River to River Trail – Day 17

Petticoat Junction to Bowed Tree Crossing
8.76 miles

Woke up and ate our breakfast on the path and packed up for the day.  We hiked in a half mile to petticoat junction where someone clearly had a sense of humor.  Just a mile or so past that and the landscape turned to gorgeous scenery.  I sure do wish we had pushed on a little further to camp there, it was just perfect.  We had just been burned that one day and we had become super cautious about finding a spot.  It’s the first time I regretted where we stayed.

Walking through such lovely surroundings really made the hike more enjoyable, even with all the uphill climbing.  We even crossed paths with three horseback riders. It wasn’t long before we made it into Eddyville where we were to pick up our next mail drop.  This time we were there with oodles of time and no one waiting for us, so we didn’t feel rushed.

We met Jill, the post mistress, who regaled us with stories of other hikers who mailed their items – and one in particular who hadn’t picked it up since April.  (Donatas Filipaviciles from Romeoville please give Jill a call and let her know what you want done with your belongings, she’s worried about you and keeps hoping you’ll walk through any day now). We sorted through our options and sent back a ton of food we didn’t need.  

Jill’s cousin Ken came in and the two of them shared stories of the old schoolhouse in town that they both went to, about the old black settlement that was further down the trail and how there is a cemetery out there still, and we heard about Jill’s children and grandchildren.  They were both delightful and very kind as we made a mess of the place.  Jill even called over to the convenient store to see if they had an ATM so we could get cash, but alas they did not.  Apparently no one in town had a way for us to get any money.

We thanked them both and headed over the few blocks to the Shawnee Restaurant and Lounge.  For a ‘dive’ it was very inviting with lots of light and we sat down and Arbor got an apple ale and I got a whiskey sour.  We ordered lunch – a catfish hoagie and the Charlie burger with grilled onions and all the fixings.  The food was fantastic – we both thought it beat Delany’s by a mile.  The service was a touch slow with just one woman handling the operation – but it was a comfortable place to relax and we never once minded the extra time.

We got to chatting with Richard (and perhaps his father) about our trip.  He hails from Crawfordsville, IN and we talked about Turkey Run.  He asked us about snakes and we shared the photos we had of the frog eater from days before.  He said we’d pass by their place, and he’d probably be out mowing his lawn.

After they left, Russel L came in and the regular trail talk commenced.  He has travelers for children.  One is in Germany now taking forestry students out into the Black Forest of Bavaria.  Another son works as a bartender for family, so is able to save and the take off whenever the mood strikes to all corners of the world.  I so enjoy hearing about all the adventurous paths peoples kids take.  He also offered to drive us to the trailhead for Indian Kitchen, an area that’s supposed to be wonderful.  It would have cut out too much of the River to River trail for us though, and we politely declined.

We ate our food with relish.  Mine came with fries again, and I’ve decided it’s my absolute favorite thing to eat while on the trail.  Nothing else beats a hot french fry with ketchup.  Our server brought us black permanent markers and invited us to write in the patio fence.  I just love traditions like that, so we eagerly left our mark and then took our leave.

We crossed the highway and down the road for a couple of miles.  There was absolutely no shade, the noonday sun beat down on us and the temps were in the 90s.  At least on the trail much of it is shaded, so this was the first time I really felt just how hot it really was.  Toward the tail end of the road walking, we saw Richard on his riding mower and waved a big hello.  He waved back and we headed for the tree line and blissful shade.

Two miles through the forest and we came out to our intended destination, the Circle B Ranch, which was just across the street from the trailhead.  We walked over and caught the owners attention as he was doing ground chores.  We asked about staying the night and he said there was only tent camping available.  We asked about wifi and he said there was none.  We hadn’t had a signal in a handful of days, so I asked if there was a phone I could use just to call the kids and let them know we were ok.  He fished in his pocket and handed me his cell phone. I quickly called our daughter and told her to pass the word and we were about to select our site when I asked if he took credit cards.  He shook his head no, and we deflated.  We asked if he wouldn’t mind if we got some water, as we were nearly out.  He pointed to the pump and we filled up only one of our large bladders, because we really didn’t want to take advantage.  I offered him the three dollars we had left, but he waved it off.  I thanked him again and we headed back into the woods.

It was important that we find a spot with water access this time, since our supply was low.  We checked the maps and it looked like we had another three miles before us.  Arbor assured me that the Lusk creek wilderness was said to be beautiful, so we pushed in, feeling weary and tired.

Much of the trail was dense poison ivy on either side in large expanses, as well as a lot of dead wood.  We continued to descend and I just had to keep hoping that a good spot was going to present itself eventually.  We did stumble upon a frog in the path and as Arbor was about to take a picture, we saw the large black tail of a snake sticking out of a log facing the trail. We stepped back and held still and carefully leaned in for photos.  The snake didn’t react and only twitched slightly from time to time to let us know it was alive.  We lightly walked past it and further down the trail.

We turned the corner of a switchback and you could see the bottom of a creek end and the beautiful area around it.  This was the spot we’d been pushing for!  I dropped my pack on the rocks of the creek and Arbor ventured ahead to scope out sites.  He came back to tell me of a large clear area that had obviously been used for camping.

I went to investigate and instantly fell in love.  Most tent sites have no good hanging trees the right distances, but this area had several and even a small fire ring.  If it wasn’t 90 degrees, I might have regretted leaving my fire kit at home.  We plunked down our packs and very slowly, with many breaks, we set up,for the night. We were pretty cooked and we decided to skip dinner and just munch on snacks.  I think we were both still full from lunch and weary from the big push.

Arbor went to bed early and I’m going to read Watership Down until I get tired.  It’s 8:17 and hard to believe it’s still so light out.  The summer solstice is just around the corner – what a great time to be out in the woods.

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