I set off on a Thursday morning to go pick up my friend from her house. When I got there, we did spend some time talking gear and arranging things before leaving. For example, we agreed that she would be the cook for our group, so I would get to leave my cooking kit in the car – only fair since I would be carrying out the tent.
The drive up to Donnelly went very smoothly, and I remembered the first turn easily. We drove by old Roseberry and the Cecilia Larkin house (name known to us only by the sign out front). I turned there as well, but I missed my next turn at Paddy Flat Rd and had to turn around to get to it. Once we got on that road, we had a bit of adventure when we found that cows were being driven along the road by a cowboy on an ATV. I went very slow while the calves gamboled along the road.
From that point, we were driving on a logging road that soon entered the forest. It’s twisty and winding and it climbs. We had one close encounter with a truck coming the other way at what seemed like an unsafe rate of speed, but otherwise the drive was fine – for me. Unfortunately, the way I like driving those roads, swooping the curves, was making my friend a bit carsick. Soon enough though, we reached the Kennally Creek Campground and after a few minutes her woes had passed.
Which was a good thing, because I’d brought some homemade applesauce along, and I really wanted her to try it!
At the campground, we saw a bunch of horse trailers and one truck parked near the trailhead, but there were no campers at all. The truck turned out to belong to some day hikers staying in a forest service cabin about 5 miles away. I tried to ask them about the condition of the trail they had just come off, but they didn’t understand my question (or I didn’t understand their answer). They seemed a bit in awe that my friend and I were going on a backpacking trip.
We got our gear all situated and changed over into our hiking gear as needed. Then it was time to head out.
This trail is very well traveled; although Kennally was empty when we left, it gets a lot of use over the weekends. At first, you can even walk abreast with someone, because the trail is so wide. But soon enough we were single file and making our way up the first climb of the day along a muddy stretch of trail.
|We are ready to go!
|Such a nice start to the trail.
The sky was a bit overcast, but not too smoky. The air was reasonably cool, though we both got hot from the exertion pretty quick. Usually, I do a 50 minute time or a 60 minute timer, but my friend was drinking out of a bottle that she couldn’t easily reach by herself, so I set us a 20 minute timer to make sure she would get sufficient water breaks. I was drinking out of a bladder, so I didn’t need to stop for drinking. I do love that about a bladder.
We paused to take pictures at the bridge over Kennally Creek. And then again soon after at the little footbridge over the side stream. From there, I pointed out a campsite that I’ve used in the past, where some small animals came in the night and chewed up my bootlaces. And then it was time for the second big climb of the day. Kind of the last one, but it depends on how you count it – as one big one with a couple downhills mixed in or as several individual climbs.
|A little muddy climb.
|The footbridge over Kennally Creek.
|The little footbridge.
I haven’t actually hiked this way in a couple years, so I was interested in places where the trail had clearly gotten a recent reroute (like I said, they take care of this trail). One particular section of trail was completely changed, so that it went around to the edge of the ridge where you could hear the stream rushing down below instead of staying more interior like it used to.
My friend hadn’t had the opportunity to go backpacking yet this summer, so she was feeling the elevation gain and the weight of the pack. I was feeling a bit rundown after my most recent trip (which was the ICT from Dry Saddle to Lynx Meadows trail head, part of which had NO trail at all), so I didn’t mind keeping to a slower pace one bit.
Mostly because it was only two miles to our campsite. We were going to arrive well before dark no matter how slow we walked, having started around noon.
|Aw, someone carved a tree on the stump.
|That’s a significant reroute.
|Getting closer to the campsite!
And, indeed, it wasn’t long before we came upon the trail junction, where we would be turning off in the morning, and the campsite, just to the left of said junction. We dropped packs and then went down to get water with our matching CNOC bags. This would also give us a chance to examine the crossing and determine whether we’d need to wear our crossing shoes in the morning.
The East Fork of Kennally Creek was looking particularly gorgeous that afternoon. The water level was low enough that it almost looked like one could do a rock hop across rather than taking boots off and switching to crossing shoes. However, there was a section at the far side of the water that could prove difficult; there was a small tree down right across the gap, freshly fallen with needles still green.
We took pictures and thought about camping down there close to the water, but I pointed out that it would get a lot colder next to the water, so we stuck with the up top site. We also decided to head out with kitted out for crossing in the morning; better to start the next day’s hike with dry boots than risk getting them wet with a rock hop that wasn’t complete.
Back at the campsite, we did camp chores. We picked a spot for the tent and got it erected. I showed her what direction to go if a hole needed to be dug. We looked around for trees to secure our food bags; I had an Ursack, which requires a medium sized trunk to be tied around while she had a standard bag that we needed to hang.
|Tent all set up.
|Cool bent tree.
|Tomorrow’s creek crossing; today’s water source.
The Ursack didn’t take too long, because trees like that are not exactly in short supply in that area. Finding a decent branch to hang from took a bit longer, because most of the trees in the area have branches that slope downward at a fairly sharp angle. It would be hard to hang something from them even if they weren’t so close to their trunks. Ideally, the bag is hung 10 feet high and 10 feet out from the branch’s trunk. In practice, I go for 10 feet high and as far from a trunk as I can manage.
Once we found a branch that would do, I got ready to demonstrate to my friend how to get the rope up there. I picked a rock that was about fist sized and started wrapping one of the paracord around it. I showed her how I had knotted it and then dropped it to see if the rope would hold before I flung it into the air. My first wrap wasn’t secure enough so I went again.
Then it was time to show her how to toss it over the branch. My intention was to do one demo throw and then let her do it, I swear. I had no intention of getting that rock over the branch! And yet, when I went into my preferred method of throwing, which involves swinging the rock on its rope and then releasing at just the right moment to give it an underhand arc, I managed to release at just the right moment, with just the right amount of power.
I got it over that branch on the very first try.
This NEVER happens!
Now, I did offer to pull it down so that she could give it a try, but that idea was quickly voted down. I mean, I’ve had trips where I spent many a tearful half hour trying to get my fricking rope up and over a fricking branch. Pulling this rope down would be disrespectful, really. Like refusing a gift from the universe. If I pulled it down, then we wouldn’t get it back up for hours.
|One toss to get that line up. One toss!
As we spent some time just chatting and hanging out, the rumble of a helicopter’s blades sounded from above. It took a while to come into view, but when it did, we could see it had a bucket attachment. I figured it was doing down to Deadwood to bring water up for some fire, but I wasn’t sure which one. It went back and forth several times that evening.
|In the very center of this photo is a helicopter hauling a water bucket.
I didn’t end up finishing mine, because it’s a pretty calorie dense meal for just one person. For the first time, I saved it to eat for breakfast the next day. I haven’t done that before. I either eat all my dinner or my husband finishes it off for me. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stomach ice cold mac and cheese, even though it’s super tasty while hot.
Not long after dinner, we retreated to the tent for warmth. There was an evening breeze at that site, and even with both my vestibule doors closed, I had trouble staying warm. It was late August, after all, which is practically autumn by the calendar, and actually autumn by the changes in the leaves we were already seeing.