I am now hiking territory that is somewhat familiar to me. More of the trail looks the same than different. But that doesn’t mean that everything looks the same.
New Tent in the Rain
Last night was the first time sleeping in this tent in the rain. And I learned that I need to change the way I pitch the tent in the rain. I woke up to an inch of water in the corner of the tent by my head.
This Zpacks Plex Solo tent is a single wall tent. That means there is only one layer of material. A double wall tint would be usually an inner tent of netting and then an outer tent that is a rainfly.
This tent has a 4-in bug-netting sewn all the way around the perimeter of the tent. The bathtub floor is sewn to the netting and then the netting is sewn to the tent body.
Depending on the height of the pole you use to pitch the tent, the bug netting perimeter can either be angled up or angled down.
Last night I had the pole almost vertical so the tent was at its tallest. This means that the tent body was slightly higher than the top of the bathtub floor.
So when it rained last night, as rain would shed off the tent body, it was running inside the tent along the netting. I need to make sure that when I set up the tent, that the tent body is lower than the bathtub floor perimeter.
Other than that, the tent did great in the rain. I am really starting to like this tent. The material is extremely lightweight and extremely strong. It also dries out far faster than nylon.
I was able to get packed up and moving by 7:00 a.m. this morning. I still have the majority of this prairie to circumnavigate before climbing up the sand hills. I came along prairies makes me nervous because of the chance of water.
The first few miles were fine. There were only a few muddy spots that were easy to go around. But the last half-mile proved challenging.
With just a half a mile to go, the trail comes to a section of the prairie that is low and wet and just goes out to another prairie that is also low and wet. This means that there’s no stepping around it.
So I took my shoes off and waded right through it. The water was cold and it wasn’t really muddy so it was quite refreshing. I walked in my flip flops for a while to let my feet dry a little bit. When I thought the water was done, I stopped and put my shoes back on.
But at the very last section before leaving the prairie, there was another large area of water. I couldn’t go around this one either without about a half mile detour. Homie ain’t got time for that.
I took my shoes off again and waded through it again. But this time it was a bit muddy so it took a lot longer to clean my feet and dry them off. It is still early in the morning so I don’t need the pick me up, but having cold wet feet definitely gives you more energy.
The rest of the morning is uneventful. Most of the trail is on high sandy scrub terrain. The only obstacle is brushing against wet oak twigs and leaves.
Juniper Prairie State Park
I reached the state park about 10:30 in the morning. They charge you $9 if you want to go into the park and use the picnic tables and bathrooms. Or for free you can use the bathroom at the ranger station and fill your water bottles at a spigot. They will also let you charge your electronics inside the building.
I choose option b and found a sunny place on the side of the road where I can have first lunch and dry some of my gear out.
The tent comes out first because I know it was soaking wet. My down jacket comes out second. I probably should have dried out my sleeping bag, but I didn’t want to look like a bum on the side of the road right next to the ranger station.
I was there for about 45 minutes feeding and soaking up the sun. I was able to charge my battery and phone to nearly full in that 45 minute period.
From there, the trail immediately goes into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Wilderness areas mean that they cannot use chainsaws or any other machinery for trail maintenance.
That usually means the trails are more of a nightmare. When Karen and I came through this area about 10 years ago it had just been burned and was like walking on the moon.
But this time the vegetation has regrown quite rapidly. I wouldn’t say it’s pretty, but it’s a far cry from what it was 10 years ago. And there’s no crazy blowdowns or other maintenance issues. It’s actually a pleasant trail.
This pond is one of the neat areas in the wilderness. It is a spring fed pond that has a nice sandy bottom. It is great for swimming but it is also great for ticks. I have not seen any ticks yet on this trip so maybe they just aren’t out yet.
There is a couple with a dog swimming there when I arrive. I go to the far end and roll out my mat and begin making second lunch. I also pull out my sleeping bag this time and hang it from a tree so that it can dry in the breeze.
After another 45 minute break, the sleeping bag seems pretty dry. Drying it out will make a big difference in my comfort tonight as it is supposed to get pretty chilly.
This is another location that is etched in my memory. Karen and I came hear about 10 years ago to the official campsite. The water source is a hand pump that spits out the most foul tasting water I’ve ever tasted. So let’s try it again.
The trail leading up to the prairie is very recognizable. It seems like only yesterday that I was here. The only thing that makes it look different is that I’m hiking it in a different direction this time.
When I get to the campsite at the edge of the prairie, the prairie also looks exactly the same. The camp host is the first campsite, so I stop and talk with him because he is outside with his dog. I tell him I am just passing through but want to get some water. He directs me to the campsite where the pump is.
The camp is only about half full. The really choice spots overlooking the prairie are the ones that are taken. The ones further in the back in the woods earn nearly all vacant.
I make my way to the famous water pump and it’s exactly as I remember it. It’s a weird hand crank thing instead of a lever that goes up and down. I pump some water and already I can smell the horrible metallic smell. I splash some of the water into my mouth and it tastes even worse than it smells. I will not be getting water here.
But I do stop at a picnic table and have another snack before moving on. I am only about 13 miles from where I need to pick up my box tomorrow. I can’t go too much further tonight because they don’t open until 10:30 in the morning. It is 4:30 now so my plan is to hike another hour or so to get me two or three miles closer.
It shouldn’t be hard to find a campsite. The ground is pretty dry but there are also lots of grasses. The grass is growing thick clumps so it would be really uncomfortable to try and camp on.
Eventually I find a good spot and can set up underneath a small sand pine tree. I set up the tent this time taking note of the angles between the bathtub floor and the outer wall. I don’t get the downward droop that I’m looking for all the way around but nothing is going upward so I am pleased with that.
Pick One Emotion
Definitely nostalgia today.
From the time I woke up, until the time I made camp, everything looked familiar to me today. I probably spent more time thinking about previous hikes than being in the moment thinking about this one.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I am out here to make new memories and not just to think about old ones.
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