Monthly Archives: April 2014

Uwharrie Trail, North Carolina, (W/Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers)

Trip report.  Uwharrie Trail, NC. 18-20 April 2014.

note: some of the photos here were taken by Bones.

Me, Bones, Mustang Sally, Jim, J.D.,Katherine, & Jake. DSC05009 DSC04998 This trail is listed somewhere at around 23 miles, Buff & Bones had originally planned it, but both had to bail and I took over as host.  When I was drawing my gpx file at trimbleoutdoors.com, it came out to only 17 or so miles, not sure why.

The plan was for 6 of us to start at the northern trail head Friday evening and link up with Mustang Sally at our planned camp on Big Island Creek Saturday evening.

Friday’s drive and 6 mile hike to camp 1 on Spencer Creek was uneventful.  By the time I arrived everyone was there and setting up camp.  We didn’t make a campfire.  Around 6pm it started drizzling pretty good and I retired to my tent to make dinner under my vestibule.  (thank God for vestibules!)

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It started raining pretty good a little later and seemed to me to rain most of the night.  It was still drizzling pretty good when we woke, so it was breakfast in the tent once again.

We all packed up and were ready to go around 8:30am.  I gave a mini brief on the day’s target camp, Big Island Cr, to everyone, except J.D., who couldn’t be bothered to wait around or say goodbye.  J.D.’s a seasoned hiker and seems very capable, said he’s hiked this trail before, and wasn’t carrying a map.

It seems no one but me had a map….Anyway, off we go, Bones and I taking up the rear.  It started drizzling even more.  Fortunately, there was a bridge across Spencer Cr so I was pretty hopeful at this point.  Bones said that the stream crossings were VERY minor during  his last trip.

As fate would have it, there must have been at least a dozen (seemed like 50) crossings, every single one swollen over the normal rock-hopping points.

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At one particular gnarly crossing, with no visible rocks above the swollen surface, the trail could be spotted directly across the stream. We searched high and low for a suitable crossing, but found nothing. So….it was off with my boots for a barefoot ford attempt.  Once across and feet dried with bandana, we searched and searched for the path, as the one we spotted came to a dead end and so did the white trail blazes.

But no luck, fortunately, it was raining again so that was nice.  I couldn’t tell from the map which stream we were stuck at so I had to pull out my phone’s gps/map app (Backcountry Navigator Pro), well wouldn’t you know it, the trail didn’t actually cross the creek, it took a sharp 90degree left turn on the far bank and followed the stream and then crossed back and forth a few times.

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And, as luck would have it, we were on the wrong side.  I postulated that the group in front of us could have made that same mistake, possibly bushwhacking to the top of the hill in front of us and following down the other side to re-join the path on this side of the stream.

We attempted to follow the stream on our side, but soon got entangled in dense brush and Bones said fuck this!  So, we returned to the trail, now soaking wet and beaten by the wet brush.  I took off my boots once again and tip toed back across the stream. By the way, Bones, who is 6’4″ for more, was able to make a series of death defying leaps across slippery rocks and certain death! like a fucking elf.

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I use my now soaking wet bandana to dry off my feet and put my boots back on.  Twenty minutes later we’re back at the same fucking stream, this time also no where to cross, but there is this wet fucking log to try to make it across.  Now, I don’t normally do logs because I don’t want to die, but this log was short, 2 steps was all that was needed, and wide enough.  Luckily we make it across with no problems.

A few hours and twenty more crossing (I exaggerate, but not much) we reach Big Island Creek camping sites. How did we know we were there?  There are 2 little signs nailed to trees (plus I used my gps map app).  We had landed at the exact planned point.

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But…we were the only ones there.  WTF?  Not again?!  So now I have to try to “logic” it out.  Where are they?  In front or behind?  If behind were they lost?  Could they have possibly crossed the same creek we did and bushwhacked on and gotten turned around?  Remember, they didn’t have a map.  If they were in front of us, where the fuck are they?  They don’t have a map, but there are 2 signs!  J.D.’s been here before, but was he with them?

If we keep going, and they are behind us, are they going to worry about why we aren’t there?

So we camp, at the spot where we were all supposed to camp.

The rain is only a drizzle, but Bones and I are able to get a good fire going, in spite of the area being picked over and not much nearby dead-fall.

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Once again it rains for what seems the most of the night.  Next morning, sunshine!  We break camp and hit the trail about 8:15.  We head over the little hill next to our camp, after crossing another fucking swollen stream, and guess what, there’s the rest of the group, minus J.D.

J.D. had continued on to the trails end and slept in his car (without sharing this little factoid).

Mustang Sally had linked up with group in front of us that prior evening.  Seems she had run a 5KM “tough mudder” type event Saturday morning but still had enough pioneer spirit or need for punishment to go backpacking that same day!  Damn!  I’d probably be in the hospital recuperating!  You definitely want her on your team.

Now that we’ve finally linked up and everything’s cool again we head off and finish the damn hike, in the sunshine.

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J.D.’s at the trail head, he stuck around because he was our shuttle car back to the northern trail head (that was so nice of him…)

Then it’s off to lunch, then to R.E.I in Raleigh.

In the sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Skiing; 6 Day Grand Canyon Hike

Well, let’s see, since my last post, RB and I went to the Dillon/Silverthorne area in Colorado where we skied three days at Keystone, then snow-shoed twice, once with Rock Creek Annie, who lives on her ranch in Silverthorne.

Rock Creek Annie went on our Wyoming trip to the20140228_123908 Winds last August. She’s about, what, 63ish, and kicked our asses in the Winds. She ate about 3 tablespoons of granola or something for breakfast and had a freeze dried for dinner, incredible energy.

I’m going to say she was able to kick our buts hiking because she lives at 9400′ and we were coming from sea level, yeah, that’s my story.

 

 

20140228_114911At Annie’s, we snow-shoed up to an overlook above her house where she had constructed a lean-to out of pine branches. Due to the 3 or 4 feet of snow, we had to step down into it, like a pit with a pine-bough roof. We made a campfire and roasted wieners and had hot dogs for lunch. Best hot dogs I ever had…out in the snow covered forest, on a campfire, blue sky, it was great!

 

 

 

Initially I didn’t want to go snow shoeing because I had only brought my ski stuff and had already shipped my pack, boots, etc to Las Vegas to pick up for our follow-on Grand Canyon hike.

RB persisted, so I had to go in my ski pants and wear my timberline boots and hope for the best. But I had a good time.
The skiing was also great. Weekday skiing in Colorado is the way to go, very few people on the slopes, and no wonder, given the lift tickets at the window was over $100 per day!! Yikes!

So after we skied, we went over to the FEDEX store and shipped our skis back to Virginia (RB’s snowboard). Then drove to Denver and got a hotel by the airport.

Saturday we flew to Vegas, met everyone at the airport, took the shuttle to the car rental place, loaded up and took off for the Grand Canyon, stopping on the way out of town at the UPS store to pick up our packs. My box was completely torn up, but the contents managed to survive. We also stopped at the Vegas In And Out Burger, I thought it was only ‘ok’, and that it didn’t live up to its hype.

GRAND CANYON HIKE

For the Grand Canyon trip, it was me, Juice, Mr. Clean Jeans, and Gunny in one car and RB, Fez and scenic vue in another. Which was fine, after 6 days together RB and I need some space.

We got to the park about 8 or 9 pm and checked in. Gunny had forgot about getting a room and slept on the floor of my room, pretty funny.
The plan was to hike 6 days, camp 5.

Bright Angel Trail from the south rim to Indian Garden camp, then to Bright Angel camp, then to Cotton Wood camp, then back to BA camp, then back to Indian Garden camp, then hike out.

DSC04256The weather was perfect and warmer than the same time in 2012. No snow leaving the  DSC04262crsouth rim so we didn’t need our mini-spikes like before. However, the trail was very wet and muddy from a prior rain, so it was still careful going for a mile or so, then the trail dried up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC04319The hike to IG was uneventful, but still had the oooh, aaah, factor. This was only my second trip and I still felt the wonder of the canyon.
After setting up camp we took a hike over to plateau point and took our first pix of the Colorado river.

 

The next day we hiked down to the river and on to DSC04486bright angel camp/phantom ranch. We stopped at the beach, soaked our feet, took a break and lots of photos.

When we got to BA camp, I went over to phantom ranch to check on our steak dinner reservations for that evening, when the lady told me she had no record of the reservation I just about had a stroke! She did some checking and found out I had actually made the reservations for our second trip thru BA in 2 nights (which is what I had originally planned, but somehow got the dates mixed up in my head…blame it on getting old), what a relief!! The was about the most excitement I had on the entire trip.

Gunny and I then proceeded to have a couple of ice cold beers there at the phantom ranch cantina/restaurant.

Next day we hiked on north on the Kaibab trail towards the north rim and cotton wood camp. At the Ribbon Falls side trail, we couldn’t find a good place to ford the stream from the south so we talked ourselves out of visiting the falls.

So we hiked on and set up camp. Cotton wood was the only place we had to filter water.

DSC04678The next day, heading south back towards bright angel camp, we crossed the bridge over to the Ribbon Falls side trail from the north. The falls were spectacular! From the trail it looks pretty lame, but up close it’s massive with a huge moss build up on a gigantic rock standing up from creek. There’s also a little trail where you can walk up and behind the falls.

Then it was on to BA/phantom ranch. This part of the park is more desert and more ‘open’. But when you leave BA camp headed north you walk a few miles in a canyon called ‘the box’ with steep walls. The trail parallels bright angel creek the entire way.
The walk was much warmer than before, t-shirts and shorts (if you brought them). After setting up camp, Gunny and I did another recon of the cantina and made sure the beer was still cold, simply amazing!

That evening we gorged ourselves at the steak dinner meal at phantom ranch; steak, salad, DSC04767cornbread, fixings, chocolate cake, wine, beer, ice tea, yum! Now that’s what I call roughing it!

Then it was back up the devils stair case and to Indian garden camp. No more downhill hiking, now we have to hike up for the next two days to get out of the canyon, here we go, let the fun begin!

DSC04856Just before we got to Indian garden, when we were on a section of trail with a steep wall on our left and a cliff of about 30′ above a stream on our right, we meet a convoy of horses and riders heading south down the trail.
I’m at the back in my usual spot, the group in front press themselves against the wall, but the only spot I could lunge for was a small clear area between the trail and the cliff. When the first mule got to me, and with our group pressed between the other mules and the wall, the lead mule with the wrangler stopped and wouldn’t go. The wrangler after a few tries with the mules asks me to hide my red bandana, which I hold behind my back, still no luck but after several tries, the mules decides to go on. That was the highpoint of our excitement that day.

The following morning, and last day, we get up early, in the dark, eat breakfast by headlamp. I want us to get an early start, so we can go slow and easy and before it warms up.
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The sun rises while we’re walking so we get great views of the canyon in changing light as we gain altitude. Gunny and I hike with Juice and Mr. Clean Jeans, slow and steady, straight on up. Victory!

RB, Fez, and Scenic Vue hike on in front of us and reach the rim about an hour before us, never waiting for us so we’re denied a victory group high fives and photos. They go and eat and are already finished by the time we arrive, denying us a group victory feast, which I’ve always regarded as the best way to finish a hike….’together’ being the operative word. I just hate it when this happens, so I was more than a little pissy.
RB and his group then left for Vegas, while the four of us checked in to bright angel lodge then did some leisurely sightseeing and a little shopping on the south rim.

Next morning we hit the road about 6 am, had a good drive to vegas, turned in the car, shuttled to the airport where we said our goodbyes, and that was that.

A very nice trip, very smooth, no issues, and lots of beer at the bottom of the canyon.

I’m considering doing this annually. The only drawback is the permits max out at 6 to a group, so you have to squeeze into the campsites. I tried to get us permits for the group sites and 8-10 people, but that seems harder to get, so we had to down size to 6. Scenic vue was able to get his own permit for 2 so we pretended to not know each other due to park rules (buts that’s another story).

 

 

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