Three things I was worried about was, navigating to Garden Spot (since I hadn't been there in 2 years on my first book set out), navigating to barley mouth branch, and my training and whether it would be enough when I arrived at camp on Friday afternoon. Work and life has a way of cranking up right when you don't want it too. I had watched the weight list and had made plans of who to try to stick with and who to fall back to if my lack of training took effect. I did not dream it would be other things that took me down instead.
The conch shell blew at 8:04 and I finished getting my stuff together. My only quandary was the pants I was wearing. They were just some thin cargo pants and I worried that if I slid alot or if it started raining, they would become very wet and cause me to get hypothermia. So I opted to put some running tights on underneath and I put my favorite rain jacket that has survived barkley book set outs in my pack. With less than 10 minutes to go, I made my way up to the yellow gate with a few friends (Tim, Mike, & Cathy) that were sharing the campsite. I was a little concerned that Tim was planning to go with Hiram and that they would be too fast for me. I had watched the weight list close and cheered when Hiram got in. If there was anyone I wanted to be my Plan A- it was him. I tried to get up close to him, but all too soon the cigarette was lit and everyone took off up the jeep road.
We hit the Bird Mountain trail and I spotted Hiram just up ahead. I was able to keep him in my sights, especially at the switchbacks, but then the mountain took its toll and the pace slowed. I was in a conga line and was afraid to ask to go around (still too timid). Slowly, I watched my Plan A slipping from my sight. That's okay I thought, I still have Plans B-E.
Made it up Bird Mountain and was going down Hiram's Gambit when Plan B, Frozen Ed, went past me. Dang, I thought, this is not good! I told myself, that's okay. I still have C- E and I was with two friends, also virgins, hiking with me. We tore our pages out of book 1, and after a couple of pics, headed down Jacque mate hill. Cheryl Lager came upon us and went past us after checking her map. I knew I needed to stay just a little right going down. I came out on Phillip's creek right at the trail, just above the old book placement cairn. Awesome!
Began making my way up candy arse trail and soon caught and passed David H. Stopped at the top to get some food out and David passed. Headed on around Jury Ridge and Bald Knob. I felt really good going uphill. The little bit of training that I did manage to get in worked well. I felt pretty good about the way things were going. Although I felt that I was traveling too slow with my fellow companions and would not make it in under the time limit, I felt that one loop was doable. My PF wasn't hurting and my legs felt great. At the Thoreau sign, I had some time before they caught up to me, and I slipped up behind a fallen tree and shimmied out of my running tights and just wore my cargo pants. The tights were too hot but at least I'd have them if the weather changed. Never thought I'd be standing in my skivvies during the barkley!
We made it to the coal ponds and headed around them and up to the trail. A little unsure of which way to go on the Cumberland trail because we could not find the two stacks of small rocks, we went right first. Then quickly double backed, and made our way around to the Garden Spot. I was elated to find it. Now only one more worrisome spot to contend with...barley mouth branch. I was worried about finding barley mouth branch because on the book set out there was snow everywhere. When we left garden spot, I was chatting and not paying close attention to my surroundings- it was all white! I remember several jeep roads and Hiram saying to laz something about taking this one not that, or something. So I was a little nervous about navigating.
We made our way around the jeep road to the coffin springs intersection. Going by the directions, it read like we were suppose to drop down to the next road, at the switchback, and then go over the hill. So we did. It didn't feel right after heading down and after not seeing any tracks of other runners (confidence markers at barkley), we doubled back up the hill side and back tracked to the water jugs. We re read our directions, took a reading with our compass and checked our maps.
|barley mouth branch behind me (& Stu)|
|the elusive turn off of the jeep road, down the hill side|
We headed back down the jeep road to the intersection, this time turning left and following the road on around. We did see a few tracks and felt better. We came to puddle and blocking of the road we were on, but there was a jeep road below. So we headed down to it, double checked laz's directions and headed right. After following it for a while, we didn't see any tracks and it didn't look right to me- snow or no snow. So we came back and headed up the left side just a bit, but that did not match the directions at all. So headed back toward the water jugs to try again. Frustration was setting in to say the least. Then we heard voices. Coming up the jeep road from the water stop was Peter, Rich, and David. So we chatted with them and tried to figure out where we suppose to drop off of the hillside. David explained the old way they use to take to get to LBS and although it would have been off of this year's course, at least if we could get to the book, we could continue on. We were going to be timed out regardless if we finished the loop or not at this point. Going off course was the least of our worries. Not too mention I could hear laz taunting me, "but you was on the book set out! You put that book out!" Catherine and I debated, and after checking our watches, since it was getting late and dark was approaching, decided to take an hour going down the hill and if we didn't find it, then we would come back up to the coffin springs intersection and take Quitter's road.
We looked at our compass and headed south for an hour. I was looking for barley mouth branch. We found what looked to be a very old logging road and followed it for awhile and close to the hour, we saw a jeep road below us. We cut down to it and started following it and thought we saw some tracks. Then we saw wild pigs up ahead on the jeep road. Just small ones, about 50 feet from us. I took a step forward to try to take a pic, when we heard the grunting and I saw a huge pig going up the hill side. I was torn. I could hear water up ahead on the jeep road, thinking it could be barley mouth, but the pigs were in that direction. Plus our allotted hour was up. We discussed it and decided to head back. We turned and headed due north and came out right at the gate leading back onto FHSP property. We had spent five hours looking for the way to book 3. I never saw my Plans C (Leonard) or D (Stu) out there, but had to go to Plan E (evacuate).
We made our way down Quitter's Road until we took a left instead of the right at the other coffin springs intersection. Darkness was upon us and we had our head lamps on and trucking alone just enjoying each other's company. Then we heard more grunts up ahead and saw outlines of more pigs going across the jeep road ahead of us. We shut off our light and listened to them go down the hill side. This was at the intersection of tub springs, panther, and north old mac. We were going down north old mac, but decided to go on around to south old mac and put a little distance between us and the pigs. As we made our way down, the rain came.
After about 13 hours and only two pages, I touched the yellow gate. I expected my lack of training to take me down, not navigational errors and forgetting that I was racing out there. When I didn't finish vol state two years ago, it ate at me for a year. The toughest thing about not finishing barkley is that it could be several years before I get another shot. (It took two years to get the chance to redeem myself at book set out.) That's okay though. It'll be worth the wait and I can't wait to get back out there. Pigs and darkness be danged!
|Mike, Tim, Catherine, and me|
Final thoughts: I am completely bummed that I did not finish a loop out there. Although I feel like my training was pretty good, I was reminded by a friend that I had forgotten that I was suppose to be racing out there. I lost sight of my race plans due to some unforeseen circumstances that I did not prepare for once the race began. Also, even if we had found book 3, by the time we made it to Testicle, the rain would've been coming down and the fog rolling in, and well, it was probably a blessing that we had trouble when we did instead of being all the way across the park when the fog rolled in.
I would say though, the last dagger to the heart, was when I got home and reviewed my book set out pics. I was so focused on looking for barley mouth branch, that when we came upon the jeep road on our last ditch effort, I never thought to be looking for bobcat rock! We may have been on the right jeep road after all and did not even know it. So although, I thought going on that book set out was an advantage, it may have been better for me to stay home and go to my originally planned orienteering meet. Or not.......
|the Three Amigos|
|a virgin no more :(|
More pics can be found at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.508896015836519.1073741829.100001483748106&type=1&l=c63e66d763