River to River Trail – Day 1

Devil’s Backbone Park to Godwin West Trailhead
10.9 Miles

We got a later start than we wanted to, but that tends to be par for the course with us.  Our eldest rode with us, and dropped us off at Grand Tower’s Devil’s Backbone park and drove our car back home.  We walked to the Mississippi, dipped in our jar and caught some water that will travel with us to the Ohio river, where we will pour it out and mingle the waters.

Immediately after, we begin our hike.  Today was a ten mile day that consisted largely of road walking before climbing a mountain just before the Shawnee trailhead.  Road walking sounds so unromantic and boring, but the scenery was expansive and gorgeous.  There were water ways all around us, all sorts of strange birds, butterflies and flowers – there was always something interesting to see.

We had intermittent rain that afternoon, and the wind and cloud cover really kept the temperatures manageable.  We got to try out our Packa rain covers.  They were perfect!  They work as just a pack cover for light rain, but once it gets heavy enough, you can pull out the arms and hood and it becomes an integrated rain jacket.  Since it sits over all of you and your gear, you don’t have abrasion issues at the shoulders, and you get better air circulation so you aren’t suffocating under all that plastic.

There was one really fun area where the Mississippi once snaked around the grounds we were walking.  It has since moved, but because the area west of that portion of the river was a part of Missouri, once the river moved, the land still held that designation.  For about a mile, we walked into and out of Missouri!

Still, we were all carrying more weight than ever before, and the roads did a number on our feet.  About 6 miles in we stopped at the side of a road for a quick lunch and some rest.  It was sooo nice!

Soon we were able to see the cliffs ahead, but not before crossing the very busy train tracks.  There was a train just before us, and another just after we crossed.  It was a lovely juxtaposition of the rural and industrial and we got a friendly wave from the conductor.  Very cool.

We finally made it to the trailhead just as the sun was setting.  Our first discovery was that the path was narrow with steep drop offs on either side and the trail was surrounded by poison ivy *everywhere*.  It was a good thing we had gotten water down the hill, because the only choice was to hang across the trail and hope we didn’t slather ourselves in poison oils.  It didn’t help that I was wearing shorts and ankle socks.

Setting up was difficult as darkness descended and trying to cook in a 10 inch path without touching the ivy was nearly impossible.  It was a real blessing that we had the tyvek, meant to rest the backpacks on, under our tarp.  They became essential staging grounds for our gear during our emergency camp arrangement.

I have to admit that we were all questioning whether or not this was worth it.  There has already been talk of bailing if the next two days are as ivy infested, because it then seems that infection is inevitable.  I really hope that once all the hammocks are in place, we have dinner in our bellies and a good nights rest – optimism will return in the morning.  I’m typing this at 10:40 and setup is still ongoing.  What an epic day!


2 thoughts on “River to River Trail – Day 1

  1. You are doing great so far…..learning a lot about hiking/camping and about yourselves collectively and individually. Hang in there…..you certainly are making memories and this is your first big long trek……so don’t be hard on yourselves. ( I’m hoping you all can avoid getting poison ivy! ) Wishing you sunshine…less rain….and more beautiful scenery! xoxo

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