I believe I've officially become a hiker. To date, I've hiked approximately 40 miles of the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas. The trail stretches 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park to the eastern boundry at the Buffalo River State Park. I hiked the first leg of the trail last fall over a three day weekend. We hiked from Lake Fort Smith State Park to the top of White Rock "Mountain". This 19 mile section proved difficult for the group - EA Hoppe, Keaton Hoppe, Keith Reasons, and myself. All of us were out of shape and carried too much in our packs. Although, my pack was relatively light b/c I was carrying a small Kelty Redwing and Keith carried the tent we were sharing. It's more typical to share weight on items you're both intending to use.
We ended up hiking about 7 miles on the first day and 13 on the second. In hindsight, we should have done a better job of splitting the mileages especially given the climb up White Rock on the second day.
I carried my small Kelty Redwing. It was relatively comfortable and I ended up with none of the hip soreness I expected. I wore a pair of old running shoes rather than purchasing hiking boots. I'm sure having such light weight shoes helped me finish the section comfortable, but the lack of water resistance continually worried me on the trail. We had a number of small water crossings that took me a while to get through due to fear of getting my feet wet. We borrowed a cookset from Keaton that used propane and worked well for oatmeal and ramen noodles. The rest of my menu consisted of Starkist tuna packets, tortillas, trail mix, fruit bars, and Clif bars. My Marmot Neverwinter sleeping bag worked extremely well as did the MSR sleep pad. I used a stuff sack with clothes for a pillow.
Lessons learned from my first hiking trip
1. Water is freaking heavy. 2.2 pounds per liter is no joke.
2. Spend time analyzing your food choices to find the right balance of calories and weight. I ended up bringing too much food - especially since we at at the Swinging Bridge Cafe three times.
3. I can't sleep well in the woods even on my relatively comfortable inflatable pad.
4. Iodine pills make your water taste terrible.
5. Don't pack something unless you know it will be used. B/c it was going to be chilly at night I packed too much clothing.
6. The OHT is a great trail that is extremely well marked. We didn't get lost once.