This was our second backpacking trip, so we were still learning – especially about finding a spot to camp and reducing the weight of our packs. The weather was rather dreary but we enjoyed ourselves.
Day One – Tonight we get to sleep in the woods
We got away from Springfield on time, picking up Lanie from her sleepover on the way out. At the grandparents I helped load a large steel house sign into the pick-up before we headed off for the last fifty miles or so to our destination; the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness area.
Over the past week we’ve checked the maps and pictures of the wilderness we found online. We had a rough plan of action, starting at the Collin’s Ridge trailhead.
There were no other vehicles in the parking lot, checking the registration log,
We had a good hike along the Devils Backbone down into Mary Hollow. Ginger particularly liked all the pine trees at the start of the hike. The Devils Backbone was quite impressive with a significant drop off on each side.
The trail actually comes out about an eighth of a mile to the east of where it is shown, which caused us a bit of backtracking while we looked for the trail to McGarr Spring. We found the trail but couldn’t find the spring, there was evidence of water but there was none running.
The trail was very easy walking being mainly soft dirt. It would have suited my Vibram Five Fingers which I hadn’t brought along. My huaraches worked well, but as expected weren’t tough enough for the the trip, so after a couple of repairs, I gave up and resorted to trainers for hiking and flip-flops around camp.
Day Two – It’s our second Wedding Anniversary
I sure do know how to show a girl a good time! While we were drinking our morning coffee and making our plans for the day. Ginger surprised me with an anniversary gift – a CD. We had no way to play it though!
The overnight temperatures dropped into the mid forties, but we were nice and snug.
After breakfast and breaking camp, we hiked down Mary Hollow and followed the trail north and west to the North Fork River.
The trail was obstructed by fallen trees in many places, and only a couple of trails are marked, so you need a map and to read the ground to make sure you stick to the right trail. We stopped briefly to admire the bluffs on the North Fork and to be completely disgusted at the mess left behind presumably by people camping in the wilderness while floating down the North Fork River. The almost complete lack of trash on the trails of the wilderness would suggest that this is the case.
We then climbed the 360 feet to the top of McGarr Ridge, and walked along the ridge and then negotiated the very steep 360 foot descent to visit Blue Spring, where we filled up with water and had lunch.
Our plan was to camp somewhere near where we’d first seen the river, and that meant retracing our path, climbing and descending McGarr Ridge again. We surprised oursleves by getting up the ridge quite quickly. Our trekking poles, brought for this trip, proved themselves invaluable going up and down the ridge.
So we followed the trail north a short while and then cut down to the river. We found a nice secluded gravel bank where we spent the night, accompanied by the sound of running water.
Day Three – Our last day in Devils Backbone wilderness
It had been quite cold overnight and it started to rain just as we were about to break camp.
– which meant we were able to put just about everything away dry.
The trail up Collins Ridge doesn’t appear to be marked, and we encountered several trails that aren’t marked on the map, which made for some educated guesswork on the navigation, which proved correct once we could see the lay of the land and check it against the topo map. The hike started with another 300+ foot ascent, quite enough for us out of condition hikers.
Before too long we were back where the trail along the Devils Backbone splits off, and shortly after that we stopped by a stone pile which acted as a tripod for today’s picture.
Once back at the trail head, Ginger looked at the trail head check-in, and the log had been changed and maps left. We saw that four people had been in on a day hike yesterday,
We saw and heard lots of Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), and the tracks of a bobcat (Lynx rufus) but no people, which is pretty much how we like it.
The van was where we left it (always a worry). It was just a matter of dropping our packs in the back and heading off to Ginger’s parents, a nice dinner, pick up the girls and head back to Springfield so that they could be home in good time for school Tuesday (Monday was a school holiday).
In total we’d hiked around 12.5 miles in a little over two and a half days.
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