This is one trip report that is going to take some time to tell. Haven’t been on the trail in about a month, see, and it has been getting to me. The weather is beautiful. Two hard days of rain behind us, full holiday weekend of sunshine ahead of us. I had to work today, but Kat didn’t. The plan was for me to head out as close to 4:00 as I could and burn it down to Lake Fort Smith State Park.
But . . .
* I promised to make a green bean dish for my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving day lunch.
* I was interviewing a new office manager until 4:30.
* I was hungry, missing lunch because I was busy all day getting ready to be gone for the holiday.
* I was out of gas.
Which means that Kat, eager as a puppy with a new ball, was at LFS almost before I was out of the parking lot at work. (Sorry, man.) It was near dark by the time I pulled out of the Greenland exit oasis.
(Rarely does the drive down to a hiking trail rate mention in the trip report, but there’s a theme to this trip. Several, really, but initially just one. That theme is food. See, I’ve been trying without success to drop about 10 lbs. And then McRib came back. I hate McDonalds food with all the passion of a guy who still remembers being 16 and having to wear greasy charcoal-black polyester pants while working a drive through on Friday nights in a small Southern town. But I have a carnal weakness for that molded processed pork slathered in BBQ flavored high-fructose corn syrup. I know that it is only really good with cheese and mustard, fries hot out of the grease, and a Coca-cola. I can’t justify eating one of them, though, except when hiking is in the plans. I sucked down my daily caloric intake between Greenland and the exit to Devil’s Den, hauling !@#$%^&* down 540 with one hand on the wheel – and was still licking salt and BBQ-stain off of my fingers by the time I hit the Chester exit.)
Original plan(s) were to drop the vehicles at any of several locations along the trail. . . from Frog Bayou Creek access to Dockerys Gap to any number of forest roads intersecting the trail. But we were impatient and it takes like a week to drive anywhere on the OHT, so fuggitabout. Just 3 extra miles. 3 miles ain’t nothing. Right? (Another theme of the trip.)
Strapped on the head lamps and headed off into the darkness. We’ve done this section at night before, so there isn’t much to talk about. Did notice a lot of water on the trail. Past couple of days had poured down inches. (Still got a kick out of the Waterfall sign.) Enough water flowing that we were getting real nervous by the time we could hear Frog Bayou Creek roaring in the darkness.
Real deep. Scary deep. But it was my turn to scout a crossing, so I stripped down into a pair of bicycle shorts and some aquasocks, grabbed my hiking stick and headed off into the frigid flow. Went from knee-deep to hip almost immediately and I headed toward the blaze barely visible in the beam of my headlamp. (Next time you’re out there, look at the little brown blaze post on the bank. The water was up to the bottom of the blaze.) I made it all the way across, numb now to the cold, and was stopped 10 feet from the bank. The water was so deep and fast here, that I stepped in to my stomach and was almost swept away. Dejected, I made it back across to where Kat was standing with the packs.
We scratched our heads and ruminated for a moment on hypothermia and the prospect of camping at Frog Bayou Creek on our shortest hike ever, when Kat scanned the far bank and saw what could be an access point. Off we went again into the water. Sure enough, we could climb up. Got the packs, made it across. Whole time I was precariously stepping for invisible rocks and fighting the current, I was hoping my sons never read this trip report. I’d be furious at them for taking the risk. (Sorry, Mom, but I know you don’t read this either.)
Total crossings that night: 5 – but only the first one was cold.
I didn’t bother getting dressed, trusting the hike to warm me back up and dry my clothes. We hiked in about 3 more miles until we came upon the first established campsite with a fire ring by a creek not too far from Jack Creek. Too tired to make a fire, but finally warm enough to start shivering again.
Strung hammocks, bundled up, collapsed into sleep.