Welcome to Breakfast in America
My photo journal is an eclectic mix of things; there’s no guiding theme or topic. It is whatever happens to catch my attention, what I’ve been thinking, doing, and whatever my current obsessions are. At the moment, they are clearing some of the backlog on my ‘honey-do’ list, backpacking and hammock camping.
When I decided to stop at Fiddler Spring, I forgot to check its orientation to the rising sun. It was a long chilly wait until the sun climbed high enough to reach the campsite. It was also “Surprise! Suprise!” a lot colder than forecast. At seven-thirty it was twenty-four degrees.
The ground around the campsite was soft and rough. Either feral hogs or armadillos had thoroughly turned it over. I suspect the latter as I had already encountered two or three of them on yesterday’s hike. The overnight freeze had hardened the ground up a bit. Fiddler Spring campsite lived up to the messy reputation it had. Someone had left a tarp lying on the ground, and there was some other trash scattered around too.
The good news was, exploring the area, I found what promises to be a much better camping area nearby. Albeit on the other side of Whites Creek, which may present problems if the creek is running. It was bone dry while I was looking around. Hanging my food bag, I discovered an unofficial trail that looked to head straight up to the ridge. I had an idea of where it might lead, and I decided to leave via that trail. Doing so would save me from having to backtrack to the official Whites Creek Trail/Fiddler Spring junction. And I know from experience, that that section of trail is blocked by several downed trees and lots of catbriers.
It was a loverly warm afternoon. At two pm I had to stop and get rid of some layers, have a bite to eat, and a drink. The South Loop was easy to follow, until, that is, I dropped down to Whites Creek, where it had been washed out in several places. But that’s par for the course.
I probably ought to change my strategy when it comes to losing the trail. If practical, I usually back-track or scout around until I find the trail again. A much quicker method would be just to get a compass bearing to a sensible point further down the trail and bushwhack my way until I find it again.
I had identified a potential area to set up camp near where the trail first meets Whites Creek. After looking around I concluded it would probably not get the sun first thing in the morning. As sundown was still a while off, I decided to carry on. Every yard I went today was a yard I wouldn’t need to hike tomorrow. I set my sights on stopping at Fiddler Spring, setting me up for a good climb up onto the ridge to start my hike tomorrow. As I passed by, I briefly toyed with the idea of stopping where I camped on the penultimate day of my last visit to Irish Wilderness, but I decided to stick with the plan and head off to Fiddler Spring.
I arrived at Fiddler Spring at four-thirty. I had (conveniently) forgotten how trashy the campsite at Fidler Spring is, but with the sun already down behind the ridge I made the best of it.
I found it almost impossible to open the registration box, and the forms inside seemed to have been designed to put people off completing them. No writing implements were provided either.
Some teething problems with the new registration point, I think.
One sign did catch my eye, and that basically said, “Be prepared or get lost.” How true that one is.
I couldn’t have got round as easily as I did were it not for my GPS. The paper maps I bought along were not good enough. Lesson: bring maps that are usable, not a small-scale area map.
It’s good to be back. This might be a challenging trip, it’s very early in the season which means the trail is going to be
impossibledifficult to follow. I’m also hiking the trail ‘backwards’ — clockwise (South Loop first), leaving the eight-mile, possibly water-less, North Loop section for the last two days.
I’m carrying my full winter shelter (I have my summer tarp), even though the weather is going to be warm during the day, there are two nights around freezing in the offing. I know from experience how those can drop into the low twenties. I did a thirteen-mile trip in December with no problems, my first long trip since last May. Twenty miles in four days should be fine.
- New sandals. I bought an identical replacement pair for those I broke on my last trip.
- I have the ‘Pocket Rocket’ gas stove instead of my Cat Can alcohol stove.
- Pop Tarts! I’ve never eaten them before, but a lot of backpackers swear by them, so I’ve packed one per day.
- New ‘Daisy Chain’ hammock suspension.
- New tie-out for my tarp. I now have the same fittings on both my tarps.
- I was going to take out my old pack, but I dropped that idea. Maybe when the weather gets warmer, and I’ll have a lighter loadout.
- I’ve made a new stopper for my water filter.
- If I could find my sit pad, I would have left my chair behind. But, I couldn’t so I’ve ordered a replacement — they are only $7.
- and I’ve finally convinced myself I don’t need to pack as many clothes.
A whole bunch of gear changes, but nothing radical.
Day One — Then again, let’s not…
A break in the weather means I’m off on a four-day hike of the Whites Creek Trail, South and North Loops at Irish Wilderness. Just for a change I thought I’d take out my old 60/70-liter Deuter backpack for a trip.
Then I changed my mind.
I switched all my gear from the Deuter pack when I discovered the hip belt pocket was too small for my trail snacks, and I couldn’t reach my water bottle. The thought of taking my pack off every time to grab a snack or drink made my mind up to go with the Arc Haul.
View to the south from the slopes of Lower Pilot Knob – Hercules Glades Wilderness. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone with me. Three days backpacking, January 2024. Copyright © 2024 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
I’m off out for three days, blowing away the cobwebs and walking off some holiday season excesses.