River to River Trail – Day 10

Bork’s Falls to Fern Clyffe Campground
10.03 miles

I think now that the site we chose was a touch too enchanted.  We heard the oddest creature, who made sounds like they were sucking air through a straw with a hint of screeching.  What’s odder is that there were three of them and they moved slowly toward us.  There were no footfalls, just a slow steady progression and their constant calling.  It’s the first time I’ve ever really been afraid of the woods since I was a little girl, terrorized by growling raccoons I couldn’t see.  

That real root of my fear was that I didn’t know if these sounds were threat or not, or if they were going to come for my food bag, which was still in my backpack, under my hammock.  Arbor, who loves me very much, finally got out with his headlamp to see if he could put eyes on the source of the sound.  He never did, so I told myself they were just bugs or very loud bats and willed myself to relax.

It was also really cold that night, and after some fiddling I was super glad to have my 20 degree quilts.  Arbor still slept without any quilts (all firmly in the bottom of his backpack) and we should mail them back home, but now I’m getting ahead of myself.

We knew today was both a big miles day and a town day, so we tried to get moving as quickly as possible.  I hadn’t slept well due to the cold and our night stalkers, so I was moving slow.  We got on the trail about 8:45, which is still our best time, but later than we wanted to go.

We followed a nice gravel path that looked truck worthy.  I was feeling great and blessing the nice path.  It was even blazed from time to time.  I should have known better, because we were following an old River to River section that took us off both the GPS track and the Voigt waypoints!  Still, it was a clear route and we knew how to get back to the road we’d need once we were out of the forest.  The only downside was that it was nearly straight up…. forever.  It was the longest steepest climb to date, and all first thing in the morning.

We made it to the road and headed toward town.  It’s been fun to see all the different kinds of houses there are back here, and I like to imagine my life if I were living in one of them.  We turned a corner and saw a gentleman sitting on his front porch and I called out a greeting.  We got to chatting and he invited us to come sit on his bench and then offered us a beer.  I’m not a beer lover, but Arbor accepted and we sat down to enjoy his company.

Delbert is 86 and has lived in the area all his life.  He pulled out some old photographs to show us the schoolhouse that used to be down in the bluffs of the wilderness area we were hiking through.  If you look closely, you can see the rock wall up behind the school.  It was so cool to see, and he shared stories of that time.  He pointed out his older brother in the photo, and mentioned that he was 17 when he joined the military and was killed shortly thereafter in WW2.  He started to tear up, and then shared some passionately held political views based on the wars and international issues.  It was clear that he had suffered a great loss that still touches him today.

We moved onto safer topics and he pulled out more photos of his horse trips.  He grew up with horses and had been riding like it was second nature ever since. He told us that he just sold his last horse the week prior.  He had had knee surgery last year and just couldn’t ride like he used to anymore.

We said our goodbyes, and started pulling on our packs when he asked if we would be offended if he drove us into town.  We heartily accepted since Goreville isn’t officially on the trail and we had important errands to do.  We were hoping to find a laundromat, but the two he remembers have since closed down.  So he drove us to the post office and said he’d wait for us.  I was blown away by his kindness.  We rushed inside and got our huge box that held all of food and supplies for ourselves and Ubadion too.  We sorted through it as swiftly as possible and sent home two priority boxes with items we didn’t need.  Of course, we forgot about all kinds of things, like Arbor’s underquilts, but at least we had what we needed for the next seven days.

Delbert then drove us to Delany’s on Broadway, a popular restaurant for the cross country biking crowd.  He dropped us off across the street and gave us his phone number in case we needed anything.  We offered to buy him lunch, but he declined and headed home.  We finished shoving our 20 pounds of food in our packs just as a cyclist pulled up, who was also breaking for lunch.  We made introductions and decided to share a table.

Bob is a newly retired chef from North Carolina who is making the trip from coast to coast, and maybe Mexico,,and might turn around and ride back home.  He’s not sure yet because he has no deadlines and can enjoy himself however he likes.  He has done some incredible things already, like biking through the Appalachians. (which he says he will never do again –  once was hard enough). Some years back, he worked as an executive chef at Yellowstone and shared the most amazing stories of his time there.

It was a great respite and the staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating.  The food was good, but nothing stood out for me.  That said, the French fries and ketchup were everything I ever could have wanted in that moment.

Bob had 15 miles to go, and we still had 5 ahead of us, so we parted ways with photos and smiles.  We walked through town and worked on finding our trailhead.

We hiked in and it was more gravel path, which is really nice for walking because you can keep long strides without breaking momentum.  I kept an eye on the gps this time to make sure we were on the right track.  We were moving fast and steady until we got to and amazingly steep decline that made me feel part mountain goat.  The rest of the path had sheer drop offs as we walked the switchbacks further into the forest.  

It was really beautiful, but we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy much of it.  We were pushing to get to the campground where there were rumored to be showers.  There weren’t really any god spots to stop and sit anyway.  We originally weren’t going to hit the campground tonight, and it’s good we did because I never did see a suitable place to set up.

Down we went until we got below the bluffs to a natural cave that was really cool.  Not long after we had flat gravel again and we marched and marched.  Our packs were considerably heavier with all the new food, and the heaviest they’d be all trip.  We were really pushing the limits of our endurance – and then we reached the hill.  We knew we were close to the campground, but it was all going to be uphill from here.

I was pouring sweat and felt like dropping and dying right there in the side of the path.  Arbor eventually spied a picnic table through the trees and we walked straight in to a campsite.  We got our bearings and a nice couple, Jeff and Renita pulled up in their van.  We asked them about the showers and they explained that they were down by the electric sites, as this was the primitive camp.  We asked for directions and we learned that it was quite a hike with a big uphill section.  My eyes must have rolled out of my head, because they offered to drive us down there.

They were actually returning from town to buy a tarp, since they heard that rain was headed our way.  With that news, we quickly set up camp, grabbed our shower kit and our dirty laundry and jumped in the van for a blissful ride once again.  They were from Wheaton on their way to Kansas and had children only slightly older than our own.  This is their first trip away without kids!  We told them about our trip and we were suddenly at the shower house.  

The shower was warm and wonderful and I got clean for the first time in far too long.  We were prepared to wash up when we camped in the woods, but with all the rain lately, it’s the last thing you want to worry about.  We also washed a set of clothes, because they were developing a rather pungent funk.  I hope it doesn’t take too many days before they’re dry. 

We hoofed it back to the primitive sites, another half mile or so away.  The only consolation was the beautiful lake along our path.  The rain was coming in light spurts, and we made it back to camp just before dark, giving us time to make dinner and retreat to our hammocks.

This was a crazy long entry and it’s already 10:30.  I am usually a pretty strident night owl, but at the moment 10:30 seems far too late to be awake.

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