Apr 9, 2012 at 8:25 am #1288490
It had been a year since I had taken my boys, 5 year old Samuel and 14 year old Sydney, out on a trip so once again we hit the trail on spring break, this time choosing the challenging Adventure Hiking Trail contained within Harrison-Crawford State Forest and administered by O'Bannon Woods State Park. This trail is one of the toughest and longest (20 miles) in the state. It also is the driest, requiring you to cache water regardless of the season unless there is sufficient snow to melt. As the name would suggest this is a hiking only trail though there are short segments where it joins with horse trails. It was clear that some horsemen ignored the "No Horses" signs in some cases, but the trail was in very good shape everywhere except a couple spots despite there being a major horse event the preceding weekend. Ticks and poison ivy were in abundance though, and the trees were leafed out much more than normal because of the record setting temps in March. The trail is blazed much better now than it apparently used to be. There were only three spots where we had to really look to see where the trail went.
We came in on Monday via Corydon, having lunch and changing clothes before continuing to drop our caches. I had planned to start at 462 and spend up to 3 nights so I dropped at the old Iron Bridge, the Pioneer Shelter (entrance to the Park is free during the week at this point in the year) and the intersection with Cold Friday Rd. I was being extra cautious given the near record heat, not knowing how my boys would do and being told by the office that the Horsemen's Electric Campground was 3/4 mile from the trail. It turns out it's less than 1/4 mile so we could have gotten by with just the Cold Friday cache (we carried 9 quarts total). Previously the most my boys had done was 3.5 miles in a day with MUCH cooler temps. We were starting out in the heat of the day, needing to put in 4.7 miles to reach Indian Creek Shelter.
We set off about 2 PM and let Samuel lead the way. We came to an extensive area of recent logging after about 3/4 mile, which is likely why the Park Office called to verify there were no more detours in place before we left. We didn't even try to find one geocache because there were so many trees down in the valley north of Old Forest Rd. We did find the one across that road near the trailhead though the hint was no longer accurate. Since I don't have a GPS, I rely on compass and topo or satellite maps and the hints to find them. The boys took several breaks and the older son got a hot spot on a big toe we took care of quickly. He actually outweighs me significantly so I figured he'd have as hard a time as Samuel. It wasn't long before we spotted some ticks on Sam's neck and head (good thing I just buzzed him!) so I checked his waist and found more there. He was not at all happy about this, wanting to go back, but we convinced him it was too far to turn back now. :) I had not had a chance to treat the boys clothing with permethrin. We arrived at the shelter to find it already occupied by a youth pastor and six young teen boys on an annual trip. I was disappointed we didn't pass the pond I'd seen on the sat view that was going to be my bearing reference for another geocache near a cave. It must have been off the parallel horse trail. We moved a little farther south and set up our shelters next to a large sinkhole. There were quite a few of various sizes on this ridge. I stuck Sam in the Lunar Duo and stripped off a bunch of ticks 1-4 mm in size from his body and clothes. The poor kid was like candy to them while Sydney and I had none. I determined he wasn't going to lead anymore so Sydney or I could knock them off in front of him. Since it was so warm, I decided to have our ramen-based dinner cold. It had lemon, mint, onion powder and pepper. I realized after the fact that I forgot to add the tuna to it. The boys still liked it. It was a gorgeous sunset on the ridge and the moon was nearly full and bright.
I was pleased that our feet seemed to be doing well after 4 hours of trekking other than just general tiredness and a bandaid on a hotspot. I had taken the boys to Walmart a few weeks prior to get suitable shoes for this journey. Samuel ended up with Nerf shoes which are really like sandals except they have a solid toe. He wore my pair of Darn Tough Vermont 1/4 socks (what he called mountain socks last year) once again, which come up almost like crew socks on him. Sydney had a pair of Ozark Trails hiking shoes (sort of low boots really). They were not breathable and I had thought about boring holes near the soles to drain water but knew there weren't going to be any creek crossings. I think the running shoes like I'd used a few years may have been better, but they have no lugs at all. He wore his BSA socks. I wore my replacement pair of Inov-8 Roclite 315. I've had hot spots on the back of the heel bone with those Walmart running shoes, prior generation 315s and just a short 2 mile in these new 315s. After that short walk I decided to try molding the thermosetting heel counter. They felt no different while I was doing it, but it must have worked since I didn't have to tape that area the whole trip. I wear Injinji socks.
The sun rose to turkeys gobbling in the valley. The boys finally arose and I fixed their oatmeal. We made it to the lean-to I'd heard about in 30 minutes. While everyone else seems to think it's about to fall down, I found it plenty sturdy and it would keep you dry in a storm if it wasn't too windy (the roof is solid but the 3 sides have gaps). You could sleep 2 in it. It took us a little over 2 hours to do the rest of the 3.4 miles to the Homestead Shelter. However, we still had another 1.2 miles to go to reach our water. It turns out you'll come to another old homesite within 10 minutes that had a trickle in the small bed just past it, but I doubt that runs after spring. We made it to Cold Friday Rd in an hour so we continued to average 1.2 mph. However, it took us 2.75 hours to cover the 2.2 miles to the Ohio River Shelter after I let the boys find the next geocache near the trailhead which had an easy hint. We had consumed only 6.5 quarts of water since starting. Though they weren't dehydrated at all I had encouraged them to drink a lot before we had started and now that we had plenty of water. After a while Sydney's other big toe needed a bandaid, but he kept plugging along despite some general foot pain and several steep climbs. He has pretty flat feet and had some long-lasting issues after an ankle injury a few years ago so I was impressed he'd done so well after so much hard trekking. I was even more impressed when we made it to the shelter 5-10 minutes ahead of the church group. While they had left 40 minutes later than us, the last 2 boys finished only about 20-25 minutes faster than we did. The pastor told me he didn't think the shelter shown on the NW section of trail on the park-provided topo map existed. It turns out we ruined their plans at staying in the shelter as they had our's the previous night and they didn't bring their own shelters. I offered to let them have the Shelter with just Sydney since it was plenty big enough (unlike the Indian Creek or Homestead Shelters), but they decided to hike out and end their trip early. Almost as soon as that group arrived a C-130 came buzzing down the Ohio at our eye level. I can only assume they were doing some sort of training flight, but that was an unusual event for the boys to see. I sent Sydney in search of a nearby geocache. It turns out he came very close to it, but it was well hidden. I failed on my first attempt also but managed to find it on my second shot. Compass bearing is 286 degrees from the shelter porch. Sydney beat me at chess so I had him practice working the Windpro to heat our water for our mountain spaghetti. It was a nice sunset again and bright moon. As we settled down we discovered we were not alone. What's a shelter without a resident mouse, right? I suspect there were more.
There were a few brief showers during the night, but it was decent in the morning. I had had chafing from the prior 2 days, which was a new (and unpleasant) experience for me. I can only assume the unusually high heat and humidity is what caused it. I applied a liberal coating of chapstick to the affected parts and things were good to go by morning. Once again a turkey was gobbling it up and this time he was close. Unfortunately, he was looking right at me as I exited the shelter with my camera to go looking for him so he took to flight from the trail 100' away. Today was to be much cooler with 50% chance of thunderstorms so at least it should be closer to what you'd normally expect this time of year. We had Pop Tarts and breakfast drinks and set off for the Pioneer Shelter. We kept Samuel from the lead again as it seemed our strategy helped. While he still had several ticks, it was far fewer than the first day, and Sydney and I now had a few each. I guess I need to resoak my clothes. We did come across our first sightings of a more friendly animal, the eastern box turtle, which we apparently missed the prior two days according to the church group. They are hard to miss when right on the trail. :) That last couple hundred yards of horse trail was a major mess though so I'd recommend detouring either straight up the hill to the east or parallel it on the west side of the trail. We did the latter coming back down to the AHT after I had hosed off Sam's sandals during our lunch break. The trail heading to the bridge lets you see some interesting limestone formations before descending into the valley where it joins a gravel road for 1/3 mile before coming to the bridge. We spent lots of time here because I took lots of pics of it for a friend of mine and the boys played around on a bunch of gravel piles. The bridge has no deck but I had no trouble walking across on the beams. I had originally planned to get our cache from the other side, but there was no point since we had just filled up in the camp. As we left the bridge we came across a DNR employee using a tractor to clear debris from the horse trail. He also had no clue about the shelter shown on the map that the office told me was there when I asked about it while registering. We continued on and once we climbed out of the Blue River valley we started hearing some thunder and 15 minutes later the rain started.
Perhaps I should have made them stop right then because there was actually a flat spot that I could have pitched our shelters. They wanted to continue so on we went, soon getting drenched but having a good time. I told Samuel to make sure to tell me when he got cold. I'd guess temps were mid 60s but there wasn't much wind in the forest. Once we made the clearing where the AHT intersects with horse trails, we initially decided to just keep going. Samuel finally said he was getting cold so I got out his rain coat (glad I had just bought that instead of the trash bag we took last year!). After a few hundred yards, I decided we should go back to the clearing and camp because I figured there was maybe a 1% chance of finding a suitable pitching spot along the trail any time soon and that we'd end up having to walk the whole way out to the clearing by the car. I was also determined to at least look for the "Mystery Shelter" as we'd been calling it. I set them up under a little pine and went back south to explore the little valley where it was shown. I went up and down it and thought I found it for a second, but it turned out to be the rotting shell of a little bus. (Side note: it would be a good Eagle Scout project to add a shelter somewhere along the AHT in this area.) The rain had pretty much stopped while I was gone. I laid out all our options to the boys and let them decide what they wanted to do. We'd already done around 5 miles, and I wasn't sure how much gas they had left to give. They opted to go all the way to the car (~ 3 miles) and go home. As we headed over to the AHT again, I had the idea that maybe it would be quicker to take the horse trail, which was really a gravel road, back up to a real road and then out to the car, saving us a mile and an hour of time (as it was now 6 PM). They thought that was even better so up the hill we went. It was a long uphill mile, but they made it and I left them in the alcove of a locked comfort station while I walked the remaining 3/4 mile to the car. It started raining again as I neared it. We decided to eat at The Overlook restaurant in Leavenworth as I'd seen a few people mention it in the few reviews I'd found of this trail. We picked up our cache at the bridge on our way and arrived literally right before they closed (8 PM on weekdays). They were nice enough to serve us. The boys liked the view despite the rain and fog since the trees on the AHT prevented you from seeing the river very well. We highly recommend the ribs! :) In hindsight, I think we made the right choice. While we could have camped the night, Sam hasn't acquired the taste for storms yet, and I know some went through that night and the following morning.
Things I'd do different: nothing really. I thought the trip went as well as I could have expected except for bailing out on the last 3+ miles of trail. I was proud of how my boys held up overall. I know Sydney's shoulders had to hurt because he'd way outgrown the Pinnacle I had gotten him and I'd guess he had 25 pounds total when we started. I think Sam's shoulders hurt a bit as well since his pack has the straps attached at the center. He carried all his clothing, rain jacket, pillow and quart of water (we'd empty his first). Total weight of all he carried, including the pack, was about 5 lbs. He's small and skinny (38 lbs). So I'm on a quest to get (or make) new packs for them as time and money allow.Apr 12, 2012 at 7:16 am #1866477
Last night I made it a point of telling the boys how proud I was of how well they had done, and both said hiking in the rain was the best part. How ironic. They just wanted to get home to mom and real beds I think. I hope to get my wife out on her first overnight in a few weeks.Apr 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm #1870407
I think the video would have went better, I am a slow reader:)Apr 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm #1870504
Thanks for the report! My son will be 4, so I'm happy to read accounts of successful trips, especially given the distance and terrain of the AHT.
How much did your boys carry (especially Samuel)? I've heard things like Age – 2 = Lbs. Carried for 5-10 year olds … or 8% of body weight. My son typically takes a 16 oz. bottle of water, his rain jacket, hat/gloves (if he's not already wearing them) and whatever stuffed animal or toy he decided to bring along (and he's already starting to understand that the lighter toys are better for hiking). This means he's pushing 3 lbs., including the water. He's done pretty well so far, but I haven't pushed him to go long distances.
Pretty impressive that the little guy can almost keep up with the scouts!
I look forward to your next post-trip report.
EDIT: Never mind on my question. I had missed the pack weight details in the wrap-up.Apr 24, 2012 at 5:48 am #1870539
I'll answer a little more in depth anyway. I did not weigh his pack this year so I roughly guessed that it was 5 lbs max based on what changed. He weighs 38. Last year's trip his base weight was 53 oz and he weighed 33 as I recall so it was 10% of his weight. This year he carried basically the same except we dropped the 2 small toys (never played with last year) and his thick fleece blanket and added a thin fleece hoody. Then he also carried a quart of water for a while. When we emptied the first bottle we swapped it for the full one in his pack. So he actually carried less for most of this trip. I'd say 10% is the max a child should consistently carry so your rule of thumb sounds good.
I would guess that my 14 year old was mid 20s to start (likely a few less than me). We ate from the food bag he carried first. He's a large boy, which runs in my wife's family, so the weight wasn't a challenge but he's grown so much this past year the pack no longer fit him. He went from a small to a large. His own weight is also a challenge since he's grown outward as well as upward. I'm not sure how flat feet may adversely affect walking/hiking, but he also had a foot issue a few years ago that could possibly cause issues, especially given his weight now.
I'd say you have to know your son's limits. Samuel would sometimes say he was tired within minutes after a break but I knew that wasn't the case. When I knew it was true we'd stop. This trail sort of forced our hand on where we could camp as there weren't many decent spots to stop away from the few shelters. I honestly think now that they could have done longer distances as shown by their resolve to walk the rest of the way out the third day, which was all uphill from where we were, but I was not going to push them any harder than needed to reach our site each day.
I know the soles of my feet were sore so I was ready to stop, too. That rather surprised me since the trails were not rocky like in the Rockies and we did less than half the distance I normally would cover before that happens. It must be a time thing for me – after x hours my soles have had enough – since I'd walk at least twice as fast as what we did. Hmmm… maybe I should take more frequent breaks. I'd often remain standing while they were resting. I don't hike for miles though, just the experience and scenery.Apr 24, 2012 at 7:05 am #1870557
Good advice. I'm learning. The difficulty I face with him is the opposite of Samuel's claim of fatigue after a break as my son just wants to go, go, go without resting. We climbed Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (http://sigiriya.org/images/aerial_view_showing_top.jpg) a month ago and I only carried him 20 steps (when the iron stairs were rusted and he felt unsafe … heck, I felt unsafe). The problem, though, is that I should have paced him a little better because when we reached the bottom he started tripping and stumbling, something he very rarely does … or only does when he's tired. This is my fear on the trail, that his enthusiasm will accommodate my desire to go faster and farther, but that the day after he'll be less sure-footed and make unsafe choices.
He's young, so we'll learn what his limits are together, but I'm glad to have trip reports like yours. It gives me a sense of what I should be planning and what the sort of realistic expectations should be. We get to move back to the States in a month and he keeps telling me that he wants to go camping "everyday". Needless to say, perhaps, but I'm poring over maps and trail accounts trying to plan our summer. Should be fun.
Thanks again!Apr 24, 2012 at 8:14 am #1870578
Remember it is not about you. :) So your "desire to go faster and farther" means nothing here. He must enjoy it and remain safe, of course, so force 5-10 minute breaks every hour or whatever seems within his limit. Get him to stop to check out the bugs, rocks, plants, views, etc.
By the time he's a teen, you may have trouble keeping up with him! People like Sunshine (and her father Balls) that are doing the AT now are inspirations for people like us that won't get to do trips like that,May 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm #1873223
Thanks for the report. Where did you aquire your maps for the AHT? I am trying to get up there as I live nearby, but have always been concerned about the reports previously of a lack of markings and the difficulty in finding the trail…I hear it's gotten better?
Did you find the trail well marked and easy enough to follow? Was the signage adequate? Are there mile markers by the shelters giving distances to the next shelter?
Thanks !!!May 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm #1873267
I had gotten a decent horse trail map from 1990 a couple years ago when I requested a variety of maps for free from the main DNR office. When I contacted O'Bannon SP recently, they sent me an AHT map, which was accurate but very poor quality. It's someone's GPS track done in NG TOPO! but it's only 11×14 paper and the printing wasn't very good. It does have mileage between major points though (there's none on the trail) and if you also have a decent topo (I used the horse map), you can just make out their map enough to get a decent feel for where you are. They wanted $10 for a horse trail map (not sure if it was a new or not) so I didn't get it.
As I had said, the trail was in good shape. If you go more than a few minutes without seeing a blaze you should backtrack. There was one case I did just that. I was zipping along taking video and the trail sort of fizzled out. I came to a logging road but couldn't find the trail so went back and saw where the trail had taken a 90 down the hill. I put a few logs across the false trail to make the turn more obvious. The only other time you had to look for the trail was in the recently logged section in the NE. The trail was easy to follow 99% of the time.
As I hinted at, any detours had apparently just finished, but you should ask at the park office when you register or call the forest office beforehand.
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