We had talked about backpacking for months. We were obsessed with watching Survivorman. We needed adventure. In North Carolina we found that grand adventure we were yearning for! Needless to say, we were a bit unprepared…
To see the accompanying YouTube video for this blog click here!
Bryce and I had talked for months and months about going on a backpacking trip. He had went on an overnight with a few buddies and, although he was very unprepared, had a great time. I had grown up in the woods camping with my Dad and always loved the wilderness. Unfortunately, I lost my father in December of 2013 and we had to travel to North Carolina for his services. I felt lost and, as a child, I always found myself in the woods. I felt it calling to me that this was my adventure. Bryce emphatically agreed and we began researching.
We had a few days before the services so we decided to do a 12 mile loop as an overnighter. I had researched and found a place called Uwharrie National Forest. Below is the map we used which was the best one we could find at the time.
Even though it was late December, the weather was still in the 60’s and perfect for hiking. We drove down the night before and stayed in a hotel which was far less than ideal. Our tent at the trailhead would have been nicer.
We arrived at the trailhead on the beautiful sunny morning and hoped the predicted rain would stay away. Our excitement was bubbling over as we unpacked the car and filmed some footage of the trailhead. Finally we were set to hit the Dutchman’s Creek Loop!
**Amusingly I forgot for our first hike we wore JEANS, terrible…**
Against the first trail marker, Bryce found a nice walking stick. We hadn’t figured out the beauty of trekking poles at this point so we decided to share it, switching back and forth. The trail was nicely marked and seemed to be quite highly traveled, making it a nice trail for beginners. We trod through some pretty forest and then over some boulder-like terrain. The diversity was nice and nothing was too tough. We did quickly realize however that we had a lot of weight in our packs.
We had purchased new sleeping bags for the journey and used an old four person tent we had in our mudroom. Bryce had purchased his Kelty Redcloud 90 and it was packed to the gills. I was carrying an old school bag type backpack, which was uncomfortable and caused the weight distribution to constantly fluctuate. The “trail snacks” I had packed included fresh carrots and celery…heavy…. Ya live, ya learn. We also each had a water bladder in our packs which held 2 liters of water and weighed about five pounds. This weight was especially felt climbing Dark Mountain. Although not impressive to most at 500 feet, this climb is almost vertical and you will feel it with a pack on.
Around 6.5 miles in we found a great campsite. There was plenty of firewood already chopped up and stacked beside the HEAPING fire pit. The ground was nice and level for our tent and there was water not far from camp. Thinking we knew what we were doing, we set up camp. We made ourselves our first ever Mountain House meal, chicken and rice. This is to this day, hands down, my favorite freeze dried meal. Bryce then went to fetch some water so we could make tea without using the water from our bladders. Water was a little further away than he initially thought it was and it started getting dark while he was gone. Not going to lie, I was going over my solo survival strategy the entire time he was gone. Finally he returned and we made our tea before heading to bed super early.
Around midnight we woke up and decided to hang out by the fire for awhile. It had started to sprinkle and we took shelter in the tent. As per our normal, we drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours listening to the rain pounding our tent. At around 3am we were awoke by the sound of a screaming deer that sounded like it was headed straight for our tent. As he got closer Bryce yelled to try to divert him from running into us. We heard his cries and his footsteps stampede within 15 feet of our tent. No idea what spooked it but that thing was terrified. It was also at this point that we realized our mistake while making camp. We had laid a tarp out underneath our tent so that we wouldn’t be in the mud. In doing so, we created a base for what was now our waterbed….and our tent was leaking. While not totally soaking wet, our sleeping bags were definitely damp. Bryce got out of the tent in the monsoon and attempted to adjust the rainfly of the tent. We toughed the night out and got as much shut eye as we could.
Morning broke and it was still raining. Fatal mistake #2, we decided to forego eating breakfast. We quickly packed up camp and threw on our Frogg Toggs for day 2. We also realized as we began our day that we had used up all of the battery on our GoPro during day 1. We trudged on into the rain.
During day 1, we had crossed a lovely little stream that we knew we would be crossing again today on our loop back to the car. After all of the rain the evening before had now made this a raging river. We viewed it as absolutely impassible and decided we had to find another way to the other side. As I scanned the banks I realized there was a down tree not far off the trail which allowed us to dryly cross. A tornado had went through this area a couple years prior and there were plenty of downed remains. Had it not been for that we probably would have had to backtrack the entire previous day’s trail and hope the crossing wasn’t as bad on the other side.
After the river crossing the only thing we had to deal with was the water-logged trail. The rain had finally almost stopped and we sat to eat the last little bit of food we had besides the oatmeal which we had opted not to cook for breakfast. Thinking we wouldn’t need lunch, all that we had left was one Lara Bar. It was peanut butter cookie and it was the best Lara Bar ever created to us that day. Soon after we ate our lunch we also realized that we were out of water. Mind you, we still had about 4 miles to go at this point and we were not in terribly great shape at the time. Those last 4 miles were absolutely the most excruciating 4 miles we’ve ever hiked. We were weak from not properly fueling and the lack of water was an added irritant. We also kept thinking we were closer to the trailhead than we really were. FINALLY the car came into view and it was a very welcome sight.
We loaded our gear and joked about how of course we didn’t have a camera for footage on the day we actually had our adventure. Our spirits lightened a bit knowing that we had accomplished our first trip together. I think we both knew at that moment that this would be the first of many and indeed it has been. We learned a lot about backpacking and about ourselves on that trip. We made our way to Subway and had a delicious lunch before getting back on the road. Bryce ate his a bit too quickly and about passed out. My body welcome the nutrients and I was ready for our next adventure! He was ready after his nap.