The Place With No Name



Black Creek Trail, DeSoto National Forest, Mississippi


My grandfather was always fond of saying, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."  Somehow I always thought he was misquoting something, but his words proved true for this trip.  Not every trip is wonderful.  Some trips are absolutely terrible - but you take the good with the bad.  This is an example of a trip that shouldn't have been taken...

Mara Factor was in New Orleans this week on her 7 week driving tour, and she stayed with us for a few days. We were thrilled to have her, and were sorry to see her go.

We intended to go hiking in Black Creek starting Friday night and we were all set to go. Mara came in on Friday not feeling well, and we decided to wait until morning to see how she felt. It rained some that night, and evidently it rained a lot over Black Creek.

In the morning, Mara was still feeling down, and after some himmin' and hawin', I decided to go on my own. I've been working a lot, and really needed the 'break'. Fat chance...

I drove out, and it rained almost the whole way. It was raining when I got there. Not that the rain is that big of a deal, really. I *like* the rain, so I got out of the car, geared up, and eased on down the trail. There were no other cars in the parking lot, and I knew that nobody would be stupid or crazy enough to hike in this kind of weather, so I got a few yards in and stripped off my shorts. I rolled them up and slipped them under the load lifter strap, noting that my comb was still in the pocket.

I walked for about a quarter mile, and the bugs were bad. This is kind of unusual in the rain, but it happens. I reached around and pulled my new, full can of 3M Ultrathon aresol insect repellant out and proceeded to hose myself down. About half way through the hosing, the *&!##@! BLEW UP and shot DEET all over me, my gear, and the surrounding countryside. Suddenly, there wasn't a bug anywhere in the vicinity. I could tell because I wasn't being eaten anymore. I couldn't have seen them even if they were, however, because I had DEET in my eyes. Pepper spray ain't got nothin' on DEET...

Somewhere in the process of dancing the _MY EYES! MY EYES! I'M BLIND! I'M BLIND!_ dance, my shorts fell on the ground. Once I could see again, I picked up the shorts, stuck them in my hip belt, and proceeded on my merry way.

It was raining hard, but the temperature was just right, and everything was right in the world until I crossed the first foot bridge. This particular foot bridge is normally about two feet above the small runoff channel that rarely has any water in it at all. The water was about 2 inches from washing over the bridge, and I had to wade a bit to get to the bridge as it was. I did manage to cross, though, but found a lot of water on the trail past that point. I was frequently walking in 8-12 inches of water in some spots. I finally made it all the way to Beaver Dam Creek, which was quite high. I took the standard bushwhack to the confluence of Black Creek and Beaver Dam Creek only to find the whole place flooded. I normally cross Beaver Dam Creek at this point, and the water is only three feet deep. Well...not this time... It was easily 12 feet deep, and moving fast. I'm familiar with this water and how it moves, and it wasn't safe for me to cross, so I sat down and had a break.

When I took off my pack, I realized that my shorts - along with the pocket comb I had been using for the last 20 years - were gone. Dropped somewhere during the bushwhack. I couldn't have cared less about the shorts, but I really like that comb... I'd have to look for them on the way out. I sat down, though, and had a break. It was still raining hard, and I was enjoying it. While sitting there, I noticed that the water was rising. In about a half hour, it rose eight inches and kept climbing. It occurred to me that I might not make it back out...

I walked back up to the trail, on the lookout for my shorts the whole time. Unfortunately, it's really hard to bushwhack out exactly the same way I went in. The ground all looks the same, and the little Magnolia trees obscure the ground most of the time. I didn't find the shorts... <SOB>

I made it back up to the trail, which was more like a small stream and less like a trail at this point. One gully that was dry on the way in had 12 inches of fast moving water in it on the way out - a period of about an hour! When I got back to the foot bridge, it was TWO FEET UNDER WATER! I managed to find it and cross, but half way across I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. I did make it, and I was very glad of my hiking poles at that moment.

Rather that go back to the truck immediately, I did a bushwhack on high ground to take a look at some of the water. I walked back to Beaver Dam Creek - but from the high side. Water...water...everywhere...and rising fast! I had never seen the creeks like this except in pictures taken during a hurricane. I wondered if somebody had opened the gates at the reservoir - and I later found out that was so.

I walked back up to the trailhead, but I had lost my shorts. I had a spare set of shorts in my pack, but they were in the bottom of the pack and it was raining. Rather than have everything get wet, I took a peek out of the trees, and not seeing any cars coming, strolled across the road and raised the rear hatch on my truck. Thus sheltered I pulled out the spare pair of shorts. I decided to set up my hammock right there at the trailhead and have a break. After I set it up, I thought it was kind of silly to camp right by the car only to drive home in the morning and I thought that I should just pack it up and go home. I was trying to make a decision when a NFS ranger drove up and told me that I couldn't camp at the trailhead. If I wanted to camp, I had to drive the half mile to Janice Landing and setup in the campground there. That settled the matter. I thanked the ranger, packed up and drove out.

I took the scenic route home, and it wasn't entirely a wasted trip. It wasn't the weekend I was hoping for either. Alas... Well, there is always next time...







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