Three nights, four days, 20 miles hiked, and 1500 ft. of elevation climbed. I encountered some rain, snow, and the temps varied from 23℉ to 58℉. I saw a total of 10 people, all of them today (Sunday), and eight of them were on horses.
I have got to dedicate another trip to sorting out the trail that links the North Fork Recreation Area to the North Fork Loop or at least bushwhack it. I also need to bushwhack my way from the McGarr Ridge Trail down to McGarr Spring. That sounds like a plan for a short three-day, two-night winter trip.
- My food. Which comprised Mountain House breakfasts and dinners with hot noodles for lunch with summer sausage, cheese, and my homemade trail mix (almonds, raisins, and M&Ms) for trail snacks.
- Clothing. I kept warm and dry. But I did bring along more than I needed. My Columbia snow pants are great for winter hiking, and the Bass Pro waffle pattern baselayers work really well. In fact, I prefer them to my heavier but not warmer merino wool base layer.
- Buff and shemagh. I cannot recommend these highly enough. Don’t let their ‘tactical’ appearance put you off. They are truly versatile items, and I carry them in winter and summer.
- Outback Hat. Coupled with a buff to keep my ears warm, this hat is great any time of year. In winter, it is particularly handy for keeping the low sun out of my eyes.
- Camp light. With the long dark evenings, my Black Diamond – ReMoji camp light really helped.
- And pretty much everything else!
Lessons & changes to make
- Backpack. With four liters of water, bulky additional winter clothing, winter quilts, food for four days, plus camp shoes, my pack was overloaded. I should have taken my bigger (and heavier) Deuter pack. Or, I’ve got to cut down on what I’m taking (again). Water is a big issue with the current drought. Most creeks and lots of springs are dry or drying up.
- Thinsulate beanie. I have had this beanie for nearly 20 years. It seems like the wool has gotten scratchy, and it makes my scalp itch, so it is time to find a replacement.
- Hammock Gear Titanium wood stove. Even with the extra air holes I added, it was still very smokey. I’m going back to my Firebox Nano stove. It is a bit heavier, but it burns a lot better and is a more useful design, as I can use the case to stand my alcohol stove on.
- Water. For some unknown reason, I carried a huge amount of water around on day two. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I could have ditched all but one liter. That is all I needed.
- Clothing. I could have managed without my camp fleece pants and the extra underlayer top. The fleece pants are quite heavy and bulky. Though it must be said, they are very comfy!
- Camp shoes. I decided to hike in shoes this trip, so I brought along a pair of Luna Sandals huaraches to use as camp shoes. They were too big and bulky and got in the way in my pack. I should have taken the smaller Zero Shoes huaraches.
- Phone/camera. Using my phone as a camera works, but I don’t use it as much as a ‘real’ camera. For this trip, I didn’t want the extra bulk of the camera. Especially as it has to be kept warm when the temperatures are low. I already have to keep my battery pack, cell phone, and water filter warm at night. I ought to add my Garmin InReach to that list too.
Despite breaking my backpack and losing the trail more than once, this was a great trip, and I’m glad I decided to stick to my promise to come back and hike this trail in the winter. Now I am going to have to go back and re-hike the Whites Creek Trail loop in Irish Wilderness and also come back here to clear up the last couple of missing bits of trail jigsaw.
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