River to River Trail – Day 7

Giant City State Park to Crab Orchard
7.79 miles

Boy I slept great, and for a good chunk of time.  Even with all that, we woke up around six and felt like we had time to enjoy breakfast (apple oatmeal and coffee) and pack up without stressing.

We hit the trail and recognized what a beautiful stretch this was.  We saw caves and outcroppings and everything held a green glow to it. 

The trail is one we share with horses, which is a mixed blessing.  While the paths are wider and more gently graded, sometimes it’s just a pitted sloshy mud mix, making it difficult to walk through and all your brain space is taken up by footfall  strategy.  This is way more tiring than it ought to be.

Likewise, all the threat of rain keeps the temps down, and it’s been really lovely to hike in.  It’s just a wet mess sometimes and the thunderstorms themselves are no fun at all.  So I’m learning that is a truth out here – every challenge has its blessing and it’s important to enjoy what you can and take the rest in stride.

Once the trail left the Giant City area, the path narrowed down and the landscape changed to young forest with lots of undergrowth.  Once again it was intermittently marked, so wasn’t easy to navigate.  We’ve been using the Chicago backpackers GPS files, which is often wonderfully helpful, but occasionally they seem to go a completely different direction from the path in front of us.  What’s challenging is that the Voigts book with all the way points is old and outdated.  Sometimes the trail has been updated and diverted since the last edition.  The Chicago backpacker group look like they might have taken shortcuts or just decided to go a completely different way.  So we need to make decisions between the book, the GPS path and the trail markers. Plus we need to make sure we don’t veer off onto a trail other than ours. (Which often look more used)  It can get really confusing.

We stopped at another stream to have a short lunch and relax our tired muscles.  These stopping points are so important for both endurance and morale.  It gives us a chance to slow down and see the birds, butterflies, fish and dragonflies.  A perfect way to plug in, especially once I’m physically pushing and all I can see is my feet and feel the pain as I hike.

We walked on and after some road walking we entered another nature trail.  About two miles in, we got lost.  It’s just not a successful day if we don’t get lost along the way.  At least it wasn’t raining, although the skies rumored that it might at any time.  Hiking in the rain makes it triply hard to stop and evaluate where you are and where you’re supposed to be.  This time the trail was hidden by several fallen trees, and we had walked south a quarter mile too far.  We were also on the Voigt path, while the gps points were somewhere completely different.

Shortly after, we declared it time to stop.  We were short of where we wanted to end, but it was getting late and we found a nice patch of trees to hang from.  It ended up being perfectly timed because once our hammocks and tarps were set up, it began to rain steadily.  I made dinner and Arbor sat with me under my tarp and we chatted as we ate.

I’m all tucked in now and I’m listening to the rain drum against my tarp.  The sun is about to set and I think that I will have little problem falling asleep.

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