June 5, 2017
Hikers: Julie, Becky and Michelle
It’s amazing what a night of fresh air sleeping can do for weary muscles! We woke eager and ready to start our day. The daylight brought to light some of the critters we were sharing the campsite with. This is why I sleep in a tent! And yes, those are both on the OUTSIDE of the netting.
We have learned to be more efficient with our food and cooking and each of us bring breakfast and dinner meals to share. Lunches are usually just a snack so we do our own thing for those. We tend to stick to to freezer bag recipes but since this was a short hike, I thought I’d do pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The shelf-stable, pre-cooked bacon is great on the trail. I mixed up the pancakes in a baggie and brought a lightweight, non-stick pan to cook them in. I had done this in the past and it worked well. I have upgraded to a MSR Windburner for my stove and have been really happy with how fast it boils water for our freezer bag cooking. I had not used it to cook in a pan and soon discovered that it takes a special pan to be able to do so. Hmmmm. I managed to hold the pan over the flame and heat things up but it was definitely lacking in the efficiency department. And for some reason, my non-stick pan was not being very non-stick, even after cooking the bacon. We didn’t starve but his meal wasn’t going to make the front cover of Gourmet Backpacker!
We started our day on a very rocky stretch of trail that made us appreciate our hiking poles. And the morning coffee that kept us alert!
I’ve reached the conclusion that I have photography ADHD. I generally hike in the back of the pack (herd?) so I can make my never-ending photo stops without driving my hiking buddies crazy. Or having them tripping over me. I truly believe that the world is a fascinating place if we take the time to look.
Most of our animal sightings were of the reptilian variety. The snake looked ominous but it was a non-venomous Great Plains Rat Snake.
HOT! That was the theme of the day. Hot and dry. Water sources were virtually non-existent which meant water rationing but the heat and humidity meant we should be drinking more water than normal. We had to try to strike a delicate balance. After 4 or so miles, we came to a power line cut. This wide, open area meant a steep hike down and another steep hike back up, all in the sun. It did, however, give us our first view of the Taum Sauk Reservoir. Look close, it is in the middle of the picture below.
We were very happy to get across the the power line cut and back into the shade. We were covering the miles but it was taking a toll on us. Rather than keep pushing through the heat, we decided to look for a campsite. This turned out to be harder than expected. At times, we found a great tent site but it lacked suitable trees for a hammock. Other times we found great trees, but no tent sites. Eventually, we found what could had been a perfect site, but the ground have been completely dug up by wild hogs. We had been noticing more and more wild hog damage the closer we came to Johnson’s Shut-Ins. We later learned that it is legal to shoot them anywhere except in the state park. I have to admit, looking at the damaged campsite and trail, we had some serious discussions about a hog roast. We were able to make the site work by squeezing all of us in one corner. Total hiking for the day was around 7 miles.
Our campsite had comfortable sitting rocks and a nice fire pit but it was far too hot and dry to even think about a fire. When I first started backpacking, I was super disappointed that many places do not allow campfires. But I soon came to realize that most nights, I really don’t miss them. Unless I’m watching the stars, nothing feels better after a long day of hiking than stretching out in my tent to read or journal.