Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cranberry Wilderness Hike - Days Three and Four

Picking back up on my Cranberry Wilderness Hike from days one and two, Saturday April 26 (the third day), we awoke to 32 degree temperatures.  I was warm enough only because I packed my sleeping bag liner.  I had thrown up for the last time at 5PM Friday, and was feeling better and a little hungry.  I had also slept really well, out of sheer exhaustion.  I ate a bagel and drank hot chocolate.  Then Carl and I looked at the map.  We knew that given our slow progress the first two days due to my sickness that completing our 23 mile route was out of the question.  But we saw that there was a trail that cut over the mountains that would loop back to the road.  We guessed it would be about an eight mile hike (it turned out to be 11), and decided to go that way.  On the map below, our Saturday track is in magenta, and Sunday's final hike out to the road was yellow.  We knew we would end up several miles from the car, but Carl said he would go get it.
Below, I've zoomed into a few tricky spots on the first section of Saturday's hike.  We started from our campsite at the red arrow, heading in the direction of the magenta arrow.  After a bit, we reached a dead end, steeply over a river.  This is where the dark blue arrow is pointing.  After some scouting, I found where we had missed the trail, and I scouted ahead to the ford (light blue arrow).  I came back to get Carlton and Libby, who climbed straight up the slope to the correct trail, then we proceeded to the ford to cross the North Fork of the Cranberry River.  At the yellow arrow, there was another spot where the trail left what appeared to be the true trail for a short distance.
Here is the elevation profile for day 3, all but the last 0.8 mile.  I had to switch batteries in my GPS and it recorded that part of the profile in its own segment.  The red arrows show the segment where Carlton ended up carrying my pack, as well as his, for about a half mile because I was so worn out that I was stopping to rest like every 200 feet.  I was exhausted from being sick and eating almost nothing - or at least keeping it down - since Thursday's breakfast.
And here is Sunday's much easier track for the final three mile hike out.
Carl carries his daughter across the ford at the North Fork of the Cranberry River.
Downstream a bit from that point, Libby wanted to camp here at this lovely spot, but we had too far to go.
Carlton and Libby on the trail in the morning.
Had to snap a photo of Carl carrying my pack on his back and his pack in front as I slack-packed up the mountain for about a half mile.  I have rarely felt more worn out.
Once we got up above 4,000 feet, spruce and other conifers were the dominant vegetation.  There were few even lousy spots to camp.
We passed up a potential campsite to look for a better one, and finally settled on this area in a spruce forest.  It was not great but good enough.  I was so worn out that I just lay on the floor of my tent for a half hour.  My dinner was two pieces of cheese and half a dozen dried plums and apricots.  I hung my still-heavy food bag.  When I was sick Thursday night, I almost considered leaving a trail of food to my tent so a bear might come over and put me out of my misery.  By Saturday night, I considered just dumping all the food in a pile so I wouldn't have to keep packing it out.  Usually on a trip, your food bag gets lighter but not this time.

Libby had hoped for a campfire but there was no safe place.  Plus we would have had no spare water to drown the fire.  We had each loaded up with 3-4 liters at the river, knowing our camp would be dry, and we needed that to camp with.  She was disappointed but very good natured about it.

I was very worn out but could not sleep until probably 2AM because of severe heartburn from being sick.  So I listened to the birds of the evening calling, especially the wood thrushes, which I love.  And in the pre-dawn hours, I listened to another barred owl calling.  I love hearing them!
Sunday morning we ate (for me it was two packets of Instant Breakfast that Carl gave me, and a cup of hot chocolate), broke camp, and got ready to hit the trail for the three miles or so back to the road.  Normally, this would have been a very easy hike, but I was so tired that it just felt ridiculously difficult.
The first part of the hike continued in the spruce forest, and we even came to a few boggy sections where we could have filtered some water.
The last mile and a half or so was through a northern hardwood forest, much more open but still no views.
I was so glad to get back to the road!  It was over three miles to the car but Carl volunteered to get it, and off he ran.  I could have run maybe 200 feet by that time.  Libby and I relaxed by the road until her dad returned, then we changed into clean clothing and started the long drive back to Richmond.  At least this time, we knew the way, and it was an uneventful trip.  Our four day backpacking trip to the Cranberry Wilderness - type 2 fun for sure - was over.

I'd love to go back sometime and explore more, hopefully feeling healthy and well the next time!


  1. Sure is beautiful country for hiking in. Too bad you had to get sick.
    Wow that is quite a load Carl has on. I think I'd topple over!!
    You all will have to go back there sometime when you're not sick.

  2. It is really pretty there. We didn't see a single other person on the trails while we were there, just some people camping by the road at our half way point. I could barely carry my own pack, much less two. I do hope to go back there. Art