Monday, March 29, 2021

Day 3: The Detour

February 25: It was about 1:00 in the morning when I woke up suddenly to a light sprinkle of rain. Drats! I had known this was a distinct possibility, however, and had planned ahead with my location for the campsite and had my tarp, tent stakes, trekking pole, Crocs and a headlamp at the ready. I leaped into action!

First, I wanted to keep all my stuff dry so I spread out the tarp across everything, then quickly staked out the corners. My gear was exposed to the slight sprinkle for probably less than 60 seconds before I got it covered. Staking out the tarp and getting it off the ground took a few minutes more, but I dived back under the tarp still mostly dry. I gave myself a virtual pat on the back for a job well done.

Almost immediately, the rain stopped. Mother nature seemed to be toying with me, and the rain faucets of the sky stayed off the rest of the night. If I realized that it would be so little, I would have just thrown the tarp over myself like a blanket instead of setting it up. Oh, well....


And the detour begins!

I soon fell back asleep, secure in the knowledge that if it did start raining again, I could sleep soundly and wouldn't have to wake up again to deal with the matter.

The morning eventually dawned to a cloudy and gloomy day. I ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, and broke down camp. Today was one of my longer days of the trail--about 15 miles--but I didn't linger in camp. I knew the weather forecast called for rain later in the afternoon and I hoped to get as much of the 15 miles done before the rain started. If I was really lucky, maybe I could even finish the day's hike before any rain fell. That would be wonderful!

So... no lingering. No long rest breaks.

My shoulders felt particularly sore at this point. The heavy weight of my pack felt excruciating--more than I would have expected considering how easy the terrain was and how slowly I had been walking. My waist where the waist belt of my pack connected was more than a little sore as well, but it was the shoulders that were the most tender. It was also worse in the morning. Once I got walking, the pain numbed itself a bit, but getting my pack on in the morning--ugh!

Anyhow... I was ready to hit the trail. I only had to cover maybe a quarter-mile until I reached Farm Road 1375 and the start of the detour. Normally, the trail would head north and up and over Conroe Lake, but since the bridge across the San Jacinto River was washed out, I'd be walking primarily on roads and motorbike trails, adding an extra 5 or so miles to the official trail mileage, and walking across Lake Conroe.

FM 1375 was no pleasant walk either. It was a busy, paved road with fast-moving traffic and often times did not include much of a shoulder to walk on. The good news, however, was that it was fast and easy. I trod along at a quick pace, eager to get off the road.

Farm Road 1375 isn't a fun one to walk....

The maps I had included two possible detours. One was longer than the other, so naturally I was inclined to the shorter route, but the shorter route apparently required a small bit of bushwhacking which I had no interest in doing and I decided to do the longer of the alternates. Just because it was shorter in distance did not mean it would be faster! But it would certainly be more difficult! I went with the slightly longer option.

Conroe Lake

That had me turn up to the road to the Gulf Coast Trades Center, which sounds like a shipping empire but seemed to be more of a summer camp for kids as far as I could tell from walking by it, and I didn't see any kids. It was February, though, so maybe the camp wasn't running now?

Along this stretch, the traffic wasn't as busy, but there was still traffic and I heard one car slowing down as it came up from behind me. I rolled my eyes. I just knew they were going to be trouble. I don't know why I thought that, but I suspected the kind of people who often drove this road probably weren't hikers and probably didn't appreciate our presence.

The vehicle was a small, four-door sedan, and the driver rolled down her window. She was a middle-aged women and told me in no uncertain terms that camping was not allowed in the woods there. There was a camp nearby where 11-year old children (children! she repeated, in case I missed it the first time) played.

I got the distinct impression that she thought I was a pedophile. It was also 9:00 in the morning and the idea of setting up camp along such a busy road had never even occurred to me. And frankly, she ticked me off with her wild assumptions and implied accusations.

Gulf Coast Trades Center

"Well, ma'am," I said--deliberately using "ma'am" more as an insult than a sign of respect. "I have no intention of camping anywhere near here. I'm just hiking the Lone Star Trail."

I thought about not telling her what I was doing at all, but I really just wanted her to leave me alone and I figured if she knew I was just passing through with no intention of stopping anywhere nearby, she'd let me go with less of a fuss. I also wanted to give her the finger. Or mess with her in other ways. "Oh, thanks for letting me know that camping wasn't allowed. I'll be sure to be careful in choosing a good hiding place."

Or even tell her all the illegal things that she shouldn't be doing (and wasn't). "Hey, you know, you shouldn't be killing people and burying the bodies in your backyard." If she claimed that she'd never do that, I'd point out, "Well, you looked suspicious. I can't be too careful!"

Anyhow, I stayed polite, never-minding the passive-aggressive "ma'am" I threw at her earlier. I could imagine her reporting me to the police. "He called me ma'am! The scoundrel!"

I continued the hike. The paved road finally turned to gravel which I much appreciated, then turned onto a gravel road that had a barrier to block vehicles which I appreciated even more. At least I didn't have to worry about idiots driving along the road anymore.

I took a quick snack break at this point--I am only human, after all--and it was a pleasant place to rest.

But I soon picked up my pack again and marched onward. I was on a mission to get done with this detour and set up camp as early in the afternoon as possible.

The route soon turned onto a smaller trail, but this one appeared to be used by motorbikes and was badly eroded in places with lots of slick mud and puddles. I often had trouble getting around them without slipping in the mud--very annoying! I couldn't get mad at the bikers that did this, however, since I felt like I was invading their territory with my detour off the main trail, but I sure didn't enjoy it either.

Motorbikes seemed have really tore up this trail!

Then the route kind of reversed itself, turning onto bigger and busier roads as I neared the end of the reroute. First it turned onto a little-used gravel road. Then onto a busy paved road. I did pass a few people actually on foot--but they weren't hikers. They were workers tagging trees with ribbons marking a boundary for cutting the trees.

The last bit of the detour took me back onto a gravel road blocked to vehicles and I finally reached the primary route of the Lone Star Trail again. The detour, thank goodness, was over!

I took another rest here and ate a few snacks. At this point, I would have been happy just to stop anywhere. Getting through the detour had been my primary goal for the day and mission accomplished! But... I needed some water. I continued hiking until I reached a creek with a slightly milky color in it. Not the best-looking water I've ever seen, but at least it wasn't horribly muddy either.

As I was filling up with water, a few light sprinkles started to fall. Yep, I really needed to set up camp soon!

Filling up with water.

I got the water I needed--which took much longer than I preferred since I was treating it--then hit the trail. My guidebook reported some good places to camp not far ahead, so I set out to hit that.

Perhaps 10 to 15 minutes later, I found a decently large and clear area for a campsite. The rain, which had largely held off during the walk, started up again a few minutes before I found the site. If it hadn't been raining, I might have pushed on a little bit more looking for an even better site, but once the rain started, I took the first place I found that would fit me.

I dropped my pack, ripped out the tarp and set it up within a few minutes before diving under it for cover. I was wet--no two ways about it--but at least I wasn't soaking wet. My clothes were wet the to touch, but there wasn't enough water in them to wring it out if I tried.

Under the tarp, I spread out my groundsheet and relaxed. I kept my wet clothing on for the next half hour or so hoping my body heat would help dry it out. There are few things worse in life than putting on a cold, wet shirt in the morning. Eventually I got tired of the wet, clammy clothes and changed into my dry camp clothes.

Safe and slightly wet under my tarp! =)

I had reached camp by 2:30 in the afternoon. I still had a lot of daylight hours to kill. And, for some inexplicable reason, my electronic devices were extraordinarily low on power. My solar-powered charger was completely dead and with the overcast skies all day, I had been unable to recharge any of it. The fact that it was completely dead concerned me a bit. I had started the trail with it fully charged and hadn't used much of it. It shouldn't have been completely dead.

My phone was mostly charged... for now. But I needed the battery to last until I finished the trail nearly a week later. Have you ever tried to use a phone without recharging it for a week?

So I was a little disappointed when I realized that I couldn't pass the time watching Netflix like I often liked to do in the evening. Instead, I mostly read my Kindle. It was still fully charged and at least that device typically lasts for weeks between recharging! I could read it for hours every day and not run out of power for that.

I hadn't seen a single hiker all day on the trail, although with the two alternate routes available, it was possible we could have passed each other going in opposite directions without knowing it. But as far as I knew, I was alone on this trail. Where were all the other hikers?!

So I read a lot. The rain continued all afternoon and into the evening--a steady moderate rain. I cooked dinner later in the evening at the edge of my tarp. And wrote in my journal. And listened to the rain.

Uhhh... okay.... Good to know, I suppose.


GG said...

I've been refreshing myself on necessary knots.
This left me wondering about your necessary knots you use on the trail.

Also, a little network time killer I picked up from a website about sailing knots.
Keep a short length of line in your pocket to practice and play with when you have nothing else to do.

Ryan said...

Oh, gosh.... I have trouble remembering the names of the knots I use. Obviously, I know how to make them! But names...? For my tarp, I primarily use three types of knots. One are the ones used to stake down the tarp which create a loop at the end of the line. Another knot I use to attach the tarp to my trekking pole or a stick, which kind of make two overlapping circles. That only gets used if I use my trekking pole or a stick, though. If I attach the ridgeline to a tree, I don't need it. And the third knot is one that ties back on itself and can slide up or down the rope which I use to tighten the ridgeline if it starts stretching out during the night.

Then I use several other knots for climbing trees: a modified Blake's hitch, slip knots, half-bite on a something or another....

Knots are fun! But the only ones I really know how to make are the ones I use regularly. I'm definitely not a knot expert.