Journal: Three days hiking in Hercules Glades Wilderness, February 2022

  • Day One. Back on the trail

    My first trip out since November – maybe that’s why my hat is looking a little neglected. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Work — at work and on the house — and the weather has been keeping me off the trails since November. After such a long break, I once again couldn’t make up my mind, whether to try and pile on the miles or just go sit in the woods.

    I’d taken a couple of (well earned) comp days, but because I was working on Saturday, I couldn’t get away until Sunday, and quite late in the day at that. I can’t remember what the delay was, but I do know, that as I was driving to the trailhead, I was thinking I might need to cut my planned six-mile hike short if I didn’t want to be setting up camp in the dark.

    I decided to review the situation when I got to the ‘Twin Falls Creek’ crossing which is slightly over halfway to my planned destination of “Deep Hollow’ on the western edge of the wilderness.

    The weather was forecast to be 61°F today, and low forties overnight. A wonderful 69°F was forecast for Monday, and again low forties overnight with a lot of rain and potential thunderstorms heading in. Tuesday was set to remain rainy in the early morning drying off with a high of 57°F. I was anticipating a hike out in the rain. Nothing new about that. And I was looking forward to giving my new tarp a good run out in some wet weather — that’s what I bought it for! My only constraint was that I had to be home early in the afternoon for Ginger to get to her pottery class.

    I arrived around 1:30 p.m. and I stopped for a chat with a guy camped at the trailhead. We lamented the tragic decline of the Weather Underground phone app since it had been taken over by IBM.

    Daylight was burning, so I hurried on. The sun was shining, and it felt hotter than I expected. It was great to be back on the trail. I met one couple on the trail shortly before the Pole Hollow Cairn.

    Guess where? Yes, back at the Pole Hollow Cairn. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    I met another couple soon after I passed the cairn. They were the last people I was going to see on this trip. The chap was wearing a tartan kilt, and I was feeling overdressed in my long pants. He’s the first kilt wearer I’ve met on the trails. It’s good to know there’s at least one other person venturing out in a kilt. I should have taken a picture! His parting comment was ‘You’re brave,’ referring to my huaraches. A prophetic statement as it turned out.

    It was lucky I bumped into them when I did, a few minutes later and they would have encountered me in the middle of a trailside clothing change. It was far too hot, and I needed to lose my base layer top and switch to my hiking kilt. Though it would have been good to have been wearing my kilt when I met them.

    I arrived at ‘Twin Falls Creek’ at 3:30 p.m. I was going to stop for lunch, but I decided to grab some water and keep going, eating summer sausage and cheese on the trail. If I moved quickly I ought to be able to get to my campsite around 5 p.m. thirty minutes before sunset.

    Stopped for a snack – A peanut Snickers. Tasted like a Reese’s cup to me. Over an hour later and I’ve still not sorted out my hat. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    By 4p.m. I was at the Devil’s Den West trail junction, and onto the lesser-traveled trail leading behind Lower Pilot Knob, and a bit further on, where I’d be taking an old disused forest trail north before bushwhacking to my campsite.

  • Distant Hills

    Distant hills – Hercules Glades, Missouri. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    The view to the northeast from the Pilot (Tower) Trail, near Lower Pilot Knob.

    When we first started backpacking in Hercules Glades in 2010, there were a lot more views to be had. In the intervening 12 years, the scrub has grown to the point where it’s getting difficult to find any views of the surrounding countryside.

    The shrubbery closing in on the trail is making some less frequented routes a lot harder to hike. I do my bit by clearing deadfalls, and the equine users sometimes tackle the larger trees across the trails. But the glades that the area is named after are slowly disappearing, and navigating is getting harder (well, that’s my excuse). Places, where the old forest roads could be clearly seen a few years ago are becoming overgrown.

    Growing scrub or not, this afternoon I managed to get a glimpse of the hills in the distance.

  • Looking back (east) along the Pilot Trail

    On the Pilot Trail – Getting near to Lower Pilot Knob. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    This section of the trail doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic, and as you can see, the trail is not that easy to spot. It’s there though, winding between the brush on the right of the frame.

  • On the Pilot (Tower) Trail to the north of the Lower Pilot Knob

    On the Pilot (Tower) Trail behind Lower Pilot Knob. Cheesy grin, but a least my hat’s sorted out now. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Cheesy grin indeed. What I didn’t realize as I was taking this picture, was that in a couple of hundred yards I’d walk straight past the old forest road I need to take to get to my ‘Deep Hollow’ campsite. Oh well…

    At least I had managed to give my hat some TLC before I took this picture. It’s looking a whole lot better now.

    I’d overshot the forest road junction by several hundred yards when a glimpse of an old fire ring had me bushwhacking to take a closer look,and getting out my GPS to tag it’s location. That’s when I realized my navigational blunder.

    Setting off in search of the missed junction, a normal person in this predicament would either use their GPS, or at least get out their compass so they can check what direction they are heading off in. Not me. I blithely hiked back up the trail, missing my turning point yet again.

    After realizing I had made yet another navigational blunder, I finally got out the compass, turned around, and started looking for the tree and rock that marks the turn. Having found the junction, it was just a matter of hiking along the forest road until I was on top of the ridge where I needed to turn west. At that point, using the compass I headed off in the general direction of the campsite.

    I’ve tried navigating in dense woodland using the GPS, but I’ve found that a compass works better. Especially when I’m bushwhacking. It’s a lot easier to take a bearing, pick a mark (a tree) fifty to one hundred yards or so away, walk to the tree, and then take another bearing. The trees are so thick that you can’t see much further than that.

    I arrived at my campsite around five-thirty — just as the sun was going down. So I set up some lights (to make it easy to find my way back to the camp) and headed down to the nearby creek and spring to get water for the night.

    Hike for the day done.

    With my little accidental excursion up and down the trail, I’d hiked over seven miles in three-and-a-half hours. I’ll take that.

  • Day Two – The view from my hammock – Morning sunshine in the woods

    The view from my hammock – Morning sunshine in the woods. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Day Two

    It was dark by the time I’d carried my water up from the creek, which was running quite well (I decided that I ought to pop down to take a picture of the nearest set of falls before I move on in the morning).

    It didn’t take long to get the hammock up and dinner sorted. Then there was time to sit back and listen to the nighttime noises in the woods. I heard some Coyotes, a long way off, but apart from that, it was fairly quiet.

    It was a tad chilly – first thing, but it warmed up later. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Confession time. There’s a good cell phone signal here, so I spent a small amount of time online before turning in. In the morning I even did some work before climbing out of my hammock (it is Monday after all).

    I was toying with the idea of heading out early and getting some miles in. Instead, I decided to have a lazy morning, and hike back east along the Pilot Trail, stopping for the night at ‘Ant Hill.’ Before that, I wanted to have another try at getting down to Beaver Creek. Thus far the bluffs have thwarted me. And so it proved again. There has to be a way down, I’ve just not found it yet.

  • Gary Camped to the north of ‘Deep Hollow’ Hercules Glades

    Gary Camped to the north of ‘Deep Hollow’ Hercules Glades. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
  • Small falls in ‘Deep Hollow’

    Small falls in ‘Deep Hollow’ Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    It might be worth taking a dip here in warmer weather.

    It seems I took a picture of these falls on December 26, 2020, at which time they were iced up.

    Ice falls. Hercules Glades – Day One. Copyright © 2020 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
  • Forest Road

    Disused forest road. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    The forest roads can sometimes be difficult to find and see. This one, while quite obvious here, is not easy to spot where it meets the trail.

  • Camped at ‘Ant Hill’

    Camped back at ‘Ant Hill’ – The only problem with my new tarp is the large number of bits of string it has. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Day Three

    Yesterday, I’d broken camp and set off around noon, seeking, once again, a route down to Beaver Creek, only to be thwarted again by the bluffs. I headed back to the Pilot Trail at around 12:55 p.m. and I was back on the trail proper by 1:30 p.m. It took me forty minutes to get to the Devil’s Den West Trail Junction, and it took another forty minutes to get to the arbitrary point I’d picked to turn off the Pilot Trail and start bushwhacking to ‘Ant Hill.’ According to my notebook, I followed a compass bearing of 53°E. It must have worked because I arrived at my destination seven minutes later!

    There were storms and a lot of rain forecast overnight, so I played around with my set up lowering the tarp and hammock. Turns out I was a little too enthusiastic with the latter. More about that later.

    The forecast was right, the temperatures dropped, the rain, thunder, and wind carried on through most of the night, and it was still raining when I ventured out in the morning. It rained a lot. Apparently, the trees I’ve been using have a dip between them, which proceeded to fill with water, The ground on the downhill side was very soggy. My pack is touted as being highly water-resistant but it didn’t get tested as the uphill side, where it was, remained dry. Much to my alarm, I discovered that in setting the hammock low, I’d made it so close to the ground that my underquilt protector was dragging on the ground and quite wet. But it did its job and kept my underquilt dry.

    Checking out the rain. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    A disadvantage of my new tarp is the huge number of tie-outs it has. Eight, yes eight more than my other tarp. There are four side pullouts, and a line to secure each of the four doors. Giving 14 tie-outs in total. But doubling up with multiple tie-outs on a single stake, I can get away with only eight or so stakes, depending on the conditions. The side pullouts do make a huge difference to the amount of room under the tarp, and despite the wet floor, I was nice and cozy, sitting in my chair, cooking and eating.

    Time for breakfast. The large amount of steam was a matter of interest. It should have been a warning. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Speaking of eating, I was surprised at how much steam was rising from my cooking pot. I was also feeling a bit cold. Both should have warned me that the forecast temperatures of over sixty degrees were completely wrong. I just thought the dew point must be pretty high, and the damp air was making it feel cold. D’oh!

    Wet ground and wooly feet. The ground under my hammock dipped a little so a soggy mess appeared under me. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
    Morning tea. Making tea while my breakfast rehydrates. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
  • Twin Falls

    Twin Falls. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    One of my favorite, out-of-the-way places at Hercules Glades Wilderness.

    Twin Falls. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
  • Trip over, back at the trailhead

    Trip over, back at the trailhead. Copyright © 2022 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    Trip over, back at the trailhead, and a very modest 14 miles hiked with 962 ft. of elevation gain. I left camp just after noon, and was back at the trailhead at 1:45 p.m. Not, I should add, without incident, but I’ll write about that another time.

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