River to River Trail – Day 13

Max Creek to 2 miles before pictographs
6.4 miles

It was pretty cold again last night.  Arbor is trying to decide what he wants to do about quilts.  He didn’t use them last night and was too cold, but used them the other night and was too warm.  I stayed cozy, but I was pretty wrapped up once I woke.

We got up and did our morning chores then packed up and crossed the creek to hang out with Russel a little bit more.  He’s really a great guy, and he regaled us with stories about his other hikes, local legends and some of his deep thoughts about life and the universe.  It was hard to leave, because I always knew there was another great tale or discussion point around the next breath.  I did get his email address, so I plan to connect with him again at some point.

We hiked on and up and stumbled across a memorial site for a man who became an advocate for horse trails in the area, and was on the board of directors for the River to River Trail.  It was a really neat reminder of all the work that goes into keeping these trails alive and the people behind them.

We followed the blazes up and around and discovered that we were going somewhere totally different from both Voigt and the GPS points.  The blazes were consistent, and it did seem we would meet back up with the current trail, so we pushed forward.  We ended up walking through Cedar Lake Campground and waved hello to a few people near the main building.

John, Travis and Jennifer were really welcoming and offered us water, soda and anything else we might need.  We declined, but then he had several questions and we wandered over and began talking.  He and his wife Jennifer are also hikers who haven’t yet branched into backpacking, but are thinking about the possibility. They shared advice about some of their favorite hikes in the Bell Smith Springs area and hen pulled out a whole mess of trail maps to show us their favorite spots and then asked us to keep them.

Shortly after, the campground owner, Diane, walked up and we exchanged greetings.  She’s originally from the Chicago area, and we mentioned how wonderful all the people have been and she shared that it was a really big change from what life was like in the city.

I gave Jennifer the blog address and mentioned there would be a gap in posts because I hadn’t found wifi in a while, and she mentioned that the campground had free wifi.  I asked Diane if that would be all right for me to use, and she gave me the pasword happily.  We plunked ourselves down and for the next hour I uploaded every photo and content for another three posts.  It felt really good to have accomplished that, and it’s a load off my mind.

Diane heard our plans for the day and said that if we didn’t mind a bit of a shortcut, we should take the horse trail because it went through a much more beautiful area than the official trail did.  She gave us clear directions and the. Went to sadle up and hit the trails herself.

We left the campground feeling high on the world and headed the direction Diane had given us.  At a road crossing with a couple of possibilities, a truck pulled up and asked us where we were hiking, and Arbor told him about our alternate plans. Emory told us that the trail actually goes right by his house, and that the locals call that section the boot trail because of all the boots he leaves out and he’s the boot guy.  He pointed out the horse trail, right next to the corn field and wished us well.

We headed into the corn, and as we stopped to consult our maps one last time, a tiny fawn leapt up and ran headlong into the field.  It was as cute as every baby animal meme on the internet, only it had been right here not a foot away from where we had stopped.

We moved into the trees and there was a battle for firm ground as all the previous horses had torn up the dirt and clay.  It wasn’t long until we found the better trail Diane had mentioned and it truly was a gorgeous stretch, full of ethereal greens, interesting rock formations and small streams.  We even crossed paths with a family on horses. I’m so glad we took her advice instead of insisting we stick to official routes.

We rejoined the official trail and realized we were pretty pooped for having such a short day.  There was a one mile stretch ahead of us before a road, and we didn’t know what the conditions would be like.  We were near water at that point, and were loathe to lose that convenience.  So we walked up the hillside away from the trail until there was enough leaf cover to keep the poison ivy away.  I feel like we’ve gotten really good at sussing out just the right spots to camp, and it feels really good.

We took our time setting up, since we’d stopped so early.  I was 2/3 of the way done, and just chilling in my chair when I looked up and noticed the large dead branch just above Arbor’s hammock. Ugh, that was a widow maker and the days forecast had a wind advisory to boot.  Arbor was reluctant to move and while examining the tree saw another branch,  higher up, poised above me.  Instead of flirting with death, we both moved but it was a giant PITA.

We were both hot and sweaty again, so we hiked back down to the creek and spent some time sitting in the very cold water watching all the different kinds of fish swim by our feet.  We even hauled up water and Arbor did some laundry for me. (Because Arbor is a generous and very kind person – and I hate hand washing clothes)

We sat together and ate dinner while planning out the next couple of days.  I was hoping to get a shower soon, but the campground we’ll be crossing just doesn’t fit within our mileage plans.  Looks like we’ll be rolling into Eddyville really stinky.

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