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One-night stay in the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness

Testing my new ‘The Journey’ tarp. I don’t know why I’ve not used both my trekking poles in porch mode before. Copyright © 2021 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Ginger and I went on a quick one-nighter to get some time in the woods, check out some new gear, and for Ginger to spend another night in our new Zpacks Duplex tent.

New gear being tried out:


  • Zpacks carbon fiber hiking poles. Now Ginger has no excuse to steal my hiking poles!


  • Winter tarp
  • Titanium wood stove
  • Hiking skirt (yes skirt, not kilt. No pleats or apron in this).

It’s been very dry the past couple of months, so water was a concern going in. I had four plans.

  1. Carry in enough water for the entire trip. No. I wasn’t going to do that.
  2. Hike to McGarr Spring and pick up water there and camp somewhere on the ridge to the east of the spring.
  3. No water at the spring? Checkout the stock pond on the ridge to the east. It looked healthy when I passed through last year.
  4. Stock pond no good? Bail out, go back to the trailhead and drive the two hours home.

The entire hike would only be five-six miles. Summer temperatures and the bugs are hanging on here in Missouri. So, we didn’t fancy anything more arduous than that.

The hike in was easy except for the heat and spider webs, which were impossible to spot until you stumbled into them. And once down in the hollow, the trail was very overgrown.

Ginger didn’t fully tighten the mud-baskets on her new trekking poles and discovered she’d lost one on the hike.

We hit one unexpected problem. Everything was so overgrown the spring was very difficult to find. I finally heard the faint sound of trickling water, located the spring, and we stopped for lunch. After lunch, we planned to fill up with enough water to see us through the rest of the trip.

I broke the dirty water pouch, potentially halving our water supply. Oops.

A tree had fallen onto where the spring emerged. It took a while for me to clear a path to it. We had two one-liter clean water pouches, one two-liter clean water pouch, and one two-liter dirty water pouch. I proceeded to filter water into the clean-water pouches, and in the process, I broke the dirty water pouch, potentially nearly halving our water supply. Oops.

We stopped and thought. We re-purposed the two-liter clean water bag for dirty water so we could filter it. I reckoned I could carry the split bag with most of the water in it and proceeded to make a carrying handle out of some of the spare line that I carry for just such emergencies. Before I tried that, we decided to see if a bit of the ol’ duct tape could affect a good enough repair. Much to our surprise, it did. It wasn’t 100% waterproof, but it was good enough to store the water pouch upright in the mesh pocket of my pack. Disaster averted, we climbed up onto the ridge and played hunt the campsite until we found a suitable spot.

Once settled in, Ginger managed to get in among a nest of Seed ticks. Duct tape to the rescue again! We then spent the next 24 hours in the woods talking, resting, and sleeping. Bugs and heat aside, we had a great time.

The hike out was easy but hot and slow. Ginger found her missing mud basket on the trail, so that was good. I mentally crossed ‘Mud baskets’ off of my gear replacement list.

On the drive home, Ginger wanted a “nice, cold, diet Mountain Dew.” So we stopped at the Gas Station in Gainsville. Apparently, the residents of Gainsville don’t hold with diet Dew, and the best I could find was a diet Coke. And that was dangerously close to its best by date. But it was cold, and it hit the spot.

Oh, and no pictures of us. We were too hot, sweaty, and covered in spider webs. I wanted to take a new version of our February 2011 Devil’s Backbone picture below, but Ginger made it quite clear that it wouldn’t happen!

Wedding anniversary backpacking at Devils Backbone Wilderness by Gary Allman

Lessons & Thoughts

  • Take spare water pouches. They weigh nothing.
  • Update my gravity filtering arrangements so they don’t put so much stress on the bags — basically just sort out a tube to join the clean water bag to the filter so I’m not struggling to unscrew everything, which was what split the dirty water bag.
  • My winter tarp is great, I can’t wait until we get some colder and wetter weather to give it a really good test.
  • Titanium wood stove. We decided it was far too dry to give it a try right now. It only weighs four ounces so carrying it wasn’t a strain. I bought the lighter wood stove to balance out the increased weight of my winter tarp.
  • Hiking skirt. It’s made of a very lightweight ripstop, water repellent coated material. It’s a fraction of the weight of my hiking kilts, and has six large pockets which are much better (accessible and larger) than the pockets on my kilts. The pockets swallow my Beretta, my leather journal, and my phone. And that’s just the pockets on one side. So overall it seems to be a lot more practical than my hiking kilts. It’s also got a snap on the hem which joins the hem between your legs turning the skirt into a very baggy pair of shorts. I’m setting backpacking fashion trends again!

Copyright © 2021 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.