Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2003 Backpacking Indiana's Hoosier National Forest with Sierra Club

Our local Chicago Sierra Club had a backpacking outing in 2003 in neighboring Indiana's Hoosier National Forest.

Fred, our leader, had been here before and guided us along the warren of trails to his favorite hidden hollow where we camped. We backpacked about seven miles to our base camp, set up camp and ate and got to know each other and had a campfire.  The next day we dayhiked 12+ miles, and then backpacked out the third day. Fall colors were just ending, with a few colorful trees still in evidence and a rainbow-colored patchwork quilt of leaves to walk upon.

In the photo below, Mary and Fred crawl under the fallen tree as Joe prepares to climb over it. Paul is apparently scratching his head, deciding how to handle the obstruction. With few exceptions, the trails are old logging roads which generally follow ridge lines and are unmarked and unmaintained. A topo map and compass are vital but still may result in times when you aren't quite sure which old roadbed you are on and where it is going. In fact, several times we wound up bushwacking, looking for the correct route to our destination. Be aware that most maps show only the few maintained trails, not the unmaintained trails or old roadbeds now used as trails, and there are no directional signs at intersections.

Our campsite for the two nights was in Bad Hollow, a misnomer, for in actuality it was a very nice hollow. Its dry stream bed had a few pockets of standing water which we filtered for drinking and cooking water, the area was spacious, allowing all to find comfortable, flat plots for tents, its remote location provided us solitude, firewood proved abundant, and its scenic value was high.

The backpack out followed a 14 hour rain, making the leaf-strewn trail tread slick, as well as the rocks, branches, and mud which the leaves obscured. We covered over 25 miles on our three day outing, and the roller-coaster terrain resulted in 2700 feet elevation gain and loss for the extended weekend. The rain also unburdened the trees of most of their remaining leaves. Here Susan, Kathy, Eric, Judy, and Dave lead us through the woods.

My one complaint about this local outing was the huge size of the group (17), which meant that everything moved at the speed of the slowest person -- the actual backpacking and hiking, the food preparation, packing daypacks so we could go for the long day hike, finishing lunch before we could continue the hike, and packing up the final morning so we could hike out. I've done over 65 backpack trips, some with a family of four, a few with a size of three, a couple dozen with a buddy who was not a dawdler, and most as solo backpacks. So I ultimately discovered that large group backpacking was not for me, and though the social advantages of a large group were evident to me, they are not worth the trade off in time wasted and territory not explored.

The Sierrans:

    Kneeling (l to r): Mark, Paul, and Judy 
Row 2: Donna, Susan, Fred, Mary, Marianne, Andy, and Joanne 
    Back row: Joe, Kathy, Chuck P., John, Chris, and Dave     
(not in photo: Eric)

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