Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Trip Report: Ice Age Trail Hartman Creek Segment

The final leg of my journey, wound up being the most difficult to complete in some ways. I'd not gone excessively hungry through my journey, I wasn't shambling along with a growling stomach beset by hunger pangs. But I think I would have benefited from bringing more food. Even with a clif bar to tide me till I found a lunch spot, even with stopping for a mountain house lunch, and even with the second clif bar I'd had just before this segment, I was starting to feel the effects of my day of exertion. My energy levels were down, my frustration was rising, and I was starting to make mistakes. It wasn't all a matter of food though, the pain was starting to add up. 

Even with my carefully selected boots and socks, and I'd even switched to fresh socks just before this segment began for increased comfort that 2.7 mile road leg on my last segment took it's toll on me. Asphalt is a lot harder on your feet than dirt is. So when my course took me into the piney sandy loam in the Hartman Creek area, it was a relief. So much so that I took this picture

That's the other thing! I've got so many fewer photos from this stage of the trip. Partly I was just focused on getting to the end and getting to finally sit down, but partly it didn't even occur to me. So, it was 3 miles from Hwy 54, and for half of that, I was in relatively good shape, relatively good spirits. But halfway through, I began to degrade. A day's wear on my feet which had never endured a walk more than a couple hours at a time began to show. My low blood sugar began to interfere with my cognition. The closer I got to the finish line, the tougher it got on me. 

For the first time, I wound up on the wrong trail. Just before setting foot on known ground, I must have been shoegazing too much, because I stumbled down the wrong route and nearly wound up walking into somebody's backyard. Some sort of hunting trail. It was only by sheer luck and a bit of reckoning with my compass that I spotted a blaze for the real trail and cut back over to it. Before too long, I was on familiar trail, where Bob and I had gone looking at the Ice Age Trail like a month prior. At last, I was on trails I'd walked before.

My route left the trail here:

and I headed into the Hartman Creek trail system because it ought to take me more directly to the campsite Bob is waiting in. And it would have, if I weren't getting so derpy at this stage. By now, my feet are a mass of pain as I tread the trail home. I find myself watching my feet, and I'm so tired that I don't even stop at my favorite spot in the park, an intersection of trails where the trees whisper to you. I just want to sit down, and I know that once I do, I won't be moving for hours. If my poles had been working correctly, I might have stopped in the rest position for a bit, but the last time I tried that, my wonky pole slid steadily down.

And in my continued shoe-gazing, I somehow miss a turn-off that I wasn't aware of. Mostly, I was used to coming down the trail from the other direction, but also I was tired and hurting and in some sort of cognitive deficit. The trail that's supposed to take me directly to Allen lake gets missed, and I wind up coming out at the other side of the Allen Lake parking lot. Even worse, as I drag myself past the lakes, and towards the campground, I learn the hard way that there are two shortcuts to the campground! One goes to Site 9, one goes to Site 20. Bob was in site 20. Any Guesses where I came out?

Shambling from site 9 to 20, rest was finally in sight. Apparently I was quite red when I stumbled in, and Bob was waiting to hear my tales, learn what the journey had determined regarding my gear. Now, it's hard to tell from your own perspective, but I'm told that I was rather depleted and terse at this stage. It wasn't until I sat down munched on a ton of his cashews, and made myself a bag of dinner (Mountain House Chicken w/ Rib Meat and Mashed Potatoes), and some dessert (Alpine Aire Bananas Foster) that my disposition and ability to speak improved. Here I became intensely glad for REI making the Passage 2 a simple tent. Anything more complex than two poles would have been too much work in my sorry state.

We were pretty much alone in the campground. I could see no evidence of anyone else there. Not humans anyway. shortly before calling it a night, we did spot the raccoons scoping us out. I made a point of marking my territory around our site before the night was through, and this seems to have served as a "don't trespass" sign for those masked bandits. I'd seen them at HCSP before. Watched them root through a foolish family's cooler, one they'd left out under the picnic table, assuming the latches sufficient to keep out the raccoons.

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