.0.........Easy
Collins Gulf Trail....6.2........Moderate
Access Trail...........25...........Easy
Day two total........7.5

This time we have Troy, My Dad, Myself, and Taylor who is another firefighter who finally built up enough nerve to join us. Our original plan was to hike from the Collins West access to Savage Falls campground. We started the day with our traditional night of medical calls followed by an early morning car fire. With a good two hours of sleep I get up to find that my relief man was not here and I had to wait until they got another driver. My Dad drove over from Maryville and met us at the trailhead. Troy and I were going to meet at the Savage Ranger Station to get our permit. Well first off you may note that you can get your permit at the Collins West access, which the map says that you cannot. I learned this from the lady at the ranger station.

Well I thought that Troy was ten to fifteen minutes behind me. After signing in and waiting an additional fifteen minutes Taylor and I went to the trailhead to see if Troy had gone direct. Luckily with the connivance of cell phones....oh never mind, they don't work here. We found Dad but no Troy. So back to the Ranger station we go. Still no Troy. We head up to the nearest cell tower and got a message from Dad that Troy was now at the trailhead. So our 9:30 start turned in to a 10:30 start.

We started out by missing our turn and going through the Collins West camping area. We were amused by the sign that you had to step over in the middle of the trail stating that many Copperhead snakes have been seen here. The first mile of Collins Gulf trail takes a steep drop into the Gulf followed by a three quarter mile rock-jumping trail to the 100' swinging bridge. This is a good test of the ankles not to mention finding the trail amongst all the rock. Before the bridge we looked like a pack of wolfs devouring Troy's famous fried chicken. After the swinging bridge we take a steep climb back to the rim of the Gulf. I mean you will have to climb a rock wall to get there. At this time we decided to make the Stage Road campsite for tonight.

We all practiced our slips and trips, but my Dad took the honor of the best slide down the trail. We stopped and checked out the many overlooks and beautiful stream crossings. We finally made it to camp around 4:30.

The boy scouts had already set up camp in the large group site and there were ten other sites for us to pick from. OK, only one big enough to have a fire and a tent in. Not sure why they have such small sites, but of course number ten, which is the farthest from the spring, is the one we picked. After we got camp set up we gathered firewood and drinking water. We got a fire going, ate dinner, and told lies.

Around nine o'clock, I couldn't take it anymore and went to bed. I woke up with one side of my tarp pinned against my hammock and the other blowing like a balloon. I got up and saw Troy next to the fire which was blowing straight sideways by the wind. He notified me that it was about ten. Surely this wind would die down in a little while. Surely never showed up. We blew away all night long. Dad had one of his tarp stakes pull out of the ground. There were a lot of creaking trees, rubbing trees, banging branches, and one tree hit the ground during the night. Needless to say, not much sleeping went on.

I woke the next morning with one side of my tarp pinned against my hammock and the other blowing like a balloon. I peeked out to see everyone else had already broken down their tents. My Dad notified me that it was seven and they hadn't eaten yet. The wind had blown my water bag over so we didn't have water for breakfast. I just emptied my water bladder and figured I would fill it up on the trail. The wind blew so hard that the fire didn't even have any coal left. It was a challenge to pack up the tents and tarps as they were trying to go to Arkansas.

We got on the trail around 8:30 and stopped at the creek where the old stage road crossed to fill water bottles. Right at 10:00 the rain started and only stopped one time long enough for us to eat lunch. It didn't let us sit around afterwards either. Taylor got out in front of us and we didn't see him until we got to the cars. His poncho had ripped so he headed out without stopping. He was soaked and we found him with a fresh change of clothes standing tight up against the check in sign. He didn't get any keys from us and this was the only dry spot around.

Other than the weather, this was a great hike and would suggest it to anyone. We will have to see if we scared Taylor off or not.


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.


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.