Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Natchez Trace State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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