Day 2 – Long Creek Falls

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The reunion with my hiking duvet did not go as planned. I waved fitfully for at least three hours after retiring. My brain turned into a nest of hungry baby birds with their mouths open, crying for food. I thought of everything and since no thought rose above the others, it was of no use. At half past twelve, I did a few push-ups to calm my mind. It worked for a bit and I slept intermittently until 4:30 when I finally slept soundly. My alarm goes off at 5:30. It’s time to walk, I thought dutifully. Then I sleep another thirty minutes.

My new crib

One of the goals of this hike is to try some new backpacking gear, especially my new Lunar Solo tarp tent. I use a piece of Tyvek as a floor mat. I’ve had mixed results with cowboy camping on the PCT. Some nights it was wonderful. The other nights, I hated it. Bugs, rodents, weather and insecurity sometimes bothered me. The new tent/groundsheet weighs about a pound more than my tarp/polycro. I want to know if the novelties are worth it. So far I love the tent, but the Tyvek is awful – stiff and noisy like a giant piece of cellophane. Did your mom ever give you candy in church to keep you from moving, but the sound of the candy unwrapping was so loud that everyone, including the preacher, started staring at you? This is me in the quiet morning hours rolling up my Tyvek.

It takes me 55 minutes to eat and break camp. Fairly slow, but I don’t have my process, and trips to the bear box interrupt my pace. I should (want) to be able to do this in 30 minutes. Keith is slower but he’s doing well (he’s getting used to it too) and we leave camp at 7:30 – plenty of time to cover the 13 miles ahead of us today. In case you didn’t know, a bear box is a large metal container with a bear-proof latch for storing food overnight. This simplifies camp life for bears and people.

Bear Box at Stover Creek Refuge

Our campsite is on Stover Creek which joins Chester Creek where Long Creek also joins Chester. We will pass through Chester and follow Long Creek to see the spectacular Long Creek Falls as recommended by our shuttle driver yesterday.

Streams ahead

The trail crosses Stover Creek a few times before reaching Chester Creek. Here is Keith trying to make any easy creek crossing look sketchy. This is reality TV at its best.

Keith trying not to fall to his death

The trail is beautiful this morning. Some of them remind me of Oregon.

My morning coffee

The crossing of Chester Creek is also very pleasant.

Chester Creek Crossing

However, nothing this morning compares to what we find at Long Creek Falls. The sun illuminates the mist above the falls, turning the pool at the base of the falls into a steaming cauldron.

Enter the cathedral
Long Creek Falls

Discoveries

As we head towards the falls, I find this squishy fruit on the ground. When I open it, there is a core attached to the skin by hundreds of filaments. Otherwise, everything is airy inside – like a lime that God forgot to fill with juice.

The center of the universe is right in front of us

I want to explore more off trail sites on this hike. This morning the trail passes through an abandoned settlement called Hickory Flats. Keith and I will check. On the site, a sign indicates the road. CEMETERY he said. I’m strangely excited about this. Our map also says there is a bathroom with toilet paper there too. Bingo.

I expect to be spooky, but this old courtyard is extremely peaceful. There is a pavilion and a sign indicating that a nearby church holds its annual picnic here. So I guess it’s not completely abandoned. Half a dozen graves are relatively new, with polished granite markers. But the other 100 graves are OLD. Most of these markers are weathered wooden posts that stick out of the ground like bony fingers. A few of the old ones are made of granite, but the inscriptions on most of them have also disappeared. One is for a man born in 1824! I can’t make out the name. Is it Ichabod? I look around me nervously.

Hickory Flats Cemetery

The people who lived and died here struggled to make this place work. It failed. Their ancestors fled down the mountain. But this dish among the trees betrays no bitterness, no resentment, only a resigned serenity on this sunny Thursday morning. If it hadn’t been for the occasional visitor tending to the graves of the most recent dead, nature would have completely reclaimed this space. But for now, a blanket of yellow and purple wildflowers nods happily. Rest, they whisper. Rest.

There’s also a contraption there that looks like a giant seesaw. Keith jumps off one end and finds that it neither goes up nor down. Instead, it spins. It sounds like a mother’s nightmare. I imagine a game like the one we used to play on the carousel at school. Children cling desperately to the handlebars while other children spin the yellow and black arms faster and faster. Little Jasmine can’t take it anymore and flies off into the woods. Whelp, I guess she lost. And then little Asa stumbles pushing one of the arms and gets trampled by other kids who keep pushing. He rolls on the floor clutching his shoulder, his eyes glaring. Everyone scatters. Children of old really knew how to have fun!

No, Keith, I won’t sit on the other end

Two men and two trucks

These two guys are riding sections of the trail using two vehicles. It involves a lot of driving. They each drive their vehicle to one end of the trail. One parks their vehicle and jumps into the other vehicle which they drive to the other end of the trail. They both jump and go back to the first vehicle which they lead back to the second vehicle. One of these guys asks me if we saw his truck when we drove through the parking lot. I had seen it: it was a plain blue Ford. “Yeah, I saw it,” I said. “It’s a blue ford with a bouquet of flowers spray painted all over it, isn’t it?” He accepts the joke, “Unicorns too?” “Of course,” I say. “He is always there.” They were a little wary of having their picture taken. They didn’t want to end up on Facebook. I can’t say I blame them.

The trail was mostly devoid of wildflowers yesterday. Today they showed up. Here is a small gallery of what we saw.

give me shelter

The last three miles of the day are hot and I go into death march mode. By the time we reach camp at the Gooch Mountain refuge, we are walking dead. The refuge is packed with hikers of all levels of experience and excitement. I drop to a table on which is drawn a chessboard with stones marked for chess pieces. One of the young guys there asks me to play with me. I vaguely remember that round of four-move checkmate involving a bishop and a queen. Can I remove it. Oops, no. I try to concede the game halfway through, but the kid tells me he’s prone to making catastrophic mistakes. It conveys false hopes. He ends up beating me after I realize I’m toast and showed him the move to checkmate me. I enjoyed the defeat. I baptize him Bobby Fischer. He likes the name. We’ll see if it holds.

The black pieces have a dot next to the label (yes, someone was wondering, I know)
  • May 5
  • Miles flown: 13
  • Total AT miles flown: 15
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