River to River Trail – Day 14

Before pictographs to before Tin Whistle Tunnel
5.5 miles

I woke up and the first thing I thought was that I just didn’t want to hike today.  It wasn’t a good sign, and I let Arbor know that I wasn’t doing all that well.  We ate breakfast and reevaluated our current plan to try and make the day more manageable.  We figured we’d fit in the petroglyph and Trigg Tower and then just hike in another half mile to a water source and set up, making it a short 4 mile day.

I tried to get my head in the game, but it just wasn’t cooperating and my mood got fouler and fouler.  Everything just seemed 10 times harder and 10 times slower.  I managed to get packed up and was sitting waiting for bottleneck Arbor to finish when I saw movement on the ridge to my right.  It was clearly a cougar loping along and I called to Arbor so he could see.  He stood up to try and get a photo and the cat took notice of us and high tailed it away from us.

I desperately wanted to get moving, so Arbor finished up and we plodded up the hill.  It was one of the hottest days we  had on trail so far, and it was difficult to keep enough water and electrolytes in.  Plus I couldn’t get my pack to fit right, no matter how many times I adjusted it and the trail was either all rocks or all mud and I just broke down and started crying.  I kept hiking, but there were a good 20 minutes of tears to go along with it.

We did stumble upon a snake in the path.  He didn’t move, and the. We realized that he had the back end if a frog in its mouth.  The frog was still breathing in and out, just sitting there in the snakes jaws.  Arbor too, some video and encouraged me to come see, but my movement startled the snake enough to let go of the frog and move to the side of the trail.  Poor frog was pretty wounded, and we don’t know that he’s going to make it – and the snake didn’t get his meal.

Finally we hit a road, and we needed to backtrack .4 miles on the other side of the River to see the petroglyph.  At first we thought we might have to go back the way we came, and I refused.  I told Arbor that if he could find a clear trail, I’d go – otherwise we were pushing on or going home.  Lo and behold, he found the trail and my GPS confirmed it was the right one.

It was a lovely hike and before long we heard the sounds of raucous kids splashing in the creek.  We came up to a lifeguard and at least 30 kids playing I the water.  One of the older teens greeted us and asked if we were River to River hikers.  We confirmed it and he told us about the trail ahead of us and some of the hiking he had done himself.  He’d grown up in the area and considered himself somewhat of an expert.  We asked about the petroglyph and he said it was about ten minutes past them on the trail and that it would be in a cavern where it couldn’t get rained on.

We followed the creek and found a series of large caverns, took off our packs and set to hunting for the buffalo image.  We scanned every inch we could find. And saw nothing.  We got out headlamps and tried again.  Nothing.  I hiked back down to Jake and asked hi for clues, but he had no good advice.  I hiked back and gave the caverns a once over and the. Told Arbor that if it was this hard, it basically wasnt there anymore. We’d been looking for 30 minutes. He wanted to keep trying, but I was more than done and we headed back.

I turned on my GPS and saw the Voigts point, and it was at an overhang, essentially behind the camp group.  Ugh.  We walked up and there was the petroglyph, plain as day.  We got our photos and walked back to the road and back onto the r2r trail.

Trudge, trudge, trudge.  I was hurting and hot and I was both annoyed and resentful.  I told Arbor that I hated him – I still loved him, but right now I hated him.  Fortunately he’s a patient man, and understands that my grumbling is the only thing keeping me sane, and he takes it all in good measure.

We got to the tower turn off, and it was another half mile off trail and back to see the fire tower.  Once again there was epic mud that nearly pulled my shoes off of my feet.  The half mile felt like 2 and finally we came out to a road and there was the tower on a grassy hill.  There was a large tree providing shade and I plopped myself down and pulled out my chair.

Doug was there on his four wheeler with his two young boys, who were climbing all over the tower.  He was really curious about the trail,and we pulled out maps to show him and he enjoyed picking out the areas of interest that he knew. He offered us koolaid and water, but we had plenty of our own so we politely declined.  He loaded up his boys and drove off and we sat in the shade and snacked while the hummingbirds zipped around our heads.

Arbor took off for the top of the tower to see the view.  He said it was nice, but not as impressive as he’d expected.  I had no intention of going up.  With my current luck, I’d fall to my death.


click photo to see bigger

Just as we were packing to go, another man in a golf cart drove up.  He asked us how far we were going and was incredulous at the trip.  He kept telling us to be careful and to watch out for all the snakes.  It’s funny because we hadn’t seen any, and the. Russel from Max Creek brought them up and seemed surprised we hadn’t seen a rattler.  When We saw John and Travis at Cedar Lake Campground, they said we’d be seeing them, and probably more now that it was warming up.  So this was the third person to mention copperheads and rattlers.

We headed back, and not 5 minutes in there was a startled slithering immediately to my left and a large black snake hurried in the opposite direction.

Even with that encounter, I was starting to feel better knowing that once we met the trail again, we only had about a half mile to go before we found water and our intended stopping point.  We made quick work of it and found the creek with ease. There even appeared to be the leaf litter hills we like.

We walked up to find our spot, and everywhere we looked there were dead trees.  For an hour we combed the area, and nothing was safe enough to set up.  Even the ground had ivy popping up where there usually want any.  It was now 6pm and we knew we were going to have to camel up on the water and push on.  I started crying again and declared it the worst day ever.

We were both carrying extra water, so our packs were extremely heavy, and we were already exhausted and demoralized.  We pushed and pushed and kept looking for areas to hang, but the trees just got more dense, the ivy more prolific and then we hit a long stretch of pine forest.

We considered several less than ideal spots, but they all had too many danger areas.  Finally we  Rome into an area with better trees and a small section of leaf litter without ivy.  There were still several sketchy trees, but it was the best option we’d seen all day.  We did our best to make sure if the dead trees did fall, there were at least a few live trees in its path before us.

We set up long past our usually dinner time, and sat down to take off our shoes and put on crocs and make food.  I was suddenly overwhelmed again and cried for another 5 minutes while preparing taco mash to rehydrate.  We ate hurriedly and then crawled into our hammocks.  I am done done done done with today.  Tomorrow we are staying at a ranch and booking a room with a bathtub, my own bed and laundry machines.  It’s all I can do just to keep from calling our eldest to come and get us from there.

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One thought on “River to River Trail – Day 14

  1. Pingback: Millstone Bluff – Shawnee National Forest | tauspotting

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