Every season that isn’t Summer is my favorite season to hike. At least at the beginning, anyway. I’m all excited about the new weather patterns and the new foliage make-over it brings. Near the end, I’ll be all ready and excited for the next one. Autumn is the best, though, for a couple of reasons. For one, that damned summer heat is behind us now. For another, it marks the beginning of my three favorite hiking seasons. And it is pretty. I love October.
Momma and Bogey wanted to play a little bit, so all four of us met Kat and his boy down at Devil’s Den State Park. Momma doesn’t take kindly to being rushed, so we eventually ended up meeting them around 1:00. The boys met up with a Ranger’s son and all four of them ended up playing in the creek. Lots of running, splashing, yelling, and various behaviors associated with boys being outside.
Around 2:30, we changed them into dry clothes and Bear Bait, Kat, Kit, and I headed up to the Hwy 74 parking spot. Well, they did. I stopped by the visitor’s center and filled out the mortgage application they use to document our presence on the trail. We figured after last week’s death out there, they would be a bit hypersensitive to documentation. I get it, they need to be safe. I understand that not everyone who goes out on that trail is an experienced hiker. Kit opined that it would be a lot less painful if they had some kind of “experienced hiker” card or something so that we wouldn’t have to stand there answering the same questions over and over again. We’ve been on the BHT so many times now that we’ve lost count and could do most of it in our sleep. That’s gotta count for something.
Eventually we made it up to the lot, parked and loaded up. With the boys already exhausted from playing all morning, we figured to be lucky if we made it to camp by darkfall. Word at the paperwork-party I attended said that about 30 parties had signed up onto the trail just that day. Original plan was to camp at Rock Hole Camp, spend the night and head back out today. Kat suggested that it would be a small village down there with so many folks on the trail. Rather than risk that, we decided to go off-trail to a spot we found by accident on the last hike.
Surprisingly enough, the boys made it down to Blackburn Creek in about an hour and fifteen minutes. We only passed one group of hikers, a couple of young tattooed fellows who commented on the assumed weight of our packs. Knowing a bit of trail-snobbery when I see it, I had to acknowledge that it was more bulk than weight. . . due mostly to carrying a full warm sleep kit for Bear Bait. Kit, later on when I was grumbling about it, said something to the effect of it not being so heavy that we didn’t blow past them on the trail. Guess he had a point.
Boys swam at the same little puddle we found last hike. When they got hungry cranky, we headed on in to this little spot we found and made camp for the night. Most of the bulk in my pack was stuff to keep Bear Bait warm: 40-degree mummy bag, 2 fleece blankets, fleece pajamas, extra socks, knit cap. I stopped by Lewis & Clark Outfitters in Rogers on the way down to buy him a Skeeter Beeter Pro hammock. It set me back $80, but it was worth it to me knowing he isn’t bothered by bugs. (Besides, I began to feel guilty and let him sleep in my Clark NA – and I hate the bugs.) I’m going to write up a hammock review soon comparing all the various styles we use.
Around 2 a.m., Bear Bait woke me up whimpering. He said that he had a nightmare and saw a ghost. The boys didn’t know about last week’s tragedy, so I’m positive he wasn’t worrying about that. I gave him a drink of water, told him he was safe and that I was right there. He turned on the red light of his headlamp and snuggled deep into his sleeping bag to quickly fall back asleep. I stayed awake a little while longer listening to the coyotes sing all around us before drifting back to sleep myself, also curled deeply in my sleeping bag.
[My prayers and condolences go out to the Wood family for their loss. I hugged my son a bit tighter after we got home from the trail.]