May 18, 2015


this weekend i took bixby backpacking, just me and him and uwharrie national forest.  i found a 20-ish-mile figure eight online, uwharrie trail to dutchman's creek trail, which seemed reasonable for two days, and saturday morning we set out, clear eyes, full packs, can't lose.

uwharrie is fine.  it's fine, it's sweet, it doesn't have any switchbacks or overlooks or waterfalls but it's a good little place to go practice backpacking.  i saw next to no wildlife, aside from the zillion monster ants that were really intent on climbing my legs whenever i sat down anywhere.  there was a tiny green snake that wriggled under some leaves, and a black frog with a brown belly that hopped directly into my boot and fell over.  we heard a godawful screaming noise, something like a very loudly dying goose, saturday night right before dark, that had bixby barking his guts out.  apart from that, there were a couple of lizards, a blue tailed skink, some birds, and a disgustingly large toad that splashed into a creek when we walked up.  i'm not one of those people who goes out hoping to see a bear, so i was alright with the distinct lack of critters.  there weren't many people either - a couple of boy scout troops, what looked like maybe a family reunion, several pairs of hikers, and just three other solo hikers.  i counted four women total, myself not included.
the trail: mostly pleasant, i guess is the best way to put it.  it was startlingly hilly, and i haven't decided if i dislike going up or down more, but i will say that i don't regret my long term choice of a trail that isn't entirely mountainous.  a lot of the area had been burned, apparently recently, since the standing trees were still blackened and the undergrowth wasn't very high.  there were blueberry bushes all along dutchman's creek trail with just a few tiny green blueberries on them.  my favorite places were the creeks, which were easy to find and cross and filter water from.  the rhododendrons loved them too, so not only were the creeks cooler, shadier, and altogether nicer than the burned areas and the rock cliffs and the up and down ridges, but they also smelled sweet and looked angelic.

i camped by a creek, not the one in the picture, one with a bridge and a campfire and two little trees i strung bix's cable between so he could run back and forth on his leash.  the routine of camping was nice.  there were certain things i needed to do - set up my tent, filter water, make dinner, wash the dishes, hang the bear bags - and when i'd done all these and it still wasn't dark, bix and i went for a walk, which seems silly but what else is there to do?  we cozied up into the tent when i got back, and bix was very well behaved and only barked at the goose noise and growled a tiny bit when two hikers walked past after dark.  i couldn't sleep, of course, because the forest noises and my pillow was weird and i think i was on an incline with my head on the lower end, but once i'd turned myself around and managed to fall back asleep for the fourth time or something, i stayed asleep until dawn.

all in all it was a comforting trip.  the MST is going to be hard as hell, i know, but it's also doable, as long as i pace myself and don't try going nearly fifteen miles in one day at the beginning - eight to ten (or maybe twelve with a good long break in between) is plenty.  i've got to make sure i have plenty of water (which i ran out of twice but was fortunately near enough creeks that it wasn't any kind of disaster).  i've got to teach bix once and for all not to pull, especially when we're going downhill.  and i've got to just put one foot in front of the other, because when you boil backpacking down to its essence, it's as simple as just that.

and with this myspace-esque picture, i bid you all adieu.  happy hiking!