Homer's Travels: Camp #4: Back To Hitchcock

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Camp #4: Back To Hitchcock

For my fourth camp I returned last week to the location of my first camp (My First Camping Experience - Part One).  Hitchcock Nature Center has five backcountry campsites.  To change it up a bit from my first camp I chose another campsite on the other side of the park at the end of Fox Run Ridge trail.

The campsite is not far from the Nature Center lodge and the parking area.  After a very easy three quarter mile hike I reached the campsite.  The site was similar to the one on Westridge where I'd camped before.  There was a gravel pit for pitching your tent and a metal fire ring nearby.

I looked around the site checking out where I could collect firewood and put up my tent.  Last time I had issues with wind and problems getting my tent stakes to stay in the gravel.  This time I had no problems at all.  The wind was gentle.  The new stakes that I purchased after that first camp - longer than the ones that came with my tent and tri-lobed - gripped the ground tenaciously.  The tent was up in a couple minutes (at most ... didn't time myself).  I seem to be getting faster at putting it up.
MSR Groundhog tent stakes.

After getting the tent up I walked to the overlook located at the end of Fox Run Ridge trail and about 950 ft (290 m) from the campsite.  Along the way I noticed Monarch butterflies and lots of late summer flowers. A few years ago I'd noticed (Hiking Iowa: Hitchcock Nature Center 2011 Revisit) that the Monarchs came through here in August and September.

A Monarch butterfly along the trail.
The view from the overlook took in the farm fields and the start of the great plains.  At the bottom of the ridge a train track headed north and south.

A panorama taken from the Fox Run Ridge overlook.
I went back to the campsite and pulled out my tablet and read a little.  It was a bit buggy.  I decided not to eat a hot meal this camp.  I'd packed chicken and mashed potatoes but decided to not cook it and instead had a cold dinner of cereal, homemade trail mix, and a protein bar.

As I was at the campsite three people hiked passed heading to the overlook.  I heard planes fly overhead as they came in for a landing at Epply airfield.  I heard a train go by.  The train must have crossed a road nearby as it blew its whistle.  This campsite did not have the peace and tranquility I'd experienced on my last couple of camps.

I went back to the overlook to see if I could get a picture of a passing train but I was not patient enough I think.  All I got were empty tracks.

Train tracks about a thousand feet from my campsite.
As I waited I took pictures of flowers. There were tiny little clusters of white flowers everywhere.

Tiny little flowers a third of an inch across.
I gave up on getting a picture of the train and headed back to the campsite and started building a fire.  I managed to make a good fire but it took three cotton balls soaked in Vaseline to get it started.  I think this was my fault.  I think I was piling on too much wood on top of the burning cotton balls.  Next time I need to be a bit slower to add wood onto the flame so I don't smother it.  I have to learn fire starting patience.

You can tell Fall is getting here.  It is getting darker sooner.  The sun had set after 8:00PM on my first few camps.  This time the sun was down by 7:30PM.  It got dark a lot sooner.  I was hoping for a starry night - the sky had been clear when I got there - but the clouds rolled in just as the sun was going down.  I spent the rest of the evening tending the fire and reading.  That's one advantage of reading books on a tablet - you can read in the dark.

I didn't sleep that well that night.  I'd expected a colder night than I had and I was a bit too warm early on.  I don't sleep well when I'm warm.  It did chill down sometime after 4:00AM.  It's also hard to sleep when a train whistle blows every thirty to sixty minutes.  I did manage to sleep but I woke up a lot.  I may have to pack ear plugs next time.  It's kind of sad.  I love the relaxing sound of trains clickitty-clacking on the tracks but the whistles were just too loud.

I woke up around 7:00AM after a restless sleep.  This was later than I usually wake up while camping but sunrise is later now which probably explains it.  I packed up and headed home.

Not exactly sure where my next camp will be.  I am investigating a park in north-eastern Iowa near the Mississippi river - The Yellow River Sate Forest which has four backcountry campsites.  It is also over six hour away by car.  I'll make a decision over the next few weeks.

Pictures of the camp have been added to my 2014-2016 Camping in Iowa and Nebraska and my 2008-2017 Hitchcock Nature Reserve Google Photos albums.

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