River to River Trail – Day 8

Crab Orchard to Panthers Den
7 miles

It rained all night and was still raining when we woke up.  This was our first morning in the rain.  What’s great is that with our hammock setup, we can pack up our bedding and hammock and just fix breakfast and relax under the tarp.  Mine is so big that it’s really comfortable for the two of us.  Even with the rain, we were walking by 9am.

We crossed several streams, but managed to keep our feet relatively dry.  It was a gentle but steady rain, which was so different from the absolute downpour at Cedar Lake.  So while the paths were wet, they weren’t creeks themselves.

At the top of the ridge, we came upon the coolest camping area.  The ground was cement and there was an enormous stonework fireplace with a lake just beyond.  

I think it was someone’s homestead, and that idea was further supported by the paved “road” that wound away from the area that also happened to be our trail.  It felt so odd to blend the familiar with the wild all around us.  

We even found a mulberry tree with low hanging fruit, just like we have at home.

By the time we got to a large creek it had stopped raining. We took off our packs to collect and filter water. It was a lovely break and we munched on snacks while resting between water refills.

As we were getting back to the path, Arbor slipped on the wet rocks and fell pretty hard on his hands. It was his first fall, unlike my 4. I think he was hurt more than any of mine, but ultimately was ok.

We crossed a highway and entered Panthers Den with more steep up and downs.  The rain had picked up again and we hiked and hiked and hiked.  Just about the time we were feeling tuckered out, we came to another set of caves and bluffs along a large waterway.  It was just stunning and we decided to take a nice long break as the sun had recently come out.

I took off my pack, then my shoes (putting on my crocs) and then took of my pants and waded deep into the very cold water.  It was magnificent on my swollen tired feet and I got a chance to rinse off my bum, which felt wonderful.  I got out, redressed, and sat down for a break.  

I forgot to mention that Arbor was able to fix my Monarch chair  by pushing out the metal rod that had sunk into its mate.  I’m trying to be very careful so that I can use it for the remainder of this trip.  We tried calling the company several different times, during business hours, but they only end up at voicemail, which is really disappointing.

We snacked again, Arbor scrubbed off his muddy pants and shoes, and we basked in the sunshine.  Too soon the clouds took over and we heard a distant rumbling of thunder.  We efficiently gathered our gear and pulled on our packas just in time for the rain to start again.

We hiked up and up and started scoping out possible camp sites.  I like areas where the undergrowth is sparse, but it’s also important to find a copse of healthy trees.  Too many dead trees nearby are called “widow makers” for obvious reasons.  We tried a few different locations, but either the trees weren’t spaced well or they just weren’t safe.  Finally we found a spot near a creek and it was like something out of a dream.

The rain had stopped again, which made setting up a lot easier.  Before we knew it, I was sitting in my chair and taking off my trail runners.  Immediately I saw steam rolling off my foot.  A sure state of affairs, as my feet are both hot and achey.  Suddenly we noticed a deer running just along the creek on the other side of the bank.  It was truly magical.

Arbor made dinner and about halfway in, the rain began once more and we retreated to our hammocks.  A true theme of the day.  I’m wonderfully glad that it was dry for all the important stops along the days hike.  It made the rain seem like far less of a big deal.  I hope it stops for good tonight so that our tarps and other items have a chance to dry out some.

As a postscript, today was the first day we didn’t get lost!  Either we’re getting better at this navigation stuff, or the trail was marked well this stretch.  I think it’s more the latter than the former.

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