Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 9 - Stealth camping

On the TRAIL again, I can't wait to be back on the trail again!

We woke up and we were taking forever to get moving, yesterday I was antsy to get on the trail and now today I didn't want to leave. We lounged around and before I knew it I was running out of time to be ready for checkout. I took another nice shower and packed my things and checked out right at 11. The lady that works the Super 8 is amazing, she even offered to give us a free lift back to the trail (TRAIL MAGIC)! She was so kind and we were spoiled by her the entire time at the motel. Our room with a jacuzzi was 30$, I heard she even did laundry for some of the hikers. We did our own or should I say Fall and Oats was kind enough to do it for me. Apparently, you had to cross a really muddy area to get to it that turned into a small muddy creek/river, so he was kind enough to offer to manage it for me.

We had forgotten about breakfast, which was fine, she still offered us some of the left overs and fruit so  Fall and Oats took an orange for the trail. I ate a cliff bar and made myself some decaf coffee at the hotel and we were on our way back to Uniqoi gap. The hike out of the gap was a big climb up to get us back to ridges of the 4,000 footers. I am always slow to start and getting your heart moving again and adjusted to the pace, but once up the first big mountain I was in a rhythm. It was a gorgeous and cool day, the kind where when you stop you put on a jacket to stay warm or keep from getting chilled. This is important. .

Sasquatch, Admiral Caboose and Natalie wouldn't be with us because they were actually going back to where they got off which were South of us. Today was what I called a TRIAL day, I was having a tough go of it and my mental game was not there. It was an easy day, we were not going to far today, about 8 miles to the Tray Mountain Shelter or somewhere near it or past it to camp. The next gap wasn't until Dick's Creek and we had about 21 miles total for that. We just resupplied and were able to go about four days without stopping for more food. It is great not to have a plan and we decided we were going to just camp wherever we wanted along the way if we didn't go to the shelter. This sounded like more fun anyway. What a great sense of freedom it is out here. I love it. Knowing that you have all that you need to stay out for days on end and that all you need to worry about is where to set up camp and find water. It is amazing how much more stressed we are at home, being out here is such simplicity. So basic and so satisfying. I really didn't know what could be better, sure I had blisters that were getting worse and my feet hurt and my legs ached and my body was sore, but it still felt good. This was a beautiful section we were getting to and we were coming up soon to Tray Mountain when we got our first views and Fallen and I took a lunch break, we were about 4 miles in and sat at an overlook. We were really moving slow  because of my feet and not feeling well so we took our time today. It was now about 4 p.m. at this point and we just sat with feet dangled out and took in some great views of Tray Moutain ahead of us.

After a wonderful break, with music, CHEESE and some PEPPERONI (go figure) I was a happy hiker and ready to move on and powered up on gatorade and goodies again. For me this is like my super hero combination, with it I can climb any mountain or do anything, without it I lay around like Robert Downey Jr. without his suit in Iron Man unable to do anything.

It doesn't look like much of a climb from here but we had been climbing for a hile and still had several more feet of elevation to climb. You wouldn't believe the amount of climbing out here and AWOL I think likes to kid us by making it not look hard in the book, FRIENDS, don't believe it. Just know it is one climb after another all hard and difficult with weight on your back. Stamina is the name of the game out here, not speed, slow and steady is all you really need to get you there. I learned fast my normal powering up a mountain wasn't going to get me to camp every night. I was going to poop out before ever making it to camp. So up we went, I like when some of the climbs start with steps and this one did. It even had a "poke here" for your pole and we complied!

We got to the top for some great views.. but I was surprised to see so much mountain laurel that obscured some of the views. Don't get me wrong, I love Mountain Laurel, I just knew I had seen some beautiful shots from this mountain, so I hoped maybe we would find a better clearing.We enjoyed and went on and decided to find a camp, luckily we were loaded and sharing water so we had plenty for the night.

On top

FYI for those that don't backpack, you always need extra water at camp, you use it for cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth, etc; so you should also fill up as you tire so you have the flexibility stop when you want. However, I say that and sometimes you have to walk miles before you can even find a spot to put a tent because you are walking on a small two foot wide ledge on a steep mountain side. But , we got lucky this night, very lucky we found a camp spot and some small side trails, these side trails led to a more secluded camp spot with a rock fire ring that didn't look like it was used too recently and off of that was another trail or two that led further in to an amazing 360 degree view! That is right 360. It was phenomenal. The only downer is that on the way we passed some scat. I went back to take a closer look, it wasn't from a Bear, it was definitely a carnivore as it had lots of animal hair in it, but it was bigger than the average dog's scat. UH OH, what animal is this do you think, I asked Fallen Oats, he wasn't sure and said maybe coyote. I have no idea what it is for sure, but it has to be one of the two, it is too big to belong to a bob cat, but it seems to big to belong to a Coyote too.

View from The center of the trail that goes directly over Tray Mtn

Coyote or Coywolf? This scat was as big as my shoe, big for a small Coyote, this guy had to be close to 50 lbs, running a dog rescue allows you to know more than you want about scat 

We set up camp as dark was coming soon and wanted to catch the Sunset, gathered wood and I asked Fall and Oats to teach me how to make a good fire. I have made fires, but never really learned the proper way. He was the best person to ask and seemed to be the best fire maker on the trail and always had one going at night and in the a.m. We started by gathering dead trees and branches, etc; and then I used some goodies in my fire kit to help out, it did rain a lot just recently but the wood was still dry enough fortunately. It was going to be a very cold night, especially where we were camping it was on a ridge that led to a gap so winds came over the side of the mountain but the laurel did quell it a bit. We anchored my tent in good just to be sure. I was really excited about finally staying out in  a stealth spot away from camp. Once camp was all set up and the wood was gathered we went to watch the sunset.


It was gorgeous. The little rocky outcropping was perfect to catch views all around us. We were super excited to have such an incredible spot. I easily could have stayed here for days. Finding 360 views isn't easy. We brought some food and a my sit mat to relax on. After we went back and got the fire going and cooked dinner and relaxed by watching hiker tv and taking it all in. Relaxed with our backs against a tree and our feet up, the wind still blowing we had to stay back enough because the fire was blowing right toward us. After a bit I made some hot chocolate because I was still cold despite the fire. That is about the time we decided to clean up and hang our bear bags so we could get in our sleeping bags to stay warm.

 Fall and Oats was happy to have his new FLOAT, wow that thing was loud but worked like a charm at keeping my pad from slipping all over. I kept all my warm gear out and put on my wool set I sleep in. I am glad I did because this was also the coldest night on the trail, I am guessing teens or lower on that ridge with the winds blowing but the tent helped keep us warm. I slept pretty great until 5:20 a.m. when I awoke to a variation of the third and fourth call in this video. Not only was it loud it was CLOSE, within a 100 yards. I was both terrified and thrilled. Part of me wanted to see them and the other part wanted them to stay away.

I said what was that, knowing that Fall and Oats heard it too, he said Coyote's. It was confirmed, no doubt we were in their territory. It was pretty exhilarating and I would definitely go back. I was shaking from both fear and excitement. I had to remind myself logically they would leave us alone. Then I realized if I wanted them not to come sniffy my tent I should make some noise so I turned on my Ipod and didn't hear them again. We were up to see the Sunrise by 6:45, gathered my sleeping bag, cameras and sit pad and we headed over to the rock face opening. WOW, the sunrise was more beautiful than sunset. If I find my video on my other card I will add it here. Keep in mind these sights are so much better in person than they can ever be on film. We sat sleeping bag over us on my sit pad perched against the rock on a steep cliff face with our food and drinks next to us. It was quite a show. We stayed about an hour before we headed back to camp. We ate some more, relaxed, had another fire before finally about 11 we decided to head north.

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