Friday Mar 26th, 2021, 0615-1700
Stock pond to Kane Spring, mm 172
This day held an incredible amount of stuff packed into relatively few miles. We finished the dirt road walk after less than a mile and were on a series of trails as well as 3 miles of cross country orienteering the rest of the day. We began with route finding up a canyon along a very faint trail. It crossed a creek quite a few times where it was easy to lose among the rocks. But we made pretty short work of it with our keen searching.
At a saddle and stock pond, we picked up a much better trail into Holdout Canyon. The trail was so lovely that I wondered if maybe we were lost, after all. This part was reported to be very bushy and require extreme route finding prowess. A little later, I noticed very fresh cuttings neatly swept to the side and realized that a trail maintenance crew (or single person…a Lone Lopper) had been through very recently. I reflected on my trail maintenance endeavors over the winter with Florida Trail Association and felt quite a sense of pride and gratitude for the volunteers.
Praise them, because of their work, I was able to take my eyes of my feet and see the splendor of this canyon! As we came to a saddle looking down, ROCKS jumped out in every direction, orientation, and scale. Spires, domes, fins, and balancing rocks filled the scene. We were in awe for hours as we passed through, humbled by such timeless giants of nature.
The area reminded me of some parts of Colorado such as Garden of the Gods and areas around Boulder. But what was so special about our circumstances was that we seemed to be the only ones enjoying this entire range. We saw nothing but a few footprints for nearly 30 miles. Over a whole day of not seeing one other person. Because it’s so hard to get to this area, it sees very little traffic. I was also struck by how much bear poop I saw. Granted, most was pretty old, since nothing decomposes very well in such dry environments.
We contemplated remaining in the area for a day, since we had so much extra food. We could have done some bouldering and just hung out by the lovely creek. But people were expecting us the next day and our thru-hiker nature is hard to override. We’re programed to keep moving. The trail eventually did live up to its promise of difficulty. We did some respectable bushwhacking and starring at our GPS in the end. But I’d say we did a great job even at that and found ourselves on a straight forward walk down Holdout Creek for lunch and several hours in the afternoon. The creek was flowing strong and so it took some skill and planning to keep my feet dry. It would’ve been a lot easier to walk in the creek but I’m stubborn. There were some really cool narrows sections carved in the rock.
Then we came to the cross country portion of the route, all in order to avoid private property surrounding the foothills. I’d envisioned some traverses of low hills when I read about this segment, but instead we were staring at the huge fluted flanks of the mountain. We were to go up and down several enormous valleys and ridges, a lot tougher than I thought.
We started the 3 mile stretch around 1 pm and it took us until 4 pm to finish. 1 mph pace. But the route finding was fun and the views of all the craggy rocks in the distance were great. It was the straight up and down steep hillsides that hurt us.
After a lot of sweating, crawling over fences and maybe a bit of cursing, we came to some cow trails that marked the resumption of trail. I survived this challenge with only a puncture of a shoe sidewall from a stick. We climbed a bit more around the mountain, coming to a spring-fed trough with pretty good water. I’d had enough for the day and it was starting to become cloudy, threatening rain. We struggled to find some decent flat spots for our tents…I finally settled on a location in an old corral, surrounding by cow dung. Just as I finished dinner, it started to sprinkle. Lights out.