Lone Star Hiking Trail Weekend - March 11-13, 2011
I just completed another long weekend of hiking...pure heaven. This time i spent 3 days in Sam Houston National Forest on the Lonestar Trail. 38 miles in 3 days with a 37 pound pack. This was my first true dry run of 3 straight higher mileage days to test my gear, body and mind before the big AT trip rolls around in May.
Day 1: Friday, March 11, 2011
Starting Location: FM 149 & 1375, Wilderness Parking Lot #3
Weather & Terrain: Sunny, 61D; Flat, Soft Pine Needle Trailbed; M5 began the controlled burn on trail and continued until camp.
Problems: Right Foot neuroma made itself known around mile 4, but was able to ignore it for the most part; Great OR hat purchased was a flop becuase the brim in the back kept rubbing against the pack, so it quickly was stored in my pack. Thumbs down on the soft brim OR hat, won't be taking on AT. Maybe will just take a baseball cap instead.
Cool Sightings: It seemed as if I was alone for the full 12 miles until I hit mile 11. As i was staring at my feet in deep thought, my shadow cast in front of me, a huge shadow passed in front of mine overhead. I immediately looked up and there soaring above me was a beautiful Bald Eagle. The Lonestar Hiking Trail guide (awesome by the way) had said that that area was known for Eagle Breeding but the Forest Service was doing their annual burning and so i had written off that i would see any eagles with all the smoldering, black smoke eminating from every turn in the trail. But, God knew i would be looking down and got my attention to see the majestic Eagle. That was the jewel of the hike.
Camp Observations: As i walk into camp, i went straight for the campground spigots to refill my water bottles before i unpacked my BA tent. As the water filled my bottle, it was very cloudy. Now, i know that this is the water that families are brushing their teeth with and washing their dishes with, but i must have been staring at the bottle too long contemplating whether or not i should treat the water with my iodine tablets or not when a woman walked up to me and handed me a gallon of purified water. She told me i was not to drink that spigot water when she had water to share. What a blessing! I drank and drank and also had fresh, non-iodine water, to use for cooking my dehydrated mac and cheese dinner that night! Thank you camp angel!
With about 40 people surrounding my tent up until well after midnight around their campfires, plus 2 fisherman in an RV that loved to run their generator ALL day and until after 10pm, i finally drifted off to sleep to prepare for my big 15 mile day the next morning.
Weather & Terrain: Sunny, 70D; Marshy, Lowland, near the lake. Very thick with vegetation. Visibilty on the trail was low.
Problems: Foot was not happy at this point. Pain had increased and believe it or not, began to feel the familiar ball pain in the left foot for the first time in my life, indicating the development of a left foot neuroma! But, took 3 more IBProfin and continued on. Pack felt great, aerobically felt great and the trail was easy to hike. Foot was the ONLY problem, but foot problems can be detrimental on the trail. :-(
Cool Sightings: No animals on this day did i see. But, i was told after i arrived back at camp after the hike that there is a resident black panther that roams around that section of the LSHT (Lonestar Hiking Trail). Never would have guessed that there were black panthers in that area and don't have any sightings to confirm that claim. It was a peaceful hike and 15 miles came and went with unexpected ease.
Camp Observations: When i arrive at camp, it was like walking into the Cheers bar! 3 folks come over to me welcoming me to camp and asking how my hike went, as i had drawn attention the night before cooking my dinner on a tiny stove with nothing but a pack to claim while families drug out toys, pillows, ice chests, etc. I arrived at camp around 2pm so very early and i was glad to get my boots off and rest. Within an hour i had 3 different dinner invitations from the local families apparently feeling sorry for me and my date with dehydrated food. I graciously told them that even though burgers, BBQ and something unidentifiedable sounded yummy, i needed to stick to my plan since my body wouldn't have that yummy food in May and i needed to see how i would perform on my set meals. One grandfather was very insistent that i at least bring my bag of Tai Chicken over to their camp so i didn't have to eat alone. I didn't have the heart to tell him that i didn't mind eating alone and so accepted. Once i cooked my dinner and arrived at their camp, he offered me sweet tea (which i figured was ok to accept, ha!) and told me all about his life and the life of his grandbabies. When it started to get dark and i could feel my body shutting down with food in my belly, i thanked them for the company and as i headed back to my tent, the grandmother handed me a fried tortilla covered in cinnamon and sugar as my dehdrated Bananas Foster wasn't all i had hoped for. Again, the generosity of strangers continued to amaze me and truly revitalize my faith in folks. I was excited to get home to Brian and the boys, but also sad to leave camp and miss out on another night of meeting folks and the unexepected happening.
Ending Location: FM 149 & 1375, Wilderness Parking Lot #3
Weather & Terrain: Cloudy, with threats of rain and storms, 70D; Back on burning trail from FS controlled burn until about 5 miles from car and then back to flat, soft pine needle trailbed.
Problems: Foot was VERY not happy ont his third day. My spirits were low as each step was like walking on a rock with a needle sticking out of it. I had really considered doing an extra 2 miles on this day to make it an even 40 mile weekend, but about a mile from the car, my foot was screaming obscenities that i couldn't ignore. So once I reached the car (which thankfully was still there and had 4 tires and unbroken windows), i just wanted to get my boots off and my Keen sandals on. The hike was great and again the frustration was that my body could hang with the miles, my spirit was determined and could do the miles, but to have foot pain truly just stinks. So, during the 4.5 hour drive home i contemplated what i needed to do with only 2 months left before i leave for the AT for this pain the ash right foot. I had an injection a week before that didn't seem to do anything like many other injections i have had over the past 6 years for it, so i was going to have to look at my boots again, my SmartFeet inserts and my socks and see if there was anything i could do to help make the miles more comfortable.
Cool Sightings: This was a really peaceful hike. I only saw 1 snake and 2 ATV'ers on the backcountry ATV trails.
Hike Summary: Great 38 mile, 3 day, solo hike. Gear tested well overall with pretty accruate weight that i will be carrying in May. Had some foot issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Love the Lone Star Hiking Trail in Sam Houston National Forest. For more information on this long distance trail, please check out the follow book: Lone Star Hiking Trail: The Official Guide and also check out this online guide with trail details (dated 1999 so may be a little dated, but worth the look since it is free). Would love to go back and do all 130 miles of it someday.