I’m working backwards in my timeline of things I didn’t post on here. February 21-23, I went on my third backpacking trip since having back surgery and it went great. There were some unpleasant events, like ticks and sliding off a boardwalk into mud, but none of them had anything to do with my physical ability to carry a pack so that’s good! It was a three hour drive from my house to Davy Crockett National Forest. The drive was uneventful. There are some small patches of wildflowers starting to bloom on US 59. Nothing spectacular but a sign that it’s almost time to drive to Chapel Hill for some bluebonnets soon. When I got to Ratcliff, I drove to FS 511 to cache myself some water for the next two days. The soft dirt was like driving on a beach at times, but I took it slow, and made it there and back out just fine. There are multiple stream crossings on the Four C Trail but the water isn’t recommended for drinking because of metal contaminants, even if you filter it. If you’re like me and you don’t want to carry three days of water on your back, there are several road crossings to choose from. I chose FS 511 because it’s about halfway and because there was enough information on the internet to know my car wouldn’t have any problems getting to it.
I didn’t hit the trail until around 1 pm so I only did 11.1 miles the first day. Lots of mud and lots of broken bridges. Luckily, they weren’t hard to get across or around. I thought I smelled a campfire at one point but it turned out I was about to walk through an area that had been burned. I’m not sure if it was a prescribed burn or a wildfire. Does anyone know if you can tell the difference just by looking around? There was also a section along a road where the trees had all been cut down. It wasn’t turning out to be a very scenic first day. I made it to my cache and filled up for the next day. I sat on a log, filling my bottles up and started to feel a little bummed out honestly. I shook it off and headed for Walnut Creek Shelter. I got there just in time to set up my tent and cook my dinner before it got dark. The shelter itself was a little run down with a big hole in the roof but I’d planned on tenting anyway. I thought I’d read somewhere that there was a privy but I couldn’t find it. There were two nice tent pads that I could find (I’d read there were five) but they were right next to each other, practically touching. I spent the evening talking to a guy from Katy, TX who was on his first backpacking trip ever. I was super excited for him and helped answer all of his questions he had. He had just recently heard about the Appalachian Trail. I laughed and told him it was his lucky day. Sharing some of my wacky trail stories helped lighten the mood for me. I felt a lot better about the day after that. I hope the whole encounter encouraged him to get out there again. He seemed to be doing well so far. We fell asleep to fireflies and woke up to the sound of birds chirping.
The next day, I packed up and made my way to the northern end at the Neches Bluffs Overlook and turned around because my car was parked at the southern end. It was a nice 15.2 with the tiniest bit of elevation at Neches Bluffs. The overlook was overgrown and didn’t offer much of a view. I expected to be disappointed like I had been the day before but it didn’t bother me much. Instead, I was enjoying just being able to hike. My back felt great but my feet were a little sore. I don’t think it had anything to do with shoes or insoles but just the fact that it’s been a long time since I hiked a 15-mile day. I pulled a tick off me and flicked a few more off my clothes. I was not prepared on this trip with permethrin. I definitely recommend it for this trail. Even with cooler nights in February, it’s still warm enough for the ticks to be out. There were multiple broken foot bridges again. I’d met a group of guys from San Marcos the day before that were day hiking the entire 19.7 miles and they had already warned me of an upcoming wash out that might be a problem. They said there was a big log upstream that they used to cross. It made me feel a little better that they had already made it across without falling or breaking the log, so I went for it. Even though things weren’t what I expected, I had a pretty great day. I saw a luna moth up close and chased frogs into muddy puddles. I spent the night at a campsite near a pond a couple miles from the shelter. There was a dirt road that lead to it so I wasn’t too sure about it but there was no way my feet were going to make it another two miles. Plus, I was out of daylight at that point. It turned out to be a nice spot. It was flat and I had it all to myself. The frogs serenaded me to sleep. It was a bit chilly, in the 50s, and I snuggled up with my new Enlightened Equipment quilt. I am now totally a quilt convert. I love that thing! All warm and toasty, I wrote my husband a letter in bed. We’ve stopped getting each other anniversary gifts and instead write anniversary letters. It sounds cheesy but it’s one of my favorite things and I think it helps keep us close, especially since we spend so much time apart while I’m hiking. Not only does it remind the other person why we love them, but it reminds ourselves as well, and I think that’s pretty important. Okay, okay, okay. Back to the hiking!
The hiking was easy. It’s mostly flat but the heat was starting to get to me. I wore my camp base layer bottoms to hike in so I didn’t have to deal with ticks again. I dreaded having to pick up all my water for the day from my cache because I was just starting to get used to my lighter pack from all the food I’d already eaten and water I’d chugged. I was not looking forward to it being heavy again. I saw tons of spiders, though, and that made me pretty happy. I just wish sometimes I didn’t see them because I walked face first into them. I saw a snake and some deer, too. It was a good day for going slow and enjoying the little things. I ran out of water half a mile before my car which was perfect. The drive home was more taxing than the drive there. Three hours is a long time to drive after walking 13.1 miles. It was a long day but worth it to be outside where I belong! I’d love to come back to this trail… as long as it’s winter… or maybe to do some trail maintenance…
General Info & Maps: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/texas/recarea/?recid=71016
Maps & GPS: Paper map from the ranger station at 18551 Texas 7, Kennard, TX 75847 and downloaded Four C Trail map from Maprika app. (Points on Maprika map go together with info from Ouachita Maps link above.)
Water Cache Info: http://www.duprephotography.com/4CTrail/water.htm