Component hiking-getting used to the backpack

Hiking the Volunteer Trail in Mt. Juliet
Hiking the Volunteer Trail in Mt. Juliet

The spot we chose for this bit of fun practice was Long Hunter State Park. We made our plan, packed the backpack and drove to 2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076-4027. It is an easy trail that is about 11 miles long if you go all the way to the camp site at 5.5 miles. It runs along the edge of Couchville Lake with the water on your left or generally toward the west.

We use I-40 E and take the Mount Juliet exit (226). Then we head south on Mt Juliet Road (before you turn off of it the name will change to Hobson Pike). Watch on your right for some signs that make the way pretty well and turn left on Bakers Grove. Just about the time you get your truck straightened out you will need to turn left. This will take you about .5 miles to the trail head.

One of my favorite sources for info in our area is Cloud Hiking.  They have an awesome map of this trail and a really detailed section by section description of what to expect. If you are into blazes (I use them religiously) the trail we took was blazed white and the day loop is orange.

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The lake shore is very rocky in places. This made for a great place to eat out lunch.

In the parking lot we pretended that we were going to be gone overnight, went through the check list of activities in our heads and loaded our packs…well I had a large pack and she carrier a little day pack for this practice adventure.  After a bug spray experiment, we hiked the first .5 mile or so to the intersection where the day loop goes left. It circles around counter clock wise for 4 miles back to this intersection. It is only .7 or this day loop, however, to a great picnic spot with a nice view of the lake. You would only have to carry your picnic basket a total of 1.2 miles each way.

Go to the right like we did and it is 5 more miles to the camp site. From the parking lot to the camp site and back is 11 miles. Add a mile of the pavement out and back for a pretty decent practice 1/2 marathon that I used when getting ready for the Music City Marathon. The reasonably level trail makes the practice much more fun for me than the blacktop.

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Some prickly pear beside the trail.

In the camp site at the end of this 5.5 miles I’ve camped with some buddies a couple of times. I loved the abundant dry cedar dead wood. Both times there were plenty of fallen limbs for a decent fire. Nice benches and a fire ring make for some nice amenities in an other wise primitive camp site.

My Honey and I used this trail to do a little component backpacking on this trip. We have a couple of epic trips we want to take but like writing or anything else, you have to start at the beginning and prepare.  My Honey works out this idea in the world of writing at  cowriterpro.com. We needed to work out a lot of kinks in backpacking—one at a time. We have learned that to try too many new things at one time is a disaster.  This day hike was about getting used to a backpack.

Since I had always hiked with the guys and everybody packed to be self sufficient with only the occasional sharing of some kitchen supplies, I was experimenting with just adding her things to a complete pack. My Honey carried a few things in a hydration pack and got used to the idea of and the practice of getting anything else she needed out of the big pack.

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Just a hydration pack today

She was accustomed to carrying a large bag with most day use things handy in that bag no matter what was on her back.  So we practiced by eating a meal and by setting up a hammock camp for a quick nap and then loading it all up again.  It was a good learning experience for both of us and we just had a good time being outside together.

We learned that we both have to carry a real backpack. I can take a larger portion of the weight but she has to have at least a 30 liter pack too. Even if we got a 90 liter pack for me, it might all fit but the weight would be more than I could carry and still have fun…pack mule doesn’t work well as my middle name!

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My Honey soaking up the sun and resting her toes by Couchville Lake

We soaked up a lot of sun and had lunch on the rocky shore of Couchville Lake. We reclined luxuriously together in a hammock under a dense canopy for a little nap. We got some good exercise, practiced a component of backpacking and headed home when it got dark.

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Stopping for the simple details that make it special

Mission accomplished. Next trip-new lesson-repeat. we don’t really care how long it takes to master all the skills and get on with the epic trips as long as we are making progress. We build concept and skill on concept and skill. We are up to a week of camping—hiking combos from base camps and/or two nights in a row of primitive backpacking…and enjoying our progress.

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Pondering your path—what big thing do you want to do? From hike the grand canyon to making an elaborate quilt filled with childhood memories to a long vacation through the castles of Europe…what component could you practice first? How could you make an enjoyable small project be a step toward completing the whole?

As Jesus once said, “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?” Then break the plan down in pieces and practice them one at a time.