Another empty trailhead parking lot…
Means another backpacking trip – Pineview Trailhead, Piney Creek Wilderness. I’m about to start on a three day – two-night relaxing stay by the lakeside. How that works out we’ll see.
The expected temperatures are in the fifties during the day and in the low thirties at night, it should be good. I was tempted to bring my 40°F top quilt, but I’ve opted for my 10°F quilt instead because in my experience the temperatures I encounter are 10°F lower than predicted.
Not a Trail
It looks like a trail to me! New trail signs have appeared in places. This trip I’m planning on taking a trail I’ve never hiked before, I’ve already explored the ‘Not a Trail.’
Trail not maintained
Well, I guess that’s better than ‘Not A Trail’. I’ve never hiked this trail, and it is not marked on any of the maps I have, including the 1930 USGS map. I can make a rough guess on where it comes out, we shall see.
As it would appear that none of the trails in Piney Creek Wilderness are maintained by anything other than the passing foot and horse traffic, this sign suggests I might be in for an interesting hike…
… And so it proved. This trail runs along what must have been an old farm road, but there was one point where I managed to lose the trail for a few minutes. I knew what direction it was heading and just bushwhacked along for a while. The route stuck to the east side of the ridge most of the way. There were no viewpoints or overlooks to break the view of trees, but I enjoyed this trail. It was a nice and easy hike, except for the drop-down to Piney Creek at the end. That was very steep, and I can see why they might want to discourage people from using this trail.
Here I am, about a mile in and I had warmed up enough to stop and take my jacket off and drink most of my water. I’ll be able to fill my water bottle up when I get to Piney Creek.
The Hunter Orange beanie is a concession to the last two days of the ‘Deer – Firearms, Alternative Methods’ season1. I figure I don’t need to wear a Hunter Orange vest during the alternative season because the hunters have to get closer to their prey, and so are much less likely to mistake me for a deer. However, as someone on the MDC website pointed out, the problem is not only being mistaken for game, but being in the line of fire and not seen. That could get you into trouble.
My complete pack (picture below), weighed in at 26lbs including food, fuel and water. My front pack added another 5lbs to that, bringing the total up to 31 lbs (excluding the clothes on my back). Not too bad considering I took along the fleece throw on a whim and that weighs 1.5lbs.
Here’s a link to a complete list of my gear for this trip.
The drop down into Piney Creek was ‘interesting’, especially with all the loose leaves over everything. I took it slow and steady and didn’t have any mishaps. It was an excellent test of my new huaraches, which worked impeccably.
The trail I was following down to the creek joined just a few yards before this crossing point.
The Piney Creek Trail can get a little ‘brushy’. In the summer it is almost impassable. For added fun there are lots of cat briars to get scratched by and snagged on.
Here’s a link to our 11-11-11 hike I’m pretty sure it is the same spot.
And finally, you have to cross Piney Creek one last time (no pictures this time) and then cross a feeder creek before stating the final stage of the hike — crossing what I have now named ‘Cat Briar Meadows.’
There are lots of signs of beavers down near the lake, which is good, the scrub here could do with being cut back a bit. There’s one place where the trail runs through what is a spindly grove of young saplings, it would be great if they cleared that. Though there is a tree down across the trail at the trail entrance to the grove, so the trail is probably going to move somewhere else over time.
Notice how the sun’s not shining? Well it is, only the sun has already dropped down below the top of the hollow. It’s only 3:30 p.m. Where I’ll be camping the sun won’t go down until around 5:30.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the next morning I was going to meet a busy beaver.
Here I am squinting into the sun with a sad case of hat hair. I plan to be camped up on the left-hand shore somewhere behind my head.
And here’s the reason for my hat-hair…
The predicted overnight temperatures were 30°F. It dropped to 21°F. Fortunately, I’d anticipated this and I was nice and warm in my hammock. One of the marginal advantages of getting older is the need for rising early to answer nature’s call. I awoke to this pre-dawn scene, where the mist had frozen on the shore and nearby trees. The mist over the water was moving very quickly and was wonderful to see (I’ll add a video).
I also watched a beaver swimming in the lake — the beaver took a surprisingly long time to realize I was there and then dived out of view. Several seconds later it made a mistake and surfaced next to the rock I was standing on. I didn’t really get a chance to see it, I just heard a splash, and saw the swirl of water and trail of bubbles as it swam away from the shore.
All in all, it was magic and well worth the minor discomfort of wandering around in the frost.
An excellent example of how discarded fishing gear damages the environment. I was annoyed with myself because I didn’t spot the dead bird until now, and this was where I’d been collecting my water from. Oh well, that’s why I filter and treat my water.
The astute will notice that this is not my regular camping spot by the lake. The reason is quite simple; some expletive deleted hunter decided that a good place to leave the carcass of a deer they’d dressed would be right by the fire ring of my usual camping spot. I was not inclined to drag the carcass away, and anyway, the blood had soaked into the ground. As I didn’t fancy being anywhere near where night-time scavengers and predators might come looking for easy pickings, I set up camp a few hundred yards farther east.
In the above picture I’ve switched my hammock around. For the first night I set the head end to the left. I decided I wanted to be able to look out over the lake when I woke up on my last morning here, so I turned it this way around in the morning.
I spent most of the day reading, thinking and watching the view.
It was nice and warm sitting in the sun in my hammock, having a few inches of downy goodness (in the form of my under-quilt) beneath me helped a lot too.
I did not spend the entire day sitting around. I wandered around a bit, took some pictures, and gathered firewood so I could have a campfire in the evening.
One of the great things about winter camping is that you don’t have to get up early to get up with the sun.
Actually, when it comes to getting up, there is not much to debate, whether I want to or not, I’m going to have to get up and answer nature’s call. It wasn’t as cold last night, around 26°F, cold enough to set a good frost.
Speaking of nature calling, the coyotes have been on good form. On Sunday night they were on the other side of the lake. Last night there were a load of them on my side of the lake — no doubt picking away at the deer carcass — they sounded very close.
I’ll have to add a recording of them howling nearby when I get a chance to edit it.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever tire of this view, though maybe I do need to stop taking pictures of it. Each time I look the play of the light is different.
Photographs taken, the first order of the day is to get my food and make some breakfast. One day a squirrel is going to get into my food bag, and then I’ll have to buy a critter-proof bag (‘varmit-proof’ is probably the correct local term). I’ve seen a squirrel eat its way through a plastic storage bin, so it’ll be interesting to see how the bags designed to keep them out cope.
Mountain House Breakfast Skillet and a cup of hot chocolate to start, followed by a cup of coffee. My new spoon is great, just right for getting my food out of the bags.
In the background is the remains of last night’s campfire. I didn’t make a fire ring, I dug a shallow pit and used that for my fire. After breakfast, I covered it over with the soil I’d dug up to make the pit, and when I’d finished you would hardly know I have been here.
Cat briars are taking over this area, and climbing the trees as well. I suspect the only thing keeping the trail open here is the horses.
I stopped to pick up water for my hike out at the creek on the western edge of Cat Briar Meadows.
It’s not the same tree, (see below) but it offered a good place to catch my breath, have a drink, and take a selfie.
Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
1Alternative hunting equipment includes atlatls, crossbows, bows and arrows, muzzle loaders, and air rifles. They may have also added pistols into the mix this year.