River to River Trail – Day 18

Bowed Tree Crossing to Little Lusk Creek
6.6 Miles

Shortly after I wrote last nights blog entry, we heard a huge tree come crashing down by the creek crossing.  This isn’t the first tree we’ve heard fall nearby, but this was the largest and loudest.  It just emphasizes how critical it is to choose a camping spot wisely.

The next few days were tricky.  We really had two days of hiking before Herod, but that would land us there on a Sunday.  We had talked about taking a day to hike down to Indian Kitchen, an area that no less than five people had told us was absolutely stunning.  We looked over our maps and decided that it just wasn’t worn climbing all the way down there, just to climb back up to where we were.  It seems a touch pathetic to miss something so special, but the truth is that we’re weary and the additional miles seem like too much trouble.

I’m still enjoying the trip, but it’s getting harder and harder to maintain momentum.  It makes far more sense to out in smaller mile days and rest more often, so that I can enjoy my time.  As such, we were practically sloths this morning.  We talked, filtered water, are a leisurely breakfast and packed up in fits and starts.  We didn’t get moving until 10:30 – and we woke up at 5:45!  It was lovely though, and I don’t regret it one bit.  The only downfall is that we will miss hiking during the cooler morning hours.

Just as we were finishing our breakdown, the same three horseback riders that we saw yesterday came through our camping area.  This time and Dan, Ledonna and their granddaughter Whitney stopped to talk with us.  They ride these trails as often as they can – they have a trailer in the area and they bring their horses whenever they can take the time.  Dan pointed to the spot where Arbor had hung his hammock.  He showed us where there used the be an old tree – he said that was the tree that curved over the trail and you could ride a horse under it, which is how Bowed Tree Crossing got it’s name.

They said they saw us cross the highway the day before, right after our lunch and Dan said he thought we’d made really good time.  That little compliment really boosted my spirits.  I asked him about the weather and he had all the pertinent stats for the next handful of days.  30% chance of rain today climbing to 40% by Monday, then back down.  It was a really wonderful visit and I’m glad we lingered long enough to see them again.

We said our goodbyes and headed toward the creek and realized that we’d need to switch into crocs to get across.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Other than that, it was an easy crossing.  We heard other riders come into the area, but they didn’t come our way.

click for larger image

Up and up and up we went, a little more than a half mile and we stopped at Owl Bluff.  It was a gorgeous spot, and I had to put in my nerves of steel to get out and get some good photos.  I’m not terribly afraid of heights, I just have a terrible fear of stumbling and fallin off the edge.  The fact that I fell on a level surface highway suggests my fear isn’t all that unfounded.  We took a break at the bluff and snacked and rested.  It was going to be a lazy day.  We did keep hearing the deep rumbling of thunder that sounded really close, but the sky in every direction was blue.  Very curious.

We pushed upward again, about a mile up.  Fortunately we had a wonderful breeze to help make it bearable.  I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that this is the most over ever sweat in my entire life.  Since I tend to be on the colder side of the spectrum I just don’t sweat very often, even in warmer weather.  Hiking in the summer is a totally different ballgame.  I finally took one of Arbor’s bandanas and tied it to my shoulder strap so I could wipe the sweat off of my face from time to time.

Arbor runs hot, and the poor guy now has heat rash on his back, where his hip belts sit.  There’s barely a patch of skin that doesn’t have poison weed rash, bug bites, or now heat rash.  I ask him if he wants to go home and he replies, “no, I’m loving it!”

We stopped at a lovely little camping spot near a pond and truly contemplated stopping there.  It was just too early in the day and would make the next day just over ten miles, and we didn’t want to do that.  We stopped there for more snacks and to rest achy muscles.  It’s amazing how much a ten or fifteen minute break without packs on can do for ones endurance on the trail.

The next stretch was largely downward as we headed toward the next creek crossing.  We hoped to camp near one of the three crossings in our future, but we’ve learned to be careful of expectations.

The creeks turned out to be on the larger size, but we were fortunate to find enough rocks to cross without changing shoes.  After the first crossing we missed the R2R trail and went up the far more popular horse trail.  We must have hiked half a mile straight up before Arbor asked me to check the GPS.  We backtracked and found the overgrown path we were meant to be on.  Russel from Max Creek had mentioned his gratefulness for all the horses that use the trail system, in spite of the annoyances.  He pointed out that without them, there would be no trail at all.  He’s totally right, you can tell on stretches like the one we missed, because horses never used it.  The trail is barely here at all.  Thanks to horseback riders for the continuation of the River to River trail.

After that it was a lot of up and over and through until we found a spot that met our conditions.  It wasn’t terribly pretty, but we didn’t have to sleep in fear of falling trees either.  Works for me.  We set up, ate snacks and then dinner, and Arbor is hanging his hammock as I type this out.  It’s starting to cool off enough to stand being in the hammocks, and I think as soon as Arbor comes back and finishes eating, we will turn in for the night.  We’re still hearing thunder, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll get rain tonight.  The next handful of days are all 5 to 6 mile days, so we may make lazing about in the morning a real trend.  It certainly feels like luxury.

Post Script – shortly after climbing in, the thunder got closer, they sky turned a greenish hue and the wind started to pick up. Arbor started to scramble because he had both his tarp and hammock in porch mode, so that only one side of the tarp was set up and he had his bug net off.  We double checked our surrounding trees and ran to get his hammock area rain ready.  We pulled out the packas and got our packs nestled under them, on top of the tyvek and under our hammocks.  Just I the nick of time, we both got in as the wind picked up and the rain dumped on us all at once.  Because it was a blowing rain, my underquilt got damp.  Water is death to the properties of down, so I hope the wind dies down even if the rain does not.  I did splurge for the active-dri chemical that’s supposed to help the down stay more water resistant, but I’m sure that doesn’t go very far.  It’s getting dark now, the likening and thunder are still playing overhead and the rain sounds like its in for the long haul.


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