Pack Weight Revisited

Carry as little as possible but choose that little with care.
~ Earl Schafer

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Carrying 14 lbs. with food and water

I have an obsession with pack weight. I got it honest early in my backpacking days while carrying a base-weight that must have been in the 45-pound range. After a few trips with a 3-pound sleeping  bag, 4-pound pack, heavy stove, heavy leather boots, and lots of extra stuff I didn’t need, I began to make different choices when it was possible to replace or eliminate something. I have an older post, “Preparing for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips”, that was well received. For this post, I’m focusing specifically on pack weight.

Over the last twenty years and after a lot of trial and error, I’m carrying a base-weight of 9-10 pounds when I’m using my lightest options. Base-weight is your pack-weight before adding food and water. The photo above shows my pack with food for two nights and water included.

Going lighter is all about personal choices. I’m sharing the following, not because this is how it should be done, but giving ideas and possibilities for going lighter. If you have a trick that works for you, please share with me through the contact page. I love to pick up good ideas from readers. I will mention brand names for clarity in this post, but I’m not endorsing any company.

The big three: 1 Sleep System, 2 Shelter,  3 The Pack – Reducing weight in these three areas has the most significant impact on pack weight.

1 Sleep system: Rest is essential to your trip’s success, so this is no place to skimp on cost, but a good down quilt is less than a sleeping bag. I use an Enlightened Equipment 20-degree down quilt and a silk bag liner for a weight of about 1 lb. 4 oz. Twenty-degree sleeping bags weigh in around 2 lbs. 6 oz. to over 3 pounds.

I’ve used air sleeping pads with good results except for the occasional leak. There are lighter and more rugged options.

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If I’m going my lightest, I prefer a Therm-a-rest foam pad with two extra foam cutouts to avoid cold spots where most of my weight makes contact. I’m a side sleeper, so one extra 6×8 inch pad goes under my hipbone, and the other goes under my shoulder. I cut the two extra pieces from a full-sized RidgeRest to make it a 2/3 pad after cutting another piece for Hiker-dog. She loves her foam sleeping pad! In cold weather, I place my pack under my feet to get up off the ground.

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Platypus pillow

For me, a pillow is essential. I now use a Platypus water pouch filled with air inside a small pillowcase along with extra clothes. During the day and in camp, I use the pouch to store extra water. If there’s water in the pouch in the evening, I pour it into my cookpot for the next morning’s eggs and coffee. I like double-use items.

2. Shelter: Lots of options here, and I’ve tried several over the years. Right now, I’m using a Big Agnes Silver Spur 2-person tent (2 lbs. 12 oz.) when I expect cold temperatures and want to keep Hiker-dog in the tent with me. When I want to go my lightest, I use a ZPacks tarp. Love the tarp because it’s flexible, lightweight, and I can feel close to my surroundings. If it’s bug season, I pitch a screened Enlightened Equipment bivy sack under the tarp. I sometimes use a piece of plastic under the foam pad in non-bug season. A backpacking tent can easily weigh 4 lbs. The tarp, stakes, and plastic ground cloth add up to 16 oz. With a bivy sack it’s 21 oz.

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ZPacks tarp, Enlightened Equipment quilt on Therm-a-rest foam pad

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Crown 60 pack packed bear canister for the High Sierras

3 The Pack: On the John Muir Trail and for many Ozarks trips, I use my Granite Gear Crown 60 pack. Love that pack, and it handles a bear canister well. If I’m going my lightest and a bear canister isn’t required, I use a ZPacks Nero that is super light.

Packing the pack (my way) – Place all items that must remain dry in a trash compactor bag. Both the Zpacks and Crown 60 packs area simple tubes. Pockets, compartments, and zippers are nice but add weight. The foam sleeping pad is placed against the pack walls adding structure to the lightweight floppy pack. I press the tarp into the bottom so any moisture will move down from there. Then I press the trash compactor bag into the tube containing the down quilt, silk sleeping bag liner, and extra clothes. Last, I pack the food/kitchen bag. 

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Loaded pack next to Hiker-dog who is policing the campsite for any crumbs

Lightweight hacks: Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up from other hikers and reading.

OT AquamiraHydrating light – If I use a filter, it’s the Sawyer mini squeeze filter. If the water is cloudy, I sometime pre-filter with my bandana and then the Sawyer filter. If I’m going my lightest, I use Aquamira water treatment drops, rebottled in small plastic bottles. I prefer the drops and leaving the filter in the bag or at home. Sometimes I carry both drops and a Sawyer, depending on what I expect to find out there.

Cooking light – Sometimes, I cook on a fire if there’s already a fire ring and it’s a high impact campsite, but the stove I carry is a titanium Esbit stove with two fuel cubes for each day. I have a pocket rocket type stove that works well, and sometimes I carry that, but it’s heavier, and I despise giving pack space to fuel canisters. I have a Jetboil and would use it for a large group where we wanted to boil lots of water quickly without having a bunch of stoves. A Jetboil could save weight for a group, but it’s heavy for an individual. One of my main trail friends uses a Whisperlite and he’s masterful with it, but it is a slightly heavier option.

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Gourmet coffee and eggs with bacon bits

My cookpot (Toaks 550 ml) and cup are titanium. Some prefer a larger pot, but this one boils water for coffee and scrambled eggs though it does get close to the rim with evening meals. I made a pot cozy using foam and Gorilla Glue that extends the cooking time and keeps the food warm while I eat it. I love coffee and have a somewhat unique coffee recipe. I sometimes wish my mug were bigger, but it fits nicely inside my pot.

Food is generally heavy. I rarely use commercial freeze-dried meals, preferring to pack my own using soups, instant potatoes, and Knorr meals as a base. Add dehydrated vegetables and freeze-dried chicken to make good meals with less packaging and weight. I carry trash in an empty coffee bag. It’s light, durable, and I don’t have to look at my trash as with a plastic bag.

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Black Diamond trekking pole & titanium tarp stakes

Trekking Poles: Hiking poles aren’t a necessity, but I find they improve my stability, especially going downhill. They can also serve a dual purpose as tarp poles. Lightweight and simple are my favorite features. I don’t care for fancy adjustments/shock absorbers and sometimes see hikers playing with their stick lengths to the point of frustration because of tricky mechanisms. I use Black Diamond Distance Z trekking poles (non-adjustable).

Shoes and socks: I wear lightweight, low top hiking shoes or trail running shoes. I use crocs for creek crossing and around camp. I carry two pairs of Darn Tough socks with one pair on my feet and a backup pair in my pack. Everything adds up, so wearing lightweight clothes makes a difference in the weight your knees and feet will feel on the trail.

Personal items…what do I really need? I used to tweak around with toothbrushes, trying to lower the weight. I settled on tooth powder for a while instead of toothpaste. Now I just carry a roll of floss, that’s all. I floss each evening. Each morning a snap off a green twig and “brush” my teeth while walking along. After a few minutes, my teeth feel as clean as ever.

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Luxury Item: Give yourself one. It might be an iPod or some other item that adds to your enjoyment.  I love my double wall titanium mug, but it would qualify as a luxury item, so it never makes backpacking trips. My favorite luxury item is a package of wet-wipes. It feels good to clean up before sleeping, keeps the silk bag liner cleaner, and keeps down the stink.

Speaking of stink…. Proper pooping is important! There’s a whole book on the subject! For the Ozarks, bury your business away from the trail or water and pack out any toilet paper. I like to use leaves when possible to reduce the use of toilet paper though I still carry a little.  I like what Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland has on this subject and many more.

Life is all about nuanced choices, and the same is true of packing light. Experimenting with your gear can be fun and add to the anticipation of a trip, or it can drive you crazy and annoy those around you.

I think maybe “closet ultra-light backpacker” is the way to go. Quietly make decisions that reduce your pack weight, but don’t initiate conversations about subtle differences between the Toaks titanium cookpot over the MSR Titan Camping Kettle. Better to have campfire conversations about the trail, scenery, and life.

Enjoy your light pack, and the places your happy feet will take you!


If you want to hit some beautiful Arkansas and Missouri trails, pick up my book, Five Start Trails: The Ozarks.

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Happy feet on the John Muir Trail in the High Sierras of California

Hometown Memory Walk

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Our room deck was at the upper right side of the photo

We stayed at the Downtown Guest Quarters in El Dorado, Arkansas, a while back for my high school reunion. We didn’t know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed being right downtown. Several walks punctuated our days as we enjoyed seeing both historic and new aspects of my hometown.

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As you can tell, we enjoyed our little deck and the bird’s eye view of the area where we spent so many years while living and working in El Dorado. Our room was situated above the House of Wylie Coffee Bar and Cafe, a great little place I’d visited many times. It was nice to see them still going strong after more than twenty years.

Downtown El Dorado is made for pedestrians with sidewalks, wide roads, and lots of shops. Artwork featured guitars and music themes, probably a nod to the annual Music Fest that began in the early 1990s and has expanded as the Murphy Arts District had developed. At one time, there were oil barrel sculptures, but I can’t remember seeing them on this trip.

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Becca leading the way toward the Union County Court House and square

We were impressed with the outdoor performance facility that is part of the new Murphy Arts District (MAD). This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a huge stage with an expansive lawn for seating. The MAD includes a beautiful restaurant, indoor performance area, and ice skating rink.

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The Longest Day posterRenovation of the old Rialto Theatre is part of the Murphy Arts District development plan. This made me very happy. I saw lots of great movies in that theater, most memorably, The Longest Day that I watched with my father when I was seven.

Years later, after the theater was in dilapidated condition, the South Arkansas Symphony performed there to help raise funds for repair. By the end of the night, we thought the place might be haunted. One of the temporary lights illuminating the stage fell for no apparent reason. A violinist fell on the stairs next to the stage, breaking her leg and damaging her violin. I remember her being more disturbed about the violin than her leg.

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I found a gap in the construction screen and captured a view of the theater entrance, bringing back lots of memories.

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A newspaper spread for the 1929 opening of the Rialto Theatre is on display in the Downtown Guest Quarters. The Rialto was built for live performances with a stage and orchestra pit. I remember seeing a pipe organ in the pit that I’m guessing was once used to accompany silent movies or cartoons. 

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Across the street from the Rialto is one of several historic monuments commemorating the significance of the oil industry in El Dorado’s past.

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Many of the historic buildings serve different purposes today. The Union Furniture Company with “easy payment plans” isn’t a furniture company now.

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Walking in the early morning light is always a treat and avoids the crowds.

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Denise Taylor has Taylor Jewelry and is known for her masterful jewelry designs. I grew up with her husband, Gerald, a talented craftsman, and great person.

If you want to walk among the trees, El Dorado has what I think must be the smallest state park (12 acres) in Arkansas, South Arkansas Arboretum. One of our reunion events was there, so Becca and I enjoyed walking the trails.

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South Arkansas Arboretum

IMG_8325rrI thought of Carl Amason, who was instrumental in the development of the South Arkansas Arboretum, from design to plant selection, identification, giving tours and digging in the dirt.

As a child, I visited Carl’s 40-acre home in Calion several times with my parents. Walking the property and listening to him share his plants made me realize how passionate someone can be about the natural world. Having known him personally, I found it interesting to read his obituary and learn a little more about his influence. His name also appears at the entrance to Garvin Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs for his contribution and expertise.

Just a few blocks from downtown we walked past the old Warner Brown Hospital, no longer in operation. I wanted to stop by and have a look while it’s still standing. I was born there, but the reason I wanted to revisit the location was a memory I have from childhood.

I had strep infection that turned into rheumatic fever on Christmas morning of third grade. Dr. Cooper was concerned about me because I was pretty down after two weeks in the hospital. Then, one afternoon he entered my room and couldn’t believe the change in my mood. He asked my mother what had happened.

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Long deserted Warner Brown Hospital

Earlier that day, D’Arcy Stephens, a good friend had come to see me at the hospital…from a distance. Children weren’t allowed on patient floors, so my parents gave him one of my walkie talkies and brought the other one to my room. He stood on the lawn below my third-floor room while I sat in the window, and we had a great time making up childhood games to explain our situation, something to do with military spies, I think. After that special time with my friend, the emotional depression was lifted.

Several years later, D’Arcy’s family moved, and we lost touch. Many years later, I visited with him on the phone. He was a school principal in Louisiana, and I was a principal in Arkansas, which surprised us both since we preferred being outside rather than inside classrooms. His sister was also a school principal.

I lost track of him again until making contact with his sister, Jane, a few months ago. She let me know that D’Arcy had died. He’d led a great life, but I felt some regret at not having kept in touch.

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D’Arcy on the far right with me second from right. Behind us is Bill Colvin our Scout Master and a great mentor to all of us.

I credit D’Arcy, my father, and the Boy Scouts with helping me feel confident in the outdoors as a kid. Our Scout Master, Bill Colvin, was patient with us and always set the highest example of integrity, whether completing the requirements for a merit badge or following through on a promise.

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Light fixture from my childhood church

That evening, we visited the family church. It was a fitting end to this memory walk day and a reminder of how memories can be conjured up by an image or sound. It was also a reminder of the importance of a sense of place for children. I’m thankful for my hometown. I’m proud of what it has become and look forward to seeing its future.

My Father’s Wisdom

This isn’t typical of my trail-oriented posts, but something I wanted to share with my trail buddies. My father died in January at the age of 91, so this is our first Christmas without him. I was going through some letters on Christmas day and found one that I mentioned during my dad’s funeral to illustrate his wisdom in parenting.

He would be quick to say he wasn’t a perfect parent. I’d be quick to counter, perfection isn’t required. He wrote this letter (one of only a few) following the birth of our first child. I wanted to share an excerpt long ingrained in my memory since the first time I read it. With parents like mine, I should have turned out better!

My mother took this photo as my father and I moved some dirt in our backyard. Wish I still had that little wheelbarrow!

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Note: I would like to clarify that I never noticed the discipline slipping with my dad, but I did see evidence of unconditional love throughout his life.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a poem about my dad while thinking of how we spend years around someone and only scratch the surface. Part of the poem is below:

He was quiet, concrete, strong, and deliberate,
But often sang happy songs with a clear tenor voice.
He read slowly but knew what he read.
He was honest, even when it cost.

He loved his wife and kids, maybe imperfectly,
But he loved with his best understanding at the time.

Some have sad memories of their fathers.
Mine are not.

My only sadness? I barely knew him.

Mexico hike JC Warnock

Hiking a mountain close to Arteaga, Coahuila in Mexico

Celebrating Recovery at Lynn Hollow

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Lynn Hollow Creek

I haven’t posted in several weeks. I’ve been learning about my knees, important joints to all of us who like to walk. While rehabilitating my right knee with exercises, stretches, and my rowing machine, I watched hiking documentaries for inspiration. During this last week, my range of motion increased with less pain, so I decided to try it on a trail.

My first thought was a backpacking trip. I even loaded my pack but knew a few careful dayhikes might be more prudent and avoid further injury.

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Saturday morning at Wolf Pen

Late Friday night, Hiker-dog and I arrived at Wolf Pen Recreation Area on the Mulberry River. The whole place was ours on this cold night with drizzling rain. From the looks of it, the place probably gets heavy use when the river and weather are right for floating. I liked this location because it would put me driving past Oark General Store on the way to Arbaugh Trailhead the next morning.

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Good food and always a treat to visit with locals

One of the best ways to avoid injury is to slow down. A slower pace was my goal on this hike. I found that this approach was a good outlook in other areas, too. I didn’t rush getting up and actually slept in an extra hour. When I arrived at Oark a half-hour before they opened, I relaxed and enjoyed some reading.

It was 9 a.m. by the time I arrived at Arbaugh Trailhead, where we would walk the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) west to the other side of Lynn Hollow. Temperatures hovered just above freezing.

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Small stream that flows into Lynn Creek

I was filled with thanksgiving as I began my careful hike, remembering why I love walking in the woods so much. The constant movement through changing scenery, the air, the sounds! I think Hiker-dog was feeling some thankfulness herself. My knee problem has limited her runs to the Lake Alma Dam in the last few weeks.

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Wearing her hunter orange bandana

Going downhill on leaf-covered rocks was tricky on this wet morning. I took my time and avoided odd angles or sudden movements for my knee’s maiden voyage. Level trail and uphill felt good!

Hiker-dog made lots of return runs as if she noticed my slower pace. She’s pretty stealthy, able to run through the woods, then return without my noticing her at my heels.

I’d planned to stay on the trail, but seeing a cascade in the distance at the Lynn Creek crossing drew me on a careful bushwhack upstream for a look.

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Lynn Hollow Creek

After climbing the OHT on the other side of Lynn Hollow, we enjoyed a pleasant walk with views down into the hollow and the distant hum of the creek. Our wildlife sightings included five turkeys and two deer.

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Looking down into Lynn Hollow

I reached a road crossing and checked my map to see how far we were from several waterfalls that would be fun to see since creeks were running. I decided to stick with the 5-mile out-and-back for today, so we turned around at the road with a little regret. Sometimes we need to practice cutting demands on our body rather always trying to “ramp it up.”

On the return trip, we took the spur trail to a beautiful pool and cascade. This is a special spot, one that made me consider adding Arbaugh to Lynn Hollow in my trail guidebook , but it didn’t make the cut because I was wanting something a little longer in the area. Still, it’s a great little dayhike and well worth the drive.

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Pool at Lynn Hollow

Once at the pool, we crawled under a rock ledge and took a few photos of the incoming cascade. Great little spot for a break!

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Pool from under a rock overhang

The walk back to Arbaugh Trailhead was pure enjoyment, now warm from the walking and with sunshine beaming down. It was 12:15 when we arrived back at the truck and I had lunch on my mind.

It was just a few miles out of my way, but I’d not visited Catalpa Cafe for several months. It’s located where the pavement ends 3-miles east of Oark.

IMG_9761rrRandy, owner, and sole employee, prides himself on gourmet cooking. I had the Catalpa Burger (with homemade buns), crispy onion rings, and a piece of key lime pie for later. The place was busy, but I wasn’t in a hurry, still holding onto my slow-paced mindset. I took Hiker-dog for a walk to a nearby creek crossing while waiting on the burger.

After filling up on great food, we headed home, thankful for joints that work, and a good day on the trail to celebrate recovery.

Hare Mountain Hike-In and a Cathedral Walk

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Some of those who hiked in enjoying food and fellowship

On Saturday, November 2, about thirty hikers enjoyed a potluck dinner and visited around the campfire, continuing the traditional annual Hare Mountain Hike-In to the high point of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It never fails that I meet new hikers and enjoy catching up with old trail friends, too.

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When I arrived, someone pointed out the walking stick on my walking stick. Just had to catch a photo of this little friend before moving him back to the leaves.

Some of my trail friends are aware of my obsession with spoons.  As I walked up Hare Mountain from Morgan Fields Trailhead, I noticed a spoon in the middle of the trail. It reminded me of the one Bob found for me at Lynn Hollow (on the right in the picture below).

Spoons

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The lost spoon

I picked up what I thought was probably someone’s serving spoon intended for the potluck later that evening. After arriving at the top of the mountain and visiting for a minute, I remembered the spoon and pulled it out, asking if anyone was missing a spoon. Norma was excited to see it and said it went with her casserole.

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Norma with her found spoon

Miles won the heaviest dish award with his dutch oven cooking. The smell was amazing, and from all reports, his results were top notch.

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Each year we’re seeing more young people coming up for the meal and camping for the night. Spread the word to watch for next year’s Hike-In about this same time. Sharing our love for the trail and our volunteer efforts was an encouragement to everyone. A few funny trail stories always crop up around the campfire. The group made a toast to several elder hiker friends who have passed on during the past few years.

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One of many views from the OHT on Hare Mountain

After dinner, I walked back down to Morgan Fields Trailhead and slept in my truck camper with Hiker-dog. Temperatures were in the upper 20s Sunday morning, perfect for hitting the trail!

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Hiker-dog on Dawna Robinson Spur Trail

Hiker-dog was excited to do an early morning walk on the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail. We paused to check on the memorial marker by headlamp early in the walk. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) purchased the marker, and Bob Robinson installed it in 2012 after OHTA volunteers completed the trail. The marker is as beautiful today as the day it was put in place.

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Indian Creek Spur Trail In memory of Dawna Robinson

Toward the end of our hike, we paused at a favorite bluff.

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Once back at the trailhead, we walked down to the Mulberry River where frost flowers lined the shore. They’re a special little treat for those who rise early on cold mornings in the Ozarks.

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One of many frost flowers next to the Mulberry River

Because of our early start, we easily drove back home in time to get to church where I play drums during the music service. Playing drums and regular time on the trails helps alleviate my squirminess in the pew. As I drove, I thought of the beautiful cathedral I’d already visited during the early morning on the trail.

Hiker-dog, trail volunteer and nighttime guide

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On November 9, there will be trail run across my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), and it had been a while since I walked it. Because of schedules, I had to check it during the evening. I didn’t realize that I’d be adding to my list of positive Hiker-dog attributes – more on that in a moment.

Water was flowing from recent rains, and colors were beginning to change. Temperatures began in the lower 40s and dipped into the upper 30s by the time I finished. Woohoo! It finally feels like fall!

Stihl handsawI stopped and used my small handsaw on a few limbs and trees across the trail. Love that little saw and am amazed at what it will cut. My task on this evening was to look for trees that might need to be cut out by an expert sawyer, so I stopped to set GPS waypoints and make quick notes where future cuts might be required.

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I had to pause at creek crossings for a photo but only spent a few seconds at each. My adopted section runs along the ridge on the north side of  Jack Creek. It crosses several seasonal streams that flow into Jack Creek, and each one is worthy of a lunch break when water is flowing.

By the time we reached the camp spot about 4 miles from Dochery Gap, Jack Creek was powerful, having picked up steam from all those little streams I’d been crossing.

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Jack Creek

After giving Hiker-dog a snack, we headed back toward the truck, four miles away. I stuck my headlamp in my top pocket for later.

IMG_8802rrHiker-dog provided lots of entertainment on the dark portion of our hike. Two reflective eyes kept popping up out ahead of me as she turned to be sure I was following. These eyes helped me stay on the trail a couple of times, especially when I crossed a creek and then wasn’t sure which way the path went afterward. Sure enough, eyes could be seen staring at me as if wondering what I was waiting for. I took note that any future hikes after dark should include Hiker-dog and she added to her list of positive attributes as a trail partner.

If you love the OHT, consider volunteering or adopting a section to do light maintenance and monitor. It’s a great way to contribute to keeping the trail open, and it’s fun! Visit Ozark Highlands Trail Association website under “Maintenance” to learn more.

If you’d like to meet some nice folks, join us for the Hare Mountain Hike-in, a fall tradition that dates back to the 1980s.


HARE MOUNTAIN! NOVEMBER 2-3, 2019 “CELEBRATE THE OHT”. Hike in anytime Saturday from Morgan Field (shorter, but steeper) or from Cherry Bend TH. It’s pot luck, so bring something to share with your fellow hikers. Bring your kids or grandkids. Enjoy the campfire and camp for the night. Or hike back down Saturday after eating. Most people camp and hike out Sunday. Bring water. For more information call Bob or Dana 479-595-5461 or 479-263-7479. DON’T MISS THIS TRADITIONAL HIKE-IN CAMPOUT ON THE TRAIL’S HIGHEST POINT!

 

 

Trail Maintenance Cure

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Todd found a nice spot for a break.

I was feeling under the weather but still wanted to take part in a trail maintenance base camp sponsored by the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. I was tempted to cancel but knew my body needed to be outside. What I didn’t realize was that the combination of trail work, fellowship with some good folks, and sleeping in the night air of the Ozarks would be the cure I needed. By the end of the trip, I was feeling much better.

We worked on the Buffalo River Trail section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I last hiked this section of trail in January of 2014, so it was a treat to see again and brought back memories of the starving black dog that followed us for 42 miles before arriving at Tyler Bend. As I walked this section in 2014, I avoided becoming attached to that dog because I doubted that she would survive. She did survive and became a great trail friend and training partner.

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Hiker-dog on the Ozark Highlands Trail

To read Hiker-dog’s story: Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Hiking the OHT and A New Trail Partner

Gear Obsession: Spoons

Spoons

Several years ago, I was on the Ozark Highlands Trail and damaged my plastic spoon while cooking (similar to #4 above). It still worked but the melted part caught my teeth with every bite. The next evening we made camp at Lynn Hollow close to Arbaugh Trailhead. A trail buddy, Bob, noticed something shiny sticking out of the sand next to the creek. There was a metal spoon that accompanied me the remainder of the trip (#6 above). I retired it after that trip due to its weight (1.5 oz.), but I’ve kept it as a souvenir from that trip. This “spoon story” crept into “The Trails Provide,” in Do South Magazine. 

I failed to pack a spoon once when I was on Arkansas’ Ouachita Trail. I managed to drink soup the first night out and used a stick to stir while cooking. On the next day, I stopped at a shelter on the trail and opened the storage box intending to read a few journal entries while taking a break. There sat a Wendy’s Restaurant spoon (.1 oz.) still in its plastic wrap. I used that spoon for several trips (similar to #1 above).

Because of these experiences, I’ve developed an obsession with spoons. I recently found a bamboo spoon and was fascinated with its lightweight and good natural feel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold much and will probably not come into regular use. The titanium spoon (#5), a gift from my wife, is my main spoon but, for some reason, I always like to carry a backup.

If you have a gear obsession, I’d like to hear about it.

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Creek crossing on Missouri’s Ozark Trail

To read more about packing, check out How to Prepare for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips.

The Trails Provide, Published in Do South Magazine

Here’s a link to the story I wrote for Do South Magazine, one of my favorite regional magazines. Thanks for reading!

 

THE TRAILS PROVIDE

WORDS AND IMAGES: JIM WARNOCK

Published in Do South Magazine September, 2019

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“Oh my!” Kathy yelled with a panicked crack in her voice. Scott and Kathy were part of a group at mile sixty-four of the Ozark Highlands Trail when the unthinkable happened. The left sole of Kathy’s shoe came apart, bringing her to an abrupt halt. We huddled around like paramedics taping a wound…..

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Walking with a thankful heart and a few lyrics in my head

IMG_0566rrThis morning I walked with a thankful heart, a heart pumping blood through an aortic artery repaired by Denton Cooley when I was 16. At about the same time as that surgery, I read an article about the poetic elements in Sweet Baby James, by James Taylor.

The song stuck with me and has helped me walk many miles. I sing it softly to avoid disturbing the wildlife or personal embarrassment if another hiker approaches. The words never grow old and, in some ways, become more meaningful with time.

Here’s an excerpt.

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

Goodnight all you moonlight ladies 
Rock-a-bye sweet baby James 
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams

There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway
There’s a song that they sing when they take to the sea
There’s a song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep,
But singing works just fine for me