A four-day, three-night trip to Hercules Glades Wilderness to relax and catch the last of the fall color. November 14 – 17 2021.
The guys around here take their deer hunting and comforts seriously. Chatting with one of them, I discovered they’d already got their quota of one non-antlered deer per person and were getting ready to pack up.
I’ve taken a few days’ vacation, it’s firearms deer hunting season, so I decided against going to one of the more remote wildernesses opting for Hercules Glades (again). Anyone hunting here knows the trails get a lot of foot and horseback traffic. I camp well off the trail, which puts me right where the hunters are likely to be. I’ll be very visible, as I have my blaze orange tabard wrapped around my pack, and I’m wearing a blaze orange beanie. I must get a blaze orange hatband or cap for my usual hat, but I didn’t think of that until it was too late for this trip.
Initially, I was thinking of starting my hike going the six miles down to the bluffs on Beaver Creek. However, I’ve come across several hunting camps and blinds there. Plus, the area doesn’t see a lot of casual foot traffic, so I decided to err on the side of caution and start my trip with a visit to a new campsite Ginger found last week on the Pees Hollow Trail. According to the map, there’s a spring nearby. If I can find it, this will make another good off-trail campsite with a reliable water supply — I’m always on the lookout for new water supplies.
As for the rest of my time, I’ve not decided where I’m going to go yet, but I would like to get a reasonable amount of miles under my belt. I’ve not been out much this year, and I’m not in good shape (again). Work’s been intense for the past two to three months, and the home gym has been standing idle. We’ll see how it goes.
The only new gear I have this trip is a smart water bottle (everyone seems to use them, so I thought I’d find out what all the fuss is about), and I’ve got some hose and connectors for a gravity water filter, which will hopefully put less stress on the dirty water containers after I split one back in September.
The weather is set to be cold tonight, 33°F, and then get steadily warmer with a chance of rain on my last day. Despite tonight’s cold forecast, I’ve brought my summer (40°F) top quilt but I’ve paired it with my winter (10°F) under quilt. I’ve got my merino wool baselayer and my puffy jacket to keep me warm.
And nearby I spotted this…
Some clues to the low temperature. (1) The amount of steam rising from my tea, and, (2) I’m using the thumb holes on the sleeves of my base layer!
It’s a very small spring, probably only a couple of gallons an hour, but it’s good to know it is here, as the nearby creek is dry most of the time.
Today is supposed to be the hottest day, and my plan is to pack in a few miles to make up for what ended up being a cut-short hike yesterday. I’m going to go down to Long Creek, visit The Falls if I have enough time, and then go up the Pole Hollow Trail, hike almost all the way back to the trailhead (I’ll be just ten minutes away from the car), and then drop down into Pees Hollow and spend the night camped in the open oak woodland near the spring I found yesterday morning. Well, that’s the plan.
I spent last night camped on ‘Ant Hill.’ I was planning on hiking the six miles to the bluffs, but my morning spent exploring and looking for a spring meant I started my hike late. I’d be arriving at the bluffs around 5 p.m. just as it started to get dark. I’d actually decided to push on and had gone past “Ant Hill’ when I decided I’d rather have a more relaxing afternoon, and turned around and went back. It was a good decision. I spent a very pleasant evening watching the stars and listening to the sounds of the woods.
Setting up camp at ‘Ant Hill” I fetched water, and as I climbed up the hill, half a gallon of water in hand, I heard something crashing through the brush at high speed towards me. Three deer, two does and a young-ish buck, ran down one side of the hollow, and up the other passing about twenty feet away from me without slowing down. Obviously, what they say about deer not being able to see blaze orange is true, as I was wearing a vest and a beanie. If I was hunting I could have picked off one of the leading deer easily (too easily?), and the firing line was in a safe direction and over 200 yards from the trail. It was exciting to watch, and it’s not the first time this has happened to me.
The Devil’s Den East (Upper Pilot) Trail joins the Pilot (Tower) and Rock Spring (Long Creek) Trails. Arriving at the Rock Spring Trail at what we’ve dubbed ‘Sheep Frog Pond.’
The fall light is wonderful. However, I need a blaze orange cap or a blaze orange hatband, because the low angle of the light makes it impossible to see where I’m going at times.
I also have a stereo version of this image (below).
I set myself a deadline of 2 p.m. to arrive at Long Creek. If I made it by then, I’d stop for lunch at The Falls. Otherwise, I’d carry straight on and head up the creek and the Pole Hollow Trail, to head for my campsite for the night.
I arrived at Long Creek at 12:18 so I had plenty of time to stop for lunch.
I did my usual trick of combining two or three shots to get a wide view of Long Creek.
The Falls on Long Creek are a popular destination, so I normally stop a couple of hundred yards or so further downstream to keep away from people. Today was no different. Although it was deserted when I arrived, at least half a dozen people turned up while I was taking a break.
Lunch was a cup of tea and some chicken teriyaki. I don’t like the Mountain House chicken teriyaki, it’s too sweet for my liking, so I’m using up my stocks in half-sized lunch portions. I’ll be glad when it’s all gone. I have four packs left, that’s eight yucky lunches. Maybe I can find someone who actually likes the stuff.
By 1:30 p.m. I was back on the trail and heading towards the Pole Hollow Trail. I’ve not had a lot of luck hiking that trail. On several previous hikes I’ve lost the trail and ended up bushwhacking. Hopefully, that won’t happen today.
It took me a little over an hour to get from Long Creek Falls to this open ridgeline on Pole Hollow. I encountered another five people on the trail, well sort of. Two were on horseback, and just joining the trail as I went past, and the other three I’d seen earlier, were very slow-moving, and when I encountered them they were obviously lost. In the loud way (it seems) only Americans, can manage, I clearly heard them realize they were not on the trail and debate about what to do about it. I left them to it, as I didn’t want them in front of me slowing me down.
Once on the Pole (Pete) Hollow Trail, I managed to find where the trail climbs out of the hollow for a change. The trail was very obvious and it’s a mystery how I’ve managed to miss it in the past. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A five minutes hike from here took me back to the Pole Hollow cairn, only approaching it from the south this time, and back on the Pilot (Tower) Trail, heading east towards the trailhead and my camp for the night in Pees Hollow.
I ended up hiking a total of 7.76 miles with 730 ft. of elevation gained.
I love my camp chair … it is also arguably the most dangerous piece of backpacking gear I own.
The sun is still catching the top of the hill opposite. There’s rain in the forecast for tomorrow, but I decided not to set my tarp tonight. I wanted to fall asleep enjoying the stars from the comfort of my hammock.
I love my camp chair. It’s generally the first thing I’ll unpack and it’ll be the last thing to be put away. However, it is also arguably the most dangerous piece of backpacking gear I own. The problem is not so much with the chair, as with where I’m using it. I’m often on soft ground and hillsides where one (or more) of the legs will sink in making it unstable. I’ve fallen out of this chair more often than I would like to admit. On day one of this trip, I got the chair out when I stopped for lunch. It tipped over and I impaled the fleshy part of my left palm on a sharp stick. That’s probably only the second time in nearly twelve years of backpacking that I’ve had to get the first aid kit out. Then there was the time it tipped over when I had a cup of hot cocoa in my hand. The hot cocoa went all over me and my gear. So, much as I love it, I do have to be very wary when I’m using it. Anyway …
I decided to spend my last night here so I could be close to the trailhead to get out early tomorrow, as Ginger needs the car early in the afternoon. It’s a 30-40 minute hike from here to the car.
It was the warmest night so far, so a good night not to have set the tarp. The day began overcast with tantalizing glimpses of the sun that lit up the woods. I wasted a huge number of electrons trying and failing to capture the wonderful light.
My plan was to get underway about eleven so that I ought to get to the trailhead well before midday, which gave me plenty of time for the hour-and-a-quarter drive home. I should arrive long before Ginger needs the car at about one-forty.
I suspect it’s a conglomerate of some sort, but I wonder if it has a specific name?
Here I am all packed up, ready to head back to the trailhead and showing off what the well-dressed backpacker is wearing nowadays.
The Lightheart Gear hiking skirt is proving to be a lot better on the trail than my more traditional hiking kilts. It has six usable pockets, is very lightweight, sheds water, and dries quickly. The center snap is great for converting the skirt to baggy shorts when in public. Worn over a base layer it provides all the pockets you need while the base layer keeps you warm. It’s so light and compressible that I shall be testing taking the skirt with me on winter hikes for the warmer times of the day. Something I haven’t done with my much heavier and larger kilts.
The 19-inch hem and A-line design can present a minor problem if you prefer to wear your kilts/skirt ‘Regimental‘ style, and are backpacking in mixed company. In which case, a good pair of undies is an absolute necessity for sitting around at camp. Even with the center snap done up, you may inadvertently reveal more than you intend. Unless that is, you and your hiking companions are okay with you flashing everyone! As I tend to backpack solo and — in the warmer weather at least — I prefer a shorter hemline than the traditional kilt’s mid-knee, the skirt’s 19-inch hem is not a problem for me.
This minor modesty consideration is far outweighed by the skirt’s utility. If it’s really a problem you can order custom hem lengths (currently an additional $65).
Backpacking in a kilt/skirt
Regarding kilts, and now skirts, to restate something I wrote back in 2017:
Gentlemen, I have to say, if you are brave enough to wear a kilt, you will not regret it … I am now a huge fan, and intend to wear one hiking and backpacking whenever it’s practical. Once tried, there’s no turning back.August 21, 2017
If you want comfortable, practical, and convenient trail clothing, you should give a skirt or kilt a try.
Trip over, and a modest 19.15 miles hiked and 2,000 ft. of elevation climbed. Time for a shower and a beard trim!
It’s 11:45 so I’m in good time to get home before Ginger needs the car.
End of Trip Thoughts
- Once again I tried to carry my quilts loose in my pack, and once again the experiment failed. The pack is much easier to manage when they are in their stuff sacks.
- Smart Water bottle. It gets a ‘Meh’ vote from me. It was fine, but I prefer my Platty.
- I got to use the first aid kit this trip, which is unusual.
- I got to use the spares kit this trip, which is also unusual. I lost the cap from a water pouch.
- I need to go on a few more higher mileage trips. I think I managed an 11 or 12 mile day last year. Eight miles is about my maximum at the moment.
- Always take a brimmed hat. The sun was so low I had a lot of trouble seeing where I was going at times.
- Unless you are a social animal, steer clear of Long Creek, Long Creek Trail and The Falls, they are always busy.
- Never trust my camp chair not to tip me out with minimal notice.
- I should have taken a sleeping bag liner for the first night. That or my winter top quilt.
- The Lightheart hiking skirt is really good. As I’ve said elsewhere, it has lots of usable pockets, is very lightweight, sheds water and dries quickly. The center snap is great for converting it to baggy shorts when in public.