Overnight the temps had cooled off nicely. Enough to dry off and I ended up crawling underneath the sleeping bag. The stream was running a few feet past the door of my tent and everything was calm. No horns, lawnmowers, cars, motorcycles, or city sounds. Almost disturbing but not. Noises most of us get so used to as quiet that when you finally get away from it and realize what quiet really is your mind disconnects and switches off the “life” switch. Solitude reached. Really though, where you are now in the woods is life in the raw. Ecosystems relying on every piece around them to continue the cycle.
Cracking open my eyes, I saw the sun was starting to make some light in the woods. Not waking to an alarm was already a plus this morning even though it was early. I reached over and saw it was 6 AM. It seemed like a good time to start stretching out for a bit in the tent while my eyes started waking up. I can be a bit of a slow riser. Surprisingly my legs were not as tight as I was expecting and my ankles were feeling pretty good. I put on a long sleeve shirt and opened the door.
Still basking in just the quiet of the stream, myself and Bessie. Bessie did her ritual downward dog stretch as she does every morning and emerged from the tent. She slept through the night with no issues of barking. Fortunately for me, she never really has been very vocal unless she wants in the house. Considering camping and her instincts I knew it would be 50/50 if she would just sleep or if the nose would be going all night. Her other instinct to locate a comfortable place to sleep (couchhound) overrode the hunting instinct. Good girl.
I boiled some water for a AlpineAire Bandito Scramble and made up some coffee with Carnation Breakfast mix (a little extra protein/carbs/cals for the trail) while Bessie ate her breakfast. I call this the Dixie Mocha after seeing her do it on Homemade Wanderlust. Not exactly what most would consider “camp” breakfast, but for the trail it hits the spot. Next time I may try some cold soak items for meals, or some personally pre-prepped dry meals that can be cooked easily.
By this time the tent was drying up a bit, enough to pack down. I took it down, attached it to my pack, and then proceeded to top off and filter some water…oh wait.
Remember those Smart Water bottles I forgot in part 1? Those connect with the Sawyer Squeeze threads. Apparently the water bottles I have are not the same thread. Not something I had tested at home prior to going out, but knew everyone uses the Smart Water bottles. Now I knew why.
Ok, so quick inventory check, and at least I was smart enough to bring one of the Sawyer bags that came with the Squeeze. First attempt at filling that in Arquilla Creek was a fail, I just couldn’t get the bag to expand and let water in. Instead I ended up using the bottles I had to get the creek water, pour it in the Sawyer bag, then filter it into my reservoirs. Tragedy averted.
Watered up, everything was packed down and Bessie was ready to go. I cinched up my straps and balanced out my pack, grabbed my pole (using my right hand for the lead, I was only hiking with one), and we proceeded out of the valley around 8:30.
It was a quick rise along a hill overlooking where we just camped as we crested, we came to a flat area and my mind relaxed a bit that today may not be as rough as yesterday with the ravines. The morning sun felt good. I was glad I didn’t start with anything more than my base layers.
My legs were starting to warm up and any tightness from the day before was minimal. Bessie was tugging along to go a little faster, so I picked up the pace from my warm up as long as we were travelling flat.
We started passing more hikers today than we saw yesterday. I think I saw about 4 or 5 singles or couples out the day before and we had already said hi to about 3. I love seeing people outside. Occasionally we’d meet someone and hike together for a bit until (usually me) decided the pace was a bit fast and went back to hiking my own hike. It’s always interesting to meet people from everywhere else that decided to descend on the same path you are on and hear their stories or if crossing directions finding out what’s up ahead. I’m terrible with names so sometimes they are never exchanged or I forget to even introduce myself before parting.
The flat trails did not last very long and we came to a smaller valley and crossed through. The next several miles were streams and smaller valleys then the day before rising up no more than 100′ to overlook the river. Knowing there was a surplus of streams today, I let up on sipping on water and started taking bigger drinks. It was warm again today. Not quite what it was yesterday, but I really had no idea on the weather since the valley is a cell dead zone and I had put my phone into airplane mode to save battery.
While climbing one hill, water was streaming down the side in a muddy mess. The hill was a bit steep to the down side, but muddy to the upside. Taking slipping as a precaution I went for the muddier upside and Bessie and I made it across. Another one of those clench moments hoping everything goes right. My new trail runners were officially baptized on the trail. I never expected them to stay clean.
Overall my first experience with trail runners was a very positive one. I was curious about breathable shoes and how fast they may dry compared to my hiking boots that took 7 days to dry after hiking in Zoar Valley near Gowanda, NY a few weeks prior. I have been a boot style hiker my whole life believing the extra ankle is support.
About 11:50 we came upon a flat overlooking the river where there was a campground and a good log I could sit on to take the pack off with. It was the perfect place for lunch in the shade. I removed the pack and took a couple of “spaghetti” steps without the pack on (it’s like walking on the moon practically), poured Bessie a bowl of water and put out some food for her. Next the shoes and socks came off and I put the socks out in the sun to dry a little and started to stretch a bit.
As I was eating my GreenBelly meal bar, I ended up with a lunch visitor that also stopped to eat, agreeing that we found probably the best lunch spot on the trail. We chatted for a bit, he’s an orthopedic PT specialist that lived within 20 minutes of the trail that goes out hiking quite regularly. Again, I forgot to even exchange names. I’m just terrible like that, but I remember the story and lunch on the bluff.
Thanks for the company.