Trip Report: Three Days Solo Backpacking in Late January

Water running in Long Creek

Don’t get too excited, but I actually bought myself some shoes for winter backpacking, and all I needed was a break in the weather to try them out.

I found some remnants of yesterday’s snow in the shade behind a log. I’m trying out some new hiking shoes!

The weather had turned warm, and the recent snow had disappeared, so I headed off to Hercules Glades with the intention of spending some more time contemplating Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Day One

The forecast was for low temps in the mid-forties, and highs in the sixties. Rain and snow were forecast for Monday, my final day. I still haven’t used my new rain gear in anger so that sounded good. If I got wet I’d only be an hour from home and drying out.

As hard as this is to admit; I made better time in the new hiking shoes than I do in my Huaraches — interesting. I bought these shoes to get more insulation in the soles. My huaraches are so thin I’d noticed that the cold from the ground was seeping up into my feet. Conclusion so far? These shoes are good, but I still don’t like wearing shoes.

Wearing shoes did slow me down at times though. When I arrived at this creek I didn’t know what to do. It’s the first time I’ve seen Long Creek ‘Running’ in around eight years, and I’m wearing shoes. In my huaraches, I’d just march across, not stopping. But I didn’t want to get my shoes wet. In the end I found a route across that kept my feet relatively dry.

I hunted around for a suitable spot to camp for the night and settled on a couple of trees on either side of a dried creek bed. It’s an ‘overflow’ creek, so I doubt it counts as a ‘stream’ (You are not supposed to camp within 100′ of a stream).

Icicles on the bluff at Long Creek.
Icicles running down a tree.

Exploring the area I found lots of large icicles hanging from the bluffs on near-by long creek. They appeared to be melting quite quickly. By the way, standing in the creek to take these pictures was jolly cold.

With all the recent rain, ice and snow the ground was wet so I decided to not to bother with a campfire. Preparing a meal and my book would have to serve for entertainment.

Shortly after dark the temperature had already dropped to 35°F, that’s fine except I’d only brought my 40°F top quilt with me. I hoped that a combination of the hammock cover, thermal base layer clothing and my trusty fleece blanket was going to be enough to keep me warm.

Day One Stats

Distance: 3.25 Miles. Elevation: +303′ -794′

Day Two

Overnight the temperature dropped to 24°F and there was a slight dusting of snow. Not quite what I was expecting. Apart from my water bottle freezing all was fine and I was nice and warm.

Camped near Long Creek. The temperature was supposed to stay above freezing. It dropped to 24F

Rather than contemplate my navel all day, I decided to do some exploring, first heading east along Long Creek, and then up on the bluffs on the north side of the creek There I knew I’d be able to get a cell phone signal to be able to report in at home.

While exploring the creek I saw what looked to be a couple of good camping spots on the bluffs to the north of the creek. I packed up camp, crossed the creek and explored along the top of the bluffs — stopping to climb up the hill until I got a (weak) signal on my phone, and called home — when I got to the eastern end of the bluffs I found an ‘off system’ horse trail, and also found a campsite where you couldn’t possibly set up a tent.

Camped on the bluff overlooking Long Creek.
Camped on the bluff overlooking Long Creek.

By attaching the tarp to some trees, I was able to set it up in what I dubbed ‘Extended Porch Mode’, which gave me a view of the creek through the trees and plenty of head room. I was thinking ahead to the next morning’s predicted rain. Though I hoped to be on my way before it arrived.

Having set up camp I couldn’t resist lying in the hammock, and I was promptly lulled to sleep by the warm sunshine and the roaring sound of water pouring over the various falls in long creek.

When I woke is was getting close to sundown and I had to move quickly to filter my water for the night and the next day.

Filtering Water – Long Creek
Sunset – Long Creek – Can you spot the hammock?
Small Falls on Long Creek

Day Three

It only dropped to 28°F overnight so I was nice and warm. I wanted to be away early to beat the rain if at all possible. I was just about to take the tarp down, when I thought better of it and decided to practice packing up in the rain. Within a few minutes it started to rain, so my practice became real. It’s the first time I’ve tried to put everything away while keeping the tarp up, and I learned a bit doing so — take it slow and steady, and it helps to have a set place to put everything.

I got my rain poncho out and draped it over my pack while I took down and stowed the tarp. I had a little bit of trouble getting the poncho over myself and the pack, but I was expecting that.

For some reason the GPS didn’t want to work when I turned it on, and either I broke it or it being broken caused the problem, but the ‘Back’ button was somehow jammed in, and it no longer worked. That button is essential to accessing some of the functions, but I could at least record my track, and by adding waypoints I could center the display on where I was.

The rain poncho worked fine and after around an hour or so the rain stopped. By then I was back up on the Tower Trail heading east back to the trailhead.

A Damp Looking Gary on the Tower (Pilot) Trail, Hercules Glades.
Heading back on the Tower (Pilot) Trail.

Day Three Stats.

Distance: 4.25 miles. Elevation: +890′ -391′

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