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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Backpacking with Brynn: Spring break Edition 

Five days and four nights in the backcountry of Mammoth Cave National Park 
Brynn Meisse
On the last day of our trip, we took a guided tour of Mammoth Cave. We got to learn about the types of rock, creatures and size of the cavern. However, what really stood out to me was the usage for the cave. During the War of 1812, settlers used the cavern for its resources that helped create weapons used in the war, but the original use of this cave was by Indigenous peoples. They held sacred ceremonies and burials for the Woodland People.  

About six hours south of Ashland sits one of the 63 national parks in the United States; Mammoth Cave. 

Last week was Ashland University’s spring break so I figured this would be the perfect time to scratch another national park off my list. 

My friends and I met up early Monday morning to begin the six-hour drive down to Kentucky. Before loading the car with our gear, we decided this was the perfect time to weigh our packs and gain an idea of how much weight we would planned to haul around for the week. 

My pack came in at 36 pounds, Erin’s was 34 pounds and Rachel’s was 38 pounds. We all realized a good amount of our weight came from the food but more specifically the apple sauce pouches.  

We learned a very valuable lesson: don’t over pack apple sauce pouches.  

Of course, we didn’t listen to that lesson, but we did make a mental note for the next backpacking trip. 

Once we arrived at the campsite in the park, we quickly pitched our tents and gathered firewood to officially celebrate the start of not working for a week. 

While sitting around the warmth of the campfire and sharing stories about life, we could hear in the distance a pack of coyotes howling. Their various pitches of howls filled the night air in a harmony that seemed to welcome us into their home. 

The Morning of the Trek 

The morning glow of the rising sun filled my tent beckoning me to get up and start my day.  

When I eventually rolled out of my sleeping bag and crawled out my tent, I gathered up the breakfast materials. However, when I looked at the eggs, potatoes and tortilla wraps, I realized we forgot a key part in making our breakfast: butter.  

Due to the forgotten ingredient, we had to figure out a new way to cook our breakfast wraps.  

I had the great idea of hard boiling our eggs in our backpacking pots and stoves, which surprisingly worked out well. I figured cooking the potatoes the same way would work as well and it did.  

However, to make the potatoes cook quicker in the boiling water, we had to poke holes in the potatoes with my pocketknife. 

This peaceful moment didn’t last too long. 

Rachel was poking her potato with the knife when she gasped in pain. The pocketknife went through the potato and cut her finger.  

My reflexes kicked in and I took off running to my tent for the first aid kit.  

I grabbed the red and white bag out of my pack and took off running to Rachel, who was now making her way over to the picnic table with blood leaking from her finger.  

I unloaded my first aid kit and began looking for anything that could help stop the bleeding. I eventually found some bandages and antiseptic pads among the scattered medical supplies.  

I helped Rachel clean and wrap her cut, which thankfully wasn’t that deep where it would need stitches. (I am adding works well under pressure to my resume.) 

After that little scare, we quickly ate breakfast, packed up our tents and said goodbye to a campsite that will always be remembered.  

The Hike 

The trailhead was about a two-minute drive which gave us time to recharge our devices and enjoy the last few minutes of cell reception.  

While waiting in the car and telling our families that we were about to start the trip, the sound of rain drops hitting the windshield echoed throughout the car accompanied by groans of distaste.  

My friends and I have had enough of hiking through rain, but I wasn’t about to let this unfortunate weather ruin my spring break. I plastered a smile on my face, put on my rain gear and buckled my bag into place. 

It was time to start the six-mile hike to our campsite. 

We trekked through the warm rain, muddy slopes, horse manure and sharp briar bushes that snagged your pant legs as you hiked through. 

The hike stayed like this throughout the entire trip, but it showed us how strong we can be. My friends and I also got better at navigation as well. 

The second day of the backcountry hike, we ran into trouble navigating our campsites. According to AllTrails, a hiking navigation app, the Sal Hollow campsite was supposed to be about two miles into the trail.  

However, AllTrails made it look like the campsite was on top of the mountain that ran alongside the trail. So, like any person would do, my friends and I started to go off trail and climb the mountain in hopes of getting to the campsite. 

Spoiler alert, the campsite was not on top of the mountain but instead another mile further down the trail.  

After realizing AllTrails was completely wrong, we left a nice review explaining to people to keep hiking down the trail and not listen to what the app was saying. 

The last main struggle we faced on this trip was another injury.  

Erin was building a campfire for us on the second to last night when she made a decision that resulted in burning her hand.  

The log in the fire fell and Erin didn’t want the fire to go out, so she grabbed the burning log and moved it back into the center. However, she failed to realize that the log’s underside was burning. 

She yelled out in pain, and I knew it was time to shine with the first aid kit. I rummaged through my kit to find bandages and burn cream, which to my luck was in the top.  

Erin received second degree burns on the tips of her fingers and ended up losing a part of her fingerprint.  

This trip taught us so much about how to adapt when things are forgotten and the importance of knowing what to do when there is an injury. 

My main goal for the next backpacking trip is to better prepare myself in first aid. I plan to take wilderness first aid class in hopes of learning the basic skills that could save someone’s life in the back country.  

Always be prepared and don’t overpack on applesauce pouches.  






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