Monday morning I woke up. After coffee and breakfast I said goodbye before heading out the door. I followed the road up the hill. I made the mistake of turning onto the first trail I saw. Either way it was taking me west through the woods so I followed it for awhile. I reached Hutchins Creek and followed it south until I found the river to river trail. The river to river trail then went back north. I could have stayed on the trail I was on and ended in the same spot. Slight waste of time.
Either way I reached the trail head and the last forest trail for some time. I'll be on roads until St Louis and a bike trail through much of Missouri. Anyway we trekked down a couple of gravel roads to Route 3. I followed that road into the town of Grand Tower. I stopped at the gas station for a root beer and then headed to the campground.
Devil's Backbone is a campground right on the Mississippi River. Despite storm and river flooding warnings, I set up close to the river. Every ten minutes a barge goes by. The wind was rather strong but the rain didn't come until after I fell asleep. No flooding though.
Tuesday morning we woke up and Brown's pad had a crack in it and he was limping. I knew we would have to take the day off. It was frustrating because this was only our second day back on the trail.
I sat around most of the day; reading, tanning, eating, and watching the barges go by.
Wednesday morning Brown was walking better. I put his shoes on and he was clumsy for a minute. Once he got the hang of it he was doing fine. We left Grand Tower and headed out on Rte 3 towards Chester.
We take a thirty minute break every three miles. It's a little difficult to find shade along this road. Often I find myself in somebody's yard borrowing shade from a tree. I passed a small bait/convenience store. I got a root beer and an ice cream sandwich. Brown jumped in the pond out back to cool off.
I sat out front and the guy who worked inside (possibly the owner) came out. He sat and talked to me for awhile. He spoke a lot. Barely a moment of silence between thoughts. My favorite story he told was when he was in Vietnam. I've met a few Vets on my walk; their stories are always very intriguing. After an hour we continued walking.
I made it to Crain Baptist Church. Once there, I took Brown's shoes off and his pads were wet. His pad that had cracked was soft and shedding the cracked portion. There was an additional deep chunk that had come off from being wet and soft. I cannot make a decent pace stopping every other day for healing. I also feel awful for putting my dog through such pain.
I decided that the best way forward is on bicycle. I returned to Alto Pass to stay with the friends that I had made there. They have a family member who does long distance touring rides. I was able to get a wealth of information from him. I'm currently in the process of purchasing a touring bicycle and dog trailer. I wish I could continue on foot. My fear is that I will see less and have fewer interactions on bike. However, it's a necessary evil to continue forward without putting additional strain on Brown. Maybe I'm wrong though, maybe I'll be able to see more by being able to deviate further from the trail.
I haven't owned a bike since I was a child. This will change the dynamic of my journey but I'm going to roll with it. It's important to be flexible in life and accept and adapt to the circumstances that confront you.
Since returning to Alto Pass, I've ordered a bike and trailer; attended the 35th annual Tomato Fertility Party; went blackberry picking; went canoeing/kayaking, bike riding and enjoyed the hospitality of the locals. I hate not moving every day but if this is part of the journey, so be it. I keep myself busy by cleaning the house. One day I rode the bike to a local farmers market. I spotted golden cherry tomatoes, $1.50/pint. These would be $3 or $4 back in DC. So I bought three pints and was popping them in my mouth on the bike ride home.
Today I rode my bike to Bald Knob. Atop sits a giant cross. Peddling up the ridge reminds me that this bike dynamic will be challenging, I look forward to it though. Until I roll out of town, I'll continue to enjoy the amazing summer produce, especially the local peaches.
It's a bizarre sense of comfort and anxiousness to be stationary. It's nice waking up on a soft bed to coffee and a hot breakfast each morning. However, everyday I feel like I should be walking, exploring.
Thank you readers.
"What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us."
It was a long drive from Illinois to DC. The highway was rather scenic though. I drove until midnight and slept in the car at a rest stop. When I woke up the next morning the fog was so thick I could barely see anything. I headed out anyways and the fog soon dissipated. Driving through the Appalachian mountains was crazy and I got excited when I passed the Appalachian trail.
I made it to DC and was so happy to be back in the city. I wish I wasn't driving though. I thought driving on vast, seemingly endless roads were bad. City driving is the worst. I drove to NW DC and spent the day with my friend. We've been friends since high school, so it was great to hang out. He shaved my head for me and we celebrated with some grand cru that evening. In the morning we watched the soccer game. He had to go to work that evening, so I decided to head out of town.
I drove to NYC. A few of my closest friends live in Brooklyn. I met up with two and we grabbed dinner. Another friend stopped by before the night was through. In the morning I left for Connecticut.
I had to pick my mom up from the airport. I kept my beard so she could see it. It was great to see her. Normally I see her once or twice a year. However, now I'm out in the wild and reunions feel better than ever. From the airport we drove to my grandmother's house. She has alzheimer's disease. I like to think she remembers me, I'm not sure though, either way it was so nice to see her.
We then went to my uncle's house for dinner. It's been so long since I've had grilled food. It was incredible. The next day was the wedding. The church was built in 1652, it was beautiful and on a historic street. My cousin looked incredible. After the wedding we were bussed to the reception. It was a great venue and I had a lot of fun celebrating with family and friends.
The next day I visited my grandfather at the cemetery. I think about him a lot on my walk. I'm not sure when I'll be east again so I wanted to make sure to visit. That evening we went to my other uncle's house for a cookout. More grilled food! More family, more memories.
The next morning I dropped my mom off at the airport and headed back to NYC. I met up with three friends for brunch. We did some Sunday funday, day drinking and watched the pride parade for a bit. We then retreated back to Brooklyn for a quieter spot and watched a soccer game. We headed back to the apartment, had a little game night, then went to bed.
Monday and Tuesday were spent hanging out with friends around Brooklyn. Caught the USA/Belgium game!
Wednesday morning I said goodbye. It's sad saying goodbye to everything you once held close. Especially since this will most likely be the last time I'm on the east coast for a very long time. I began my long drive west both excited to get walking again and crying for the life I had. In Pennsylvania I was pulled over for driving in the left lane. I didn't realize that was a thing. The cop saw I wasn't from PA and was just passing through, so he let me off with a warning.
I drove until I reached Indiana, pulled into the first rest stop and slept in the car. The next morning I finished my drive to Carbondale, IL. I'm back with the kind family that took me in Alto Pass. I'm going to stay here for the fourth of July weekend.
On the fourth of July we went hiking/chanterelle mushroom hunting. We harvested over ten pounds of mushrooms from the forest. We made cream of chanterelle mushroom soup, mushroom fried rice and mushroom penang curry. I've been very food spoiled here. We stayed in eating instead of watching fireworks because Brown gets angry at the loud bangs. The neighbor came over with an assortment of homemade desserts. I had a raspberry, vanilla cream puff and some blueberry pie.
Saturday morning there were Belgium waffles with blackberries. I read most of the day. Their band had a gig at a local wine vineyard. Afterwards the musicians came back to the house and continued playing. It was wonderful to listen to everyone play and sing as the evening faded, they're all incredibly talented.
Sunday supper. My hosts had ordered food from a woman that lives in town. She works at a local orchard. She is Mexican and made us an authentic Mexican feast. Everything was delicious. Her guacamole was on point. That evening I received another gift from these amazing people. They got me trekking poles!
Words cannot describe how lucky and grateful I am to have arrived at their home. Truly kind, genuine people always surrounded by friends and family. The comforts of life outside the forest make it difficult to leave here.
It was an amazing vacation. I was taken in by strangers and welcomed into their community. I met up with some of my oldest and closest friends. And I celebrated a joyous event with family. It felt strange to have not been walking for the past two weeks. I ate everything in sight, as if I would never see food again. I'm looking forward to getting back out there. I've been walking for so long now that it seems more normal than regular life.
Thank you readers. Thank you everyone in Alto Pass for being wonderful, welcoming people. Thank you friends and family for the goodies you sent me off with. Thanks to everyone who made my vacation joyous. Thank you for being you. Happy birthday Judy!
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."
Each morning I wake up to coffee and hot breakfast. Brown was able to put his paw down but only lightly. I suppose the timing of the injury is good. Considering that I had planned to take ten days off to head back east for my cousins wedding. I'm fortunate to have found such kind people whom are willing to let me stay a couple of days until I can rent a car to drive back. They even bought me my next pair of hiking shoes. Such kindness is humbling. People that open their homes to strangers are incredible.
The day after I showed up on their door step so did a stray kitten. It has taken to me and sleeps in the bed beside me. We went to a summer solstice party at their friends home. It was a pot luck and we brought peach/black raspberry cobbler. We picked the black raspberries on a trail near their house. There was a huge bonfire. A bunch of musicians had gathered and played bluegrass all night. It was nice to hang out and listen to live music. These hills are very soulful; the people in these small communities full of character and kindness.
Tonight we're going to watch a few bands perform. The couple I am staying with is also getting up on stage. They're very talented. Then tomorrow morning I head out of town to make the long drive east. It'll be interesting to be in a car for so long. However, I'm very excited to see my family.
This downtime feels strange. It's weird to not wake up and walk everyday. I think this is the longest we've stayed in one spot. It's strange to think about not walking for two weeks. I'm hoping to pack on some pounds during my walk hiatus. I'm sure I'll lose them somewhere in Missouri. But in the meantime I'll be stuffing my face.
Thank you readers. I might not post during my break but you never know. I'm incredibly grateful for the help I've received this week. Really would have been at a loss without it.
"Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."
Wednesday morning I made coffee then left the church. We had a long walk that day. Got rained on early on, but only for about thirty minutes. Crossed Hayes Creek, it was knee deep. On the other side the plant life was very over grown. I think I brushed up against some stinging nettles or something because I got a painful tingling sensation on my shin. It only lasted for ten minutes but it was intense.
Around 6:00pm I found a primitive campsite in the woods and was gonna make camp. I figured I still had two and a half hours of daylight left and decided I would push on for a campground instead. When I finally emerged from the forest later in the evening, the sun was setting. I couldn't find the Horse Camp listed in my guidebook. I stood on the side of the road looking at the map on my phone for a place to camp when a car pulled along side of me. The man pointed me in the direction of the trail. I told him I was looking for a place to camp for the evening. I told him about my walk as well. He told me of a camp a quarter mile off the trail. He said to go there and tell them Mike Scott sent me and would pay my camping fee. I thanked him and headed towards the campground.
I found a spot and set up. Took a shower to wash the mud off of myself. Made dinner and then crashed.
Thursday morning I woke up and went to the camp office. I was charging my phone and updating my blog. The owner came down and we chatted for awhile. I was telling his wife how low I was on food and needed to make it to Goreville the next day or go without. Fortunately they raise chickens and I was able to purchase a dozen eggs from them. She hard boiled them for me and included a candy bar, two bananas and some pita chips for only $2.00.
I got a late start and got turned around on the trail. I ended up trail blazing through the forest to make up for lost time. Frustrating. I made it to Max Creek, it's a beautiful little creek and has some bizarre geological activity called the Max Creek Vortex. You can only see it at night though. I emerged from the forest for a bit of road walking. I passed Taylor Church and went in for a brief break. Unfortunately, they didn't have any cookies. They had soda though and I always appreciate a little extra sugar in these veins.
I went back through the forest for awhile. Passed over the dam of Dutchman's Lake. I then walked through a serene pine forest. Probably a planned forest as all the trees were in rows. Either way it was silent but for a few birds and the soft rustle of needles beneath my feet. I then came out of the forest, passed a few farms and was three miles from Fern Clyffe SP where I planned to camp.
I walked by a home and the homeowners were outside grilling and called out to me asking if I needed any water. I said yes and we began chatting about my walk. They asked if I needed any dog food. I was completely out and was going to feed Brown dog biscuits for dinner. They gave me a gallon zip lock full! As we chatted more rain clouds began rolling through. They offered me a ride the last three miles and I took it. As he let me out at the campground the rain came. Not too heavy through.
The park is just outside of Goreville. Good thing because I made my last dinner that night and would need to resupply in the morning.
Friday morning I met some thru hikers. They were just walking the 160 miles of the River to River trail. They're training for an eventual Appalachian Trail hike. Since they were headed east and I west, we exchanged insight on the trail ahead. I took a shorter trail into town saving myself five miles. I bought three days worth of supplies and new socks.
We headed out of town and made it to the Goreville Waterfall. It's not where I had intended on camping but it was a beautiful place and Brown was tired. So we ended up calling it a half day here. The waterfall and lagoon below looked like an excellent swimming opportunity. As I began to walk out into the water I noticed a snake swimming towards me. That changed my mind about the swim real quick. It may have been a young water moccasin or a non venomous water snake. I wasn't taking chances. Instead I sat on some rocks and read and enjoyed the sound of water crashing off the rocks into the lagoon below.
After a while I set up the tent and made dinner. Then went to bed.
Saturday morning I woke up and was headed to Giant City SP. I passed a Presbyterian Church and went inside. I had some chips, nuts and soda while my phone charged. I began to feel as though I was looting churches on my walk. Hopefully Jesus is a forgiving man.
The trail is beginning to dry up, not completely but far better than it has been. I passed through Panthers Den Wilderness area. A nice area with awesome rock formations. I went through Crab Orchard wilderness and then the trail exits onto road. Across the road are signs to continue the trail on an old forest road. However, my guidebook said to make a right and the trail will continue on the left in half a mile. I decided to stick with the guidebook. There was no trail in a half mile and I had to back track on a busy road with no shoulder.
I continued across the road and navigated through an unmarked trail. After a mile or two the trail markers appeared and I felt a little better. However, when I emerged from the forest I must have made a wrong turn because I should have had a two mile road walk to the campground. Instead after I had walked two miles I ended up on a farm road. Seven miles from the campground, at sunset. Grin and bear it, with no other choice I press on.
A mile up the road I found a church. It was locked so I made camp out front. The sun had gone down and I made dinner and turned in early. Church would begin at 9:30 and I intended to be gone.
Sunday morning I continued my walk to Giant City SP. I walked past a vineyard a dozen apple orchards and even a mango orchard (grove?)! Sadly only baby fruit on the branches. I finally made it to the lodge and walked by some cabins. I found the swimming pool. I tied Brown up outside and went for a dip. It felt so good. The day was hot and the pool the perfect temperature. I went back to the bench I tied Brown to and sat there awhile reading.
Later that evening I returned to the lodge for dinner. Since it was fathers day, it was pretty crowded. Instead of waiting for a table, I sat at the lonely bar. The only thing they were serving that night was: "all you can eat chicken dinner". Basically mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, dumplings, biscuits and fried chicken (breast, thigh, wing, drumstick). I had two helpings of chicken and felt really full. You could have rolled me out of there. I watched part of the Heat/Spurs game but gave up hope after the first half. Then I turned in for the night. So full I passed right out.
The Lodge, cabins and trail were built by the CCC. Many of the lodges in the state/national parks I've been to were. It would be pretty cool to have a similar program today. I think it would be fun, I'd sign up to build cabins and trails throughout the beautiful parks in our country.
Monday morning I packed up and headed out. Only a few miles to Makanda, where I needed to pick up my resupply package. Found a church on the way and cooled off inside. The days are getting much warmer as summer is approaching. The post office window doesn't open until 1:45 so we sat around for a bit. I then went down the hill into town, a small village. An ice cream shop and an art welders gallery where there's occasionally live music. Not much else here. I crossed the rail road and a bridge while a dog followed us across to the post office.
I got my resupply boxes but my shoes had not yet arrived. I'd have to wait one more day in this town. As I began to walk back over the bridge a train was coming so I stopped at a picnic pavilion by the river. The dog that was following us did not stop. He approached the tracks even though the train was passing through. I assumed he would stop and wait. However, she looked as though she was looking for a way between the cars to get to the other side. I screamed NO! Come here! It was no use. Something jutting out from the side of one of the cars smacked her across her head. When she went down, I thought for sure she was dead. I ran over but had to wait for the train to pass before I could get close enough. She was still breathing, her body stiff and damp. She was in shock. I began rubbing her ears and a few moments later the stiffness of her body eased. The side of her face was bloody. Some people came over by then and brought over a folding table as a makeshift stretcher. They carried her over to the shops into the shade where she appeared to then grasp the situation and pain she was in. It looked like her tooth went through her lip. It kept getting caught in the hole it made and she would paw at it fiercely. They all seemed to know the dog but it's owner was off at work somewhere. They decided to bring her to the vet. I imagine she cracked her jaw.
A terrible thing to witness. It sends shivers through your bones when you see an animal in pain. After they loaded the dog into the car, I headed back up the hill to the church. I sorted out my supplies and decided I would check back tomorrow on the dogs condition.
My brother was driving from Wisconsin down to Missouri and would be only forty miles from where I was. We haven't seen each other in four years, so he decided to make a side trip to come see me. It was nice to see my brother and niece. They ended up staying the night with me in the church.
Tuesday morning we woke up, had some coffee and said goodbye. I had to wait around town for a bit because the post office window doesn't open until 1:45. I was expecting my new shoes. I trekked down there around 2:00. I inquired about my package. They denied it and wouldn't hold it for me because it was sent by FedEx not USPS. This was so aggravating because my shoes are falling apart. They hurt my feet and knees. They're ripped open on top. I needed those shoes. I couldn't wait around though.
The hikers I met in Fern Clyffe SP told me the trail out of Makanda hadn't been maintained and was tough. I checked it out, it was pretty bad, so I mapped out a road walk to Alto Pass. Passed by a lot of orchards. As well as small migrant worker apartments. I didn't think about it, but I guess it makes sense with all the orchards. I stopped in a church for some juice and cookies. Then continued. The day was hot, around 91 degrees.
We eventually made our way into Alto Pass. A beautiful overlook greets you as you make your way into town. I was looking for water when I ran into Don, the former mayor. He pointed out a good camping spot along the trail. We talked about my walk and it was dark when I began setting up my tent.
When Brown climbed in, he was licking his paws incessantly. I searched to see if there was anything in between his toes or if his pads were bloody but saw nothing. He was reluctant to put pressure on it as well. Hopefully it'll be OK in the morning.
Wednesday morning it was not better. He held it up and would not put pressure on it at all. I packed up and went to the pavilion in the park in the center of town. The man I met the night before was walking by and came over to say hello. When he saw Brown's condition he said he would get his neighbor. She is an anatomy professor and runs a pet rescue.
Unfortunately she was at work but her husband came down to check on us. He called his wife and she knows all the vets in the area and was able to get us an appointment later in the day. Went to the vet and found that he had sprained his middle digit at the knuckle. The vet was awesome and paid for half the bill. Gave Brown some steroids and antibiotics. We also got some tick medicine while there. When we got back from the vet the couple opened their home to me. We had chicken soup for dinner/soul. Afterwards we went out on the porch. Their friend came over and I got a private bluegrass performance! They're incredibly talented musicians. It was nice after a stressful day to relax and listen to music while winding down. After a night of listening to them play, I retired to the futon with Brown. Hoping for a speedy recovery.
Anyway, thank you readers. Thank you to those who have provided help and encouragement, conversation and support this week.
Saturday morning I woke up and Jojo, the campground owner told me to head over to the trailer café, breakfast was on her! I got a breakfast sandwich and the cook asked me is that all? I said maybe some hash browns too. That came out sharing a plate with eggs, toast and sausage in addition to my breakfast sandwich.
After I ate I headed over to the office where a few people were hanging out. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and shared the story of my walk. A woman, Judy asked if I had hiked Rim Rock on the way through here. I told her I had just rested there but not hiked the trail through. She told me that I had missed a beautiful area and she would drive me back there and pick me up if I wanted. I took her up on the offer.
Rim Rock was definitely beautiful. Reminded me a lot of Hocking Hills minus the waterfalls. After an hour she came back and scooped me up. I then packed up my things and headed out of camp.
I was headed to the Garden of the Gods. I reached the campground just as it began to rain but got my tent up before it got heavy. The rain shower didn't last too long and soon I was out of my tent and headed for the trail up the to the cliffs. It was just as the sun was beginning to set; the Garden of the Gods offered sweeping views of the forest. Standing up there watching the sunset, with the wind beating my shirt against my chest, my legs so weak on the edge, I didn't know if I could trust them. In that moment looking out onto the endless horizon, everything felt infinite. It was beautiful and breath taking. The view made the long walks along the farm roads worth it.
I hiked down from there and went back to the campground. I cooked up some dinner, made difficult by the heavy winds. I read my book in the little daylight remaining, then turned in for the night.
Sunday morning I began to pack up and as I was doing so a park ranger was driving through the campground. He saw that I did not have a proof of payment slip on my campsite. He asked if I had payed? I told him I had not, but was heading out and would do so on my way out. He said that I better do so now or he would write me a $130 ticket. I took the envelope filled it out put the receipt in the envelope and slipped it into the self pay bin without any money in it. Sorry not sorry.
I finished packing, then left and got on the trail. I passed through the town of Herod where I stopped to charge my phone. The trail in some places is very muddy. Torn up by horses, covered in horse poop. Without my trekking poles and with my shoes falling apart my march has slowed and is very difficult. It feels like every mile is two. I am trailed by aggressive gnats, fortunately however, no mosquitos. Brown and I are covered in ticks though.
The day was long and it got dark before I knew it. I found a small primitive campsite off the trail and decided to just stay there the night.
Monday morning I woke up and got moving. Not too far up the trail I came across an old church. The latest mailing was from 1982. I would like to have grabbed a picture but my phone died the night before. A little ways up the trail I came across a horse camp ground. It was unoccupied. I needed water and to charge my phone so I did. About forty five minutes later two people came through on horses and said "just helping yourself are you? ". I wanted to reply "it's the least you can do since I'm covered in mud and horse crap from you tearing up the trail". However, I responded with "I'm sorry, my phone died and I was weary about continuing on through the woods without it, in case of an emergency". They then asked where I was coming from and I told them about my walk. I said I was sorry for trespassing and began to grab my things. The man then said, "you might as well stay and get a full charge". Then they were off.
Further on the trail I slipped on a rock crossing Lusk Creek and fell hard on my wrist. My knee took a scraping, my face went in the water along with my cell phone. When it wouldn't turn back on, I was devastated. When it finally did but wouldn't recognize my memory card, I was even more so. All my pictures, lost. I was so upset. Eventually everything dried out and began working again, such a relief.
I pushed on and made it to Eddyville. Just before I got to town it began raining. I found a church and was going to set up outside but the doors were unlocked. I went in and and dried off a bit. I ate all their cookies and drank a Capri sun. Made dinner and hot cocoa. There was a couch there and so I crashed on the couch with Brown between my feet.
Tuesday morning I woke up and the forecast called for 80% chance of thunderstorms. So I decided to take the day off and hang out in the church. It ended up barely raining.
Thank you readers, sorry for the delays.
Sunday morning I woke up and went into the Holiday Inn for breakfast. Free breakfast is going to be my new thing. Afterwards we drove over to Sunset Park. A park along the Ohio River. We walked the trail and read for a bit. Then drove to a wilderness area in the center of Evansville. Again sat and read for a bit. I don't really know how to pass the time otherwise.
Around one I went to the Econolodge. I had enough points for a free night stay. I was desperate for a shower and to do some laundry. I checked in and dropped off Brown and my things when I realized I didn't have my trekking poles. I left them in Chicago. The world still turns, I told myself.
I then drove to a car wash and vacuumed out the car. You're not supposed to have dogs in the rental car. The black interior was covered in white hairs. Five dollars in quarters later I had it looking pretty good. I headed to the Evansville Regional Airport and dropped off the car. As I was leaving lightening and rain clouds were closing in. So I decided to take a taxi the six miles (two hour walk) back to the hotel. Maybe I'm used to DC where taxis are a plenty but this ride cost me $15 for six miles. I could go from my apartment in NW DC to the airport across the Potomac for that much.
Anyway back at the hotel I showered and did my laundry. Cooked dinner and ate half a watermelon while watching Game of Thrones. I fell asleep after Last Week Tonight.
Monday morning I woke up around seven and hit up the lobby for free breakfast. I binged obviously. The coffee was horrible though. Thick, muddy dark coffee. It was undrinkable. So I went back to my room for a nap instead. I put the do not disturb sign on the door. However, that didn't stop housekeeping from knocking on the door at nine. Sometimes you can't win, and the world still turns.
So I turned on Morning Joe and ate the other half of my watermelon while listening to everyone fuss over pfc. Bergdahl. I checked out at eleven. I walked across town to the post office and picked up my resupply boxes. Sent home Brown's backpack and my old hip belt. I recently replaced it with a smaller size. From there I headed down to the river to join the Pigeon Creek Greenway Trail. I headed out of town passing a rail yard. Just as I past it the rain started. Suddenly I was pelted by heavy rain. I had no time to get my phone into its waterproof case. I feared the worse for it. After I passed a few houses a man yelled from his porch that I could rest in his barn until the rain stops. I headed into the barn soaked. I tried drying my phone on an old t-shirt I saw sitting on the ground. It still works! The man brought me some gatorade, pigs in a blanket and water for Brown. He asked if I was headed to the Rainbow gathering. I told him about my walk and he shared his experience traveling/working across the country when he was younger.
Finally the rain stopped and he gave me $10 as I was leaving. I didn't get a mile before the rain started again. I ducked under a church awning. It's awful being so wet and having no way to dry off. When the rain let up, I continued walking. I made it to Burdett Park where I had planned on making camp. I found a nice little spot nestled in the woods and set up. I began to read while waiting for the rain to stop to make dinner. I ended up falling asleep with my book.
Tuesday morning I woke up and made mac and cheese for breakfast. I charged up my phone and headed out of the park on their trail. I was heading to Mt. Vernon. The day was pretty humid, cloudy but no rain. Mostly following farm roads.
Just outside of town the clouds got darker. The clouds were dark and low and you could see them swirling. I thought I was walking towards a tornado. Fortunately a nice man gave me a lift the last two miles into town. He dropped me off a Dairy Queen. I sat outside under the umbrella of a picnic table, enjoying my lemon lime arctic freeze when the rain started. Light at first then heavy with intense winds. The umbrella at the table next to me lifted up and the shaft came flying at me. It missed my chest by only a few inches. I needed to find shelter quick. I ran over to the CVS next door and sat on the side of the building opposite the wind. It blocked me from most of the rain.
I don't think it was a tornado. However, in my experience as a Floridian it was definitely comparable to a hurricane with a shorter duration. After the storm passed I headed down to Riverbend Park. I was trying to wait until the park cleared out to set up but apparently this where everyone hangs out. Around 10:30 I headed behind a hill, close to the river and out of site and set up.
Wednesday morning I woke up and headed out of town. Today I was headed to New Haven. The way out of town takes you on farm roads until you must hop onto the highway, as it is the only way across the Wabash River. I walked the shoulder of the highway for awhile. I passed so many dead turtles.
Right before the bridge over the river a man pulled up along side me. He said "do you know there is no shoulder on the bridge ahead?" I didn't know, my guidebook didn't mention it. He offered me a ride across. As we approached the bridge I saw what he meant. I would be walking across a long bridge in the road with huge trucks and fast moving cars. There's only one lane in each direction. Not safe.
He told me he lives in New Haven. I told him that's where I was headed and he offered me a lift all the way into town. The town has a church, a post office and an American Legion, population under 500. He dropped me off at the boat ramp. There was plenty of room there to set up. I put my tent up and headed to the American Legion. I got some fried mushrooms and jalapeño poppers to go. As I walked back to the boat ramp it began to rain. I made it to the tent just as it began to pour. Lightening struck all around me. Loud cracks of lightening followed by heavy roars of thunder. At one point the rain was so heavy the ground wasn't absorbing it fast enough and it began to pool around my tent. Usually ideal in a lightening storm to be under a tree in a pool of water. It didn't stop raining all night.
Thursday morning I woke up and began to head out of town. As I passed the post office I met Mr Edmunds. I nice old man. He invited me up to his house for some coffee. We headed up the hill and invited me into his home. He and his wife are only a few boxes away from being on Hoarders. Mostly new items in packages still. Many items from HSN. Mostly things you don't need. Mostly just things. I wanted to ask but didn't want to be rude. We talked about his days in the Navy on a submarine instead.
I finally said goodbye and headed out of town. On my way out of town a dog began following me. It kept trying to hump Brown. I tried telling it to go home and get. I pushed him off Brown but he was relentless. He needed to be nudered for sure. He would not listen to me at all but also wouldn't get aggressive when I slapped him or pushed him off Brown. He kept following us and a few miles later he bit an electric fence and yelped pretty fierce. It was only then that he fell in line and behaved himself. So after that I didn't mind him following us. Six miles out of town, I figured there was no way for this dog to find his way home and I might be stuck with him. Then a car drove by and the man called the dog to him by name. I said he had been following me and he apologized. I was glad because it was right before I got to a main road and I had no way to control this dog.
I followed the New Haven Shawneetown Road into Shawneetown. The coal miner fair is in town. I headed to the only store in town, the gas station. I bought a gallon of water and sat outside charging my phone. Since it's the only store and the fair was across the street, people watching was rather entertaining. As it started to get dark, I headed to the other side of town to the park and made camp.
Friday morning I woke up and packed my things. I charged my phone while writing a weeks worth of blog posts. Sorry not sorry. I stopped at the post office to grab my resupply package. Thanks Judy for the Off Clip On! I then stopped at the gas station for some stove fuel and headed out of town. About two or three miles out a man stopped and asked if I needed a lift. He said he could take me as far as route one. This would put me four miles from where I intended to camp. Obviously I took the ride.
Walking into Shawnee National Forest was great. The scenery was instantly different from the flat farm lands I've been on. Large trees and rolling hills, I was happy to for it. I reached Rim Rock where I intended to camp. However, I soon found out that there is no camping at this site, just picnicking and hiking. My options were to walk back a mile to Pounds Hollow where there's a lake and campground or walk forward four miles to High Knob. I sat and read for a bit while thinking about it. While sitting there a woman came off the trail and began grilling. She came over to me and offered me some food. She was headed home the next day and had to cook everything she had so she had plenty extra. I told her about my walk and thanked her for the burger and hot dogs. After Brown and I scarfed them down we decided to hike four miles forward. After we got down the road a bit the woman caught up to us and said she had something else for me. She gave me $40! It was very kind, she filled my belly and my wallet. This plus my ride earlier, plus being off the farm roads. I was happy and all smiles while I hiked forward.
I reached the trail head for the River to River trail. A 130 mile trail that I'll take to St. Louis. No mosquitoes on the trail but man were the gnats aggressive. Considering all the rain recently the trail wasn't too muddy, until I got about two miles in. The last mile was torn up from horses. I lost my shoe several times and sunk into mud beyond my ankle. It's pretty gross because there's horse poop every where. I reached the top of High Knob and enjoyed the view for a bit. Then hiked a little further to the horse campground. The owner loves ADT hikers and let me camp and shower for free and gave me a soda. She wants to ride her horse across the country on the ADT one day.
I cooked up some mac and cheese with broccoli, leeks, tomatoes and fake chicken. Then went to take a shower. I'm glad I got to wash the mud off of me but Brown still smells. Hoping it doesn't rain tomorrow, it's National Trails Day.
Thank you readers and those who I've met this week.
Around 10:30pm a car pulled up to the library and then quickly drove off. Five minutes later it was back with two police officers. The woman got out of her car and I said "was that necessary?" She replied "I just want to return my books and you scared me". She left and the cops came over. I told them about my walk and they ran my ID. After it came back clean, they said it was fine to stay the night.
People here are very concerned about late fees. Someone returned a book at 3:30am. More people came and went as the sun rose and prior to the library opening. When the library did open I used the restroom and filled my water bottles then headed out of town.
I walked on the same road all day. Mostly passed farms and a few residential areas. Around Hebron a man invited me inside for a soda. I drank three. He gave Brown some food and water as well. We continued on. My destination was the truck stop off highway 65. There is a Dennys and Pilot Flying J and a few other fast food options there. I set up camp behind the trucks and Arby's.
I got Brown a roast beef sandwich from Arby's and I went to Dennys. After I ate I read my book and eventually went to bed. It rained overnight.
Wednesday morning I woke up and went to Dennys again. They have a two dollar menu. I then packed up and sat outside the Pilot gas station charging my phone and reading. While sitting there someone gave me their leftovers for Brown. He got french toast, pancakes and sausage.
There was a guy asking for gas money. We were talking for a bit. I was about to offer him gas money for a ride when the manager came over and kicked him off property. Turns out he wasn't using the money he was getting for gas. Once my phone was fully charged, I began walking. Yes, along farm roads. Until I reached Crown Point.
If the country is in a housing recession, this town doesn't know about it. I walked through several new neighborhoods and many under construction. New schools, the hospital has a new wing. There was a lot of construction on the south side of the town. Once passed that, walking down Main St was lovely. Large mature Oaks and maples and homes in all different styles from different decades. All with character and charm and nicely manicured. The downtown area is also nice. The old store fronts had businesses rather than being abandoned. Nice town.
As I walked further through town, I passed a Domino's. An employee came out and called out to me and gave me a medium cheese pizza for free! A few blocks further I reached the Erie-Lackawanna trail head. There's a Walgreens at the trail head. I sat outside on a bench and began to enjoy my pizza. A car drove by and a guy got out and said "no offense, but are you homeless". I really gotta work on my image. I told him no, I am hiking across the country. He was going to offer assistance, I declined and thanked him. It made me happy that he stopped to help what he thought was a homeless man.
After Brown and I finished our pizza we jumped on the trail. While walking a man on his bicycle stopped to talk and walked a bit with me. He's a veterinarian and was kind enough to check out Brown's paws for me. We chatted a bit and then he was off. Roughly two miles up the trail I found the picnic pavilion I planned on camping at. I finished reading my book while waiting for it to get dark. A cyclist gave me a protein bar. Once it got dark I set my tent up. Richard, the veterinarian came by with some cookies and medicine for Brown. It was so nice!
After he left I went to bed. Figured I'd have to be up and out early since this is a popular trail.
Thursday morning we packed up and headed down the trail. It didn't take long for the mosquitoes to smell me out. We had a small swarm following us. Up the trail a bit I ran into Bill. He hangs out in a pavilion in the town of Griffith. He's a bike mechanic and helps people out for donations. He said he would do it for free because he loves meeting and helping people but the city made him get a permit. Anyway he has mosquito repellent handy and lets me use some. We chatted for awhile and then I finally got moving.
I continued up the Erie-Lackawanna trail and parted with the American Discovery Trail. The ADT doesn't head into Chicago. I was headed to Wolf Lake to camp but I ended up only making it to Hammond. A man waved me over from the side of the trail. I was weary at first but the fire station was right there. Well within ear shot of my whistle. He asked how far I was traveling and where to. I told him about my journey. He's a homeless Vietnam Veteran. Him and another vet sleep in a small clearing off the trail hidden by trees. He suggested that I camp out with them for the night.
I said OK. While the two of them drank their dollar beers, I listened to stories about the war. They were impressed with my cook stove. I was sad that they didn't even have tents or tarps. They just strung whatever fabric they could find over the tree branches and spread more on the ground. With what little they had, they were offering me their gloves and ear warmers. I refused, I knew they needed it more than I did. When one of them went to sleep, I turned in also. The other guy stayed up talking to himself.
Friday morning when I woke up, he was gone. The other guy was going to grab some coffee so I gave him a couple bucks to grab me one as well. As soon as I finished packing up he came back with the coffee. He reviewed my map and offered some advice. He grew up in Chicago and is very familiar with the area.
I originally was going to grab a hotel in Chicago for two nights. However, there's a huge conference in town. The affordable hotels were booked up and everyone else raised their rates on the weekend. I couldn't find anything affordable. I decided to get my rental car early and sleep in it for a night.
I headed out and soon ran out of trail. I walked through mostly neighborhoods until Wolf Lake. There I hopped on the Burnham Greenway trail. Again I ran out of trail and made my way to the car rental place. Unfortunately, you need a credit card to rent a car from Enterprise if you have an out of state ID. I only have a debit card. There was a Hertz next door, so I tried there. They do it but were out of cars. I felt devastated. How would I get out of Chicago and down to the southern leg of the ADT? I was at a loss.
While sitting there I saw some people returning cars so I figured I would check back. They had one left but were reluctant to rent it out. Probably 1) because I look homeless, 2) you aren't supposed to have pets in the cars and 3) because the car had definitely just been used to transport weed. He said he would put on the paper that the car smelt like smoke, so I wouldn't get charged. The car smelt like weed, not smoke.
I drove towards the city on Lake Shore Drive. Slight traffic when I got there, but I didn't mind. It allowed me to look up at the buildings. Just past the main downtown area, I stopped in a park and people watched. Then tore the car apart and found a lighter, an ice cream sandwich wrapper, natural male stimulant and a small amount of weed. I swear there's more in there, the car still smells of it.
I drove back south through the city and caught the sunset over the skyline in a park. I decided it would be to difficult to sight see the next day. With a dog and a car, I would be limited. I settled for just a driving tour of Chicago. I made for the highway and headed south. Moving that fast is pretty scary. The milage you can cover in a car is intense. I drove until one in the morning and pulled off. There's a hotel there so I parked there and camped out in the car.
Saturday morning I woke up and entered the hotel through a side door. I ate as much as I could, then hit the road. I reached Evansville and found a park to hang out in. I also found a Barnes and Noble across town. This town is very spread out. I got the third book in the series. Went for dinner at Golden Corral. Binged. Ended up back at the park reading. Probably going to park in a hotel parking lot tonight. Get some free breakfast again in the morning.
Thank you readers and people I've met this week. Thank you everyone for the kindness you've shown me.
"Oh darling, when it's you I see in headlights, driving down the golden highway. And salvation in the beauty of some brace. And the deer is gone without me to the valley of surrender. There is still another world along it's tracks"
Wednesday morning I woke up and began packing up eyeing the dark clouds overhead. I walked over to the pizza place and used the restroom. When I came out it began to pour. I sat around for a bit and chatted with the owner. An hour later the rain stopped and I headed back to the trail. At this point Brown was not feeling it and lied down. His paws are worn so thin. I let him rest for a little longer, then we continued on.
The temperature rose and the humidity was thick. The sun beat down on us on the walk today. Nineteen miles on the bike trail. No shade. The trail is surrounded by farms. Farmers apparently don't like trees. They block the sun from their crops. So each time we rested it was in the sun. I had only two liters of water on me and no store on this stretch of trail. I have been reluctant to filter the creek water I've seen because I'm sure it's full of fertilizer and pesticide run off.
Each break I examine Brown's paws. They have begun bleeding. I feel so bad but he doesn't seem to notice. He keeps on trekking. We eventually make it to Rochester, IN.
There's a Walmart and I head in for some ice cream. I checked into the Super 8 and rubbed lotion on Brown's paws. Which he licks right off. Tomorrow is our weekly zero day. Hopefully the rest will help his little pads heal.
Thursday we spent the day hanging out. I did my laundry in the sink. Then I walked to the post office to pick up my resupply package. Also I ordered a new hip belt for my backpack. I've lost enough weight for the old one to be obsolete. It was at the post office waiting for me. The rest of the day I spent catching up on shows I used to watch.
Friday morning I wake up and binge on the free breakfast. I headed back to the room and packed up. We headed out of town and onto a long stretch of farm road. At this point I feel I will be able to see these crops through. From seedlings to new growth; eventually I'll be able to see full grown corn stalks. All I see is field after field of corn at different stages of growth. Over it. All I can say is: at least it's flat.
Fifteen miles later I made it to Bruce Lake. There's a camper/trailer park called Hoosier Hideaway. I walked up to the office and asked if I could camp here. The owner said they don't really do tent camping but I could set up in his yard if I wanted. As soon as I got my tent up he came over to me and said: "if you're only staying one night, I have an extra trailer that no one is using. You're welcome to it." So I packed my tent up and am in a double wide, three bedroom trailer! After we settled in Brown and I went down to the shore and played tether ball.
Tried to watch the meteor shower around 10:30 but didn't see anything. I didn't want to stay up too late for it so I went to bed.
Thank you readers. Happy Memorial Day weekend. Five more days to Chicago! I'm pretty excited.
Thursday was a zero day. I ended up doing my laundry in the sink and laying in bed catching up on season four of Game of Thrones. For dinner I went to one of those huge Chinese buffets and binged.
Friday morning I woke up and headed downstairs for breakfast. I went back upstairs and packed up then hit the road. Two hours into my walk it started to rain. I passed through the town of Gaston and sat under an awning for awhile to let the storm pass. While sitting outside of this building I met the kind ladies that work inside. They loved Brownie and watched him for me while I grabbed a coffee from across the street.
After the rain died down, I headed out of town. I walked for about five miles along farms to the next town, Matthews. I located the library/community center/musuem/police station building. None of those services were open so I headed around back and sat beneath an over hang. No sooner did I get under the over hang when it started to hail. Small, slightly larger than rice. It was brief and I set my tent up afterwards and settled in behind the community center.
Saturday morning I woke up early fearing that the playground or library or police station would have people coming around. No one came. I had a ten miles of road walking before I reached the trail head. The rail trail couldn't get the trail to connect due to adjacent land owners who are given first right. The farmers along this section of abandoned rail line purchased the section of old rail making for road walking or biking in this area. Thanks...
The trail starts back up in the town of Jonesboro. As soon as I hit the trail head it began to rain. I pulled out my tarp and draped it over Brownie and I. It had seemed like forever since I had a dry day and I felt worn down. When it stopped I continued walking. I reached Marion the town I had intended on camping in.
There was a park in along the trail and I decided this is where I'll camp. It was early still and I saw on my map that there was a store nearby. I walked to Family Dollar to buy some water and chips. As I sat outside the store eating it began to rain again. A woman saw me feeding some to Brown on her way in the store and came out the store with dog biscuits for him. When it stopped raining I headed back to the park. Since it was still early I sat on the picnic table reading. A young boy of thirteen came up and began talking to me. He talked so much he barely paused between sentences and subjects. Sitting with him was slightly exhausting. When his sister walked by she told him not to talk to strangers. I thought this would get him to leave, but he stayed. Eventually his parents came by and I could tell by the way they screamed his name from the car they were upset with him. Probably for talking to strangers.
When it was just before dark I set my tent up behind some trees. I settled in and fell asleep exhausted.
Sunday morning I woke up early again. Fearing that because I was in a park people would be out and about. Not a single person. I packed up and began down the trail. After a distance the Cardinal Greenway trail gives way to the Sweetser Trail.
This trail is short and soon I'm back to road walking along massive farms. The roads cut through at square mile intervals, making each farm 640ish acres. Not a single tree lines the road and I'm to walk twelve miles to reach the next trail head. I had plans of camping somewhere along this stretch. However, that is easier said than done, when corn fields stretch right up to the side if the road. I checked my map and saw a church a little further up and decided to head a half mile off the trail to camp there.
When I reached the church, a few people were left packing some stuff up. I went in and told them of my walk and asked if I may camp out back. They were very kind and said of course. Thank you Miami Howard Mennonite Church for your hospitality. I set my tent up by the playground, cooked dinner and listened to the horse and buggies riding by. The clipity clop of their hooves makes me giggle. After some reading I was off to sleep.
Monday morning I woke up as a car pulled into the church parking lot. I went inside to use the restroom and met the pastor. Ben was very nice and listened to the story of my journey and offered me coffee. After I packed up I headed off to finish the stretch of road before the next trail head.
Just a mile shy of the Nickel Plate Trail a woman pulled along side and asked me if I needed any food. I always need food. I said yes and she said she'd meet me up the road a bit. She drove back home and filled a bag with cliff bars, nature valley bars, water bottles and mini muffins. So kind! When I reached the trail head I sat on the bench and devoured half of what she gave me.
While I was sitting there a woman working for Edward Jones was going door to door. She spotted me and came over to chat. One look at me and you can assume I'm not a target audience for investment brokers. However, she came over anyway. We chatted and I learned a little about her life. She's from a few towns north of here called Peru. Where there is a circus musuem. A family tradition, she joined the circus when she was young. She lived in China and shot her husband out of a cannon for many years before returning state side. What a crazy adventure to have when you are young, I thought!
Anyway, after a while I started walking again. I was headed to the town of Bunker Hill. When I reached the town I looked at my map and saw a park on the opposite side and headed there to make camp. As I walked past what was once a main street with shops, now all empty, I met Jeff.
I told him about my walk and said I was going to camp at the park. He said that he just bought two of the buildings on this street with intent to fix them and sell them. He offered me to stay in one for the night. Six thousand square feet, I felt like a king. We chatted for hours, Jeff is an incredibly interesting guy with some good ideas. He has a future philosophy for better infrastructure and city development that demands fewer resources and has put it into a book. Newopolis. He even gave me a copy for free. You can also check out Newopolis.com.
Hours later he went back to his building and I to mine. I ran over to the convenience store for some ice cream before bed though.
Tuesday morning I was walking Brown when I saw Jeff outside. He gave me an apple, a banana and a granola bar and said he'd be back with coffee. Sure enough ten minutes later he was back with coffee. We again talked for a few hours before we both decided we needed to get on with our day. I thanked him for letting me stay and assured him I'd keep in touch.
I hit the trail and walked for six miles before hitting the town of Peru. Just off the trail is a Kroger. I've been craving watermelon for days and decided I had to have some. While inside I ran into Jeff again. He had come to Kroger to grab lunch since Bunker Hill is too small for anything but a convenience store. While I was sitting outside eating my watermelon with a spoon he came out, gave me two cheese sticks and said goodbye.
I called my good friend Brad who I've known since kindergarten and miss very much. After the watermelon and the conversation I walked back to the trail. Brown was tired and just wanted to lie down so I extended our break. While sitting there reading, I met two guys who work for the Nickel Plate Trail. We chatted for a bit about my walk and they told me what to expect ahead.
The next few miles were slow moving as Brown needed to stop and rest every thirty minutes. The day was much hotter than it had been. Three miles later I gave him another full hour break. We still had six miles left though. It was later in the day and this part of the trail had plenty of tree cover. We powered through the last section only stopping once for twenty minutes.
I reached the town of Denver and saw that in the park I planned on camping in, there were children's baseball games underway. I found a pizza/ice cream place next to the park and ordered a medium pizza with brocoli. I ate the whole thing giving Brown my crust. I met the owner and he gave me a free soda! He's a nice guy and gives free ice cream to the kids after their baseball games. He told me to swing by in the morning if I needed to use the restroom.
After the games ended I went back to the park. There's lightening in the sky and forecast for storms all day tomorrow. Two dry days are all I get? I guess you can't win them all.
I'm grateful for every day. Each day I wake up and know the challenge I face. Yet I gather my strength and carry on. My feet blistered and sore. My back and shoulders ache. Each day drags on and on, dull and boring, the steps I take seem endless. The time seems to pass slower and slower. I don't know what keeps pushing me forward. I have nothing at the end of this road. I'll be spent financially when this journey is over. And yet every day I put on my heavy pack, put one foot in front of the other and I march.
Thank you readers. Thank you to those I met this week. Those who have provided food, shelter, money and conversation. You all brighten my day like you wouldn't believe.
"I’m losing sleep. I’m losing friends. I’ve got a love/hate/love with each city I’m in. I’ll count the hours, having just one wish. If I’m doing fine, there’s no point to this."