Friday, July 2, 2010

Choke Creek Camp

or, I May Never Get Up Again
The Pinchot Trail Chronicle, Part 13
Monday June 28, 2010

3:15pm - We come out into the sunlight and the meadows on the banks of Choke Creek, and we all seem overjoyed to be there. The guidebook says that in the direction we are going there are three campsites, and the third and final one is the nicest. A grueling last 10 or 15 minutes should get us there. We stumble on.
We come to the first camp site, which is in an open clearing on the banks of the stream. Very nice, but too exposed to the rain that is forecast as a possibility for tonight. We have been rained on off and on all day. The campsite we are going for is described as under a nice stand of spruce trees on the banks of the creek at a spot where the creek veers right at a rock ledge with boulders. That sounds perfect, and protected. It is marshy down here, and a few minutes later we pass another exposed campsite. That must be 2 of 3, so the next one will be ours. My relief knows no bounds. I am in serious pain by now and every step burns.
3:35pm - CAMP! We come to a place where the creek turns right among some boulders, and the trail goes a little bit left into the shade of a pair of huge spruce trees. We have flat ground, a fire pit and a nice dry area. It isn't quite what was advertised in the guidebook, but at this point I couldn't care less. It's not a large site, and isn't directly in view of the water, but all I want to do is drop my pack, get my wet boots off, and sit down. Or lie down. Or just collapse. So that's what I do.
The first order of business after a bit of a rest is to set camp up, and lay out as many of our things as possible in the hopes that we can get as dry as the humid air will allow. Our boots are soaked, and feet are sore. No major blistering on anybody which is good, as that could make for an uncomfortable day 3.
My main hobby is wargaming, and in wargaming terms, I have failed my morale check. Pretty badly.
Journal, "In Camp", about 4:00pm - Scattered showers started at the Pine Hill Trail junction and made it impossible to write notes during the day. Knee started becoming a little sore on the White Line Trail. Pretty darn sore by the time we were descending to Choke Creek. Got the nice camp site under some evergreens. Should be dry even if we get rain overnight. Leo and Dave are fetching water to filter and then use the Steripen on. I would walk to the creek but my knee is killing me. I am very worried about the walk out of here tomorrow. From this point, which is pretty far from the parking lot, the shortest route out is about 5 or 6 miles, although it looks like you can get to a drivable road in 2.5 or 3. Hopefully it won't come to that as it would be pretty embarrassing. On the bright side, the CleanStream filter did 4 liters of water out of the creek in just a few minutes.
A Note on Cedar Water - The water in Choke Creek was a brownish red color not unlike a strong cup of tea. The color comes from the evergreen forests that the creek runs through and isn't unhealthy, but it sure looks odd. Leo says this is what water in the Pine Barrens is like, and that in olden days sailing ship captains used to call it sweet water because it stayed better longer in the ships' water reservoirs for long trips at sea.
Having been in camp for a while we make dinner, and with some rest my spirits improve. I am still worried about tomorrow, but I can fight my way through the pain. We all look at the map, and agree that there are a couple of different ways to shorten the loop tomorrow if choose to. I know that no matter what I feel like in the morning, my vote will be to shorten the loop. The quickest way out would be to backtrack, but there is no way I am going to give in to that. I know that is not what anybody else wants either.
Journal, 6:45pm - Took 2 Advil and feeling better for the moment. Needed to do some bathroom business for the first time out here which always feels very strange. Not much appetite but I know I should eat. More thirsty and tired than anything.
Dinner was a dehydrated Chicken Risotto from Backpacker's Pantry, which was pretty good. Looking at the GPS track, we saw that we had done exactly 12 miles today. We were all sore and tired, but we were also pretty proud of our accomplishment. It was a good evening, but honestly, I am a little fuzzy on the details. I know we talked for quite a while and had some good laughs. We talked about other hikes we could do, places to see, and how we had perhaps stretched ourselves a little too far today.
Journal, 9:18pm - Bedtime. Exhausted and should sleep well, even with the thought of mice running around outside. We have seen several, and they are bold. Leo seems to have adopted one as a pet.
We hung the food and packs again, and went to bed. I slept very well overnight, but did wake several times. Once I woke to the sound of something padding around our camp. Larger than a mouse for sure; something the size of a raccoon or possum I would say. It could also have been a fox, porcupine, skunk, or anything of that general size. I heard it pawing gently but repeatedly at something synthetic sounding, like the side of a tent (not mine) or a backpack. My rain fly was on but open, so I turned my headlamp on at one point to try to see if I could see what it was or scare it away. I didn't relish the prospect of coming face to face with whatever it was through the mesh of my tent, 12 inches from my face, especially if it was a startled skunk. I didn't see anything and before long I didn't hear it anymore either.
A couple times during the night I heard a little bit of light rain in the tree tops, but not a drop made it through the spruces to our tents.
Next...the long walk home.

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