Its review time!
Yes, this is the same trail as the last trail review, but there are a few differences in this experience. They are, with details to follow:
- I was solo
- I hiked the smaller, 5.7 mile loop
- It was my first time using my new REI daypack
- Part of this hike was in the dark – something I haven’t done in a long time
I’ve hiked this trail MANY times over the years, and I feel like I know it pretty well. Its the closest hike to STL that I really love, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
When it comes to safety, I don’t think it was the smartest for me to be out there alone after dark, but I also came prepared with my headlamp, phone charger, and change of clothes. Since I would have service the whole time I could call for help or use bluetooth to get myself back to my parked car (my phone saves its location when it disconnects from the car’s bluetooth) if I found myself off-trail. All was well on the trail, – I didn’t come across anyone for the second half, which was nice. I did hear some coyotes way off in the distance at one point, and that’s when I decided to get my hustle on.
In the last trail review post I reviewed the longer loop, so today I will go into more detail on the shorter loop! To be honest there isn’t much difference, but I will say that the shorter loop is a bit more friendly to less experienced hikers than the longer loop. Mostly because the distance is more reasonable for those who have less experience, but it does have less challenging portions of the trail as well. The shorter loop is really just a cut-through of the longer loop.
I always do this trail in a clockwise direction. Part of me thinks its because I’m left handed, and just like doing things in a clockwise way, but also because I will experience less traffic for the majority of it in the beginning, and will also have less people to pass/wanting to pass me. I find it easier to pause and pass someone going the other way than to have to adjust my pace to someone else. Also, this means that the higher trafficked portion will come towards the end – after the views and when I’m just heading back to the trailhead. If going counter clockwise, the first mile or so is a highly trafficked area that leads to an overlook of the Missouri River and has informational signs posted about the Lewis & Park trek and lots of benches. I love that this is available for anyone to come and see and experience, but when you’re in hiking mode it can sometimes be too busy.
Now for the pack!
I will share a more detailed review of it after a few more uses, but I’d like to share my first impressions. I got myself the REI Trail 25 Pack (women’s fit). I have a lot of emotions about moving on from my Topo Designs pack, but I know I’ll still use it for some things! I’ve used it for years, its been to so many places with me, and walked so many miles, but as I have gained so much more experience hiking and want to do so much more with it, its time for something more.
The few things that this pack has that my previous pack didn’t have already made a huge difference. They are:
- rain cover
- Waist strap
- Water bladder (didn’t come with one, but has the pouch for it in the back, and a hole for the tube to come through) (I did buy an Osprey water bladder! 2.5 liters)
- Padding and ventilation against my back
All of these things made a HUGE difference (except the rain cover as it didn’t rain)!!! My back and shoulders weren’t fatigued by the end, and I got less sweaty with the ventilation against my back. Also, while I do always plan to carry a Nalgene of water with me, it is nice to have the water bladder at the ready. It’s always been that I would have to stop and get my Nalgene out and take some drinks and then pack it up again. While at times its nice to take a water break and rest, its so nice to be able to slow up my walking and take some sips. I found that I was getting a similar amount of water intake, but without gulping I didn’t have to stop and pee in the woods! I was able to drink less and more consistently.
The waist strap also made a big difference. I found my posture was better, and there was less pressure on my shoulders. I wish this pack and little pockets on the waist straps for things like my phone and quick access to snacks (the larger packs do have this), but its also just as easy to wear my little Patagonia waist pack for these small things.
I didn’t weigh down the pack too much this time. I want to give my body time to adjust to it, but I did throw a 10lb weight in the bottom to make it a bit of a challenge LOL! I felt it, but it didn’t feel like too much.
I will ALWAYS suggest Lewis & Clark trail to anyone in the area wanting to get into hiking, or just get out for the day. From where I live, I can get there, hike, and get home in about 3 hours. There are a few places with great views, and it is well maintained (the shorter loop more so than the long loop). Parts of it are in a valley area and can get really muddy after a rain as well as parts of the highly trafficked area. Dogs are allowed if kept on a leash, and I’ve seen many MANY pups out there 🙂 The parking lot is a gravel lot off the road, and while it does fit a lot of cars there have been times I’ve left and seen many cars parked along the road if the lot is full. So my suggestion will always be to get there really early (I aim for 6:30-7a) or later in the day (this last time I got there around 7pm), but be prepared for hiking in the dark if you go later!
If you have this pack, please let me know your thoughts on it! I’m really excited to spend more time with it and see how it does over time and use.