Wildlife Watching, Sleep Depravation, Struggles in Hobbs, Comedy Ensuses
Editors note: This is the third installment in a four-part story from Rachel Furman of Team R&R documenting their experience in the 2023 Expedition Ozark Adventure Race. If you haven’t read the first and second installments, we recommend starting there. (Expedition Ozark 2023 Race Report – Team R&R – Chapter One). Photos courtesy of Expedition Ozark.
At this point, I was starting to worry about time. If we hadn’t lost so much at Bryd’s, I don’t think it would have been an issue, but I knew we had to start doing the math and thinking about dropping points, especially on the trek since that was our slowest discipline. As we hiked up the road from the river, I went through the course book and started to do the calculations. I decided that we’d better only do a portion of this trek to keep us moving. Looking at the map there were at least three points we could get relatively easily and several obvious drops. Once we made it to the first CP or two, I decided we had enough time to get a few more, since they looked like just trail hikes. The trail ended up not being there for a portion of the route, but it was still relatively easygoing with not a lot of climbing. We ended up dropping four points but made it back to the boats only an hour or so later than we had wanted to. Our main concern was making sure we could finish the paddle in the daylight since we knew it would be so much faster to be able to see where the shallow water was. The river actually was getting wider and deeper as we went, though, so that helped tremendously as well.
A highlight section
The remaining Kings River paddle to the takeout was a highlight of the race for both of us. The sun was setting, giving us golden hour colors and lighting up the hills surrounding the river. We kept seeing actual kingfishers, herons, and cranes keeping us company, as well as a beaver who scared the crap out of me by slapping his tail directly in front of our boat. The water had become more clear since more time had passed after the rain had turned it muddy, and we could see fish and the shallow shoals much more easily. We made up songs about building bikes and just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
At the paddle takeout, we ran into Darryl McCauley, who had been waiting for us to come in before he reported for volunteer duty. So nice!! It was great to see a familiar face. We then made our way up to the TA, where we were told we could get hot quesadillas and coffee, amazing! We were in such good spirits we didn’t even think about sleeping, which was what most of the other teams there were doing. Somehow we still managed to take forever in that TA. We were busy, but not efficient. Probably should have slept, in hindsight. When we finally took off on bikes, I was hoping to get to Hobbs before daylight and power nap there.
Unfortunately, this is where my sleep deprivation was kicking in on my navigation. Sleep deprivation is like being drunk, and in a similar manner, you think you are “fine.” I would have sworn I was still okay, but yet somehow had lost the ability to understand distances on the road. I started to ask Robert for odometer readings, and after he said we’d gone 300 meters as opposed to what I thought would have been 1K, I started to question my sanity. But then, he realized his odometer wasn’t reading properly. We went several kilometers past a turn we’d needed before I realized where we were. We turned around and fixed it, and decided we couldn’t depend on his odometer anymore. In fact, I think it stopped working altogether after that. If anyone has a recommendation for a dependable odometer let me know, I think every single AR I’ve done with one, they have stopped working. Maybe only wired versions from now on?
Welcome to Hobbs State Park – Over 12,000 acres of decisionmaking
After at least one more small navigational misstep, we finally made it to Hobbs. We enjoyed some single-track but opted to skip the full trail option to the CP to save time. Dawn broke and by the time we made it to the TA, it was light out. The TA was on the top of a leafy spur in the woods, so not exactly ideal for dismantling bikes and putting them in bike boxes, but we got that done (and I made a critical error here that I wouldn’t know about until later!). Then we started out on our last “big” trek. My plan was to get the mandatory points first so we had those bagged and then figure out what Pro points we could get in from there. Lots more math and calculations to see about what time we wanted to be back to the boats, and I decided that we definitely needed to drop a good portion of the Pro points. I should have studied the map a little more because I didn’t realize how restricted our route choice was going to be by the highway running through the middle of the park being marked as off-limits except for two tunnel crossings. Usually crossing a road on foot is not as big of a safety issue so I’m not sure why the race organizers kept this off-limits thing for the trek as opposed to only using it for the bike, other than maybe simplicity’s sake. (Editors note: Highway 16 through Hobbs State Park is a curvy, flowy road that vehicles including large trucks tend to take a little too fast which would be dangerous to race-tired participants.) Either way, we got the two mandatories without an issue (came across the Canadian team Attack from Above looking very lost on our way to CP2, they followed us up the hill because I “looked like I knew what I was doing,” haha!). They then ran past us on the trail up to the tunnel – I tried to cut corners where I could but basically stuck to the trail for ease of travel.
We followed the trail all the way to the Visitor’s Center, which took way longer on foot than I recall it being on a bike, and were able to fill water there. The ladies behind the counter were very nice and interested in the race, which was good, but I cautioned Robert not to sit down or put his pack down on their nice furniture! I can’t imagine the level of stink we carried by this point. Back outside the Visitor Center, we decided to find a sunny spot out of the wind to finally get our power nap in. We ended up right next to the parking lot, which was fine until a group of schoolchildren came up from a trail. We slept pretty well but it was over too quickly, for sure. We then headed down the spur and got our first Pro point. Then came a decision point – turn back here or go for two more, which would require us to get to the next tunnel spot. We ended up going for two more, which took forever. I didn’t want to take the windy trail again so I tried to straight-shot it, but that backfired as we had to go up and down a bunch of steep ridgelines. On the way back I did a mix-and-match route choice that never felt efficient. Then I was fooled by the map – I tried a direct reentrant line back towards the TA, but the lake was much higher than what the map showed and we had to trek almost 1K out of our way around it. By the time we got to the TA, I was frustrated and upset that we’d spent so much time on this trek, probably a symptom of my sleep deprivation, but I definitely do not have the hankering to go back and orienteer at Hobbs.
What a trip
The last paddle was on Beaver Lake in canoes – it was nice to not have to blow up our packraft again! We had to portage the canoes down the spur from the TA to the lake and this led to probably one of the funniest moments I have ever experienced in a race. I was dragging the front of the canoe and Robert was behind it. At some point on the steep slope, I felt the canoe tipping over and I look back to see Robert literally tripping and falling into the canoe while it fell on its side – he somersaulted over the seat and fell to the opposite side of it in the leaves. Thankfully he was okay but I could not hold back my laughter!! I am pretty sure that memory is burned in my brain forever. We followed this comedic set with a less-than-graceful canoe tip as we tried to launch onto the lake. My pack was strapped in but got wet, which was not ideal. It was not the first or last time I was thankful that I was in a dry suit!
Watch for the fourth and final installment next Wednesday afternoon.