Have you heard the phrase, “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear”? Do you agree with it, or have you had all the right gear and still wished to not be in the elements? Hike Like A Woman’s Brand Partnerships & Sponsorship Team Leader Annie writes about running into weather that no gear would have helped.
Okay so you know how you always hear, “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear”…..well I’d say after this weekend I have to disagree with that. I’ve never fully agreed with it anyways, there’s just some weather you won’t find me on the trail in, hail storms, lightning storms or even rain for that matter. There’s something about not wanting to tear up a trail or myself with a slip and fall in the mud.
This weekend there was an issue on the trail, it’s one that typically occurs to me, but due to a less than accurate weather forecast I didn’t think of it being a problem on this trip. The weather was forecast to be on the warm side, especially for Fall, with the remnants of Hurricane Nate to pay us a visit later in the afternoon and a bit on the “breezy” side.
Taking all this into consideration, my husband and I decided to be up bright and early for a little adventure.
We were heading to a place we hadn’t been before, Panther Den Wilderness in the Shawnee National Forest of beautiful Southern Illinois. We’ve explored lots of the Shawnee but there’s soooo many places. We of course, haven’t been to them all.
Up before the sun and on the road just after it showed it’s face, I noticed the breezy forecast was correct. Dark clouds loomed overhead but a quick check of the radar told us they were just that, dark clouds, so we continued on our trip.
We parked at the trailhead and made our way into Panther Den Wilderness via a section of the River to River Trail. The breeze felt wonderful on a rather humid morning, it shook and rattled the trees so leaves of fanciful colors fell about us and the forest. I was grateful to have a breeze on this or any day I hike in the South for that matter.
Following signage along the trail we managed to direct ourselves to the rock formations that were our goal. Large sandstone monoliths rose from the ground, their sides so vertically straight they looked to have been carved by a giant. This we had a seen before at a nearby State Park but never in a different location. We took some time to explore between the sandstone monoliths, discovered a den (panther’s den? I highly doubt it), and decided rock climbing wasn’t for us as the remaining paths between the monoliths would have taken some skill to navigate.
We headed further down the trail before deciding we’d had enough for the day. We turned and followed a section of the River to River Trail in the opposite direction which took us back to the Panther Den Loop and again to River to River Trail.
Now this section of trail had A LOT of switchbacks, we huffed and puffed our way back toward the trailhead, stopping on occasion to hydrate or let a cramp ease off. The wind seemed to have picked up we noticed, trees squeaking as they rubbed against one another.
This made us both uneasy as we are quite familiar with “widow makers” and noted several whole dead trees on our way in.
We took one of our pauses not far from the rock formations only to have two large branches some 30 yards into the forest crack loudly then fall to the forest floor. Our eyes quickly looked up above our own heads, seeing nothing dangerous, we fixed our gaze on each other and without need of word, commenced on the trail again.
Unfortunately despite our best efforts, we had to pause a few more times but was sure to watch where we stopped. No dead limbs overhead and no dead trees nearby became our rule of thumb. As we began the push back up hill and along one switchback after another I again had to take pause, this time a large branch fell 25 feet up the trail and not a foot off of it. We hastened our pace and plodded our way back to the car.
There are rare occasions where I’m happy and thankful to be out of the woods. Needless to say this past weekend was one of those times. Had I known that “breezy” translated to 25-30mph gusts I would have thought again about heading out into the woods.
The windy occurrence and the old adage “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear” got me thinking just what kind of gear could you pack with you on a hiking trip that would effectively protect you from falling limbs, branches and/or trees? None, that’s what kind.