I finished packing my things in the morning at the last minute and then Ryan and Erika arrived to pick me up. We headed out and Ryan handed me the envelope with our maps and information in it like he was giving me a top secret file and I was being hired to kill someone.
After a long drive and a few bathroom breaks, one of which at a port-a-potty on the side of an exit, we arrive at Thunder Swamp. We ate lunch, got rid of what we didn't need, packed up our bags and then headed out on the trail.
The trail was fairly heavily covered with trees so we had plenty of shade from the sun. It was well-defined and mostly open at first. Not at all hard to follow.
We came upon this little guy pretty early on. I had no idea they were native to this area. He's really small and fast once he decides he's leaving.
It took a little getting used to the large packs, however having the water bladder with the hose easily accessible all the time is a great thing. I'm glad I got one.
Our next wildlife sighting was a deer. It was standing about twenty feet from us when we stopped for a moment. It didn't seem too concerned with us, though it continued to stare at us every few seconds to make sure we weren't trying anything funny.
We came across several bridges yet very little water. This was the most water we saw on the first part of the trail. Other streams seem to have dried up or have very little water left.
We stopped for a break to rest and have some food for energy. Erika took a nap, which I'm sure is another good way to get some energy. She had a headache so I don't blame her for laying down a bit. We took the time to consult our map and decide how far we would trek for the day.
As we moved along the trail, we hit a few uphill section, a river and parts like this that don't resemble a trail in any way. The only way we were able to find our path was by following the blazes on the trees. We were just walking through large, overgrown plants a lot of the time.
Ferns began appearing everywhere. Some of the sections of the forest looked very beautiful like this one. I think the sun looks great peeking through the large trees in the back.
There were berries on a lot of the trees we passed by. Ryan was the first to notice and try the wild blueberries. They were actually very good. It was a nice, quick snack as we passed by a ton of them. I tried a wild blackberry as well. It wasn't bad at all.
We came to a road crossing, which meant we had traveled almost ten miles at that point. The map made it seem like we had to travel the road for a bit before coming to the next part of the trail, but we learned that it wasn't down there after we walked all the way up the next hill in the road. We came back and it was almost directly across from where we came out on the other side. It's a reasonable mistake.
A mile or so into the next trail, we stumbled upon a campsite that was previously used so we decided to set up camp there. Ryan put up the tent while Erika and I scoured the area for firewood. The tent was up when we got back.
We finally sat down for dinner, which was tuna and crackers in my case. I was happy with my meal and they seemed happy with their ramen.
I cracked up some sticks and got the fire started as the sun began to set. I got it going pretty well and then we could sit back and relax.
We hung out around the fire for an hour or so, enjoying the warmth as it started to get a little cooler. Sitting around the fire in the middle of the woods with your friends is pretty awesome. It really just felt good to sit and not do anything.
We started to retire to the tent, which does nicely accommodate three people. You can't really spread out but we fit comfortably. I also found out that those giant silver solar blanket things work amazingly well to keep you warm. I wasn't prepared for the cold but I had one of those and it was great!