The day started out at 7am…well, let me be more truthful. MY day started out at 2:45am when I woke up with a burst of energy. If I could’ve gotten on trail right then and there, I would have! However, our ride wouldn’t take us to the trailhead until 7am. I tried to go back to sleep to no avail. Oh well, I won’t regret sleeping only 5 hours before a long first day backpacking, right?
Anyway, 6:45am came and the girls and I drove over to the meeting point we previewed yesterday. It was a 2 minute drive, so no big deal. Unfortunately, however, the entrance we took yesterday was blocked off by a row of traffic cones and it was clear that the gate was also still locked. No big deal. The park rangers still have 10 minutes to open the gate. 7:00am came and the cones were still there blocking us from getting through the still closed gate. I hate when things don’t go as I intentionally planned. I texted Taz. No response. It was now 7:05. I called him. No answer, so I left a message. 7:10. 7:15…the girls and I are reassuring ourselves that we are following directions to a tee.
We inspect every single truck that comes racing by, hoping that it’s Taz’s red truck. No. Nothing. Finally, he texts back with “stay.” Ok. I do as I’m told and within a few minutes, like a knight in shining armor, Taz’s truck appears. He has a passenger with him and they both motion us to follow them. What happened? Did I go to the wrong place?! Ugh. I hate being late. EARLY is on time. On time is late. And late is unacceptable. And we were late. With grief, I follow Taz to a different entrance to (TRSP) (who knew there was another entrance?! And why didn’t anyone tell me?!). We park and I begin incessantly apologizing for my tardiness. Both he and the passenger (also a backpacker called Jody who was setting out today as well) were so cool and promised it was just fine.
I’m holding onto this terrible feeling of guilt like a child holds onto their favorite blanket. Sigh. I feel terrible knowing I’m causing Taz extra time AND now adding a good 20 minutes to Jody’s start to his day. Ok, gotta move on. We quickly throw our packs into the bed of the truck. Taz wraps the girls’ pack in a trash bag since it has started to rain and their packs aren’t waterproof. We then squeeze all of our days 4-7 food into ammo cans Taz brought for us. All but 2 bags fit. Crap, guess we’ll be carrying that. What’s an extra 3lbs? This day just keeps getting better. Hahaha.
We then begin our drive to where we’ll stash these ammo cans in a hidden spot to pick up once we make it to this point. It’s about 30ish miles in and for now, I figure we’ll be there on day 3. After stashing our food, we proceed to our starting point OSP. Along the way, Taz points out a few sites we can be on the look out for as we trek along. He shares a few helpful tips to surely make things a bit easier.
We get to OSP, don our packs, take a few quick pics with Taz as the rain begins to fall again, bid goodbye to Jody, and head out, practically running towards the trailhead….and not because it’s raining, but because we can no longer contain our excitement! It’s about 9:20am.
We FaceTime my husband, text my son and oldest daughter to tell them we love them and are setting off. We won’t have signal for long and we don’t really know when we’ll be able to talk to them again. They wish us well and encourage us that “we’ve got this!”
We do. We are really doing this!
The trail is slightly flooded as it continues to rain. We barely notice because the forest is blanketed in fog, giving it a magical storybook feel. We ooohhh and ahhh every few seconds it seems. About an hour and 15 minutes in, we realize we’ve already covered 3.5 miles. Whoa speedy Gonzales! We had better slow our roll. Starting off this fast with brand new body parts not yet acclimated to the trail begs for injury…or at the very least a super sore day tomorrow morning. We slow our pace a bit. It continues to rain on and off for the rest of the day. We pass more bridges than we can count, more water sources than we could possibly need, and only about 5 hikers the whole day.
Most of them were day hikers with the exception of a small group doing a section hike. We leap frog Jody for most of the day. The day is pretty uneventful as we keep pressing on. Ayva is having some foot pain, which I suspect is plantar fasciitis, something she has dealt with on and off with for the last year or so, but hasn’t complained of it for awhile. We slow down, take a few longer breaks and just enjoy the trail. We have lunch next to a waterfall, Hogpen Falls. What a great spot! Lunch with the best views!
We walk another 3 miles to our campsite, Crack in the Rock. It starts raining pretty heavily for most of this last section, and makes the walk kinda treacherous. Everything has gotten extra slippy, so we move with a purpose, but carefully. Despite the very cold and heavy rain, we keep our heads about us and move steadily over the slick rocks. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast….something my husband has taught me.
As I think of that saying, and walk through the now heavy downpour, I notice the water on my cheek isn’t rain. It’s tears. I am overcome with gratitude. I think of how blessed I am to be here. To have such an amazingly supportive husband that supports me with his whole heart. To be doing this trail with 2 of my 4 children. To have the physical, mental and emotional capacity to enjoy adventures such as this. I’m just so thankful. As the tears fill my eyes and roll down my face, I realize that it’s making my vision that much more compromised. It’s already raining heavily, and now my eyes filled with tears is making it harder to see. Hahaha. Get it together sister. Get out of your feels and refocus. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to leave this state of deep gratitude. So, for tactical purposes, I wipe my tears and begin praying and listing all the things I’m grateful for. Before we know it, we’re at our campsite. It’s about 3:40pm.
The rain has slowed down some, so we pitch our tent before it picks back up again. We get everything set up and as on perfect cue, the sky opens up in a downpour. The girls and I lay here listening to the rain and talking about which body part hurts, our favorite and least favorite parts of the day. We all give a difficulty rating of about 5 (hahah, little do we know what’s to come!), citing that the trail itself wasn’t very challenging, but more so since it was day 1 and we’re still developing our trail legs. Before I know it, the girls have both fallen asleep. They take a 45 minute nap and I decide to write my first blog entry for day zero. Most of the rest of the evening is spent inside our tent as it continues to rain. We get about an hour to pop out and cook our dinner. Mountain House lasagna (tasty) and Good to Go chicken pho (also quite tasty). None of us are very hungry, but we eat anyway.
We pack up our Ursacks, making sure to wrap them in trash bags because of the rain, and tie them to a tree as the rain begins to fall harder. Quick potty break as it pours (cold rain on your bare bottom is next level), and we head back into the tent for the night. It’s now about 7:30pm. We’re snugly warm inside our quilts even though it’s about 50 degrees outside. We all fall asleep pretty quickly. I think we’ve redefined hiker midnight.
I awake to the sound of harder rain and a bright light lighting up our tent. It’s 10:30pm. What the hell is that? If we were in a populated campsite, I would assume it’s another hiker going to the bathroom or getting to camp late. No big deal. But no one camped at this site last night and the next campsites are far enough away that I shouldn’t be spotlighted. I’m half asleep. My adrenaline is pumping, trying to arouse my tired body, my fight or flight is activated. The light appears to be getting closer. I notice my breath, slow my breathing, ask God to steady my hands and get ready to roll. Mama Bear has been fully activated. What an uncomfortable situation this is. My senses are instantly sharpened and I’m ready to fight. Let’s go …(I apologize to those that take offense to cussing. I’m just being totally transparent as to what was going through my head.)
I pop out of my tent with a combination of speed and stealth that I nearly rip a few stakes from the ground. I’ve kept my own light off so that my eyes can stay adjusted to the darkness. I stay crouched behind the concealment of the tent. I survey my surroundings. I move a rock closer to me. I see the light stop. It feels like a long time. It’s so cloudy that the dim moonlight is of no help. I don’t think they can see me. It appears to be one person. The light then continues walking further down the trail, away from us. I stay blacked out outside my tent and keep watch for about 30 minutes. I don’t even notice how cold it’s gotten as my adrenaline is still pumping. Whew. What the hell?! I pray again and a sense of peace washes over me. My security detail is finished.
I decide to go back into the tent as I notice what seems light thousands of beautiful twinkling lights in the forest across the river. It was absolutely magical. Lightning bugs? I take a few minutes to regroup, recognizing what I thought was a threat, was more than likely someone doing some night hiking. Our campsite is one of the firsts that really allows you to see the river. That’s probably what they were trying to light up as they walked by. I think they may have even walked down here a bit closer to the water’s edge. Not super courteous at well past hiker midnight with a bright white light, but evidently they meant no harm. Who knows? God has his angels posted up at every corner of our tent, so what am I worried about anyway? It’s still raining. I’m tired. The girls are still soundly sleeping. Now back to sleep I go.
Story by Karen Delos Santos
See more : 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park part 1 – From Florida to Table Rock State Park