Friday, April 2, 2021

Day 5: A Day of People

February 27: I woke up at a ridiculously early 4:00am. It wasn't a surprise given the fact that I fell asleep at 7:30 the evening before--it gave me a solid 8.5 hours of sleep. But I also knew that waking up so early would cause me to fall asleep especially earlier tonight as well. Oh, well....

It sprinkled a few times during the night, and I was glad that I had already set up my tarp so I didn't have to frantically run around in the dark setting it up. I had hours before daylight, though, so I did turn on my phone to check the weather and make sure AQ was still up and running, but I didn't linger and shut it down quickly. It would have to stay off again until tomorrow morning. For the rest of the pre-light morning, I simply read my Kindle to kill time.

Someone left behind this chair at an officially designated campsite a little further up the trail. I was a little disappointed that I hadn't camped here and used it!

By dawn, the sprinkling had stopped, but the temperature felt particularly warm and humid. I probably could have slept the whole night with no sleeping bag at all and been perfectly warm and cozy. It actually felt warmer to me in the morning now than it did when I went to sleep last night which almost never happens.

The trail was non-eventful for the most part. The most exciting thing to happen was running into a sign marking the high point a whopping 445 feet (136 m) above sea level. I would have walked passed the momentous point if it hadn't been labeled since it was not at all obvious that I was at a high point. The trail feels mostly flat. Describing the trail as "rolling hills" seems generous at best. Attached to the post was an ammo can with a register that hikers could sign, so I stopped to do that.

It's official! We're at the highest point of the Lone Star Trail! At least that's my assumption... the sign actually doesn't say what it's the high point of. The county? The state? Or maybe it's just informative. "This mountain is called High Point and it's at 445 feet above sea level." The high point of the trail could be somewhere else and is even higher! So... the sign actually isn't super clear and I'm making an enormous assumption that it's the high point of the trail.

In the middle of day, I needed to follow a road walk for several miles. The first segment was next to a busy and miserable road full of traffic, but it was the two dogs that ran out from one of the houses that gave me the most concern. They did not seem particularly friendly at all. I was a little surprised that they weren't leashed or fenced in. Typically, along a busy road, most owners don't let their dogs run loose since they might be struck by traffic, but these owners seemed particularly reckless in that regard. It's usually the quieter backroads where I find troublesome dogs.

I checked for traffic and quickly dashed to the other side of the road figuring that maybe a line of busy cars between me and the dogs would cause them to back off, and it appeared to work. At first....

They barked angrily at me from the far side of the road, and I turned my back and continued to walk off. Then I heard a car honk its horn and slam on their breaks. I turned to look and saw that one of the dogs had, in fact, picked up its courage to cross the road to chase me and nearly paid for that decision with its life. The dog ran back to the edge of the road--the opposite side from me--and the vehicle that honked its horn slowly drove by.

I was a little disappointed that the vehicle hadn't actually hit the dog. At least the dog wouldn't have been a threat to me anymore--and perhaps it would teach the dog's owner a lesson that maybe they shouldn't let their dog run loose. I don't hate dogs, but these sorts of unfriendly dogs should not be running loose. They're a danger to pedestrians like me, and even to vehicles on the road. (People can and do swerve to avoid animals on the road which has led to accidents and deaths.)

The two dogs continued to bark, and I continued trying to put more distance between us.

Eventually, I left the dogs behind, as well as the busy road for a quieter road. I worried that the quieter road would be even more problematic with dogs running loose, but except for a couple at the end of the road walk, it wasn't. And even the couple that did come out to chase me didn't put much effort into it since I had already passed the property they were on before they noticed my presence.

The more exciting thing to happen was crossing paths with three other backpackers--three of them! They were hiking in the opposite direction and we chatted for several minutes. It was nice to feel like I was among "my people" again. (i.e. backpackers). They were the first backpackers I had seen on the trail, and had even seen my post on the Lone Star Trail Facebook page asking where all the other hikers were (which I posted before I had realized how critical my electricity needs had become).

I was a little disappointed that we weren't hiking in the same direction, but we eventually headed our separate ways.

And eventually, the trail headed back into the woods. I decided to take a decently long break once I re-entered the woods, with the peace and quiet of nature around me. I took off my shoes. You know it'll be a long break when I take off my shoes. I almost ever bother unless I'm going to stop for at least a half hour. I planned to stop for a full hour!

I had been minding my own business and eating snacks for about 20 minutes when I heard what sounded like a shotgun blast just out of view. WTF?! I looked around, trying to figure out if I was in the line of fire of some idiot, but I didn't see anyone. Which, of course, would have meant they couldn't see me. I really hoped those bullets didn't fly further than they could see.

I had been sitting on a log, but I moved to the ground behind the log for added protection as more gunfire roared through the air.

I figured whoever it was must be shooting at targets. With as many shots being made, any animals in the area would have long since scattered. Still not entirely sure where the gunfire was being directed, though, I didn't feel very comfortable. And anyhow, it totally ruined the quiet, peaceful contemplation of my break.

I slipped my shoes back on, hefted my pack, and continued hiking. My break was done.

Later in the afternoon, I passed another post with a sign on the trail, this time marking the halfway point of the trail. Given the long detour I took on day #3 around the bridge closure, I was actually past my halfway point, but in terms of official trail miles--I had reached the halfway point. Hip! Hip! Hurray!

Halfway! It's official! I was particularly fond of the paintings on the signs. Much more interesting than typical boring signs with just text. =)

A solitary runner passed me heading in the opposite direction--the fourth person I saw on the trail today. The trail was feeling positively crowded compared to the first four days! =)

Late in the afternoon, the sun had come out for a bit, and I threw out my solar charger hoping to grab a little extra energy, but the partly cloudy skies caused it not to be consistent. It charged for a little bit, but I knew it didn't amount to much. If I was lucky, my solar charger might have reached 15% full.

Looking ahead on the map, there was a 3-mile road walk ahead--at about the area where I wanted to camp. I definitely had no intention of camping on a road-walk, however, and decided to add an extra 3 miles to my day's hike to get me into the Big Woods section of the trail.

The road walk wasn't particularly bad. It was on a gravel road through undeveloped areas with no houses and therefore no dogs running loose. The trail did pass by the Huntsville Compression Station, which apparently has something to do with the oil industry, but I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of a "compression station" is. I just knew that it makes a heck of a lot of noise when you walk by it!

The Huntsville Compressor Station

I passed another backpacker heading in the opposite direction quite late in the afternoon. He looked absolutely exhausted, but I slowed down to say, "Hi! How are you?"

He answered, "Hi," in reply, and answered, "Doing well. Are are you?" He did not slow down to hear my answer, however, and kept walking by even as I told him that I was doing well. He really didn't look like he was doing well, though. I was pretty sure he had lied to me!

Okay, not very talkative. That's fine, but I was a little disappointed. I wondered how far he had come today because he really did look like crap. If he told me he he had just hiked 40 miles that afternoon, I'd totally have believed him.

I finally reached the end of the road walk, at which point I planned to stop at the first decent campsite I could find. I was little dismayed, however, when I saw that everything had burned. Starting right at the trailhead where the trail re-entered the woods, it had been completely burned. My gut feeling was that it was a prescribed burn, but I didn't know that for certain at the time. The ground cover was thoroughly scorched, but the trees of the forest seemed to be fine and even the signage by the trailhead was undamaged from the fire.

It looked like a prescribed burn to me!

I had no desire to camp in a recently burned area, however. The dark ash sticks to everything and is so messy. I walked along the trail, looking for somewhere that somehow didn't burn. Fires are strange things, often skipping areas, and maybe the burn area didn't actually extend very far. If it only burned a quarter-mile into the woods, I could just camp on the other side. No problem!

So I continued hiking. Maybe a quarter-mile into the woods, I found an area that had been skipped by the burn. It didn't seem that I had made it completely through the burn area since I could see burn areas all around me, but this little pocket of flatness somehow came through unscathed and I called it a day. The campsite smelled like I was in a burn area, and I can't imagine was good for my lungs. It felt like breathing in secondhand smoke--but with the more pleasant smell of a campfire than a cigarette--but at least I wasn't camped in the burn area.

Sprinkles were expected during the night so I set up my tarp and called it a night.

As predicted, I fell asleep fairly early in the evening. By 8:00, I was out cold. It had been my longest day on the trail so far: 15.8 miles.

Fortunately, I found a place that escaped the burn to set up camp for the night.

There was cattle country out here!

Which made it a very good idea to treat your water. =) I actually brought a couple of water treatment options. I usually preferred using the Sawyer filter, but I did take this UV light which could also disinfect water.

I noticed a particularly large number of leaves from evergreen trees that seemed to be losing their leaves. I suspected it was probably due to the extreme cold weather from the week before. I'm not sure if the weather killed the trees and the leaves were falling off or if the leaves had frozen and were damaged and falling off to make room for new ones to grow, but I don't think these leaves normally fall off in such numbers when they're still green.

This campsite had a register in the mailbox.


GG said...

Creepy, snaky, black branch.
Did you know it was a branch when you first saw it?

Ryan said...

I thought it was a branch, but I had to take a closer look to be sure.... =)

Karolina said...

I wonder how resistant are water bottles to UV light?

And the compression station — maybe compressing propane-butane into liquids and squeezing them into metal cylinders? 🤔