The best laid plans…

Okay.  things didn’t go completely wrong.  But I had a couple of hitches.

I’ve been snowed under at the office, which is a good thing.  But my vocation has kept me away from my avocations.  Thus, I was terribly excited about this long weekend.  My plans were to go do an overnight hike at Virgin Falls.

So I loaded my pack, printed driving directions from GoogleMaps (cross-checked with Mapquest) and set out.

First let me state that Google’s driving directions are wrong.  Flat wrong. 20-30 miles off-target.  I figured I would be there by 10:00ish.  At noon I was driving aimlessly.  However I now know where Taft Correctional Center is.  But I still can’t give directions to Virgin Falls.  Happily I drove by an entrance to Fall Creek Falls State Park.  So I finally turned around and turned in there.

After poking around in the park a bit (I bought a pretty wooden hiking staff that I will use for display), I got a map, talked to a nice young woman at the nature center and settled on hiking the upper loop trail.

I parked, hefted on my pack and set out.

The park is a couple of weeks behind in the greening up department, probably because it’s at a much higher elevation than my home.  Perhaps it would have been a little more interesting if there were more foliage.  Tennessee parks have a policy to leave dead fall.  For the most part it was cleared off of the trail.  But there were sections where you walk between walls of stacked deadwood.  It gave a weird aura to things.

As the first day hiking progressed, it became apparent that my pack was out of adjustment.  Plus I was carrying just too much stuff.  I have a bad habit of sticking in this and that at the last minute.  I’m worse for just overnight night hikes.  I haven’t unpacked yet, but as I do, I’ll make a note of what is unnecessary.

There were several little bridges, one big suspension bridges and 4 or 5 opportunities to ford creeks.  None of those were too hard.

This was also time to check out a couple of new pieces of equipment.  I bought a cheap pair of trekking poles at Wally World to see if I like using them.  I’ll give mixed reviews.  I like using one.  It was useful when fording streams or climbing through dead fall or alleviating fatigue up and down hills.  But I don’t think I’ll carry two again as the second stayed clipped to the back of my pack.

The second new piece of equipment was a Steripen I got with my REI dividend.  I’m satisfied with that, although I don’t guess I can be sure unless I don’t get sick anytime soon.

As far as things I need:  good water bottles.  I thought I was doing a good thing recycling 1 liter plastic bottles.  But it’s darn near impossible to get a full bottle of water from a stream using one.  Plus you can’t really filter out the silt.  I finally ended up with using my cookpot as a dipper.  So nicer wide mouth bottles it is.

I saw surprisingly few people.  3 mountain bikers who were nice enough to stop and let me walk by.  I also met, stopped and chatted with a nice young couple from Hermitage.  They had gotten poor directions to the trailhead and ended up on the upper loop when they wanted the lower loop.  We did a great deal of pouring over maps to establish where we were (for once, I was right).  Then I hiked a bit with them until we got back to where their car was.  I suggested they go on with me as it was getting rather late to start a new trail and make the campsite by nightfall.  But they wanted to hike the gorge and I just suggested once.

The campsite was nice, no frills.  There was a fire ring and a little spring fed stream for water.  I got the tent organized quickly as it was coming on dark and I wanted to cook before the loss of light.

I tried a new recipe, mashed potatoes with bacon and cheese.  It would have been pretty good except it had way too much black pepper.  I’ll modify it for the future.

It was getting buggy out and the temps were dropping, so I lit up my insect coil and snugged up for the evening.  To some extent, crawling into my bag at night after a day on the trail is one of my favorite parts of the day.  Since I went to bed early, I watched some video on a tiny, inexpensive little player I got a Big Lots.

I woke up before dawn but laid in bag until it got light enough to see to cook breakfast, coffee and oats.  It was cloudy.  After I attended to personal ablutions and prepared to pack up camp, I happened to look up and note that it sure looked like a rain cloud coming in.  It was.

So I wore a long sleeved shirt rather than the short sleeved one I had planned.  I managed to get everything packed up before it got wet.  Just in time I might add.  I have a big floppy hat that worked perfectly in the rain.  It never rained very hard, but consistent for about 2 hours.

Towards the end of the day, I really started to give out.  If I could have gotten a ride back to my car, I would have taken it.   The blister I was developing on my left foot didn’t help.  The only time I saw anybody on the second day was when I crossed one gravel road and a truck with a little blond boy drove by.  He waved.

As I came back to the trail head, I was thrilled.  I wanted a Coke!

I didn’t snap much in the way of pictures, but I’ll upload a couple to flickr.

13.75 miles according to the map.


~ by susancyclist on April 4, 2010.

2 Responses to “The best laid plans…”

  1. hey susan i saw your blog in your signature from TE! i am so impressed by your ability to hike (especially alone) overnight! i think the only reason i can bike for miles without seeing human beings is because i’m on a man-made trail and i still feel protected from the blair witch!

    the problem with those wide-mouth bottles (like nalgenes) is they tend to be REALLY heavy and it sounds like you’re already over the weight limit on your back.


  2. I’ve played around with the pack since and I believe the hip belt had worked so loose that too much weight was on my shoulders. I also shouldn’t carry two books, neither of which I read!

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