Last night Carryn and I got together to plan our ever-evolving Christmas holiday backpacking trip. We have been talking about it ever since our class ended. I mentioned to her that I wanted to do some hiking or backpacking between Christmas and New Years and I’d love some company. I’ve said that to so many people, and I’m used to getting a “can’t do it then” response, and I expected the same. Much to my surprise, the next time I saw her, she said she’d scheduled that week off so she was good to go. I was stunned and very excited. I had a partner-in-crime for a change!
The weather is the big wild card. We’d love to go to the mountains in Tennessee or Arkansas, but we are not ready for winter camping. With the warm temps lately, it’s looking like we might be set on the mountains but it looks rainy that week. We’re just not sure. So, we made a plan A, B and C. The cool thing about backpacking is we can just make up our mind the same day we leave. We don’t have to worry too much about reservations and stuff. And our packing list is set no matter where we go. It all has to fit in a backpack, and it’s the bare essentials.
Option 1: Eagle Rock Loop – Ouachita National Forest – Arkansas
So, while we are waiting on time to pass to confirm whether we’ll be backpacking Fall Creek Falls in southeast TN, Eagle Rock Loop near Little Rock, Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana or the Turkey Creek Trail in Big Thicket Nature Preserve (East Texas), we’re hoping for clear skies somewhere so we can get our first backpacking trip in motion. I’m already trying to find recipes for dehydrated meals in my backpacking teacher’s recipe book. Regardless of where we end up there will be nature, there will be mishaps and there will be laughter. Ashok is snoring next to me and is probably dreaming that I’ll be taking her somewhere soon. Let’s hope her dreams come true.
Option 2:Fall Creek Falls State Park – Spencer TN
I pulled the turtle card in my Medicine Cards this morning. Turtle energy is about connecting with Mother Earth for grounding and protection. I drew it in the reverse position, so it’s telling me that I am not alone. In my circles, we believe that the earth has a soul and is a living, breathing being regenerating itself and evolving as time marches on. Turtle reminds me that I have no control over external circumstances, but I do have power and protection to take care of myself. It also tells me, like the turtle, that I need to take my time. There is no need to rush.
Option 3: Kisatchie National Forest – North Louisiana
I have to admit that I have a tiny bit of fear about backpacking with just me and my girlfriend. We’ve only done this with a group. What if we run into a problem that we haven’t anticipated? We called Katherine (our teacher) and asked her about the rain. The main worry is getting wet and getting hypothermia at this time of year. At what percentage chance would she call it off? What are our concerns if we get caught in the rain? She gave us some tips on keeping our gear and ourselves dry. She even recommended using the hourly forecast to help us determine what time of day we’ll hike and throw camp. Worst case, we can play cards or something in the tent in case of rain. And, of course, I always wonder what we’d do if a bear or a cougar decides to visit our campsite or something. All we can do is prepare the best we can and trust that we’ll figure it out. I’ll use my age-old mantra “whatever happens, I’ll handle it.”
Option 4: Turkey Creek Trail – Big Thicket Nature Preserve – East Texas
So, I’ll follow turtle’s advice and let the journey unfold. In a week, we’ll know exactly what we’ll be doing, and we can get excited. When I went to my first hiking club meeting, I met two women who had just hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail. They said they had taken Katherine’s class, and that was their first time out. I was green with envy. “I want to do that!!” I told them. Now … less than 6 months later, I’m planning my own backpacking trip. It’s not the AT, but it’s a step in the right direction! I can’t wait to see how the adventure unfolds.