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Hurricane Creek Wilderness
April 10-11, 2010
Similar to the person who gazes upon a mountain top from afar and vows to climb to the top, I've had my eye on a rock outcrop high above Hurricane Creek. I just knew it would have a breathtaking view of the wilderness area below it. With the waterfalls needing more rain, the next highest destination on my list was finding that overlook.
I decided to turn the excursion into a backpacking trip, that way I could visit the overlook both at sunset and sunrise.
In an effort to take control of my pack weight, I've started keeping an Excel spreadsheet with the weight of every item that goes into my backpack. I even bought a scale to weigh the smaller things, because all of them together can really add up. My list came to 31 pounds, but when I stuffed everything in the pack and weighed myself twice - once with the backpack and once without - the difference was 38 pounds. Where was that extra 7 pounds coming from? I never did find out; I assumed the extra weight was distributed among all the larger items that I couldn't actually weigh.. the backpack, tent, sleeping bag, pad, and camera gear. I had to use the published weight of all those items.
I left home early in the afternoon on Saturday. My route was to Clarksville, then Hagarville, Fort Douglas and finally the old Dillen community on Highway 123. I parked at the gate at the road to Wheeler Cemetery. The 1.6-mile hike west along the dirt road to the cemetery was tougher than I anticipated. The road dropped 200 feet in elevation in the first one-third mile, then climbed back up the same amount over the next mile. I saw countless Wood Violets on the forest floor next to the road, and a lot of little pink Rue Anemone blooms. Past the cemetery for the remaining eight-tenths of a mile, the terrain was very flat but the road disappeared under regrowth and ice storm debris.
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I found a small open spot, surrounded by ice storm debris, to pitch the tent. I unloaded everything except the camera gear and set off north down the ridge in search for my overlook. As expected, I crossed the Ozark Highlands Trail 300 yards below the top of the ridge. I could have hiked in along the trail from the west, but I assumed it would be a steeper route than the cemetery road. Now I don't know.
I had marked a waypoint in my GPS receiver indicating where I thought the overlook might be. I'd studied topo maps and satellite photos. The final bushwhack was a quarter mile, but it was very steep. And then there it was... right where there GPS said it would be. The view was out of this world! Before me was a panorama of unspoiled wilderness with Hurricane Creek receding into the mountains. The trees on my hillside had a nice touch of new spring green. The flat top of the outcrop was covered in mint green lichen and dark gray-green bulbs of dry moss I've nicknamed "zombie moss" because it's the kind that will come alive when it gets wet.
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The sun was too high in the sky for good pictures, so I  walked back up the hill and east a little way to get a closer look at an area where I heard the splashing of falling water. I already knew this water fed a beautiful little waterfall at the outside of the Big Easy turn on Hurricane Creek way far below. I managed to find a perch at the top of a drop off with a partially obstructed view of a tall, tall waterfall. It was a triple-decker with a cascade in the middle of it. My impression was that it was well over 100 feet tall, though they always look so tall from above. I'll have to come back some day after a big rain and try to get a view from the bottom.
The sun sank low enough that the western side of the Hurricane Creek valley was in shadow. I carefully walked across to the edge of the outcrop to get some photos, avoiding the zombie moss as much as possible. I sat there and enjoyed the peaceful scene until sunset, then headed back up the steep hill.
Before I reached camp, I had to use my headlamp to see in the dark. My approach to camp was from a slightly different direction, and I met stiff resistance from a thicket of downed pine limbs and sticker vines. It took me 20 minutes to go the last hundred yards!
I boiled water for freeze dried lasagna, which took forever to cool off enough for me to eat. It was good though. I left the rain fly off the tent and went to sleep looking at the stars through the screen of the tent.
The next morning I awoke in the dark and boiled more water for coffee and instant oatmeal. I hiked back down the mountain and reached the overlook as the sunlight was hitting the tops of the mountains on the west side of the valley. While I waited for the sun to rise a little higher, I took pictures of several varieties of thick, lush moss growing where the rock outcrop met the steep hillside. Tiny huckleberry flowers were blooming too. I stayed until the sunlight spilled into the valley below, lighting up the tops of the trees with their bright green and yellow leaves.
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I took my time returning to camp, enjoying the cool fresh air. I also packed up camp at a relaxed pace, and didn't begin the hike back east until almost 11. It took me nearly 90 minutes to get back to the Tahoe. Even though my pack was 6 pounds lighter (water weighs a lot!), it wasn't riding very comfortably on my back. One again I was starving when I reached the highway. Trying to save weight, I'd only taken a single granola bar on the hike. Luckily I had more in the Tahoe.
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