Wednesday, March 27, 2013

adventures in arkansas

So, as part of The Year of Why Not?, we went on a three-day backpacking trip to the Ouachita National Forest with the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center last weekend. You already knew that though. I've been talking about it constantly.

This was me:

I felt completely unprepared for it, physically and mentally, but we thought it would be more than worth the challenge, and at the very least, would give us some interesting memories.

(Spoiler Alert: It was, and it did.)

A few weeks out, we picked up our gear and started training for the miles we would be hiking on the trip. As a side note, if you know you're going to be hiking several miles a day with a 30-pound pack on, you should NOT wait until 3 weeks out to start preparing. The longest stretch we hiked before we left for the trip was 2 miles on mostly flat terrain. On our longest day of the trip, we hiked 9 miles on wildly varying terrain.


I'm going to be really honest (I can't help it.) and let you know that at the end of day 1, I was seriously regretting signing up for this adventure. It was freezing, with highs in the low 40s and lows in the 20s and 30s. I have thoroughly Southern Californian blood and poor circulation, so I was a solid lump of cold for most of the day. We got a late start, so we ended up only having a few hours to make it to our first camp site before dark. And by camp site, I mean a relatively flat, relatively dry spot of land.

I knew I would be cold, so setting that aside, the real problem came when I understood what our guides meant by "river crossings." We were told we would be making several crossings on this trip, but I pictured streams. More specifically, small streams that allow you to skip lightly from rock to rock until you land on the other side safe and dry. No ma'am. There was a rather large, deep and frigid river standing between us and our camp site for the night. We got to the edge of the water, our eyeballs wide and shifty. Without missing a beat, Chris and Jeff (the guides) told us to take off our shoes and socks, roll up our pants and unbuckle the waist strap on our packs. The latter was done in case we fell into the river. The hope would be that at least the backpacks probably wouldn't drown us that way. Never mind that the water was so cold I couldn't feel my toes within 6 seconds of them being submerged, so if I were to fall in, I would probably have a heart attack immediately anyway. Yay, adventures!

Another note: The following are not pictures of that first river crossing. We didn't take pictures there. And we weren't smiling. And the river below is much smaller than the one we crossed that night. Use your imagination.


I was about 1/4 of the way across the river - still in the shallow part - when the regret began to seep in with the ice water. Along with a string of four-letter words I won't repeat here, I kept thinking this had been a terrible mistake. About the time I got to the middle of the river, all I could think about was my Snuggie. I'm not kidding. Thoughts of my pajama pants briefly entered my mind, but they were quickly overpowered by those four-letter words again when I stepped in a hole and the water went to my thighs and soaked my pants.