For this trip, Ginger chose the trail — Hercules Glades Wilderness, Pees Hollow trail, and I chose the route — Counter-Clockwise. I’ve never hiked this trail in that direction, and it is arguably the most difficult route to follow, because of several horse trails and ‘unofficial’ trails that branch off of the main trail. Ginger attempted the trail counter-clockwise last year but got lured off course by a heavily used unofficial trail.
Update: The problem with proofing your own writing is that sometimes the obvious errors go unnoticed. Originally I wrote that we hiked the loop clockwise. No. We hiked it counter-clockwise, taking the eastern half of the loop first. I’ve made all the necessary corrections. (I hope!)
As I’ve only just hiked Pees Hollow, I didn’t take a lot of pictures, though you do get a different view of things ‘going backwards’. For example, the road is much more visible when you are heading north along the trail, I hadn’t noticed that going south. When I was here four weeks ago there were no leaves on the trees. This time I was surprised by the rich green of the forest canopy.
When we got to the misplaced trail marker I realized I’d forgotten to bring a sharpie with me, so I scratched an arrow into it, hopefully, that will be visible enough to help people to take the correct trail.
Rain and thunder were predicted for 2:00 p.m. onwards, and right on time the sky darkened, and we had a thunderstorm. We decided to hike through the rain, only pausing to put on pack covers. With rain in the forecast, I had decided to wear a lightweight utility kilt which dries very quickly — unlike the heavy cotton denim kilts. It stopped raining by the time we had arrived at the Cab, and we went off-trail along ‘Cab Creek’ and set up camp at the fire ring I’d found and used four weeks earlier. The small supply of wood I’d left was still stacked to one side. By the time the tent and hammock were up we’d both dried off.
The fire ring is quite close to the creek, and we camped closer than the 100′ restriction on camping near to water sources. However, the hollow isn’t very wide here, the hill starts to climb up immediately behind where we camped. Where we set up camp was clear of brush, and a lot less damaging place to camp than up the hill in the brush.
The night was surprisingly cold and quite damp. We were both warm enough in our respective abodes. Ginger in our Sierra Designs Lighting XT 1, one person tent, and me in my hammock. I woke at 6:00 a.m. (as I do every day — sigh), fortunately, I went back to sleep until 8:00 a.m. We had coffee, breakfast, took some pictures, and packed up camp. The hike back from here is uphill a lot of the way. It’s only a couple of miles but you climb nearly 1,000 feet.
The hike out took us a little under two hours. At the trailhead, we met the Wilderness Ranger, who was replenishing the sign-up sheets and trail maps. We had a great chat about the various wildernesses she patrols, and she gave us a couple of excellent ideas, which we’ll be following up on later in the year. Kristyn looks after all of the trails in the Cassville and Ava area, that’s a lot of trails, and what a great job!
During our conversation we learned the importance of signing in when you visit a wilderness. Funding is directly related to the number of visitors, which is determined from the sign-in sheets. So, please make sure you sign in.
She confirmed my hunch that all the new trail signs and marks had been put in place as a direct result of search and rescue operations that took place recently. Wilderness trails are not supposed to be marked, and the trails are not maintained. Trees fall, trails shift, and creeks can be difficult to cross after rain. Despite the warnings, maps, and information at the trailhead, people still venture out totally unprepared, cannot read maps, and rely on non-existent cell phone coverage. Signs and trail markers are a lot cheaper than search and rescue operations.
Because of a road closure (Hwy 125 is closed at Swan Creek), we had a much longer drive home.
Everything was fairly straightforward, but hiking the trail ‘backwards’ reminded me how important it is to stop and look the other way every now and then. Things can look completely different. Knowing that rain was forecast I opted for lightweight quick-drying clothes, and that proved to be a very sensible decision after hiking for twenty minutes in the rain. It’s also important to decide when you are going to don wet weather gear. We gambled on the storm being short and being able to dry out easily. If that hadn’t been the case donning rain gear would have been a lot more sensible. We were in the bottom of a hollow during the worst of the thunderstorm. We collapsed our (aluminum) hiking poles and stopped using them while the storm lasted.
It was a good hike, and we’re planning one or two more before it gets too hot. Plus, thanks to some long-term ideas we’ve had, and have now (thanks to Wilderness Ranger Kristyn) checked out, we may have a couple of ‘high summer’ trips to try out. However, we both have extended work commitments in June and July (Ginger in Canada, and Gary in Texas), so it’s going to be hard to fit some more trips in.