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Richland Creek Wilderness Area Backpacking
  The plan: Arrive at Richland Creek Campground Friday afternoon and either camp there or somewhere near there. Get up early and hike into wilderness and camp somewhere...out there. Leaving work Friday at 2:30 p.m. had me at Richland Campground by 4:30 or so. The day was bright and fairly warm...but the night promised to be much cooler with a low of at least 60. It felt good to be there. As I pulled into the campground...there was no one there but me...or so was my initial assessment. I sprang from my Nissan xTerra outdoor transportation unit and surveyed the area...all quiet. Then the buzzing...the buzzing of the dreaded miniature hordes. It was but seconds before a multitude of gnat squadrons were swarming my face and ears. This was not correct for this time of year...maybe early spring...sure...but not now. Would these invaders render my experience less than optimal?....yes!...but these bastards weren't going to ruin my fun. The decision was made not to camp here but to camp there...a rocky promontory 1200 feet above the campground to the south just across Falling Water Creek. It was only about a 3/4 mile hike to get there...so by 5:00 the woods were around me...along with the gnats. The summit was made by 5:40 and camp laid out. Then the mosquito reinforcements arrived. Covering all exposed skin with insect repellent helped with the mosquitos...but did not deter the gnats. A bandanna under my hat was enough to keep them out of my ears. There has been rain for the last 3 weeks or so all over and no burn ban was in effect for this area...so firewood was hunted and gathered. The only good thing about all the dead trees around is the abundance of firewood. There was plenty of dried cedar trees...my favorite! The fire was started earlier than usual in hopes of smoking off the insects...and by 8:00 I was bug free. My hammock was hung on the 2nd level of my campsite with a lovely view to the north. The evening was fine and cooling down. A family camping down below could be heard...kids yelling and having fun...much better than the sound of someone's truck music filling the valley...as has been the bane of my campground existence in the past. It was cool to hear...at this time of year...all the usual summertime sounds of the forest, but in smaller quantity...the insects...the Screech Owl, the Barred Owl, the Cayote...and even a Whippoorwill this late in the season. It was good. By 10:00 watching the fire became tiresome and the swinging tree sack was calling my name...so up to level two I went. Now, this will only be the third time for me to sleep in a hammock...and while it is very comfortable...I find it to be a bit restrictive, yet cozy. The bug netting makes for a very secure enclosure...but no tarp was carried...since there was no chance of rain. The low was 56 and it's amazing how much colder it feels with air circulating all around you in a hammock. I was chilled by 5:00 a.m. even with a 35 degree bag. This temp would have been perfect in a tent on the ground. As usual...the sounds of the night conjured up images of bears wandering into camp and sleeping was on and off.
  I always seem to be sleeping best when it's time to rise...but I forced myself out at 6:30 to a view a rolling fog over Falling Water creek but not over Richland Creek. I munched some simple grub and packed up all my crap and took a few photos. A screaming bird of some kind was heard just below me on Falling Water Creek. It really sounded to me to be a turkey or the like being devoured by another animal...it lasted a good minute and I feared for the bird's life. This did not stop me fom thinking of Thanksgiving....mmmm.....turkey.
  The ridge headed south along Falling Water Creek towards...strangely enough...a no-named flat topped mountain with a high point of 2044 feet (most mountains in these parts have names). At this point my track would take me westward down Rose Hollow. I encountered no roses...but thorns of all kinds plus the usual maze of dead-fall and brush and saplings and gnats. Following the creek bed of Rose Hollow was testing my patience with the mess that it was, so back up the slope to higher ground where a lesser quantity of crap could be struggled with. Eventually the terrain fell towards the valley of upper Richland Creek...which would be a welcome sight. By 11:00 I was sitting on bedrock in the river eating some lunch, replenishing my water and drying out damp socks and clothing. The plan was to camp again somewhere in the stretch above Richland Falls and Head on down the creek in the morning. By now...I really was not in the mood to spend another night out...so decided to just head in at a leisurely pace. One would assume that most hikers do not travel this upper stretch of the creek...unless they come in from Ben Hur Cemetery Rd (CR 32 I believe). The character of this upper section is different. There are bluffs right on the creek...wide bedrock sections and small falls along with boulders like the lower section. It is worth the visit. I had passed through this stretch many times in the late 80's by kayak...but everything looks different in such a setting. I stumbled into the campground around 3:30 to find the upper sites almost all full. The inhabitants appeared to be human as no four-wheelers, trash, loud music or tarp cities were evident. The lower campground may have been occupied by lesser species...I can not say...I tend to avoid that area due to the sub-humans usually located near the swimming hole. Overall this was a good hike and my desire to see the southern aspect of the Richland Creek Wilderness has been appeased. I doubt I will return unless following the upper creek. Conditions: Sunny and warm, temp in low 80's Friday afternoon, near 80 Saturday, distance 10.5 miles, terrain rugged and thick, sometimes just plain ridiculous.

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