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.