I’m off the trail and none too soon!
At the last minute Andrea decided to join me on the trek through the National Forest. What she forgot to tell me at the time was that she was not feeling well. Either way, Andrea insisted on going and I was happy to let her join me. We were on the road by 2am to stage our vehicles on both the East and West ends of the trail.
I’m still fatigued from the trip, so I’m condensing the report to “bullet” form. If this report leads you to assume I was disappointed in the trail, then my message has been conveyed correctly.
• When we drove into the East terminus parking lot at 4am we spooked a parked vehicle. They turned on their bright lights and shortly afterwards drive off. I don’t know what was going on, but the girl in the front passenger seat didn’t look older than 12. Very spooky.
• The trail looked as if it hasn't been traveled in years. Even though we only hiked a tenth of the trail, we had to bushwhack our way for many of the miles. At times the vegetation was waist high. Our legs are covered in small cuts and abrasions from all the thorns and briars. Once we finished I noticed my shoes are frayed from all the bushwhacking.
• The trail was boring. Maybe I’m overly judgmental because I’ve lived in this region all my life, but I was expecting a scenic landscape. We took our camera and didn’t find many urges to capture anything. The thickly wooded forest limited our line of sight and at times it felt claustrophobic.
• What I did expect was heat and humidity and the trail did NOT disappoint. As we crossed several roads we stopped for a minute to enjoy the small breeze, which was not found in the throat of the trail.
• Recent reports stated an end to horse fly season. It has been raining daily, so we were prepared to deal with mosquito’s. Luckily, the mosquito’s were far and few between. On the other hand, we encountered countless deer flies, a smaller pesky cousin of the horse fly. They focused on Andrea a lot more than me. She was bit numerous times, with some of them leaving small bruises! I was wearing a bright red shirt. Maybe there is something about the color red, because I was only bit a half dozen times which was a fraction of Andreas bites.
• Surprisingly, we didn’t see any wildlife. No deer, raccoons, possums, armadillos, or hogs. The only thing we saw was a small owl perched in a tree. For a few hours we could hear a pack of dogs barking in the distance. A short time after we decided to turn around we saw a pit-bull and a Labrador-mixed dog moving quickly down the trail. I yelled to get their attention, which was enough to spook them away. These were obviously hunting dogs, because they were wearing large transceiver collars. I know firsthand that dogs have the ability to drive wildlife out of large areas. Sad appearance to see illegal hunting dogs in the national forest.
• The most frustrating thing about the trail was the fucking spider webs every five feet!!! As soon as I would wipe a spider web off my face I’d look up and hit another one. I was taking it in stride until the ten-thousandth web. By then I had had enough and started getting PISSED. Unless there was a spider in the middle of the web I couldn’t see it until it was wrapped around my head. And yes, I had several spiders on me.
• We walked as fast as we could and even ran a few times. The trail was so overgrown it took us a little more than six-hours to cover 14.5 miles. Looking back, I would have packed lighter. My pack alone weighed in at 49.5 pounds.
We stopped because Andrea wasn’t feeling well. I wasn’t doing well myself with the mileage. I was pushing an effort level close to 80% and still only covering 2.4 miles per hour, which would kept me from obtaining my goal of 30-33 miles per day. I’m not sure if I will ever return to the trail. As I said above, I was very disappointed. Maybe I was expecting too much. If there is a “next time” it will certainly be hiked during the winter.
Hike (50-lb pack):