Lone Star Hiking Trail 2015

Solo Thru Hike of the Lone Star Hiking Trail – 12/28/2014 – 1/2/2015 (Entry #6)

Journal Entry #6: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hike Plan #5: – Primitive Campsite #2 to Tarkington Camp – 15.24 miles

Weather: Raining, 55 degrees

Happy New Year all! Another year is a memory and another year is ahead of us to tackle and make the most of! I am excited for 2015! As has been the atmosphere of this adventure, it began raining after midnight and rained all night and continued to rain until I reached my camp this afternoon. I have kinda forgotten what it feels like to be dry and warm which is a good thing…everything has just gone numb which I am grateful for. The only thing that isn’t as forgiving are my hands…they have been ice all day but cold is temporary, right? I am done tomorrow, so warmth will be here soon enough.

Today was only 15 miles but felt like 20. Funny how each day has its own challenges. I actually contemplated surprising the boys and doing the 28 miles left today and drive home tonight arriving around midnight but with the rain and wear and tear the muddy trail has taken on my ankles and foot, 28 miles is just too much today. Boo! I am not that strong yet I guess. Plus the surprise I encountered on the trail took a little of the umph out of me today. What surprise you might be asking? Well, at mile 71.1, I knew that I would encounter the San Jacinto River and knew that there was a chance that the bridge was still washed out, but wishful thinking wouldn’t let me dwell on what that truly would mean for me when I got there. Even the guy that came into camp last night told me to look for the log across it and I could easily cross. Well, crap guess what? I walked up to no log that spanned the distance across, pouring rain and temps has fallen during the day to below 40 degrees…I quickly had the realization that I would have to forge it. I desperately looked up and down river praying I would see a saving log or even a mirage of a bridge to help me, but there was nothing….I was on one side and I saw the blazes across the river heading up the steep bank on the other side and needed to get to those blazes. Those are the defining moments where courage and fear collide. I quickly contemplated what the dangers were: 1) River was deeper than my chest 2) I wasn’t sure of the current and undertow if there was one with all the rain we had received this week 3) Risk of hypothermia once I reached the other side as all wood for a fire in the area was wet after days of rain so starting a fire to warm up would be difficult 4) Losing my footing while in it or getting caught underneath while crossing….the list went on and on….My biggest concern was keeping my boots and pack dry as they were my lifeline for the next 48 hours. So, I did the only thing I could do and began to take off my boots on the banks of the San Jacinto and prayed that if crossing was the plan, then a safe crossing would be done. The rain pelted my pack as I tried to balance myself and get my boots off while putting my weight on my trekking poles as I didn’t want to take my pack off and I was standing on a steep bank with water running into the river. As I stepped my first naked foot into the gooey mud, the craziness of what was being done was real. My foot began slipping towards the river without traction under foot. I carefully tucked my socks and gators into my boots and then looked at the steep bank into the water. I rolled my pants up to my upper thigh. Now I had to get in down there without tumbling in as there was no shallow entrance. I sat back and slid my way in as close to the bank as I could as I hoped that would be the shallowest point so I could see what I was up against. Boots held high above my head with my trekking poles next to them, I felt the freezing water go over my ankles, calves, thighs….then I felt the muddy bottom…the breathe had been taken out of me as my body was submerged into the freezing water. Ok, thigh high, I can handle this…my pack should be ok and kept dry. But as I ventured into the middle it got deeper and deeper. I took one step and the bottom dropped about a 1/2 foot and down I went, my boots went fully under, the bottom of my pack went in..now I was in up to my waist… and when I realized what was happening, I booked out of that river as quickly as possible to the other side of the muddy bank. So much for dry underwear, rolled up pants and previously dry boots. Steam was coming from my breathe, my feet were submerged in mud and my pants and pack were dripping wet. Then my eyes diverted to my boots hanging dripping in my hands…I turned them upside down and water poured from them. That was the first point in 71 miles I wanted to sit down and just cry if only for a minute. I was overwhelmed with emotion…grateful I made it across as I know God’s hand was in that crossing, shocked I had just crossed the river, shivering uncontrollably from being soaking wet as the rain was relentless even at that moment…I felt tired for the first time on the hike. Standing at the river bottom and looking up for the first time at what still needed to be done, I threw my water logged boots up to the top of the bank and I dug my poles into the mud, digging my toes into the bank anywhere they would get in enough to have a foot hold as I climbed trying to lean as forward as I could so I wouldn’t fall backward back into the river…30 something pounds pulling you backwards is significant! (Side note: Once again I can’t rave enough about the importance of hiking with trekking poles..they were my saving grace getting up that bank.) Once at the top, I glance at my feet not sure how to now clean them to get them back into my wet socks as there were poison ivy leaves and pieces of bark all over them…great things to help encourage blisters with the miles still ahead of me for the day. So, using the cleansing beautiful rain coming down and my gators to wipe them off as much as possible, liner socks and wool sock were slipped over each frozen foot…brrr!!!! I knew feeling the uncontrollable shivering I was now experiencing needed to stop and that I had to get moving…this was fun and all but now it was time to walk and keep going and leave that fear I experienced in that river. This challenge was over, it was conquered and time to prepare mentally for the next one coming up. This crossing was only 3 miles into this 15 mile day. As the next hour resulted in slow muddy hiking, my clothes were still dripping and the rain came down harder. I cried out to God asking for the rain to just stop for a little while…the more I asked, the rain came down harder…I guess God didn’t want to hear my order of a burger, fries, strawberry shake and SUN!!!!! Where the heck am I hiking this week? Portland???? He wasn’t done with me yet and He must have felt that I needed to be pushed harder to remember that He is control of everything and that I am not. The desire to sit and take a short cry was quickly replaced with the conviction that I was going to finish this wet amazon of a trail and finish it with grace. So shut up, suck it up and dig deep…wet, cold, pain are all temporary….

Not much longer after the fording of the lovely San Jacinto river, I was crossing one of the many small bridges that the beloved Boy Scouts or trail volunteers have made and do you know what happens when a wooden sloping foot bridge gets constant rain? Yep! They present another great opportunity to see how boots have different traction depending on the grain of the wood. I was excited as I approached each foot bridge, extremely grateful for its presence. They do get slippery and with one weak step on this latest bridge, down I went. After crossing about 20 of them by this point, you would think I would know better, but fatigue had begun to set in and I wasn’t paying attention to the green moss on the bridge. A side note, normally when I long distance hike, I do 5 days on trail with a rest day following and I could tell my body was ready for a rest day with the miles being done. Well, using my beloved trekking poles, I pulled myself up, said a choice word and then kept walking. There is at least one point in each adventure when yelling out of frustration just seems appropriate and this was it. There isn’t a pine tree within 10 miles that cares and will rebuke me for it. Ha! Feels good to just let it out and yell. We can’t do that in our jobs, marriages or in school when we are frustrated but in the woods, it is perfectly acceptable. Can you imagine being upset at your boss and you just let out a primal “Ahhhhhhh!” deep from your gut? Ya, not going to happen or if it does, you will be quickly escorted out the door. In the woods we aren’t in control…we may think we control our kids, spouses, job situations but out here as I lie in a wet tent dripping on my hair, in a wet sleeping bag and hearing the rain still pelting the landscape near me, mother nature doesn’t give a crap about what we want folks. Our manipulation, our influence, our job titles, our cuteness doesn’t work out here. I think that is why it is a challenge to spend 6 days in a new environment, just to see if we can hang being thrown situations that we don’t control. It is smoking mirrors to think we control things anyways…God is in control folks. Do we squat and hug our knees when things get tough or do we find comfort in hearing those night sounds from the owl, the red fox or just from the silence? Can I hang? Can you hang? Those are the million dollar questions.

When Mile Marker 74 was passed, I had to do a double take because my brain was saying that there was a guy walking towards me about my age with a hiker beard that I have come to be soo fond of after hiking the AT. I haven’t seen anyone in 30 miles. We stopped and chatted for a minute as the rain came down but both happy to see someone else even for a minute. He was hiking for only 3 days and so when he asked where I started and I answered trailhead #1, he smiled and said how cool to be a thru hiker! Then his face dropped for a minute and asked how I crossed the San Jacinto River. hahaha! I smiled and said with a smirk that I forged it. He said “No frickin way!!” He said everyone that he has met has turned around at that point since the bridge washed away. I told him after that many miles there was no way I was ready to call it quits. He thought that was cool. 🙂 I really wanted to talk more, but had a long day and wanted to get to camp. He had stayed at the campsite where I was headed to the night before and said it was a nice clean site, so i was excited to get there. Once at camp I got to read his entry in the campsite log so was fun. I love being alone on the trail but I also love talking to the guys on the trail doing and enduring…hikers have a bond that exists only on the trail that no one else has… experiencing moments that are shared with no one else and that no one else would get except for those doing it. I loved that the AT had 3 sided shelters for us to sleep in on the floors because at the end of the day, you would walk into camp exhausted and someone may have made a fire, some were already snoring away in their bags, while others scooted over and made room for you to put your bag in between them. We slept like sardines and talked about the day, what we had seen…what sucked… what was great and what was coming up and down the trail still. I missed that on this trail… That camaraderie. This trip has been a true solo hike which is what I asked for so decided quickly not to dwell on what I thought I missed.

After picking up the last water drop at Trailhead #13, I entered the woods again to walk the last mile to camp. That was strangely the longest mile on this hike let me tell you. I even stopped at the trailhead to wring out my socks and made a video about it, but even though my socks weren’t sloshing anymore, fatigue had officially set in today. Then like soo many nights before, I eventually saw the white blaze with a blue tent on it pointing to the left. Yay! The good news was that it was only 3pm, so there was plenty of time to get the wet tent up, try to get dry and rest my body before it got dark. If you have never put up a already dripping wet tent up in the rain, throwing your wet pack inside that wet tent as fast as you can, then just to sit your wet butt inside that wet tent next to your wet pack, you should try it someday. Ha! It is truly an awaking at how much you are not in control and I felt fatigued tonight but alive!!! How wonderful to endure! Thankfully though this will be the last soppy wet night on this trail as I head home tomorrow!!! Then back to the warm dry world of conveniences where I tend to have a harder time figuring out how I fit in than I do the woods. Society is much harder to live in with soo many gray lines of expectations. In the woods, things are black and white…you need to walk forward to get to where you want to go, there’s a river in front of you, you cross it. In the real world, if you need to move forward and there is something blocking your path, you try and figure out who you need to talk to about it to make the obstacle go away, then doubt yourself if you were too forward or too passive or should you have said anything at all. It is exhausting really in a different way living in the “real” world. I guess the seemingly unforgiving woods are truly forgiving as long as you play by its rules and don’t make the white or blank lines grey. The woods are part of who I am and I have to go visit like a long lost relative when those gray lines become too hard to follow.

As I lie here, reflection on my past 6 long distance hikes have begun as to how each one offered their own unique challenges and those moments of glory that made me want to endure it all again and to conquer the next one. 

2014 – Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT) (5.5 days)

– Glory – Solo thru hiking the states longest continuously marked and maintained trail.

– Challenge – Being under tree cover literally the whole time…No ridge walks, views, or peak climbs; Miles and miles of road walking required; Raining and cold weather every day.

2011 – AT Section Hike (PA to VA)

– Glory – First long distance hike solo (10 trail days, 13 days total)

– Challenge – The Unknowns – (People I would meet in the shelters, hostiles or on the trail; where I sleep each night and with whom in the lean-too; Wondering if my mail drops made it to the post offices along the way; Being so far away from home).

1995 – 3 Month Semester Pacific Crest Outward bound Course

1. Baja Mexico – Kayaking island to island. 1 Month.

Glory – Landing on Death Beach right side up in single kayak after 2 weeks of practicing for it as the swells were over 7 feet tall. Scared to death.

Challenge – Being restricted from moving to the next island due to wind variations…being at the mercy of nature sometimes for days.

2. Joshua Tree, California – Desert backpacking and Rock Climbing. 1 Month.

Glory – Getting over my fear of heights and trusting my belayers below me. Not being in control.

Challenge – Desert backpacking in 110 degree temps during the day to 30’s at night from climb site to the next climb site.; Scorpions the size of dogs.

3. High Sierras, California – Winter/Snow backpacking. 1 Month.

Glory – learning ice picking, using crampons to stop from sliding down a mountain; Waking up on top of a ridge, looking down at a far distance snow covered valley. Seeing what John Muir saw.

Challenge – Extreme cold, putting on frozen boots each morning and sleeping with frozen socks next to my bare skin in the hopes they would be somewhat warm by morning; Wet/Cold the whole month.

1990- Leadership Outward Bound Course – Cascade Mountains, Washington (3 Weeks)

– Glory – Daily views and walking through mountain passes filled with wild flowers; being weeks away from society.

– Challenge – Immature people Iwas with; lots of drama; had to learn how to work together with spoiled kids that didn’t want to be there.

So this reflection was kinda fun to do and realize that each adventure took me to new places internally and physically, stretching me in ways that could never have been done at home. In the woods when you are alone, you really have to like yourself a little bit at least or your trek will be a long one…maybe even ending your hike a truly different person than who you were at the beginning. I think that is why backpacking is soo romantic to soo many and is even still romantic to me…you take that first step as one person and take that last step as a hopefully wiser, better and different person.

“None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” – JM (1901)

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