We left Pack & Paddle just after 7am and headed north on I-49. It’s easy to remember the exit number on I-49 because it is the same number as the highway that we head west on. That is 119, highway and exit. We met under the interstate before heading to the Backbone trail in Red Dirt Wilderness in Kisatchie National Forest. This trail is about 7.5 miles long. Since we had a few cars going down there we were able to shuttle cars from the trailhead at the Caroline Dorman Trail parking lot to the trailhead parking area at the other end of the Backbone Trail. When hiking this trail with no shuttle, you can just walk along the road for 2.5 miles back to your car. On previous trips, Kevin, another Pack & Paddle guide, has dropped off bicycles at one of the trail so that they can cycle back to his vehicle.
You can also shorten the backbone hike by hiking in 2.5 miles of the backbone (from Caroline Dorman Parking Area), at which point you will run into Turpentine Trail to the east. Take the 1.5 miles Turpentine Trail back to the highway and walk back to your vehicle.
So our gang of explorers headed down the Backbone Trail noting plenty of places to stop for lunch or opportunities to play on sandstone if you were to bring kids along. We also noted places to pitch a tent if you wanted to do a short, in and out, overnight trip. Since it had just rained the trails were a bit muddy, this is often the case on this trail. We were very careful while making our way down the steep muddy sections of trail, while enjoying the beauty of sandstone formations.
The Backbone is my favorite long, day-trails in Louisiana. It can be a bit challenging, as our gang came to realize. It is hilly and there are a few water crossings, one especially wide water crossing requires removing socks and shoes before wading across.
We welcomed an overcast sky and cool temperature because the sun reflects off of the sandy trail. If you plan to hike this trail yourself, please remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection. We stopped for lunch at a sandstone cliff that overlooks the forest below. As we left our lunch stop we ran across a couple of backpackers, our second group to run across.
Thanks to all that participated, it was a very pleasant day of hiking and we were happy to share this hike with each of you.
-Stacey Scarce, Trip Leader