Sycamore Loop Trail

This was the first hike of the year where things were really starting to green over and a lot of the plants and flowers in the woods were in bloom. I love winter hiking, but I’m really glad the cold weather is seeing its way out the door.

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I’m starting to find little things about each new trail that I hit week after week that I really enjoy. This week on Monday we took a trip to the Sycamore Loop Train in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness that’s located in the Hoosier National Forest. This is the first trail that I’ve been to in the HNF and it stuck out to me because of the designated camp spots marked throughout the trail. Most of which have been built up to the point that they rival most improved camp sites that you’d find right off the roadway in many places. The coolest that we saw was definitely the 4th or 5th one in, located about 5 miles into the trail. People have taken the time to assemble a limestone table and chairs. No doubt very hard and heavy work, but one of the coolest things I’ve seen.

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Sycamore Loop is a 7.7 mile trail and stays incredibly flat in the back country. The only real climbs on the trail are located on the fire access road leading back to the parking lot and those are small hills at that. Another cool part of this trail, and something I’ve seen at the last few trails in less spectacular fashion are the pine tree forests dispersed throughout the trail. Even in the spring there seems to be something magical about being surrounded by these needle clad green giants.

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I’m definitely starting to see a lot more people out and about on the trails. Boyscout troops are a staple during the weekend hikes and some even on the weekdays. There is also no shortage of fishermen out around the water. It’s good to see that people are getting over their cabin fever and getting back out into the world. The more you’re out in it, the more you realize that this is really where we’re meant to be.

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Directions and further information are available in the link below.  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/indiana/sycamore-loop-trail

Until next time,

Happy Trails.

We hiked the Sycamore Loop trail in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area at the Hoosier National Forest.

Posted by Veteran's Outdoor Collaborative on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Westwood Park

The more often I get out and hike the more I really start to realize how much natural beauty is all around us, things that we take for granted in our day to day lives and just don’t see. Spending that quality time for a handful of hours every weekend taking in the sunlight and calm of the forest (and water) is enough to calm even the most frizzled nerves. This past weekend I had the privileged of hiking at Westwood Park in New Castle, IN. and from the moment you pull into the ample parking lot right off of the trail head, you can tell this is going to be a hike to remember.

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The trail itself meanders 10 miles in a loop around the lake and gives you the opportunity to snap some breathtaking pictures, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. But the mileage is really the only part of this trail that is challenging. There are very few significant elevation changes and those contain ample switchbacks that make them more than bearable for even the most unseasoned hikers.

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Probably the coolest thing about this trail are the number of bridges that it contains. They vary in size and location but are numbered and make for a neat experience as you count your way through the trail miles.

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But there is also great deal of changing scenery, from deep forest trail, to small wooded outcroppings, to grassy fields. As long as the sun is out and the weather is nice you are absolutely guaranteed to have a great trip to this park.

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When you combine that with the views of the water, you really can’t go wrong in New Castle.

Directions and further information are available in the link below.  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/indiana/westwood-park

Happy Trails!

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We had a great weekday hike at Westwood Park today.

Posted by Veteran's Outdoor Collaborative on Monday, March 21, 2016

Like what you see? Come with us next time! http://www.meetup.com/Free-Range-Hiking-Meetup/

Pate Hollow: In the Rain

Over the weekend we traveled to the Pate Hollow Trail in Bloomington and it turned into a great little hike. The weather was about as perfect as it could get for this time of year and since the trail lays across very clay-like soil it wasn’t muddy except in a few areas close to stream crossing even though it was raining steadily for most of the hike. This was also the first occasion that someone else has shown up for one of our scheduled hikes.

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Since we founded Free Range Hiking at the beginning of the year we’ve been doing our best to try and share our love of hiking and the outdoors with people in the areas that we hike by setting up a Meetup group and weekly events associated with the Free Range Hiking Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/freerangehiking/?ref=hl. So today Dave from our Meetup group and his Yellow Lab Corbin decided to show us how Hiking is supposed to be done. Corbin absolutely loves being on the trail and checking out anything that moves in the underbrush as they hike. Dave has been out to a lot of the places that we’ve hit in Morgan Monroe, he also suggested some other nearby trails that he hikes regularly. Dave has been actively hiking for a lot longer than we have and had no problem burning my legs out as he was leading the hike for the first half.

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The funny thing is that you don’t really take your speed into account when you’re hiking as a pair or on your own. But when you hike with someone new you start to think more about your speed versus their speed. If you’re a fast hiker, you probably don’t like to be slowed down and if you’re a slow hiker, trying to keep up can be a real challenge. On this occasion I stopped a few times to snap pictures only to turn around and see that they had left me in the dust. But it was a fun experience and definitely put into perspective where we actually need to be before we try to take on the Appalachian Trail. After starting at about 10:45 because a little delay in finding the actual trail head we made it through the 7.7 mile loop and back to the cars right around 1:30 making this the fastest hike that we’ve completed yet. I try not to think about time from start to finish so much while I’m out there, instead I like to enjoy the scenery and the serenity of the forest and take in the moment. But every once in a while it’s cool to see how quickly you can get through a rugged trail when you’re pushing yourself. I know there are a lot of people that could do those miles faster. But we’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year and we’re only going to continue to get better.

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Directions and further information are available in the link below.  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/indiana/pate-hollow-trail

Until next time,

Happy Trails!

Yesterday we took on the Pate Hollow trail in Bloomington.

Posted by Veteran's Outdoor Collaborative on Monday, March 14, 2016

The Low Gap Trail: Revisited in Full.

The Low Gap Trail. In association with Great American “GRAM” Trails. <Link to Video>

Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful, high 50 degrees, light breeze, sunny spring day. It was also the day that we has set aside to hike through the full ten and a half miles of the Low Gap Trail, which has quickly become out favorite trail out at Morgan Monroe State Forest.

Our Original intention was to hike out to a nice camping spot by head lamp on Saturday night so that we could get up at dawn and hit the trail. This would have given my father, Jim, a chance to try an overnight stint in his new DIY hammock (if you haven’t seen it yet here’s a link to the video, Do you wanna build a hammock ). However, as often is the case in life. Something else took precedence Saturday night and we resolved to get up the next morning and hit the trail by 8:30 instead of camping.

When we hit the trail head the next morning around 8:30 it was already busy, we encountered a local boy scout troop and a middle aged couple out to hike the trail. We made small talk with the couple for a few minutes as we all got ready and recounted some of the places we’d been hiking recently. The boy scouts were loud and rowdy, typical of a large group of boys that age. In fact, even when we could not see them on the trail that day we never lost track of where they were just based on noise production alone.

In the past few months we’ve hit several parts of the Low Gap Trail and I’ve been in to see the cave formations a few times. Because the large cave is a fantastic sight when it’s ice covered and still impressive otherwise. But today we intended to hike the trail in its entirety. So this marked the longest single day of hiking that we’ve done since we got back into hiking regularly as well as the most beautiful trail we’ve hit. While I’m sure the Three Lakes Trail (Three Lakes Trail: An Epic Winter Adventure) would give it a run for its money this time of year. It was entirely snow covered when we tackled it a handful of weeks ago and that took away from the views a bit.

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We ended up making better time than we’ve made in previous hikes, along the way realizing that the GPS unit I was using doesn’t register switchbacks or portions of the trail that double back on themselves and it had lost a mile during the morning. We ended up stopping twice, once in the morning to have a late morning snack and to check out the hammock on the trail after our first 2 miles and the second was our lunch break at 1 after we’d hiked 7 and a half miles. I had a chance to pull out the FireBox that I keep in my pack and boil some water to rehydrate some long grain rice and chicken broth. We ended up sitting by this log, swapping plans for the AT and eating jerky, fresh fruit, tortillas and seasoned tuna packets along with some odds and ends stuff that we had for the better part of an hour before packing up and hitting the trail again.

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By this time we’d already been passed by the rowdy boyscout troop, the couple we’d spoken to at the onset of the hike and about a dozen other day hikers that had decided to take advantage of the great weather. The last few miles of the trail were all paved except for the last mile or so that’s currently closed as they work to put in a paved bike trail. At this point in the trail we decided to off trail hike back to the truck, avoiding the construction areas but keeping the trail in view. Once all was said and done we got back to the extremely crowded parking area at right around 3:30. We threw our stuff in the back of the truck and headed back to base camp for a few IPA’s and to recount the story of our morning to anyone that would listen.

We’re one step closer to getting to where we want to be for our AT hike, picking up trail knowledge and putting in a lot of foot time. Now we’re on to the next mini adventure.

Directions and further information are available in the link below.  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/indiana/low-gap-trail

Happy Trails!

Pictures are linked below.

We hiked the Low Gap Trail in its entirety today. 10.5 miles down on a beautiful day. Great day, great hike.

Posted by Veteran's Outdoor Collaborative on Sunday, March 6, 2016

Do you wanna build a hammock

So, Aaron bought a very nice four season hammock system (integrated bug net, tarp, insulation pockets, bivvy cover, kitchen sink) and used it during last week’s overnighter. He liked it a lot, so it got me thinking…

I spent the last year or two of my Scouting adventures primarily hammock camping.  Back then we weren’t concerned about weight, so we used El Cheapo fist-sized nylon mesh hammocks and enormous poly fill sleeping bags covered by plastic tarps we secured by tying a string around a rock in the plastic, and staked them to the ground with sharpened twigs.  It worked.

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Do you think it’ll hold?  It always used to.

http://www.hammockforums.net/forum/showthread.php/670-My-Take-On-DIY-Hennessy-Hammock-A-Tutorial

http://www.tothewoods.net/HomemadeHammock.html

Give them some page hits, and try out their designs.  It’s super cheap if you have access to a sewing machine, a hardware store, and a few yards of ripstop nylon.

I’ll be testing out this first foray into hammock camping in more than 30 years…tonight!