Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I promised you a full recap of our adventure this weekend, and now the time has come!  This hike was really challenging for me, but I think I gained some insights and took away some lessons that will make me a better hiker. Did you guys like my teaser photo yesterday?

This was taken after we got into camp Saturday night.  I thought it was a great opportunity to recreate the Tom Hanks fire scene from “Castaway.”  We may have been a tad bit delirious.  Who am I kidding?  We would’ve taken this photo even if our brains had been fully functional!

We left our house around 6:00 Friday headed for the Buffalo River.  The Buffalo River is located in Northern Arkansas, and it’s a very popular river for canoes and kayaks.  If you’re one for water sports, there isn’t a better destination in our corner of the world.  Somewhat less popular, but no less scenic, is the Buffalo River Trail.  The Buffalo Trail is a 36 mile trail that stretches from Boxley Valley, Arkansas to Pruitt, Arkansas, and hugs the river for most of the journey.  It is packed with gorgeous scenery that includes sheer bluffs, canopied forests, and awesome views of the river.  This area is one our favorite places to explore, and our only regret this time was that we missed peak season for fall foliage.  There were still some great colors, but no where near what you can see when the colors are at their best.

We arrived late Friday night, and were up early Saturday morning and waiting for the doors of the Buffalo River Outdoor Center to open at 8.  The Buffalo River Trail is an end to end trail so unless you’re traveling with a group and more than one car, a shuttle service is necessary.  The BOC is a great one to use for anything you need to do in this area, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover they have built a completely new building since our last visit!

We set up the shuttle in no time, strapped on the backpacks, and took off from the parking lot to hit the trail a few hundred yards down the road.  We had originally planned on driving back to the trailhead at Boxley and completing the entire 36 miles of the trail.  After speaking with the people at the BOC, we decided to cut off the first 9 mile section due to the rough terrain.  We had previously hiked that section, and knew firsthand about the poor conditions.  Let’s just say, later on we were very thankful for that decision!

As we headed out, John and I both felt good and so happy to be back on the trail.  The weather was great, and I was all smiles as we hiked along, so thankful to be back on the trail after months away (not counting our day hike last weekend!).  We spent the morning talking and snapping pictures as we climbed up and down the mountains.  That 11 miles section of the trail is fairly difficult  so it was around 3:00 before we rolled into the first campground.  My knee was starting to hurt a little as this point, and we were a little nervous about running out of daylight but we wanted to make it to the next campsite before calling it a day.  We headed out to conquer the last 7.4 miles.  It may have been longest of my life.  My knee was screaming at me, and I was starting to feel the fatigue from pushing my body so hard all day.  We did run out of daylight, and did the last 2 miles in the dark with the help of headlamps.  We rolled into camp about 7, and I was so happy to set my pack down for the day!

We quickly set up camp, built a fire, and ate dinner.  We enjoyed the quiet, and a quick cup of hot chocolate before passing out in our sleeping bags around 8:15.  Nothing feels quite as good as crawling into your sleeping bag after a hard day on the trail.  It’s blissful!  I wanted to get a picture of our camp to show you all, but since it was dark it was a no go.  Next time!

We left camp around 7:15 the next morning, determined to cover the last nine miles before the rain rolled in.  As we started out that morning, I doubted myself.  I truly didn’t think there was any way I could make it.  My legs were stiff, and resting my knee overnight hadn’t done any good at all.  Despite all this, we kept up a pretty good pace, and we were only a mile from the car when the rain hit.  Luckily, the temperature drop held off for another hour, and we finished that last mile wet but exhilarated.

I told John later that I was a little amazed.  Not only did I doubt my ability to finish at the beginning, but I thought several times throughout those last few miles that there was no way I could keep going.  It is amazing what the body can do!  We went to a local cafe for our post-hike meal (<—easily one of the best parts of backpacking!), and then high-tailed it home.  After a much needed shower, I climbed into bed around 5:30 happy as a clam!

This hike was particularly hard for me (it happens!), but, in spite of all the challenges, we had a great time and a wonderful weekend.  It was great to be back out where I belonged, and I’m already eyeing the calendar to see when we can get out there again.

What was your last hike?  Do anything fun this weekend?

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17 thoughts on “Miles To Go Before I Sleep

  1. aftertheivyleague

    Wow, such a great story! Fighting through a hurting knee, rain, and cold, and finishing 36 miles! Such an accomplishment, I would’ve been in bed by 5:30 too! You must be so proud, great job!!

  2. Carrie

    Wow, so, so cool, Natalie! Hiking sounds very difficult, yet extremely rewarding; I can’t imagine covering 36 miles, let alone the 27-mile course (if my math is correct, lol) you and John hiked. I completely forgot daily savings time ended and that daylight would act as a timer. Even though it rained a bit, it sounds like a great (and challenging!) outing!

  3. Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale

    I’ll email you back as soon as I can, but you’d better believe my butt is going to be in those woods next summer so I can keep up with you on our future adventures. It’s posts like this that make me feel truly in awe of nature, the human body and the whole biosphere in general. Sometimes its easy to get caught in the blogosphere or in our own little world away from the screen, but our planet (and our bodies!) are beautiful and should most certainly be appreciated. I’m sure Mother Nature is smiling at you, my dear!! I know I am! 😉

    1. Natalie @ Free Range Human Post author

      I wish we could count it by the week! Unfortunately, we don’t have a whole lot in our immediate vicinity so our outings are reserved for weekends. We do have “the world’s highest hill” in our town (one foot short of being a mountain!) and we do use that pretty frequently for training hikes.

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