Sunday, October 21, 2012

Secondo - Hike Through Little Wilson Creek Wilderness

October 13, 2012

We broke camp about 10:20 (that seems to be our routine - Hawkeye can break camp very quickly but sleeps later than me. I use the time when he is sleeping to air our my sleeping bag, get some tea with honey down my gullet, and slowly pack my things for the day's hike). We were headed uphill on the Appalachian Trail from the Old Orchard Shelter to a place called The Scales, where they still herd cattle. It was 3.5 miles to get there, and as I said, mostly uphill.

We'll get right to the map and explain why I used two colors to mark the route.
Last spring, I bought a CabBat rechargeable battery for my DeLorme PN-60w GPS.  It holds a charge for about 13-17 hours of actual use in the field.  That was their claim, and so it was - this was my first multi-day trip with this battery, and it worked as advertised, giving me two full days of hiking.  But I was on a four day trip and knew that it wouldn't last that long.  So I had a back-up plan: four brand new lithium double-A's in an unopened package.  Friday night at camp, as the CabBat was dying, I opened the package and popped in two of double A's.  The GPS went dead in about 30 seconds!  I took the batteries out and put them back in again, with the same result.  One more time - same result.  And these were Energizers!  I am not a violent person but I wanted to smash that pink bunny's head through his bass drum!

I took the other two batteries out and put them in, and they seemed to work fine.  But with two more days of hiking, these needed to last, so I decided to use the GPS for spot checks only.  So the orange part of the route, drawn in by moi, has no data.  Just after Second Peak, we entered the Little Wilson Creek Wilderness and the trail markings vanished.  The trail was fairly obvious, and very muddy from horses, and eventually we reached the point where my orange marking turns north - because that is where we were headed.  There was a sign - the first we had seen in the wilderness - pointing left for First Peak.  On our map, and on the GPS, there was only one trail shown.  So that is the way we went.  Hawkeye said it didn't seem right, because we were going downhill when we should have been going up First Peak.  Eventually, I realized that he was right - we were heading north and away from First Peak.  I admitted this to Hawkeye, who was suffering from painful blisters and didn't enjoy the three-quarter mile detour.  We trudged back to the sign and did some scouting, and sure enough, there was a trail heading straight away from the sign and towards First Peak.  The one to the left that the sign pointed towards was not on the map.

So at that point, I left the GPS on, and that is where the red track picks up.  This is an actual track mapped by the GPS.  We used the GPS as a reference to where we were heading, and used its compass to check against the map for the direction we should be heading.  After less than a mile, we reached another trail junction for the Kabal trail - and several other unmapped trails.  We did some scouting, each picking a different trail, and this time I was totally convinced I had the right one.  It initially headed south and it was headed downhill, just like the one on the map.  This is the point where the red track on the map above takes a sharp jog to the right (south-southwest).  We kept continuously checking the map against the GPS, and eventually, reached this sweet camping spot (where the red track ends and the next day's lavender track begins) right on Little Wilson Creek with 45 minutes of daylight to spare!  We were both tired and glad to have such a great camping spot - and without any other campers, loud or not!

Here is the elevation profile of the last part of the hike, once I left the GPS on so we could make sure we reached the desired campsite before dusk.  It was mostly downhill from this point, but the first part of the hike was almost all uphill.
Here are some photos that document this interesting day, one in which I learned several lessons.

The Appalachian Trail was rugged and gained over a thousand feet in the first mile and a half or so.
As we gained elevation, more and more evergreens appeared.  I think these are hemlocks.
At the top of the climb, we crossed through a horse gate and into open country for a while.  These gates were common to keep wild horses out of sensitive areas.  With a pack, it was difficult enough to get through some of these.
Look!  It's the Griswald family Christmas tree!
The AT meandered through pleasant forests at this point at we headed for The Scales.
We left the AT and headed up towards Stone Mountain, with open views once again.
I am not sure what type of butterfly this is, but it was very pretty.
 Here is a view from Stone Mountain.


More open views from Stone Mountain:
 Shortly after this view, we have reached Third Peak, and are about to have lunch, which is....
... peanut butter, dried apricots, and chocolate squares wrapped in a tortilla - pretty good, if I say so.
Here is the view from Third Peak.
Blister repair!  This is why we carry first aid kits.  Hawkeye had big blisters on both little toes.  My feet were fine, and I am quite glad about that.
 Another pretty view from Third Peak...
In the saddle between Third Peak and Second Peak, we entered the Little Wilson Creek Wilderness.  At this point, there were no more trail blazes and only a couple of signs - one of which pointed us totally in the wrong direction, as I discussed before.
Hawkeye is up ahead as we walk through the wilderness area.
Second Peak is up ahead, the third of four mountains we will go over this day.
This pretty and open area was where the confusing trail sign was.
This is the final trail of the day, the Kabal Trail though Little Wilson Creek Wilderness.  We were wondering if we would get to where we wanted to camp by dark at this point.  Had we not, we would have found a place to pitch our tents, and eat trail mix for dinner.  But we both really wanted to get to Little Wilson Creek for the night....
... and we did!  What a pretty spot, and there was a huge grassy camping area just before the stream.  All the water we needed, a great area to camp, and peace and quiet!
Here is the campsite (photo taken the next morning).  There was lots of firewood and we got a great fire going.  And the next morning, there were enough coals left that I got a fire going without a match.  Of course, we doused the fire pit before we left Sunday.
Glad to be in camp and off his painful feet, Hawkeye sits on the ground and begins to prepare our last dinner - garlic mashed potatoes and a great freeze dried potato soup!  Man, was that delicious!

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