A popular activity in Antarctica is hiking. McMurdo has a few different places to hike both solo and with others. As I’m, admittedly, way out of practice I decided to put in some miles in East Fork State Park with my cousin Danya and our aunt Marty.
We started near the rangers station at East Fork State Park and hiked up to their “Overnight 2” campsite using a combination of their Scenic Route and their Backpackers Route. According to Danya’s FitBit it was approximately 7 miles from start to the campsite we decided to use.
I have some more photos I’ll add later but here are a few of my favorites for now.
Growing up really close to East Fork State Park meant I’d been there many times before. There’s a “beach” on the reservoir that I’ve hung out on, various music events, small trails, annual campsite-camping with the family, and I even learned to drive there. I never, however, have hiked or backpacked there.
About 1.5 miles into the trek we came across Overnight 1 which is set-up with a picnic table, 3-sided shelter, and a set of outhouses. We stopped for a quick bathroom break then kept on treking. The first 2.5 miles of the trail sit at a low elevation and some heavy machinery had recently tilled up the entire path. This made the entire thing extremely muddy. And I mean the kind of mud that sticks to your boot and keeps building upon itself so every ten feet you have to knock off the 6 inches of mud that’s attached itself to your shoe. It made going slow but as it was pretty flat the hiking wasn’t otherwise challenging.
The middle 2.5 miles is where things start to get interesting. There aren’t any major overnight set-ups like Overnight 1 but there are a few places with fire rings set-up near(ish) to good water sources. This part of the trek begins to elevate and you find yourself frequently going up and down hills and along some switchbacks with nice drop-offs to your side. There’s a couple bridges built over the deeper crevices but expect at least a handful of shallow water crossings. My favorite part here was a 100-yard or less stretch through only pine trees where the path suddenly weaves over big rounded masses. It seriously looks like something from a fairy tale.
The last 2 miles was the hardest. My aunt quoted that those two miles are ranked a 5. Whatever that means. She said they remind her of what the Appalachian Trail was like when she went. It was all straight up and down hills, steep, sharp inclines, and switchbacks with a few precarious ledges. If we didn’t have hiking poles with us this part would have been neigh impossible. At least, for me, as I desperately need to work on my cardio.
I think the last two miles were made so hard by the fact that we’d aready come 5 miles up to this point, hadn’t eaten in a few hours, and my shoes were blistering my feet to hell and back. Seriously. I’m barefoot at work right now because the entire back of my heel is torn up. The next morning, with freshly bandaged heels, when we began with the hardest strip I was still panting by the time we reached the top of the third hill but it wasn’t nearly as hard as the day before.
On the hike home we crossed the main road a few times and with about 2 miles left we opted to just follow the road instead of going back into the swamp lands. This led us past a small church and graveyard that we’d last visited when my aunt was married there. We sat down our packs and explored for a moment. Some of the graves lead back to the 1700s when the small town in the area was settled. Almost every single war has veterans buried in the cemetary. We passed at least a few from the war of 1812 and many revolutionary war casualties.
All in all it was a good trip but it really showed me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to hiking and where I need to improve. We plan on doing 60 miles of the AT in May and I definitely have a lot to work on before then.