River to River Trail – Day 24

Elizabethtown wilderness to Rose Hotel
6.84 Miles

I woke up at 5am, but wasn’t quite ready to jump out and get started.  This was my last day out on the trail, and I had to think on that a while.  Finally about 45 minutes later, I woke Arbor and we worked on morning routines.  I was ready to go by 8, but waited for Arbor to be settled and we headed off at 9:15.

The trip was a lot more lovely today, so it was a nice way to finish out the trail.  It certainly wasn’t downhill, however.  We kept joking about who threw all these uphill climbs in our downhill day!  There was a ton of variety in the trail, forest and fields and we walked through an area that was in partnership with Quails Forever and the Illinois chapter of Wild Turkey Federation.

There was a chimney along the road, in the middle of the field.  It must have been a lovely location to live, once upon a time.

We stopped by the Iron furnace, the only one remaining from our state’s historic iron industry.  It closed production in 1883.  It was much larger than I had anticipated, and was actually really cool to see.  It’s a bit off the trail, but worth the time.  We had a full days worth of water when we started, but we filtered again at the creek near the furnace.  Good thing too.

I got close to a really large 4 point buck, unintentionally and we scared the dickens out of one another.  We saw box turtles, and hummingbirds and saw the tail end of a snake shimmy away.  I even saw a monarch butterfly – the first of the whole trip, and I have to say the first I’ve seen in a couple of years.  I even spied a scarlet tananger, which was just wonderful.

We got lost a couple of times, and had to bushwhack to stay on the trail that our gps showed us, but nothing too tragic.  We took a lot of breaks today, including a beautiful spot by a lake.  It was pretty hot and we drank 7 electrolyte drink mixes, when we normally drink 3.  It was just a really rough day.

Arbor fell to his knee hard once, taking his fall tally up to four times – but not beating out my five.

We finally made it out of the forest and into farmland.  The sky was amazing and the vistas were a welcome sight.  We even got wifi and started texting the news as we walked.  It was a gravel road for three quarters of a mile and then we curved onto blacktop and we could see the beginnings of Elizabethtown.  

There was a ballpark, church and homes, and we quickened our pace as we walked through downtown.  One block down and we could see the Ohio River!  We had made it!  

Lo and behold, right there at the end of the trail say the famous catfish restaurant that we had heard about all along the trail.  I can’t imagine why anyone goes the other direction – this way you end up right at food!  We walked in, and sat on the floating deck area.  We ordered our catfish and Arbor spilled his Mississippi River water into the Ohio, right off the side of the deck.

We ate, texted, instagramed and called my mom.  I was still in disbelief that we had made it.  After a certain point, I knew we would finish – and yet a different part of me still couldn’t see myself as someone who was capable of all of this.  That part was struggling to embrace the feat that we had undertaken and succeeded at.

The weather started to turn, and I desperately wanted to get settled into our hotel before the rain hit.  We grabbed our packs and walked the block over to the Rose Hotel that also shared the shoreline with the restaurant.  It’s a beautiful building with a double decker porch that overlooks the water.

We walked up and greeted the folks sitting outside, and they just happened to be the hotel operators who greeted us by name.  Becky told me later that when we’d called her from he trail, she hadn’t realized we were hiking.  When she heard we were coming from Grand Tower, she figured we were cyclists.  She said when we walked up with packs on, she was just stunned.

She gave us our key, showed us our room and when I asked about the possibility of laundry, she very generously said we could run a load. (Even though it’s not something they offer) I immediately gathered laundry while Arbor took a shower, and 30 minutes later I was shifting things to the dryer and made myself comfortable on the porch with Becky, her husband Bertis the mayor and their daughter in law.  

We told all our crazy trail stories, they were wonderfully curious about some of the logistics and we launched into so many of our other wild dreams and past exploits.  We learned that this is their first year running the hotel – although the hotel itself has been in operation for over 100 years.  We even met the area Marshall, who loves to bow hunt carp and stops in at the hotel to touch base with Bertis and Becky frequently.

I never went upstairs to take my bath because their company was so utterly engaging.  They offered Arbor a beer and even had a Smirnoff for me.  We sat out until after dark, just swapping stories like we were fast friends.  I just love it on that porch, and never really want to leave it.  We will definitely have to come back, preferably for the 4th of July when the whole town puts on an amazing show (I even got to see the street play rehearsed) and feast, and the fireworks are shot off the River and the hotel has a front row seat.

I love that we ended our trail here.  It’s the perfect conclusion to an amazing journey, and solidifies that a true highlight of the hike were the amazing people that we met along the way.  I will never forget them, the incredible things I’ve seen, and the person inside of me I wasn’t aware existed.

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