The last time Ginger and I went backpacking together was in August 2017. Family events, work, and lethargy have gotten in the way. Ginger’s only other recent backpacking trip was backpacking with our eldest daughter (Piney Creek) in 2016. This year I’ve made an effort to go solo backpacking; but thus far we’ve not got out together. Last Sunday/Monday (May 6 & 7) we remedied that.
For this trip, Ginger chose the trail — Hercules Glades Wilderness, Pees Hollow trail, and I chose the route — Counter-clockwise. I’ve never hiked this trail in that direction, and it is arguably the most difficult route to follow. Ginger attempted the trail counter-clockwise last year but got lured off course by a heavily used unofficial trail.
As I’ve only just hiked Pees Hollow, I didn’t take a lot of pictures, though you do get a different view of things ‘going backwards’. For example, the road is much more visible when you are heading north along the trail, I hadn’t noticed that going south. When I was here four weeks ago there were no leaves on the trees. This time I was surprised by the rich green of the forest canopy.
When we got to the misplaced trail marker I found on my last trip, I realized I’d forgotten to bring a sharpie with me, so I scratched an arrow into it, hopefully that will be visible enough to help people to take the correct trail.
Rain and thunder were predicted for 2:00 p.m. onwards, and right on time the sky darkened, and we had a thunderstorm. We decided to hike through the rain, only pausing to put on pack covers. With rain in the forecast, I had decided to wear a lightweight utility kilt which dries very quickly — unlike the heavy cotton denim kilts. It stopped raining by the time we had arrived at the Cab, and we went off-trail along ‘Cab Creek’ and set up camp at the fire ring I’d found and used four weeks earlier. The small supply of wood I’d left was still stacked to one side. By the time the tent and hammock were up we’d both dried off.
The fire ring is quite close to the creek, and we camped closer than the 100′ restriction on camping near to water sources. However, the hollow isn’t very wide here, the hill starts to climb up immediately behind where we camped. Where we set up camp was clear of brush, and a lot less damaging place to camp than up the hill in the brush.
The night was surprisingly cold and quite damp. We were both warm enough in our respective abodes. Ginger in our Sierra Designs Lighting XT 1, one person tent, and me in my hammock. I woke at 6:00 a.m. (as I do every day — sigh), fortunately, I went back to sleep until 8:00 a.m. We had coffee, breakfast, took some pictures, and packed up camp. The hike back from here is uphill a lot of the way. It’s only a couple of miles but you climb nearly 1,000 feet.
The hike out took us a little under two hours. At the trailhead, we met the Wilderness Ranger, who was replenishing the sign-up sheets and trail maps. We had a great chat about the various wildernesses she patrols, and she gave us a couple of excellent ideas, which we’ll be following up on later in the year. Kristyn looks after all of the trails in the Cassville and Ava area, that’s a lot of trails, and what a great job!
During our conversation, we learned the importance of signing in when you visit a wilderness. Funding is directly related to the number of visitors, which is determined from the sign-in sheets. So, please make sure you sign in.
She confirmed my hunch that all the new trail signs and marks had been put in place as a direct result of search and rescue operations that took place recently. Wilderness trails are not supposed to be marked, and the trails are not maintained. Trees fall, trails shift, and creeks can be difficult to cross after rain. Despite the warnings, maps, and information at the trailhead, people still venture out totally unprepared, cannot read maps, and rely on non-existent cell phone coverage. Signs and trail markers are a lot cheaper than search and rescue operations.
Because of a road closure (Hwy 125 is closed at Swan Creek), we had a much longer drive home.
Update: The problem with proofing your own writing is that sometimes the obvious errors go unnoticed. Originally I wrote that we hiked the loop clockwise. No. We hiked it counter-clockwise, taking the eastern half of the loop first. I also got our last backpacking outing wrong, forgetting we did a one-nighter to watch the eclipse in 2017. I’ve made all the necessary corrections. (I hope!)