River to River Trail – Day 12

Dutchman Lake to Max Creek
10.76 Miles

Boy was I tired, because in slept later than usual.  I woke up once in the night to hear an owl land just above me with a loud screech, followed by the cute who-hoo-hoo.  Also, just as we were falling asleep, there was a single fireworks and what sounded like a bunch of kids partying.  Nothing close enough to disturb us, but loud enough that we could hear them.

We were low on water when we got up in the morning, since the place we camped wasn’t near a water source, so we decided to skip oatmeal and just have coffee and snack foods.  We knew Dutchman Lake wasn’t far, and we’d fill up there.

We walked through the woods, through he fields and over the dam to Dutchman lake.  It was beautiful, and we saw the camping area just off to the right.  It was a good thing we hadn’t tried to camp there, because there were only flat tent areas and no hanging trees without thick undergrowth.

We walked to the DNR sign and saw the fresh graffiti that explained exactly what all the noise was the night before.  It made both of us smile and we wish Shy and Josh well.  The boat ramp was right there with a picnic table and we decided it was the perfect place to collect water.

Bill was there fishing.  We set down our packs and Arbor went off in search of the bathroom facilities that we had heard were around.  And I got to chatting, as I seem to fall into a lot these days.  He told me that he too had gone backpacking, only he went through Europe for two years just after he left the service.  He just wasn’t ready to come home and he didn’t want to be working.  Fishing is as close as he gets to being out in the wilderness anymore.  He told me his wife only likes to camp in a Winnebago, so fishing it is.  He doesn’t even eat what he catches, he just throws them back, but he needs his time outside and it seems to agree with him.

Arbor came back 30 minutes later, not having found any facilities and being reduced to digging a cat hole.  He’s been avoiding it’s much as he can, and I’m surprised at how successful he’s been.  My constitution won’t afford me that kind of luxury, so I’m digging cathodes each morning.

We filtered our water, ate a snack and headed up the gravel road away from the lake.  Boy it was a steep unending curve of a road.  I was starting to be concerned about my ability to even make it through the day.  Finally we reached the top and walked down a back road that took us under the highway.  It was a really neat vantage point.

We then walked past a marsh, another spillway that crossed a very popular bike path (making me think of my friend Laura), and then back into the forest where we came upon our first real hiker!  Chris is doing the River to River trail from east to west and is hiking an incredible 26 miles a day!  He told us that we had just passed the halfway point on the trail, which was really exciting news.  He didn’t dally long and was back on his way lickety split.  I have to admit that I lost confidence in myself for a short while there.  I felt old and grossly out of shape.  How can I be a real hiker with just 8 miles a day?  How can I ever do the true long trails if I can’t manage longer and faster than I am?  It poked at me for a bit, and I did my best to shake it off.

It was clear at that point that the next suitable camp spot was going to be at Max creek, which was a lot further than we had originally intended to go.  Our guide book said it was a beautiful spot with good camping,and we knew we wanted to be near a water source this time.

We walked through a fire break area, across a pipeline and followed an electrical line for a while.  While walking between the enormous electrical poles, we saw a coyote and he was a big one too.  He got a good look at us and sauntered off into the treeline on our left.  It was pretty amazing.

I was hurting badly at that point, so when we turned back into the tree cover, we dropped our packs for a quick lunch.  As we were sitting there, a deer headed directly toward us.  It finally realized we were there and bounded away, screaming at every landing.  I’ve never heard a deer make any sounds before – so it was incredible to hear it scream at close range.  At one point it stopped and glared at us, and screamed again, before it took it’s leave.

We had three more miles of road walking and then finally we were in the natural area only 1.5 miles from our destination.  It was muddy, and I should have been exhausted, but I was so excited to be close to somewhere really nice that it propelled me onward.

Upon arrival, we met Russel who had been camping at Max Creek for the past handful of days.  He’s been section hiking the River to River over the past couple of years.  He says he only hikes 5 miles at a stretch, and really just wants to enjoy himself.  Making miles isn’t any fun for him.

We dropped our gear and hung out for a while, before deciding to set up our hammocks across the creek.  Arbor found a great spot just next to the creek and in front of the bluffs.  Russel had read about ham mocking, but had never seen one before so he watched us put everything together with interest.

We grabbed our dinner and stove and carted it back across the creek to sit with Russel near the fire he had built.  We talked about kids, health care, politics, the minimum wage and so much more.  We didn’t always agree, but we all had interesting things to share and it was an excellent way to pass the evening.

I’m all tucked in now and the creek is babbling beside me, but even it cannot compete with he sound of my husband snoring in the hammock above me.

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