Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT), July 11-12, 2014

When I created my blog, I added two of my longer backpacking trips.  I skipped this one in the Sam Houston National Forest, as it is kind of embarrassing.  However, upon reconsidering, I think it is worthwhile for the lessons learned.

As you will see below, the problem is I hit a wall mid-day in high heat and humidity.  I thought at the time it was simple dehydration, maybe heat exhaustion.  But in retrospect, I think it was loss of electrolytes.  Here's the report as I wrote it after the trip...

Distance 7/11: 2.75 miles (LSHT 0 to mile 2.75) (Fitbit: 7089 steps, 3.3 miles, 2017 calories)
Distance 7/12:  15.3 miles (LSHT 2.75 to 10.0, LSHT 10.0 to 7.9, NWT (2.2 total), LSHT 3.75 to 0) (Fitbit: 38,138 steps, 18 miles, 3901 calories)

Total Miles Traveled:  ~18.05 miles

I arrived at LSHT Trailhead #1 about 1750 on 7/11 and was on the trail by about 1800.  Temperature was 91 and partly cloudy.  Forecast had three days sunny with highs around 95 and lows around 71.  The plan was to hike about 3 miles Friday (7/11) and Sunday (7/13) and 20 miles on Saturday.  I would take the LSHT to the Little Lake Creek (LLC) loop trail and take the LLC back.  Wanted to check ability to do distance.  The heat and my body’s reaction cut the trip short.

First thing, I wanted to check water.  There is a pond at LSHT 2.5 and I wanted to see if it was drying up.  Plan was to use ponds on or just off the trail, but being July, I wasn’t sure they would have survived.  I was carrying 4 L of water (Sawyer bottle with filter, Dasani 1L bottle with push/pull cap, and 2L MSR DromLite), just in case.  The previous weekend, I had relied on the LSHT drought indicator (1/2 where worst case is 5) and planned to use streams; but they were all dried up.

Pond on LSHT at About Mile 2.5 from Trail Head #1
 I carried the ZPacks Arc Blast pack, with the same load as the 4 July attempt, but minus 1 dinner.  Too much food.

The pond was good sized and remained filled, but it had lots of growth in it.  Still looked better than the ‘pond’ at LSHT 9.8.  The trail to the pond was significantly more open than later miles of the trail.  It looked like there had been a fire some time in the past.

About a quarter mile past the pond, and after a left turn, there was a crossing trail that looked like maybe it was on an old road.  I took the trail looking for a camping site (went at 120 deg) maybe 200 yards, then north at 60 deg for another 100 yards.  Relatively shrub free ground near fire-fallen logs.  I put the old poncho (polyurethane or PU coating is sticky) PU side down as a ground sheet, then set up my HMG 8.5’ square tarp over it.  No rocks; had to find a non-fire eaten stick to hammer the stakes in.  

I used the Caldera Keg-F (alcohol) to cook beef stew with added mashed potatoes.  Too much beef; this was a Paleo dinner bought online.  I also used only a half portion.  0.7 ounce of alcohol was perfect.  I only used about 1 liter of water through dinner.  But I had drunk ½ to 1/3 liter at the car before starting.  Didn’t have to get up in the night.  Probably a bad sign in retrospect.

I used the ZPacks cuben/pertex bivy with the NeoAir Xlite inside.  I removed damp hiking shirt and pants (put them in clothes bag) and put on a nylon t-shirt to keep from sticking inside.  Saw a jumping spider right next to the poncho, so I used the no-see-um mesh on the bivy.  It was hot!  And it didn't cool down till about 0130.

Got up about 0600 and started packing up.  Ate blueberry granola from zip lock bag.  Started on trail just before 0700.  Still took too long to pack, even given 15 minutes (?) to eat granola.  I did switch into Darn Tough socks and put some Goo on my feet and toes.

I used my compass to get back to the LSHT.  Seemed shorter in this direction.  Then continued on the LSHT.  Up through and past the Little Lake Creek Wilderness, I had to swing the trekking poles continuously to take down spider webs.  But I was walking faster than the swings.  So the webs got me anyway, along with some spiders, and it was tiring.

After the wilderness area, probably around LSHT 7.0, I was passed by a day hiker (female) and her pup.  After that, there weren’t any spider webs.  She got them!

At about LSHT 9.6 or 9.7, there were a couple of cross trails, and I didn’t want to miss the pond at LSHT 9.8.  So I pulled out the iPhone and checked Gaia maps (I had 'pinned' all ponds and the closest trail points before leaving).  It showed me it was another ¼ mile down the trail.  I used Gaia again when I got to where I thought the pond should be the closest.  Showed it 240 feet off.  But I hit it (I think) within about 75 feet.  It was hard to get to, and required bushwhacking.  Pretty brackish and more like a stream pool.  Maybe I didn’t get to the real pond.  Spent a little time trying to go around the other side, and gave up.  Used the yellow nylon cloth as a filter and got a bottle in the Sawyer. 

Then I noticed my pack hip belt pocket was open where I kept my credit card (for gas), and it looked like that Aloksak billfold had fallen out.  Looked around for it.  Gave up and used my Steripen on the water, then put in the Sawyer zero point filter.  Checked the pocket and there was the Aloksak!  By the way, I didn't use the pond water for drinking; it just looked too iffy even with the filtering and UV.  I did use it to pour on my head and hat to help keep me cool!

Got back to the trail and went 100 feet down it.  Then noticed I was extremely tired.  The bushwacking in 95* heat had taken it out of me.  Sat down and rested.  When I got back up, I felt sapped.  Walked a few more feet feeling exhausted, and then decided to head back.  The bivy, no breeze camping with the mesh had not been enjoyable.  Wasn’t sure I could make anywhere near the 20 miles required that day, and the wife wanted me back for dinner Sunday.

So now started an ‘odyssey’ from about 1200 to 1600.  I would go aways, sit down and rest, have snacks and water, and go some more.  Only eating the M&Ms and dried pineapple.  Ate nuts at 1030, and my stomach felt peculiar.  The uphills (slight) and deep stream crossings (going down many feet to a shallow or dry stream) in the North Wilderness Trail hit me hard.  I would have to sit and rest after each stream crossing.  When I got out of the wilderness area, I started thinking about taking a nap as a rest.  Mexican siesta style?  I have never taken a nap on the trail!  Anyway, just before the Trail head #2 area, I found a nice area off to the west of the trail.  I didn’t realize how close to the trail head I was.

I walked a ways and found some shade and put down the poncho to lay on.  Used my Ursack Minor (food bag) for a pillow.  This was about 1400-1600.  Had to keep moving the poncho as the sun kept moving to expose my resting place.  I had stopped using the hat a ways back to cool my head.

I figured I was about 3.3 miles from the trail head, and could make it back by 1800 if I left at 1600.  So I started off and immediately came on Trail head #2.  No wonder the car sounds had been so loud.  I had to wait for a truck speeding down the gravel road.  Dust for 200 yards!  Way too fast. 

The creek crossings on the remaining trail was what hit me the hardest.  I really started thinking about camping again at the same spot.  But I wanted a Dairy Queen shake!  During my stops, I took to pouring water from the Sawyer bottle (questionable pond water) onto my head and hat (sun areas, had to wear it).  Worked great for a little while each time.

I began just telling myself I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The physical sensation was similar to what I encountered years ago in the Grand Canyon, where I figure I had been dehydrated and had to stop after each switch back on the way back up.  Sitting on the trail was pretty gritty.  I really need some kind of sit pad.

Finally made it back to the vehicle about 1810.  Made one pit/gas stop plus a McDonald's run and got home about 2205.

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