The thing about backpacking is……. sometimes it’s not even that fun.
I mean who ever heard of walking up and down hills for hours on end carrying 40 pounds on your back with nothing to look forward to at night but your own stench and a bed that’s just not quite as comfortable as the one you left at home? Who said it was fun to get blisters on your feet and scrapes on your legs, to get soaked in the rain and baked in the sun, to get lost and to run around in the woods just to find a campsite for a little rest before doing it all again the next day?
But somehow I always want to get back out there.
I decided somewhere along the way that it’d be a pretty neat idea to thru-hike the Sheltowee Trace trail. That’s the 319 mile trail that runs through the Daniel Boone National Forest (plus a little in Tennessee). So to start preparing, my friend Clyde and I decided to test our hiking limits with 33 miles of backpacking over 3 days.
Day 1 was exciting and fun. Until it wasn’t. We kept a fast pace but stopped at all the cool places along the way like Gray’s Arch and Hanson’s Point for photo-ops and a little R&R. All was well until we were 10 miles in with 3 miles yet to go and a heap of uphill in between. Our trek up onto the last ridge nearly put the nail in the coffin, but we persevered and eventually made it to camp.
Day 2: The middle child. Not too good, not too bad, prone to getting lost. Yeah, we got lost. It was my second time on the Osborn Bend Loop, and it was my second time losing the trail, but half an hour of bush-wacking straight south and we were back on track, only a few scratches worse for wear. The day ended with a couple miles of stream walking which turned into stream tromping as night grew closer and we still hadn’t found the campsite. Finally we stumbled on a big group of campers…on the site we’d planned to use. So we hiked back a little and set up along the shore before the rain hit.
Boy, did the rain hit! We stayed dry through the night, but once morning came and we had to pack up, there was simply nothing to be done. We got soaked. Everything that could absorb water, did. By the time we got to the car, my boots were becoming cisterns and my clothes had gained several pounds. The rain aside, Day 3 was hard. We were tired and sore and blistered and chafing. It was an 8 mile hike back to the car, but we made it in 3.5 hours. As tired as we were and with as much uphill as we had, we got out on sheer I-don’t-want-to-be-here-anymore determination. And yet, I want to do it all again even now.
I’ll leave you this time with a quote from our favorite headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
“Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”