7 ways my Wild Azalea hike was unlike any other

Labor Day weekend 2019 I hopped over to the Wild Azalea trail at Woodworth Louisiana and did an 18-mile, 3-day, 2-night solo backpacking trek that turned out to be pretty much one of the most fun, challenging, and rewarding pack camping experiences I’ve ever had! So much about this trek was different from any other I’ve ever done.

It was a trail I’d never done, and I loved it. The easternmost segment nearest to Woodworth has several blowdowns that made navigating onerous, but the rest of the trail that I did was a distinct corridor clearly marked with yellow diamond trail markers.

This was my first solo backpacking trip. After spending so many years emphasizing to Scouts that you never do anything alone, always have a buddy, “Stay with your buddy or you will get lost and die!” This was one obvious next step to increasing the challenge. The trick was doing it safely.

I carried a jungle hammock instead of a tent. This was absolutely the best decision I’ve ever made! A hammock is mankind’s greatest invention and a hiker’s best friend! I can set that hammock up in less time than it takes to get it out of my pack, and it made every rest stop far more comfortable.

These were the hottest conditions I’ve ever hiked in. I went in expecting it to be warmish, like 90 degrees in the day and 65 degrees at night, but it turned out to be closer to 96 degrees in the day and 72 degrees at night. At that sort of temperature, 6 degrees makes a HUGE difference and it definitely impacted my performance but I embraced it and triumphed!

I hiked while fasting. I went in intending to do a 60-80 hour prolonged fast. I was drinking an unsweetened electrolyte replacement and a therapeutic ketone supplement and I had a handful of tuna packs as an emergency backup. The first day I cheated and ate a packet of cashews, the second day I cheated and ate about 180 calories worth of tuna, and the third day I broke the fast with a couple of smoked sausage links. I guess that made it a 72-hour intermittent fast with approximately 23-hour fasting window. I think that’s pretty darn good!

I tried picaridin instead of my go-to insect repellent, DEET because it said it was as effective as DEET on mosquitoes but also repels ticks. I only saw one tiny tick during my trek (and not on me) but my legs, back, and butt were destroyed by mosquitoes despite being soaked in picaridin. Oh well – you never know until you go.

Because I was solo and moving deliberately silently, I actually snuck up on wildlife instead of tromping along scaring things out of my path and never seeing them. I actually snuck up on a canine of some sort (in the dark), a large whitetail deer, and a group of six wild horses!

Backpacking the Wild Azalea Trail

Anyone around here familiar with this National hiking Trail south of Alexandria Louisiana? That’s where I’m at right now! I’ve had a fierce hankering to do this trail for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it so I figured to make a long weekend of it. Reports of trail length are variable, ranging […]

The howling wilderness

Part 2 in a series – Where the Wild Things Roam I was making good progress that first afternoon along the clearly-marked trail, when I suddenly came upon a bulldozer track crossing the trail. Beyond the track, the trail was utterly obliterated by a blow-down that must have been a year or two old because […]

Howling in the wilderness

“It [the wilderness] was ready to echo the growl of a bear; the howl of a wolf; or the scream of a panther; but when you get fairly into the middle of one of these grim forests you are surprised to find that the larger inhabitants are not at home commonly… Generally speaking, a howling […]

Categories: Adventure, Camping, Food, Hiking, Nature

Tagged as: