14.89 miles, 2.6mph avg moving, 2.1mph avg overall, 5h:43m moving, 1h:31m stopped, 7h:14m total time, max elevation 2175ft, total assent 2735ft, 183.68ft/mi. FLT M10, M11
Total trail miles completed to-date: 414.6 (69.3%)
Finally the weather was beginning to warm and a new hiking season was arriving. Sunday was predicted to be sunny in the morning with increasing clouds by afternoon and temperatures into the mid-to-upper 50s. Since this was the first hike of the season I planned a “shorter” hike of only 15 miles. I would start where I had turned around the previous year; McCaddam Road.
After a long drive, one hour and forty minutes, I arrived at the intersection of McCaddam and Craig Roads. I turned onto McCaddam Road and pulled to the side next to a tree with the white blaze of the FLT. It was still chilly, only 31, so I had a sweatshirt over a long-sleeved shirt and I donned a hat and gloves. I pulled my pack on, started my GPS unit, and headed toward the intersection (mile 0.0 – 9:00 am).
The road crossed over a small stream before reaching the junction with Craig Road. I turned left at the intersection; I had driven in from the right. The sun was shinning brightly in a clear blue sky. On the horizon I could see several of the massive wind turbines that dotted the hills in this area. I walked quickly in an effort to keep warm. The sun was nice, but the air was crisp. A large field opened to my right and extended up a small hill. Cows grazed on the slopes of the hill, black against the golden-green of the field.
I reached another intersection – Craig and Turnpike Roads (mile 0.7 – 9:15 am). The white blazes on a pole at the side of the road pointed to the right. I turned onto Turnpike Road and started the climb up a hill. The road wound its way up past a farm. Fields bordered the road on both sides. I paused to look back at the view of the valley below me. I could see the intersection, and Turnpike Road as it stretched on past and up another hill.
I turned and continued on up the hill. As I climbed I saw three wind turbines rise above the trees beyond the field to my left. A piece of farm equipment, most likely used for harvesting hay or grass, sat in the field in front of the turbines. There was a decent breeze blowing on top of the hill and the warmth I had worked up climbing the hill was soon whisked away.
At the top of the hill I passed by a road called Mcbeth Road. The field on my left ended, replaced by trees and the road began to descend. The trees on my left and the hill at my back helped to block some of the wind and I began to feel warmer.
The road curved slightly to the left and another field opened up. Up near the back of the field stood one of the large wind turbines I had seen rising above the trees earlier. It was massive! The blades spun producing an odd sound. I can only describe it as a cross between the sound of a distant highway and a commercial jetliner.
I continued on down Turnpike Road and ahead of me the road descended quickly into a small hollow before just as quickly climbing up again. My GPS confirmed, my next turn was at the top of the hill on the other side of the hollow. I moved quickly down the road and then slowed as I pressed up the other side. The bright sunshine and the exertion had warmed me and I removed my hat and gloves.
After climbing up the hill and reaching the top I came to the intersection of Turnpike and Hughes Roads (mile 2.1 – 9:47 am). I turned left down Hughes Road. This road was busier. Six cars passed me in the short distance, 0.4 miles, to the trailhead. The previous two miles I had seen only two cars in the distance and both had turned off before passing me.
I arrived at the trailhead near a house with a white fence bordering the front of the yard (mile 2.5 – 9:55 am). The trail was finally leaving the road behind. I turned into the woods. The house was visible on my right through the trees, but I was soon past it. A short time later I lost sight of the white blazes and walked about 80 feet before realizing I had missed my turn. I backtracked and quickly found the trail.
Ahead of me I saw a trail register (mile 2.9 – 10:11 am). As I drew closer I noticed that the door had broken off and it had been placed on the top of the box. The usual register book was also missing, although there were a few information cards about the FLT still present. I decided now was a good time to stop. I had packed a thermos with hot coffee and poured out a cup. The hot liquid felt good. Clouds were beginning to filter out the sun and now that I was stopped I was beginning to cool down. I put my hat and gloves back on while I had my coffee and a snack.
I started out again and the trail began to descend and I came to Goff creek (mile 3.1 – 10:18 am). I climbed down the bank to the small stream, crossed easily and climbed back up the other side, slipping on the mud hidden under the leaves.
A short distance from the creek I came to a stile over a barbed-wire fence. I climbed over and came to a section of trail that sat in a small gully. Water had pooled in the gully making in nearly impossible to walk down the path. As I attempted to work my way around the gully I stepped on what I thought were leaves and solid ground only to plunge my boot into muddy water. Thankfully it was not very deep and my boots were waterproof. I continued to hop back and forth down the gully trying to keep to high ground.
Finally the trail turned away from the gully and came to a small field (mile 3.4 – 10:27 am). Across the other side I saw a large white blaze on a tree marking the way. I made my way around the edge of the field and then back into the woods.
Many places on the trail were muddy and slippery. I was forced to walk slowly and carefully to avoid slipping. I decided to take another short break. As I sat drinking more of my coffee I heard the sounds of a highway, but the sound of the traffic continued without pause. I thought maybe it was a jet plane instead, so I turned to look up into the sky and saw another large wind turbine through the trees behind me.
After a short rest I continued on and came to Burleson Road, a small dirt road, that was more mud than dirt (mile 4.4 – 11:03 am). A short walk down the road and the trail turned right into a field and followed a even muddier tractor path. The mud oozed out from under my feet and I had to walk carefully to keep from falling. Even though I walked carefully and avoided the muddiest patches, my boots were still caked with mud and the bottom of my jeans were coated.
Now that I was under the sun I was beginning to get warm and removed my hat and gloves once again. The tractor path took me down beside a barn and then up to Stephens Gulch Road, this road was paved with a double yellow line (mile 5.0 – 11:19 am). I crossed the road at the intersection of Spencer Hill Road, a dirt road. Spencer Hill Road climbed to the left and made a switchback up the hill, but the trail followed an old path up a steep climb beside a deep ditch before coming back out on the road further up.
I continued on up the hill on Spencer Hill Road. The climb was warming me up, but as I got higher the wind became stronger. Near the top of the hill I saw a pavilion with some picnic tables (mile 5.9 – 11:42 am). Behind the pavilion stood three more massive wind turbines. In front of the pavilion were four sign boards. The pavilion and sign boards had been constructed by the Everpower power company. The signs gave information about wind power and the construction of the wind farm.
If the day had been warmer the pavilion would have been a nice place to rest, but the wind was blowing at a good speed and the air was still quite chilly. I was happy to finally descend from the top of the hill and get out of the wind. I had put my hat and gloves back on at the pavilion and now I could take them off once again.
At the bottom of Spencer Hill Road I came to the intersection of South Woods Road (mile 6.3 – 12:05 pm). The trail crossed the road and headed down along a field into the Burnt Hill State Forest. I had to carefully pick my way down some of the steeper sections; the mud under the leave squished and slid under my feet. I slid a few times, but managed not to fall. I came to a quickly flowing stream. Several trees had fallen, but the trail was still passable. I made my way across and then began the climb up the other side, slipping as I went.
About 100 feet from the stream I came to a direction sign and trail register (mile 6.6 – 12:19 pm). A short path led off to the Burnt Hill lean-to. I decided to stop at the lean-to on my way back for lunch. I continued up the hill and the trail turned to the left and entered a deep, dark pine forest.
The trail twisted through the pines and then turned to follow a straight path between two rows of tall red pines. After leaving the pine forest behind the trail began to descend along a cleared path through tall grass, brush, and small trees. A few of the small trees were hawthorn trees and their long spikes tried to snag at me. The ground was muddy and wet and I slipped and slid in places. Mud stuck to my boots.
I came to Feenaughty Hill Road (mile 7.2 – 12:34 pm). The trail crossed the dirt road and continued to descend on the other side. A short distance later I came to the top of a field and the trail turned right. Pockets of snow covered a few sections of the trail here. This was my first (or last depending on how you look at it) encounter with snow on this hike. I walked across the snow and broke through in a few places. It was still several inches deep. Where there was no snow the trail was muddy and slippery. Finally I came to my turn around, Wind Fall Road (mile 7.5 – 12:43 pm).
I took a few pictures and then started back. Slipping, sliding and slogging through the mud until I crossed Feenaughty Hill Road again and headed back up to the pine trees. I stopped to scrape off the mud that was caking the bottom of my boots on some exposed roots before entering the pine forest. The trail continued to descend and I soon found myself back at the path to the lean-to (mile 8.4 – 1:12 pm). I walked down the little path and set my pack down on the picnic table. I got out my lunch, drank the last of my coffee and some water.
After eating my lunch and resting for a little bit I left the lean-to behind and crossed the creek and began the climb up to the next crossing. I arrived back at South Woods Road and started the long climb up Spencer Hill Road (mile 8.8 – 1:49 pm). At the top of Spencer Hill the wind was still blowing and it was chilly. I took a few more pictures, but did not stay long. I started back down the hill. Once I left the top of the hill the wind lessened somewhat.
Spencer Hill Road turned to the right to make its switchback down to Stephens Gulch Road. The trail continued on straight ahead down a steep path. At the bottom I crossed Stephens Gulch Road and headed back up the muddy tractor path (mile 10.1 – 2:22 pm). Mud clung to my boots and made them feel heavier. After slogging through the mud I arrived at Burleson Road.
I walked the short distance down Burleson Road and then re-entered the woods (mile 10.7 – 2:38 pm). Soon I came to the small field I had walked around earlier and saw a large white blaze across the other side. A quick walk around the edge of the field and I found myself back at the water-filled gully. It looked as though the water might have lowered a little since I first passed through. I picked my way along, hopping back and forth to find dry ground until I came to the end of the gully. I started forward and step on a mound of leaves and splashed through into muddy water – again! When I had passed through earlier I had done the same thing.
The trail led me to the back to the stile. After crossing back over I quickly arrived at Goff Creek. I carefully worked my way down the bank, across the small stream, and then back up the other side. The trail climbed its way back up and I was finally back at Hughes Road. Even though I dislike road walks, I was glad to be back on the hard surface; no more mud and slipping and sliding, and I could move faster.
I started my road walk heading left on Hughes Road (mile 12.5 – 3:38 pm). At Turnpike Road I turned right and came to the top the hill. I moved quickly down the hill and then slowly trudged back up the other side. As I neared the top I realized that this was the last climb I had to make. My pace quickened and soon I was coming down the hill and back to Craig Road. I turned left onto Craig Road and moved along briskly, but it still felt as though I had a long way to walk. The intersection of McCaddam Road still seemed so far away. Finally, as I rounded a bend in the road I could see McCaddam Road.
I arrived at the intersection a few moments later and turned right on to McCaddam Road. My car sat at the edge of the road just ahead of me. A few more steps and I was there – I finished (mile 14.9 – 4:28 pm). The temperature never got as warm as was predicted, nor as warm as I was hoping, but the first hike of the season was complete.