Thursday, November 10, 2016

Camp #12: Letting Off Steam At Indian Cave

As I mentioned in my last post, I was planning to go camping to celebrate the election.  I almost didn't do it after seeing the results of the election but, after encouragement from a few friends and the Wife, I changed my mind and went to Indian Cave State Park for the last camp of 2016.

Of the three places that have backcountry camping in my area, Indian Cave is the most remote both from my home and from civilization.  Civilization around the park consists of small towns of less than two hundred people.  This meant a nice and quiet night for camping.  Owls and coyotes were the only sound I heard.

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A few remaining fall colors at Indian Cave.
I arrived about an hour before sunset and, starting at trailhead 10, hiked up East Ridge trail to the first campsite.  Hike is a strong word since it was only a half mile (805 m) but it was a climb - sometimes steep - up 480 feet (146 m).  At the top of the ridge is a campsite I'd passed several times during my hikes here.

The campsite has changed quite a bit over the years.  The first time I passed it there was an adirondack shelter, a fire ring, and a bench that faced the setting sun.  The bench is now gone (it had been pulled out of the ground by vandals a few years ago) and the shelter apparently had been vandalised and no longer provided safe shelter.  The fire ring was still intact though and I set up my tent where the bench once stood.

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The hills and trees of Indian Cave.
From the campsite the views are majestic.  To the west is a large expanse of forest.  Some of the late fall colors remained.  To the north-west there are views of the Missouri River.  The skies were clear blue and everything was tinged with the orange of the setting sun.

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The Missouri River.
I collected firewood and built a fire just as the sun was dropping under the horizon.  I sat on the edge of the shelter and boiled water for my evening meal: Beef Stroganoff.  For dessert I had a bag of homemade trail mix.  The first star made it's appearance.  It was actually Venus but I wasn't picky ... I made a wish on it anyway.  It was joined by the Moon.  The Moon would be blotting out some of the stars tonight but I didn't mind too much.  The Moon is on its way to becoming a supermoon on Monday - the largest since 1948.  It won't be this large again until 2034.

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The last of the day's light, my tent, and the first star of the night.
Then I let off steam.  I asked the Moon "What the heck is going on?"  I pleaded with the stars to tell me what I should do.  Yes, I did this out loud - I do talk to myself often.  I ranted and raved about how crappy 2016 was turning out to be and the Universe didn't care.  But I did feel better after talking my way through a few things.  That was why I'd gone camping.

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Despite the bright moon, there were still stars to witness my blow off.
The fire burned quicker than I expected and I was out of wood and fire by 7:30pm but all this soul searching wore me out so I climbed into my tent and fell asleep.  It was a cold night with temperatures near 37°F (2.8°C).  I was in my long underwear bottoms, long sleeve t-shirt, socks, balaclava, stocking cap, sleeping bag liner, and sleeping bag.  Around 3:00am I woke up and I was cold so I put on my fleece jacket and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag.  The fleece did the trick and I was able to fight off the chill the rest of the night.

I woke up around 5:00am to the sound of wind.  Lots of wind.  I spent the next hour dozing in and out and thinking how I would stow the tent in such a high wind.  I packed my backpack and crawled out of the tent.  As soon as my weight was out of the tent it took off.  I grabbed it before it could fly off the ridge and ran for the groundsheet that took off as well.  I stuffed the groundsheet under my pack to hold it in place while I walked around the remains of the shelter to find a place out of the wind.  I managed to find such a spot and I stuffed the tent back into its bag.

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The Sun's first light over the path forward ... but I went the other way back to the car.
I poured the remainder of my water on the still hot coals of the fire and headed down the trail back to the car.  After a stop at McDonalds for my customary hot cakes and large OJ, I headed home back to the real world.  I think the camp probably did me some good.

This will probably be the last camp for the year and probably the last until I start the Appalachian Trail.  This may change if we have weird warm weather this winter but I'm not expecting that to happen.

Pictures were added to the end of my Flickr Camping album.

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