River to River Trail – Day 22

Garden of the Gods campground to High Knob Campground
3.68 Miles

I woke up at five, but the campground was still sleeping including Arbor and I didn’t want to risk waking anyone, so I laid in the hammock and read my book until 6.  I whispered to Arbor that it was time to get moving, and we made breakfast and talked in hushed voices the best we could.  By the time we were done eating, Brenda and Laura were moving about and we got to the task of packing up.

When I was done, I walked over to their camp and joined them for more conversation and laughter.  They told me about their trip so far, and the different campgrounds and adventures they’d experienced. They are a terrific family and it makes me glad to see them out here together spending time together.  They talked of the rest of their family with well placed pride and we got to see photos and hear the stories.  They were so much fun that we were reluctant to leave.  Arbor had joined in once he had finished and we let the morning pass by while in such terrific company.

Ultimately, we had to go and we made our way down the road to the trail and headed in.  The path was wet and squishy from the nights rain, and it made for slower going and more careful placement of feet.  We had the Packa covers on, and soon enough we needed to pull them open as the rain started gently falling.

The surroundings were beautiful and the ground became entirely muddy, but the rain kept the temperatures low and nice for hiking.  The ups and downs were very manageable, nothing like the previous days and about halfway in, the path contained gravel for more easy foot grip.

Something about the weather made us less visible to the wildlife, and we ran across several deer who raced across our paths at breakneck speeds since we surprised them with our proximity.  Even a turkey vulture had to swoop just in front of us as we startled him from his perch.  The turtles thought the weather was divine and stretched out in the middle of the trail to greet us as we passed by.

All in all it was a nice hike in less than pleasant conditions.  The rain never really let up, and it was starting to come down more persistently as we walked into High Knob Campground.  We weren’t planning to stay, but I had heard so many great things about JoJo that I really wanted to meet her, and rumor had it that she had a small store where I might be able to nab another soda.

She had gone for lunch when we arrived, so we waited on the covered porch, out of the rain for her to return.  We didn’t wait long, and she heartily welcomed us into the office where we were overrun by four of the friendliest dogs.  I have four dogs back home that I miss, so all of this canine affection filled a giant hole I hadn’t been aware was even there.

We sat and chatted and she asked us about our trip and what direction we’d come.  I think our answer may have surprised her, because the vast majority of hikers coming her way depart from Elizabethtown.  It’s an 18 mile climb from town to her camp, and most do that in one day – and then 60% of them go home immediately after.  She told us that high knob, a half mile up from her spot, is the highest point along the trail, so everything is easier from there – but she doesn’t know if everyone realizes that, and then et overwhelmed and head home.  It reaffirms for me the decision to go west to east, because I don’t know that I could have survived the constant uphill at the very outset of our journey.

JoJo told us that she has a soft spot for hikers, and that she’d love to have us stay and take a hot shower, do a load of laundry and sleep in one of her cabins as a gift to us.  She wouldn’t hear of taking any money, not even a token amount.  We really had more miles to do, but the rain was coming down rather hard at that point.  What ultimately convinced us to stay was JoJo herself, who is an absolute delight.  She had one story after another, about hikers and her camp and the local area. I can’t even list all the amazing things we heard, or this entry would go on for ages.  I really just wanted to share more of her company.

We started our laundry and took our showers, and hung out in the office with JoJo and her assistant Joe and talked for ages.  I worried that we were taking too much of their time, and we probably were, but they were so generous with their company and time and I couldn’t help soaking it all in.

Joe is a farmer in the area with 1800 acres.  He helps out JoJo when he’s not working the farm and though he calls it just a job, I think he enjoys the community that’s built up around the place.  He seemed to think we were a little bit nuts to want to take our vacation time to walk all these miles, and asked questions in order to wrap his head around it.  I asked him what his ideal vacation was, and he said probably duck hunting up in Canada.  He just loves it up there and when I asked him what duck hunting was like, he talked about getting up super early to go out and freeze his butt off and talked about what a lot of work it was.  I smiled at him slyly and said it sounded an awful lot like hiking.

JoJo had me hop in her golf cart so she could show me where we’d be staying the night.  What we didn’t realize is how large the campground is.  She has several campers and cabins to rent, a brand new hotel/bunkhouse, and dozens of permanent camper residents.  There is primitive camping, horse stalls and a playground.  There is just so much to offer here, and the entire area has suggestive decor of a faux ghost town, just adding to the charm.

Once our laundry was done, she let us use the golf cart to haul our backpacks to our cabin, and then we set to settling in.  Unfortunately, our plumming plague followed us and after using the toilet it overflowed.  There was no plunger handy, and the water just kept running.  Soon the water had run out of the bathroom out into the main area all alone the wall and behind the sofa.  We panicked for a moment, and the grabbed the only large absorbent item we could, which were the sheets off the bed.  We did our best to stem the flow – I was most worried about the water getting in and under the baseboards.  I worked on sopping up the best I could and Arbor rushed back to the office.  JoJo wasn’t available at the moment, so one of her residents who helps out have us a plunger and a roll of paper towels and Arbor brought them back and I set to work drying everything I could.  The plunger wasn’t fixing the problem, and we were at a total loss for how to make things better.

Arbor took the sheets to he laundry area, brought back some disinfectant and headed back to the office to wait on JoJo.  I cleaned all the floors.  Mostly I just felt bad.  She had done us this wonderful kindness, and we were quickly becoming nothing but a problem.

JoJo up had been up all the night before because of a gravely ill mare, and it turned out that she had gone to her house to make a couple of phone calls and had fallen asleep.  She had left her office open unintentionally, and that’s where Arbor had been waiting.  Ultimately it was Arbor and JoJos resident helper who determined that the cistern for the cabin plumbing had filled up due to the rain and he came out himself to try and get it going again.  Ten minutes later we had a good flush and all was right with the world.

I was too stressed to eat after all that, so we called it a night and went to bed.

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