Ruminating on my broken backpack in the morning, I decided to pack up camp quickly and backtrack to the point where I stopped for water yesterday and search for the missing backpack spreader bar. On the one hand, a bright shiny black metal bar ought to be easy to spot. On the other hand, it would have probably taken a while to drop out and so could be anywhere.
I was out on the trail early for me, before 10:30 a.m.! Going back added a couple of miles to my day’s hike, and I lost and then had to regain 300 feet of elevation. Despite searching, I didn’t find the bar. Oh well, I’d just have to go online and order a replacement.
Update: Zpacks have sent me two replacements free of charge. That is excellent customer service! When the replacements arrived, I discovered that the bar isn’t metal, but a carbon fiber composite. I’ve fixed my pack and stored the spare.
It was around 11:40 a.m. by the time I got back to where I had started my day, and I could get on with the hike ‘proper.’ The good news was that the day was turning out bright and sunny though fairly chilly. My plans for the day were as follows:
Plan A was to try and find the trail to the North Fork Recreation Area, and from there, hike up to McGarr Ridge Trail, and then bushwhack down to McGarr Spring and camp near the spring. The bushwhacking section looks to be straightforward on the map. However, the last time I hiked the North Fork Loop, I could not find the trail to the recreation area, so in case I had the same problem,
Plan B was to continue on the North Fork Loop back to the Ozark Trail. From there, I’d hike back to the Highway CC Trailhead and then carry on across Highway CC to the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness. I could then hike the McGarr Ridge Trail and the unofficial trail to McGarr Spring and camp for the night.
Remember what I said about the trail blazes on the North Fork Loop being very poor in places? Well, they are useless to non-existent at the point where the trail to the recreation area is supposed to branch off. I thought about bushwhacking my way down towards the recreation area, but with my late start, I wasn’t sure quite where I’d end up when the sun began to set, and according to the map, parts of the route I’d be taking are pretty darned steep. So Plan B it would be, once I could find the trail again, that is!
I Bushwhacked in the general direction of the North Fork Loop/Ridge Runner Trail until I finally blundered back onto the trail proper. I made use of a closed section of trail signed as “Trail not Maintained…” to cut my hike back the trailhead down. It has to be said that the “Not Maintained” trail was far easier to follow and in better condition than the actual trail, and I made excellent time, reaching the Ozark Trail at 1:40 p.m. and about 5 miles into my hike.
Once on the Ozark Trail it took me twenty minutes to hike to the trailhead, where my car was the only vehicle. I dumped my fleece pants and a top underlayer to save pack space and weight and carried on along the Ozark Trail to the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness. I did toy with the idea of driving to the McGarr Ridge Trailhead but decided not to. There was just one vehicle parked at that trailhead, and so far, I’d not seen a soul in three days.
By 2:30 p.m. I was at the start of the unofficial trail to McGarr Spring. I arrived at the spring half an hour later and then spent ages wandering around the west side of the hollow looking for somewhere to set up camp. Some tape blazes told me that horses come up this side of the hollow, which suggests that my idea of bushwhacking down to the spring from the McGarr Ridge trail was practical.
With a clear and not too cold night forecast (31℉), I decided not to set the tarp but enjoy a view of the stars. I did hang the tarp up, though, because the forecast for the morning was snow/rain, and I wanted to have it ready to deploy in case the bad weather came in early.
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