Prep for the Eagle Rock Loop

After record breaking summer temps and what seemed like the longest ever gap between hiking seasons, I kicked mine off this past weekend with the Eagle Rock Loop in the Ouachitas. This 26.8-28 mile loop (depending on who you believe) is the longest loop in Arkansas and features a wide variety of terrains, from steep rolling ridges to leisurely riverside walks, to a short section on an old horse trail, ERL promised to be the perfect opening of the new hiking season. Plus, since none of my friends could make it out for this one, the big loop meant a long weekend without having to worry about setting up shuttles at the beginning and end of a section trail.

Two weeks ago I checked the weather channel and began watching the temps. It was calling for a high of 69 degrees for Friday and Saturday which was about as perfect for hiking weather as one could ask for. Of course, none of that stood true to the test of time. The high on Saturday of my trip was up around 88.



I normally make Bikes Blues & BBQ my first weekend out for the hiking season simply to escape the influx of posers and driving hazards that fill NWA during that span of time. I got my dates wrong this year however and impatiently headed out one week earlier than BB&BBQ. (Several of my friends were careful to point this out in emails I received the day before departure.)

 

This year for gear I was sitting better than ever before. Tent, boots, bag, pad, pack, poles…every little piece of gear that has been accumulated across the past two years’ span of time had  me prepped for a good weekend. I did add one piece that might be of interest. I have been hunting for a good solar battery charger to manage my cell phone. On the multi-day trips when I am alone I figured this would be a good safety precaution. Beyond that, I like to listen to some teachings and music while I hike along the trails and this drains the juice from my phone. A solar charger could be hung from my pack to soak up the sun all day and then be used to recharge my phone at night.

 

After a bit of investigation I settled on the JOOS ORANGE which I purchased at Amazon. It’s a bit pricey but it had the best reviews by far. It is durable, waterproof, and practically indestructible. The only down side of it besides the price is the weight. It weighs in at just over 2 lbs. This is a pretty heavy piece of gear to add into my pack but I figured it was a luxury I could go for. Plus, if we get an ice storm that knocks the power out in NWA anytime soon I will be the only one able to charge my phone and as I figure it will be able to leverage this toward assuming dictatorial command of the region. Taking over the world one step at a time!

 

For meals on this trip I was on my own. I love the Mountain House bacon and eggs for breakfast and stocked up there. These are easy (just add boiling water) and light on the backpack. They are pricey however. The breakfast is about the cheapest meal and it is $5 a pop at Walmart. I splurged for breakfast but chose another route for lunch and dinner. I got a bag of almonds and beef jerky then also a few Korr’s meals. I think that’s how you spell it? These are small side dish type of things like pasta and rice. I found them on the rice aisle at Walmart. They are $1 each, make 2 cup servings and are very, very light. I got several of these for dinner.

 

I still haven’t found the balance on packing food for my trips. I either pack a little too  much or not quite enough. After some adventures on the OHT last year I have determined to make myself eat more during the day. I always get caught up on tramping out some mileage and end up not eating in the afternoon. I pay for it the next day and this compounds on multi-day trips.

 

 

My JetBoil was in need of a little repair and I want to mention this simply to plug the company. The stove piece of the JetBoil got overheated on my last trip out. It’s not supposed to do this. Anyway, it caused some metal bubbles to form around the outer edges of the stove so that it would not pack away all snug and compact like it is supposed to do. I emailed the company and they sent my an address to mail it to for repair. Within a few days they had sent me an entirely new piece free of charge. Great customer service! I highly recommend this product. There are some comparable items out there that I have been reading about and seeing at the sporting goods stores but I am a sucker for good customer service. If you don’t have a stove for your backpacking kit, click here and order yourself a JetBoil. Great for food and coffee!

 

 

Last piece of gear I am going to mention is my Garmin Dakota 20 GPS unit. This is a new item that my friend Steve bought me just before the end of hiking season this past spring. I took it on my last trip but didn’t really understand how to use it. I am still learning to tell you the truth. In fact, I will be posting some videos up here from some guys I came across on YouTube with good overviews on the various items that the Garmin Dakota 20 can do. I downloaded the maps from Garmin the night before I headed out on the Eagle Rock Loop. This was a life saver. That’s not hyperbole. I really think this little tool saved my life. I will post Day 1 of the trip report tomorrow but suffice to say I would have either had to turn back on Day 1 or would have been completely lost on the ERL had it not been for my Garmin. I won’t leave home without it now.


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