Sunday, October 03, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 3

We woke to frost on the ground. Whoa! I told you it was cold! Lorrie got up and got the fire started again. That certainly helped. Emma Blue had drunk most of the rest of our water through the night so we decided to just pack it up and head out to the car where I could make breakfast with the water we had there. Of course we had to sit and enjoy the fire for a little while first. And we had some dried fruit and nuts to keep hunger at bay. We were able to pack up pretty quickly though the tent was still pretty wet from the frost. Then I shook the rainfly and accidentally got the sleeping pads wet. While Lorrie was in the tent. Oops!

We were out of there around 10:30am. We walked back toward Ash Trail but then took a left toward "Headquaters." lol I love signs with misspelling! Must have been made by someone in New Yawk! Not a statement on New Yorkers' spelling abilities... just say "Headquaters" out loud and you'll understand.

So the uphill singletrack we did yesterday became downhill singletrack today. Yay! That was much easier. Though I know eventually downhill can become very difficult and painful, it did not this time. We made it out to the car in about 45 minutes. Not bad! When we got there some people from the other campsite that we'd waved to as we left were sitting at their car. Apparently they had taken the Fire Tower Road and it was much quicker. But we weren't looking for quick as we wanted to draw this out as much as possible. As we were changing clothes and getting things put away, the group of girls with their leaders also came out. They were very excited about being back at the car and were very cute about it!

Back on the road toward home, we stopped at a cafe along the river in Lansing, Iowa for some lunch. There were still many signs of the flooding from last week apparent. On the road and home. An awesome first backpacking trip for Lorrie and a great Birthday Backpacking Trip for myself!!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 2

My birthday! What a great way to wake up... in the woods! It was cold and overcast! Not what the forecast had forecast. Oh well. Got the fire going again. Breakfast of rice and dried fruit for us and kibble for Bear Bell... Emma Blue's trail name given her by Pam on the Superior Hiking Trail.

We slowly started packing things up to get moving. Of course it takes us a little longer because we're not that experienced. But I feel like we have packed well. I was worried that we might overpack... especially me! But it doesn't seem to be the case. Off we went down the single track toward more double track. On the way out of the camping area, we spoke briefly with a couple and their 2 large dogs who had camped in the first area. Not about anything in particular... just a quick good morning chat.

We went back to the entrance to the equestrian campground then turned left to cross the bridge over the river. We followed that double track with cornfields on the right and the river on the left. It was really quite beautiful with the changing of the colors. This road became somewhat hilly... rolling I guess they're called. Eventually we passed a turnoff to what looked like singletrack to the Fire Tower. About 2 miles in or so, there was a turn off toward Brown's Hollow Camp. We took that and were soon in the middle of that campground. Again 3 fire pits but a very large open area not separated by anything. It was about 12:30pm by this point so we needed to decide whether to go on, eat lunch and go on, or just stop here to camp. We decided to eat lunch and go on. There were already 3 tents in one area and it seemed a little too open for our liking. Of course, we had no idea what the next sites would be like but we decided to chance it. For lunch, chicken with curry on pita. Different than what was for dinner. In fact, until I just wrote that I had forgotten we'd had chicken with curry for dinner and lunch. Got everything packed up again and were on our way. More rolling doubletracks. Not far from the campground, an older couple asked to take a photo of Emma Blue because she's just too damn cute for words with her pack on. Up and down a bit more until there was a sign for Ash Trail to the left. The trail was totally covered by leaves such that I wasn't really sure it was even a trail. But I could see another sign ahead and according to the map there were no other turnoffs to the left like this. So... down into a steep ditch and back up to singletrack almost entirely covered by leaves. This was the steepest part of the trip so far. The trail ended up being relatively easy to follow. Periodically we would stop and look for a sign further ahead to indicate we were going the right direction. We always were so the markings were adequate. We eventually got to the other end of that Fire Tower trail that we had passed and ran into a group of about 10 young girls with 2 women leaders. Cute! They also asked to take photos of Emma Blue. Her head was getting almost big enough to fit her big ears at this point! ha! Another 1/2 mile or so and we were at the entrance to Camp John Schultz. There was only 1 fire ring and there were already 3 tents in the space. So we worried that the other site might have been better. Then Lorrie realizes there is another area. That area has 2 fire rings and no one is camping there yet. So we grabbed the one we liked and got set up. Got the fire started right away in case it started getting cold like it had the previous night. It got colder!! While we were finishing setting up, 3 young guys showed up and took the other fire ring. Stereotypes popped into both our heads about the noise and such they would cause. Aside from some early loud F-ing this and F-ing that, they were great campground companions. Gotta watch those stereotypes!

Dinner was salmon couscous. Yummy!! Then Lorrie brought freeze dried cheesecake with chocolate chunks for my birthday cake. YUMMY! My gifts were an eton Scorpion (orange) , travel National Park Yahtzee, and an iTunes card! Awesome! I guess my other gift was that Lorrie carried them all in a gift bag the whole time. lol So we took out the Yahtzee game and started playing on a log. While I was shaking the can at one point, a family of hunters were "sneaking" by. They jumped and looked at us like we'd scared away their game. But we'd seen no "game" except Yahtzee! lol Good thing they weren't twitchy!! It would suck to be killed by a hunter in the woods on my birthday. I have to say, it was very strange to be sitting in a campsite with hunters walking by with rifles. It didn't feel terribly safe to me. As it got darker, it got much colder. The forecast called for low 50s. I have no idea. But it was cold! So into the tent we went where we watched "Get Him To the Greek" on my little iPod Nano. lol An amazing thing! Interesting movie... combination of very funny and very very disturbing. I'm not sure I would recommend it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 1

Emma Blue prepares to get going (date is a month off)
Funny how easy it is to load a car with just 2 backpacks and a small bag with clean clothes for when we get back to the car. We dropped Tori off at the kennel. NOT an easy thing! Though it looked like she'd be in a nice quiet place and they promised she'd get some good social time. "She'll be fine" became our mantra.

We headed south toward Iowa. Yep, Iowa! The backpacking capital of the world. Ha! Well, it was highlighted in the 1996 Outside Magazine. So I thought we'd take a shot.

We drove east on I-90 toward LaCrosse. Our lovely GPS, whose name is Paddam, told us the wrong exit number at the right location. So we missed it. Oops! Decided to make lemonade our of lemons and had some lunch across the border in Wisconsin. Then we drove along the Mississippi on the Wisconsin side most of the way. It was beautiful though there was still some evidence of the flooding from last week. We crossed into Lansing, Iowa, which was the cutest little river town. At that point, we were only about 20 minutes from the parking lot. Awesome! About 3 hours drive time.

We got parked and everything organized. This is where inexperience reared its head. Just for a second though. We didn't have a great map of the area. The maps online and the map they had at backpack parking seemed to be lacking in some detail. And, if it was accurate, it would be about 4 miles to our first campsite. So we decided that I would drop Lorrie and Emma Blue off where the trail crosses the road and then walked from the parking lot to that point without my pack. So that's what we did. Turned out that was a pretty good decision. Though it also turned out that we probably would have had enough time to do the initial part of the trail as well. That's okay... I think it was better to listen to my gut. So off we went.

It took just over an hour to get to the first site, Heffern's Hill Camp. The trail was mainly fire road, gravel. We had one river crossing that was pretty low and neither of us got our socks wet. There was quite a bit of horse manure on the trail. Which is just gross anyway but even worse when you have a dog that likes to roll around in it! We were able to prevent that. This part of the trail allowed horses (obvious!) and bicycles. The campsite was at the top of a small inclined trail which allowed only human (and dog) foot traffic. No horses or bikes. There were 3 camping areas each with its own fire grate. At the 3rd site, there was also a warming shed for skiers. Though I considered putting our tent up in that just so I didn't have to use the rainfly. It was a little too far from the fire to go with that thought though. This 3rd site is probably the best for a larger group as well. The other 2 were big enough for small groups.

After getting everything set up, we decided to go explore. As we got toward the bottom of the hill, we noticed a group of men shooting their guns. We weren't sure if there was a shooting range or if hunting was allowed. Turns out that you can hunt anywhere in the Yellow River National Forest except campgrounds. Hmm, not too reassuring. No rule about shooting *toward* a campground. I saw nothing about seasons for hunting there so I don't know if this is something we would experience any time of year. If so, it's not someplace I'll be in a rush to go back.

After the gunfire died down, the wind picked up and there were some rain sprinkles. We had chicken curry for dinner... freezer bag cooking. Lorrie gave it a 4.5/5 tents! Pretty good start for her first backpacking experiencing. Though the fire was keeping us warm, it seemed the rain was going to force us into the tent. It was still pretty early so we did some reading. I have chronic difficulty sleeping the first night backpacking and sometimes camping. It's VERY annoying! The longer I stay awake, the more I start hearing ominous sounds. You know... squirrels stomping, birds dive bombing, lots of things that aren't really happening. And then there's the one-armed man with a hook who just escaped prison. He's usually around somewhere come midnight. Another problem is that if I'm awake in such a small space, so is Lorrie. That's just how it works. Emma Blue was up a lot too. I'm not sure what her deal was. But I think she got more sleep than Lorrie or me. lol