On March 9th 2012, Cesar and Jeremy drove from New Mexico where they reside to Lubbock, Texas. They were staying the night with my wife and I, and then we were leaving the following morning for Fort Smith, AR.

This was the first time Jeremy and I had met, and we hit it off immediately. He shared the same sense of humor that both Cesar and I had, and I knew straight away that it was going to be a fun trip. For what it’s worth, Jeremy is now a part of the “Hiking Triangle”, and any future trip would not be complete without him.

We were joined at dinner by family, and we had a quiet, enjoyable evening that went by way too swiftly. Then it was an early night in preparation for the long drive we faced the following day.

After breakfast the next morning, I said my heartfelt goodbyes to my wife and family, and then we headed out on the 550 mile journey to Fort Smith, Arkansas. We took two vehicles, Cesar’s truck and my car.

It was a long, uneventful drive full of toll roads and bathroom breaks. We eventually arrived around 10 hours later and found a hotel room for the night.

Fort Smith is a vibrant city that can trace its roots back to the untamed Wild West. It is Arkansas’s second largest city with a population of 86,000. We quickly found one of the busy, vibrant restaurants, and had an enjoyable evening. All of us were very impressed with Fort Smith, and it is definitely a place I would like to go back to and visit with my wife.

Once back in the room, we got our packs out of the vehicles and made all the last minute checks that everyone does to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. This was my first glimpse of Jeremy’s pack, and it made my eyes bulge when I saw it!! He had a military, external frame backpack, and it was huge. Not only was it huge, but it was crammed full of stuff and I couldn’t even pick it up off the floor. It must have weighed over 75lbs, and it quickly became the stuff of legend.

My own pack was way too heavy, and I knew this as I carried it into the room. I knew I was in for a tough time, and I wasn’t looking forward to hauling it around the mountains for a whole week. I made a mental note to myself that I would do a complete overhaul of my gear when I got home, and that this would never happen again.

The next morning we awoke to some of the most torrential rain I have ever seen since I moved to America. If it kept this up we were going to be in for a very uncomfortable week. Fortunately for us it didn’t.

After breakfast we drove out to the Lick Branch Trailhead where we left Cesar’s truck. Then we all piled into my car and headed out to Lake Fort Smith. We stopped for lunch with the rain still hammering down, and finally reached the visitors center midafternoon. It had taken us longer than anticipated to situate our vehicles, and we knew we didn’t have too many hours of daylight left, especially as the weather was so bad.

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