The reunion with my hiking quilt did not go as planned. I tossed fitfully for at least three hours after retiring. My brain turned into a nest of hungry baby birds with mouths open, crying for food. I thought about everything and since no one thought rose above the rest, it amounted to nothing. At twelve thirty I did some push-ups to quiet my mind. It worked a little and I slept off and on until 4:30 when I finally slept deeply. My alarm goes off at 5:30. Time to hike, I tell myself dutifully. Then I sleep for another thirty minutes.
My new crib
One purpose for this hike is to try some new hiking equipment, especially my new Lunar Solo tarp tent. I use a piece of Tyvek as a ground cloth. I had mixed results with cowboy camping on the PCT. Some nights it was wonderful. Other nights, I hated it. Bugs, rodents, weather and insecurity bothered me sometimes. The new tent/ground cloth weighs about a pound more than my tarp/polycro. I want to know if the new stuff is worth the weight. So far, I love the tent, but the Tyvek is horrid -stiff and loud like a giant piece of cellophane. Did your mom ever give you a piece of candy in church to keep you from fidgeting but the sound of unwrapping the candy was so loud that everyone including the preacher started looking at you? That is me in the quiet morning hours rolling up my Tyvek.
It takes me 55 minutes to eat and break camp. Pretty slow, but I don’t have my process down, and trips to the bear box interrupt my rhythm. I should (want to) be able to do this in 30 minutes. Keith is slower but he does alright (he is getting the hang of it, too) and we walk out of camp at 7:30 – plenty of time to hike the 13 miles ahead of us today. In case you don’t know, a bear box is a big metal container with a bear-proof latch for storing food over night. It simplifies camp life for bears and people.
Our camp site is on Stover Creek which joins Chester Creek at the place where Long Creek also joins Chester. We are going to cross Chester and follow Long Creek to view the spectacular Long Creek Falls as recommended by our shuttle driver yesterday.
The trail crosses Stover creek a few times before reaching Chester Creek. Here is Keith trying to make any easy crossing of the creek look sketchy. It’s reality TV at its best.
The trail is beautiful this morning. Some of it reminds me of Oregon.
The crossing of Chester Creek is also very nice.
However, nothing this morning compares to what we find at Long Creek Falls. The sun illuminates the mist above the falls turning the pool at the base of the falls into a steaming cauldron.
As we are leaving to falls I find this squishy fruit on the ground. When I open it, there is a core attached to the skin by hundreds of filaments. Otherwise it all air inside – like a lime that God forgot to fill with juice.
I want to explore more off-trail sites on this hike. This morning the trail goes through an abandoned settlement called Hickory Flats. Keith and I are going to check it out. At the site, a sign points down the road. CEMETERY it says. I am strangely excited by this. Our map also says there is a bathroom with toilet paper down there, too. Bingo.
I expect creepy, but this old yard is supremely peaceful. There is a pavilion and a sign indicating that a nearby church holds their annual picnic here. So I guess it’s not1 completely abandoned. Half a dozen graves are relatively new, with polished granite markers. But the other 100 graves are OLD. Most of those markers are weathered wooden posts sticking out of the ground like bony fingers. A few of the old ones are granite, but the inscriptions on most of them are gone, too. One is for a man born in 1824! I can’t quite make out the name. Is it Ichabod? I glance around nervously.
The people that lived and died here struggled to make this place work. It failed. Their ancestors fled back down the mountain. But this flat spot among the trees betrays no bitterness, no rancor, only a resigned serenity on this sunny Thursday morning. If it were not for the occasional visitor, tending to the graves of the more recent dead, nature would have reclaimed this space for herself completely. But for now, a blanket of yellow and violet wildflowers happily nod their heads. Rest, they wisper. Rest.
There is also a contraption there that looks like a giant teeter totter. Keith jumps up on one end and finds that it doesn’t go up or down. Instead it spins. It looks like a mother’s nightmare. I imagine a game like the one we played on the merry-go-round in school. Children desperately cling to the handlebars as other children spin the yellow and black arms faster and faster. Little Jasmine can’t hold on any longer and flies off into the woods. Whelp, I guess she lost. And then little Asa trips while pushing one of the arms and gets trampled by other kids who keep right on pushing. He rolls around on the ground holding his shoulder, bawling his eyes out. Everyone scatters. Kids in the olden days really knew how to have fun!
Two men and two trucks
These two guys are hiking sections of the trail using two vehicles. It involves a lot of driving. They each drive their vehicles to one end of the trail. One parks his vehicle and jumps into the other vehicle which they drive to the other end of the trail. They both jump out and hike back to the first vehicle which they drive back to the second vehicle. One of these fellas asks me if we saw his truck when we hiked through the parking lot. I had seen it: it was a plain blue Ford. “Yep, I saw it,” I say. “It’s a blue ford with a bunch of flowers spray painted all over it, right?” He goes along with the joke, “Unicorns, too?” “Of course,” I say. “It’s still there.” They were a little leery of having their picture take. They didn’t want to end up of Facebook. Can’t say that I blame them.
The trail yesterday was largely bereft of wildflowers. Today they showed up. Here is a little gallery of what we saw.
Give me shelter
The last three miles of the day are hot and I go into death march mode. By the time we reach camp at Gooch Mountain shelter, we are the walking dead. The shelter is packed with hikers of all experience and excitement levels. I plop down at a table that has a chess board drawn on it with marked stones for chess pieces. One of the young fellas there asks to play me. I vaguely remember this four move checkmate trick involving a bishop and queen. Can I pulI it off. Oops, no. I try to concede the match halfway thru, but the kid tells me that he is prone to making catastrophic mistakes. He peddles false hopes. He does eventually beat me after I realize I am toast and show him the move to put me I checkmate. I enjoyed the loss. I christen him Bobby Fischer. He likes the name. We’ll see if it sticks.
- May 5
- Miles hiked: 13
- Total AT miles hiked: 15
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