Memorial Day weekend 2011. We took advantage of the long weekend to go backpacking at Hercules Glades Wilderness and spent three nights in the wilderness. We couldn’t use the Coy Bald trailhead as Bull Shoals lake was 60-80 ft. over its normal level causing the ford on the access road to be around 20 ft. under water. We heard that people were using the road as a launch ramp. So our plan was to hike from the Tower trailhead.
Getting ready and the first night
I don’t know where my head was today, but it wasn’t focused on getting ready to go backpacking. I spent the morning and early afternoon processing pictures and writing my journal. I was desperate to get it done before the weekend when we’d be taking more pictures and I would have even more to write. I finally gave it up as a lost cause and turned my attention to getting ready for the weekend.
It was gone five before we were ready to leave, and then we left twice. I forgot my water bottle and we decided it was too important to leave behind.
This was a good decision because we later discovered Ginger’s hydration bladder had sprung a leak – getting a lot of stuff in her back pack wet in the process. By using our big 6 liter ‘camp’ bladder we were able to get by just using our water bottles – though it meant I had to carry most of the water.
We hiked from the Tower Trailhead along the Pilot Knob Trail to near where Pole Hollow Trail joins. We bushwhacked a fair way off the trail and set up the tent in the dark.
Day one – Pole Hollow Trail to Long Creek, Long Creek to Upper Pilot Knob
Despite our best efforts we lazed around over our morning coffee and breakfast and didn’t get going until gone ten.
Our efforts to lighten our packs have paid off. Ginger’s weighed in at 27lbs and mine at 29lbs both including food and water. We took Pole Hollow Trail down to Long Creek. The trail started easily enough in glades but the lower end was very dense with vegetation and some fallen trees were blocking the trail.
In common with most of the trails we hiked this visit, Pole Hollow Trail didn’t appear to have been hiked much recently. The only exception to this was the popular long creek trail.
We stopped at Long Creek Falls for lunch. We filled up with water as we’d decided to hike up to Upper Pilot Knob after lunch and we weren’t sure if we’d find water up there. I took the advantage of the opportunity to have a dunk in the falls.
Invigorating was one word for my shower! I don’t have a picture taken after my encounter with the falls; I am trying to be a bit more careful with the camera around water nowadays. Especially as we currently only have one working camera between us.
We used our wood burning stove as an experiment and it went quite well, taking about 15-20 minutes to boil our water for lunch.
Away from long creek, the trails seemed almost deserted, we saw four people on horseback on our first day and that was it.
We both picked up loads of ticks along the way. This set the scene for the entire trip.
We lost count of the number of ticks we removed, both attached and running free. There were small seed ticks, deer ticks and the aptly named lone star ticks. Deet didn’t seem to discourage them much. We were both wearing shorts which at least made it easy to spot the darned things before they could go too far.
Day two – West Devil’s Den Trail to Long Creek, Rock Spring Trail to Long Creek Falls
The day was hot, well over 80°F. We had another really lazy start to the day. We didn’t break camp until gone eleven. As we thought, we’d stopped for the night about a quarter mile from the West Devil’s Den trail, which we hiked down.
There was a wonderful glade section that looked almost alpine. Again there were no signs of recent usage, which is to be expected with the Coy Bald trail head closed by the lake flooding over the access road. There were several fresh trees down, making for a bit of a scramble in places.
The final descent to Devils Den Creek was fairly steep and potentially treacherous with loose rock.
We stopped for lunch by the bluffs on Long Creek, and decided camp at the western campsite at the falls if it wasn’t occupied. All we had to do was get there. We hiked the Rock Spring trail back to Long Creek trail. Near where the East Devil’s Den trail meets Rock Spring trail there’s an old stock pond, which had frogs that sounded like electronic sheep it. I named them ‘Sheep Frogs’.
Back home we discovered that there are indeed frogs called ‘sheep frogs’ – because of their bleating call.
Along Rock Spring trail we tried to spot the place where theres an old stock pond, spring box and small decrepit hut. But we couldn’t spot it. That’s twice we’ve failed to find it. Neither the spring, stock pond or building are marked on any of the maps.
There were people camping at long Creek Falls, so we stopped to rest for a while, and spotted a very large Midland Water snake I’m glad I didn’t notice any snakes the day before when I was frolicking in the pool, as it would have ruined my bath. There were also three smaller snakes swimming in the pool.
We camped at a little used campsite a fair way off the trail near Long Creek. So I was able to have another bath in the creek. We spent the evening watching the water and stars by the creek.
Day three – Log Creek to the Tower Trailhead
For once we didn’t hang around too long drinking coffee and eating breakfast, though it was still ten am before we were back on the trail.
It took us an hour and three quarters to hike the two and a half miles back to the trail head, which included a 550 foot gain in elevation.
Along the way we saw a very large black snake sunning itself. This was obviously the weekend of the ticks, mosquitoes and snakes. Just before we arrived back at the trail head, I’d decided I’d had enough and it was about time the hike stopped, so my timing was quite good.
At the trailhead we chatted for a couple of minutes with a guy who had three horses out on the trail, and then it was time to pack up and leave. Well if we hadn’t got a flat tyre we would have left.
I couldn’t be bothered to swap the wheel, so I got out our portable compressor/jump start machine which Jim and Carol had given us for Christmas with just this sort of eventuality in mind, and of course, once more we forgot to take an end of trail beer.
It put air in the tyre up okay, but it took a long time. The motor overheats and cuts out after a while, so you have to let it cool down before proceeding. It took 30-45 minutes to get the tyre up to pressure. It was nigh on one pm before we finally left the trail head.
Distance hiked: 15 miles and a total of well over 1,000 feet of elevation climbed.