I had some gear that needed testing and I had two days open so I rallied some hiker trash and planned an overnight hike in the pine barrens. I met Tech at Batsto Village mid-afternoon and we headed up the Mullica River Trail for four miles to a campsite. It was sunny and warm while we were moving, despite being below freezing. We spent the remaining daylight setting up camp and gathering as much firewood as possible so as to avoid having to go to bed as soon as it got dark out. The fire worked, although standing on snow for so long, my feet did eventually freeze.

Icarus and SoulFlute showed up a couple of hours after dark and brought pizza! SoulFlute was playing his flute as they came up the trail, and it was eerie hearing it approaching in the dark. I would have been a little worried hearing that in the woods if I didn’t know they were coming. We stayed around the fire a while longer and then Tech headed out. He had planned on staying the night, even set everything up, but since he’d have to get up at 6am to leave in time for work, and that’s when the night would reach its low of 17°, he decided it would be easier just to hike out at night and go home and sleep. I have a hard enough time getting out of my sleeping bag when it’s not that cold so I think it was a good move. In fact, I stayed in my sleeping bag until 9:30 this morning when the temperature had reached the 20s. It was bright and sunny again though so I was warm enough with all my layers on.

We walked a little farther up the Mullica River Trail to a connecting trail, and then back down the Batona Trail for a total of eight miles back to the cars. I am surprisingly sore for such a short, flat trail, but I was sliding around in the snow quite a bit, and I was carrying thirty pounds on my back to test a new pack. I usually carry way less weight than that, even on multi-night trips.