PCT Training Hike on the Big Piney Trail, Paddy Creek Wilderness, Missouri
I set out for my first overnight training hike that I have been on since I was on the PCT in May, 2016. Starting at the Roby Lake, Missouri area, I made my way down an unfamiliar trail, with an intentionally overloaded pack. Two tents, two sleeping bags, and just about every piece of gear and trail clothing I own. I didn’t bother to weigh the pack, but it was the heaviest I have ever carried. Some distance into the trail I found a trail register – I stopped to register and was curious to see if I might come across any kindred souls. Nope, not a soul on the trail register for the past 12 days, I would very likely be totally alone. The trail meandered uphill and down, by ponds, and eventually to a nice creek with a small waterfall. Along the way I came to a pine grove atop a ridge and what a mess that was – we recently had freezing rain here in Missouri and it looks like it took out several dozen along the trail – they literally look like they just exploded – with the trail being impassable for about ¼ mile – resulting in some bushwhacking and hopefully me not getting lost. Unlike the PCT where I have Halfmile, Guthooks, and other apps that can tell you that you are 400’ west of the trail, and which direction you need to go to get back on trail, here you just need to pay more attention.
When finally done tramping around the blow downs I continued down the trail, and back up on top of another ridge and into some pines. I set up camp about 4:30 PM which would usually be early, but it was dark, cloudy and wet – I wanted to find a decent campsite and took the 2nd one that I thought looked nice. As I set up camp I found I was just above a nice running creek, which made for a nice setting. There was no rain in the forecast but heavy fog came in, which collected on the trees and might as well have been rain. Of course I packed everything, except my rain fly it turned out. Yes I had another tent, but that is my PCT tent and I am not going to chance damaging it before I even get there. I decide it’s not too bad, occasional drips would splatter through the netting but all would be well – and I did have my bivy sack so I put my sleeping bag in there, inside the tent, and made sure most things were covered. There were signs of bear throughout, and I could not locate my paracord rope for hanging my food, so I put the food in my pack, put the pack a ways up a tree, and strapped it on to hope for the best. I had a time getting a campfire going, with everything being wet, but eventually enjoyed a nice campfire until bed time. Unlike being on the PCT where you never really feel alone because there are so many other hikers out there, I knew I was truly alone out here, there were no other footprints in the mud – see the pictures of the trail/river – and this was a bit unusual, really feeling alone and way out there. I enjoyed that. It was one of those nights when every noise piques your curiosity, and every drop falling from the trees landing in leaves sounds like a footstep of some kind – I did hear some animal grunt, possibly a ferel hog, bear, or deer even – couldn’t really tell. Nothing bothered my pack, and all was well in the morning – but much of my gear was wet. I set off back down to the trail head, surprised at how little muscle or back pain I was in considering the workout provided by the trail and the heavy weight I was carrying. I would feel it a bit later however, but that’s a good thing, that’s why I am training – trying to get some sense of trail legs before I hit the PCT exactly 60 days from now! I received my permission to enter Canada, I have my plane tickets, and in 3 more days I will apply for and get my PCT permit for March 21, 2017 – time is flying by…