|Beginning NSCT (Tiff left, Jenna right)
The North Sylamore Creek Trail (NSCT) has lots of great information online. It passes through three campgrounds. We found the Trail Head in Allison, AR without much trouble, and as we'd been warned online - we had to cross the fairly wide creek right off. We waved bye to Dad, and trekked on, enthusiastically.
My friend Tiffany had agreed to come with me. She usually jumps at my plans like this; she likes it as much as I do. She is 36 and I am 41. We look years younger, we know...
We both live in Tennessee. She was born and raised in Alabama
and I was born in Arkansas, raised in Kansas City, KS and then back in AR. We both love the natural places.
|Tiffany crossing stream
We had both been a little frustrated, but a bowl of warm soup, filtered water, and the prospect of sleep put us in better moods. The fun part about backpacking is when you get to your "camp stop" you don't really get to rest. There is a LOT of work involved in just unpacking, changing, eating, and setting up camp. Finally, rest comes. Tiffany said she felt good about all we'd done and if we decided to leave the trail the next day, she felt satisfied that we'd accomplished what we'd set out to do.
|Prairie Camp Night #2
We got up and broke camp and took very literally the Leave No Trace philosophy. We got back on the trail. I was motivated and felt strong. About an hour down the trail we met an older guy who was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him! He asked where we'd started and told us where he was headed. We wished each other well, and he said we were nearly there now. I think I took him too literally.
The trail ran along the mountainsides. It went in and out. Because it was still early spring, we could usually see the trail across on the other side of the next mountain. It was SO far away always! The chasm between mountains was WIDE, the gap deep, and the hike into their creases and out back and over each mountain seemed so far- every time. It seemed to take extra long to get to Cripple Turkey!
|Completely Thru-Hiked the NSCT
We had no idea where the next water source would be, but we found it a half mile down the OHT. So, we stopped to filter water, because we needed it to drink that day. Rookie mistake. We should've pressed on to eat lunch at our next water source and filtered there, even not knowing where it could be.
Filtering water at the creek was very enjoyable. We splashed our faces with the cool, clear water. A horse and his rider came out of nowhere to enjoy a drink as well! That was interesting!
|Me filtering water
Most of the OHT had been intentionally burnt on both sides of the trail. I knew that forest fires were important for the health of the forest because I'd been reading Johnny Molloy's books. But it still didn't look lovely after miles and miles of it. We were glad to spot any greenery! The trail was a rocky strip, single track with a slight angle to the right always. It was grueling at times. Those trekking poles were worth every cent!
|Bluff side Camp #3
We finally found the "best of a difficult situation" campsite on the side of a burnt bluff. The ash was thick and lumpy, making the entire area wobbly to navigate- even a few steps. With difficulty, we found large rocks to open our packs on, set up the tent, and got the cook stove started. We would inevitably end up covered in black soot. The wind was very strong and we knew it was going to be cooler that night. But the sky was finally clear! We were going to see the stars! Our camp was a strange place, but we were making the best of it, and it was quite the adventure!
If we didn't find water, we weren't sure we could risk the commitment to stay on for those six extra miles. The views on this side of the trail were like none we'd seen so far. We could see for miles and miles when we reached mountaintops! The mountains were blue and stretched out forever. We had lunch atop a mountain. It took a mile or two to descend it. We tried to go slow. It seemed the road was closer than we wanted it to be. Since we hadn't seen water, we knew our trip was coming to an end. The trail was green again with beautiful rocks and switchbacks. We could still see for miles as we descended. Eventually, we reached the bottom of the mountain and the road crossing. Time to call Dad.
We walked up the road to meet him after we called him. Even that was a first! We'd never carried our packs while walking along a highway! I felt like the real deal. We made a video while we waited. Dad arrived and we had a short ride back, where we spread out all of our gear to air out, ate the BEST TACOS AND FRIES OF OUR LIVES (thanks Mom!), packed back up and prepared to drive back to TN the next morning.
|38.8 miles of backpacking Completed!