Broken Wheel Ranch to Cedar Lake Spillway
6.27 Miles (planned, but we walked probably an extra 2 or 3)
We deliberately had a late start morning because we will be having lunch in the next town. It ended up being a great decision because we got a nice downpour of rain for about an hour, and we were able to retreat to the dry safety of our hammocks. We even enjoyed coffee and oatmeal, relaxing in our slings. Ubadion, however, slept through the rain and longer until we were forced to rouse him. Tired boys are tired!
The day warmed up after the rain passed and we broke camp as quickly as we could, looking forward to lunch. We were back to road walking for a few miles into Alto Pass. A truck stopped near us and the driver mentioned that there was a tornado watch until 8pm. The skies were still blue at that point, but were glad to have the information.
We came upon the Hedman winery which hosted the Peach Barn Cafe, which had gotten excellent reviews. We walked into the air conditioning and were invited to put our packs on the floor in a corner. We sampled the wines, which were surprisingly good for a Midwestern vineyard. The server was warm and friendly and we felt very welcome, even in our disheveled ramshackle state.
We got to chatting with the table next to ours and found so much in common, it was amazing. Gene had served in the navy and spent time stationed in Antarctica! He was there when they removed the nuclear power plant and had a hand with constructing the South Pole station. What a small world! Gene’s daughter, Suzy, had her adorable baby Hayden and we talked about natural birthing and midwifery as well as her time in the Air Force and extensive travels. There was so much more, and before we knew it 2 hours had passed. It was worth every second and it was a sincere highlight of the trip.
Don’t let me neglect the food, which was amazing. We happily cleaned our plates and the proprietress came to check that all was well a few times. I highly recommend the cafe and the wine, if you’re ever in southern Illinois.
We were feeling great and cruised out of town at top speeds. There was a little confusion when the path left the road, but was quickly recovered. Then things got dicey. We heard the thunder and pulled on our packas and tried to keep a steady pace. It started raining as we realized we had lost the path. We were on a local trail instead of the river to river and we wandered back and forth trying to find the right direction. Even our gps plotting was of little help.
We crossed a creek after thinking we saw a trail blaze, and not 3 minutes later the creek flooded an extra 4 feet and was a torrent of deep water. That was a close call! Still, we had no idea where the trail was and spent the next 40 minutes bush whacking in the direction of the gps points.
Thankfully, we found it, but we lost a ton of time and the rain was coming down hard. Most of the trail was its own creek now, and our feet were constantly in water.
We finally saw Cedar Lake, which was beautiful but nothing we could stop to appreciate. We did see a turtle right in the path, and that was really neat – we even watched as one tumbles down a steep rocky stream, like something out of a cartoon. We really needed to push to get to our camp spot before we lost all the light again. In our rush, I slipped and fell down hard on my side but was thankfully uninjured. Just a lot muddier!
Taken the morning after – water levels much lower
We came upon the spillway, and realized we were going to have to cross it. I don’t know what it’s normally like, but with the storm all afternoon, it was a wide scary looking waterfall of sorts. The sun was starting to set and we decided to cross. We went slowly and deliberately and stuck close together. My heart was really pounding, but we made it to the other side without incident. Whew! There was a great campsite just after the water crossing and some nice hanging trees. We didn’t even mind that all of the ground was a shallow puddle.
We threw up the tarps and set to getting dry and in our hammocks. We bailed on dinner and just ate snack food instead, being thrilled to stay comfy and warm. Earlier, I was so ready to proclaim it the nicest trail day yet – but these new challenges really tested our limits.
Arbor found tick on his leg as he was taking his sock off in his hammock. Ubadion decided to check, and found nine on one leg! They hadn’t been employing my trick of tucking pants into socks (which looks ridiculous), but as I had no ticks, you had better believe they were adopting it forthwith.
I’m finishing up this entry, listening to the rushing water of the spillway and all the serenading frogs around us. Until tomorrow!