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NEW!! March 5-14th 2017 Battery Rock to Grand Tower solo through hike

I recently had the opportunity to take a stab at hiking the whole trail. The time was perfect. The poison ivy is still dormant, the bugs are still dormant and the temperatures were forecast to continue the unseasonably mild weather we have been having through the next 15 days. Of course everyone knows the 15 day forecast is only good for 1 day.

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This a couple days later. More rain but great temperatures for March.

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My wife was okish as long as I called every night and noon with the understanding I’d contact asap if I had to camp with no signal.

We went to church, then headed down for the drop off. Since there was rain forecast for Monday, I decided enroute to make it Battery Rock instead of Elizabethtown because the old leg isn’t quite so mud prone. I figure the old route is about 4 miles longer, but you make up some of that with more road walking during the first part.

She came with me to the Ohio River from the trailhead. We couldn’t actually get to Battery Rock without wading as the Ohio was up, but I could see that someone had removed my Blaze on the tree next to the rock. I might put a Blaze on the river side of the tree and avoid some of the vandals. The rest of the blazes were intact on the leg.

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I think I could have shown my R2R shirt in a less pregnant looking way, but I wasn’t thinking.

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Headed West to the Lamb turnoff. Some serious road damage there. I think the plastic culvert is wanting out.

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Not very pretty pics as it had clouded up.

It got dark on me before I could get to the second woods at the downed sign, and I stealth camped right across from a house in the woods. It started sprinkling during the night, but it quit before first light and I was able to get packed up and moving before it started again.

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The downed sign isn’t there anymore that said  < Camp Cadiz 5 mi / Battery Rock 11mi > But I think it was posted WAY off from Camp Cadiz. No way I walked the 11 miles in 4 hours. Probably more like 6-8 at the most. I think though that if the signs miles were right in total which felt about right, the leg to High Knob From Battery Rock is 16 from Battery Rock to Camp Cadiz and 5 miles from Camp Cadiz to High Knob which makes the leg 21 miles long. E’town to High Knob is 17, in case you are keeping score. I’ll just have to call it the entrance to the Forest off FR

After about an hour the rain started again and lasted the rest of the day. My Sterns raincoat turned out to be more water resistant than waterproof. Somewhere during the day the whole right side came unsewn from near the waist to partway up the sleeve. I wasn’t all that uncomfortable as it was pretty warm and the raincoat did take the impact of the rain.

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Shared a log break with a tree toad. He never did more than twitch his foot.

Didn’t take a lot of photos, as I didn’t want to get the camera wet, and nothing along the way that I didn’t already have better photos of. My Wolverine waterproof boots were wet inside after about the first 15 minutes, no reason to switch socks, the tongue let water in like it was a washrag.

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Got to Camp Cadiz and washed up in the empty campground and made good use of the vault toilet. It is always as clean as a vault toilet can be and was out of the rain.

I was surprised to see the overgrown trail West of Camp Cadiz has been completely cleared. Good job! 5 miles later I got to the junction with The Elizabethtown leg and headed the other 2 miles north to High Knob. It was slacking off raining then and I called my wife and asked her to see if Jo Jo at High Knob Horse camp had a cabin to rent for the night as they were predicting heavy rain and I was pretty beat & wet.

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You pass a couple old abandoned cabins when you are getting close to high knob. No, these aren’t Jo Jo’s!

They weren’t fully open, but they put me up in the “Hotel”. I was the only one staying. I had the run of the place. There were 3 or 4 rooms with 3 beds apiece. If others were there, they would have been in the same room. There are separate his & hers bathrooms, though they didn’t have the water heater turned on and I had to use the shower house down the road.

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You have to provide your own bedding. They also have a laundry shed down the road which was a good thing since everything including my sleeping bag was soaking wet. After some finagling I got everything washed & dried and ready for Tuesday. It ended up raining hard most of the night. Jo Jo said 2.5″ there. The bill was $20 but I left a $15 tip due to their trouble for 1 person and my deep gratitude.

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I took over their kitchen cabinets with my damp on one end maps. Also hung my backpack on their coatrack to dry. Microwave and fridge provided. Not a TV in the place but got my phone battery and camera battery charged. Removed the gel inserts and dried the boots out in front of a space heater. They were bone dry in a couple of hours, I’ll give them that.

My wife said it was supposed to stop raining at a little after 9am. It did about 9:15 and I had been ready to go for 2 1/2 hours.

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I hiked up to the observation area about 10 minutes after it stopped raining. Photos weren’t that great, but the smiley tree trunk stump was still there.

After 2.5″ the trail was a little sloppy.

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The trail to Garden Of the Gods was uneventful.

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The sun came out by afternoon. The nice observation area West of GOG was a great place for Lunch. For whatever reason my boots were dry all day and stayed dry until next time it rained. They are ok through anything up to the tongue.

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You probably can’t see it, but I spent the night a couple of years ago on top of the last bluff before Herod. I stacked a pyramid of rocks on top and they are still there in the center of the photo.

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Coming down Road past Herod.

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First deep crossing late afternoon. Crossed downstream a little ways in rapids. Pulled my shorts up and used my sandals, didn’t get shorts wet. Water was “brisk”.

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Spent the night just off the trail about a half hour short of the observation area and spaghetti of trails about a mile North of One Horse Gap

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Early morning waterfall cleanup area.

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The camera wasn’t up yet.

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Next stop after some decent old roadbed woods walking, Concord Cemetery.

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This hand carved headstone says a lot about it’s creator and his love for the person buried here.

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Nice place to take a breather before the never ending climb to Bethel Church. New Hope is first.

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I must have erased the Bethel Church photos. This is a sign down just after entering the woods at Bethel Church. It’s too close to the trailhead for the miles. It needs to be further West. Don’t get your hopes up.

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Approaching Owl Bluff you will get to a reroute.

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Owl Bluff New Trail

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The old trail is there, probably without markers.

The “new” route is an old cruddy trail. I missed the connection with the new trail and without a map or markers, went on a rambling hike down trails you don’t want to go down for hours.

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More and more pieces of paper telling you to go some crazy direction you don’t want to go. I may be able to get out there this week and back track from bowed tree crossing and route the correct trail. (maybe accidentally drop a couple markers on to some trees)

Anyway… The National forest people ripped off any previous markers West of the Bowed Tree Crossing including the ones showing where to cross the creek and take the switchback above the bluff at Bowed Tree Crossing so that any Westbound hikers will just take the large Circle B horse trail West on the left side of the creek and be unaware of the switchback that continues the River to River trail to Lusk Creek Trailhead. (and wonder where the markers are)

You will get to the trailhead fine, it just won’t be on the River to River Trail. I may have to let them have their way. Can’t fight city hall and all. They did put up a new wooden sign at the crossing.

So from the Trailhead I went the straight trail South towards Eddyville. There is also an alternate trail west from the Lusk Creek Trailhead parking lot. Both are marked as River to River Trail. The West one takes you a couple miles out of the way on a nicely graveled trail that takes you over to close to a road (145) and leads you through ho hum woods before cutting back east and meeting the straight trail towards Eddyville you should have taken. On this map it is just a dashed line, but it is fully blazed R2R and is legit.

Then you walk a couple miles, all uphill to Eddyville. The trail passes by the Shawnee Lounge, and you MUST stop there if it is open and get the cheeseburger fries and coke. Period.

After rambling lost a couple hours it was late dusk when I got there. On Wed. they are open to 8 ish, just until 6pm the rest of the weekdays. I got my hamburger! The table by the door has an outlet and I charged my phone & camera while I ate.

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It was dark when I was done and I walked to the Community Building or whatever they call it and put up my tent under the picnic awning. Not sure it’s ok or not but no one there to ask. It’s down on the South West end of town about across from Shawneemart and the Funeral Home. The Shawnee Mart gas Station & convenience store was open but I figured I could get some supplies when they opened in the morning. Mistake on my part. They don’t open until 7am and no times posted on the door. Very limited supplies with only 1 or 2 of most items. No milk.

Of all the places I camped at. Eddyville is the only place I heard coyotes on the whole trip! Usually they are pretty common to hear along the trail.

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So while talking to my wife last night, She tells me the weather forecasters have revised the temps down for Friday & Sat. WAY down. And rain tonight. The warmest I can get is my raincoat and a the goofy flannel shirt I brought because it is lined, and long pants. Friday night is going to be in the lower 30’s , Saturday High in the mid 30’s. Low in the 20’s. Sunday it is warming back up some, but I don’t have the means to do 20’s. She is going to bring me some winter clothes and some Warm Hands body warmers for the nights on Friday.

So that’s the situation starting out. I wait until 7am and the lady comes and opens Shawnee mart. I get some chocolate doughnuts and some snacks and a bottle of chocolate protein drink and head out.

The trail takes the only road out of town west. I forgot exactly where it was and find it a couple of blocks back North.

Heading out of town, I encounter something unexpected. The guy who lives at the end of the road isn’t there anymore, along with his hoard of tied up barking dogs. The place was cleaned up some and no dogs.

Heading in, there were quite a few trees down awhile back and maybe some more added but they have all been cleared from the trail by someone. THANKS!

The trail has had some minor rerouting in the last couple years here and deviates just a little from the map. It is decently blazed & easy to follow. The blazes are red ink 001 along here until a little after petticoat junction. A couple of mine thrown in here & there. Its a nice hike along a creek, then a roadbed, then another creek with bluffs.

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You cross a creek and you are at Petticoat Junction.

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Junction of several trails. R2R continues West.

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Crow knob is interesting along an old road in the middle of nowhere. The trail is decent all along here, but I didn’t take many photos.

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As you are nearing Bay Lake/ Millstone Lake You pass a couple of nice campsites with flat clear grass areas with fire rings. I think they are about here on map 9. I talked to a small group of horse riders here and took a nice break with them.

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Getting closer to Bay lake, the trail is rutted up by 4wd trucks pretty badly. Somewhere about here is a big intersection of trails and the biggest sign in the forest.

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Somewhere past East Trigg Trailhead is the goal for tonight, up on a hill at a slight incline for tonights rain.

When You get to the gravel access road and walk past the turn for the dam and follow the R2R markers, you will end up here at this crossing.

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Which is swollen and dangerous from the rain Mon night. Most of it is lake runoff. Follow me back over the dam. The access road is getting seriously washed away. That is a tire track up to the middle of that hole. Washed away since it passed.

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The emergency spillway rock formations used to be pretty neat but are collapsing.

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I forgot to take a photo of the Lake. It was looking pretty gloomy with the sun gone. It’s very beautiful in the sun. This bus is visible on the hill straight past the end of the dam. Might be on private ground. A little rusty.

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This is the creek upstream past the spillway runoff. I crossed it without water shoes. Take the red dotted trail on the map when water is high.

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The red dotted trail meets the river to river right where it rises to go through the “whistle”.

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You will soon come to East Trigg Trailhead which is being enlarged right now, The trail continues West from it.

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I found a great place to camp next to a fire road that came away from the trail as it went over a ridge. That was where I spent another night with rain. Thunderstorms actually.

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Ok. I’m going to have to back up.

It seems I left out something that happened Thursday that had repercussions on Friday.

It was warm Thursday and I hadn’t seen anyone on the trail so far, so Thursday was wash day.

To keep my backpack at 27lbs, I was carrying 1 pair of cargo shorts, and 1 pair of cargo pants. The pants were pretty well mud from the knees down and it was time to do something about it on the last warm day. About 11am I came across the best place to wash up on that days trail.

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Now I always wash up mid day because for one thing it’s too cold in the morning. When I say wash up, I’m not limiting the term to clothes, and I’m not limiting the term to hands.

So I look around one last time. All clear. I remove the pants, do my washing up, drying and application of Gold Bond anti friction stuff in about 45 seconds. The quicker, the warmer for one thing. Got my shorts back on, wash under the arms and dry and the new t shirt and start on the laundry. I have some shampoo and shampoo my socks & what not, wring them out within an inch of their life and am finishing by standing on the pant legs and twisting them with all my strength when I head “Clip Clop” a couple riders coming down the hill.

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I told them It was wash day for my pants which came out a clean looking shade of dirt, and I was just wringing them out. (we talked a little bit about the nice day and weather and how much colder it was supposed to be tomorrow) They asked where I started but weren’t familiar with Battery Rock. They let their horses fill up with bath water and headed on. I was really glad they hadn’t shown up about 10 minutes earlier.

Ok, so onto Friday morning. The tent had only leaked a couple drops during the thunderstorms. (The first one right in my ear) The vents let in a couple of drops until they make a track down the inside of the outer layer, then the occaisional drop runs down the track and all is well inside the tent.

The tent walls were wet though and it was very cold that morning. About 43 degrees. That’s cold when you are nice and warm and just woke up and there are 2 cold wet door flaps to rub against on a double layered tent. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the pants I washed the day before were still about the same wetness as they were the day before. They were too thick to dry I guess, but somehow I was hoping they would dry out SOME.

So I had no choice but to put wet 43 degree pants because it was too cold to stay in shorts. I will confirm though that wet cargo pants WILL fit over dry cargo shorts. They actually dried out by 10:00 am or so and it was when I stopped and took off the pants and swapped out the shorts I noticed I had put the belt through a loop on the side of the shorts instead of pants. I hadn’t run into anyone. I’m sure that looked classy.

Heading out again. Friday was colder with a high about 50 which was fine in my flannel shirt and long pants. Today was Gum Springs, then the Dreaded Max Creek, the walk to Goddards Crossing which I was proud to say I had never done, then Dutchmans lake which was more than a days walk, but my wife was wanting me to make. (she rented a cabin and was bringing winter clothes and I was getting a real hot bath tonight, then a meal at a real restaurant)

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Approaching the Gum Springs trailhead, you are walking along an old roadbed when you get to a place where what looks like 5 or 6 big trees just fell into the roadway. They were there last time I went this way as well. You just have to walk around it.

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Same road a little further along was an abandoned cemetery just off the trail at a private horse camp. I too a few photos. This whole area was farmland and small towns until the government bought them out in the 30’s and replanted the forests. They took about everything when they left but the graveyards.

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Someone has been clearing it recently but there are still some headstones in the brush.

After you pass Gum Springs Trailhead, you get to a hill on the right side of the creek you have been following and climb and climb and climb. You finally get to the top and find a homestead site on both sides of the trail which would be a good camping spot. Some foundations around.

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I didn’t see a well or cistern but there usually is one. There was a pond a little way West which might have substituted.

Further along and you start getting bluffs on the sides which are worth coming back & checking out. I have a page with them featured when we checked them out one day. The trail pops out on a lane called Garfield road. This heads South to an intersection with Gilead Church Road which then turns to Hilltop Lane. The trail turns right into the woods after a couple of curves.

Where Garfield Lane intersects with Gilead Church road, you can take it about 1/4 mile and stop in at the store at Cedar Creek Campground (a horse camp). Like a lot of these little stores, they don’t have much, but I stopped in for a soda. They weren’t officially open but will be soon. (they sold me their last soda)

There is a dotted line from the camp (labeled Fern Cemetery on map 11) that leads from behind their lot 51 back to the River to River trail Right at the place where the R2R angles sharply South and drops down to the Max creek Crossing.

 

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A word of advice. This used to be the River To River trail and has blue blazes on the trees all the way to the Horse Camp. MANY people get confused here on the trail and continue to the Horse camp and have to turn around and walk back. There is even a memorial to one of the original founders of the R2R on that horse camp trail.

There is also a dead spot all through the Max Creek area on phone service. So use caution and when you get to an intersection with all 3 ways blazed, go left Westbound down into the Valley and right Eastbound towards Hilltop Lane.

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Looking back.

Cross Max Creek and go up the other side.

I like Max Creek, it’s pretty and all, but it’s way overrated in my book. It’s like every other pretty creek crossing. People talk about it like it is the most wonderous area on the trail. It isn’t. (IMO)

There is a place up ahead TODAY that is to me one of the most magical places on the trail. No, it is THE most magical place, and it doesn’t have water.

So you travel North and eventually get to the trailhead at the end of Taylor Ridge Road. Someone with a sense of humor has written “Yes, this way REALLY” on the Blaze pointing towards the South route.

The Taylor Ridge road seems to continue West at the trailhead for a way and there are blue I’s on the trees that way. I assume it may connect through the forest to the trail from Cedar Creek Horse Camp. Never tried it. Walking up Taylor Ridge Road, you will come to a washed out place that’s always been the one bad spot for driving to the trailhead. Looks like they added some asphalt to the right side in the photo but it washed out on the left. My Honda Civic can make it so just go slow at an angle if you have a low clearance car and it will be no problem.

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Apparently selling pumpkins pays well. When I was talking to the lady at Taylor Farms awhile back (we can park there with permission first to travel West) she said they owned the land along the road. I have never seen a house with blue tinted windows like car windows. Very nice new house.

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When you get to Route 45 you head north for a mile. You top a couple of hills and wonder if you are ever going to see the next blaze. The shoulder is extra wide and smooth and the walking is actually pretty safe and comfortable. You will see a sign up ahead reading “River to River Trail Crossing”

The Blaze is on a multiple mailbox, and you cross the road and go up the driveway and continue into the forest.

There is a sign advising people who want to enter to call a number to get permission. That is not for people on the River to River trail, but those who want to travel the woods there.

You will come out in a power line clearing. I was in a hurry because I called my wife to meet me at where the trail comes out East of I-24 and I only had an hour and a half to get there. So the rest of these photos on Friday were from a previous trip in the Fall.

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Continue West and you will suddenly pop out on Tunnel Hill Bike & Pedestrian Trail.

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The trail crosses the dam and curves South and West and enters the woods. There is a nice pine stretch along here.

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When you come to the very wide Gas Line clearing, there is no trail to be seen across the clearing. Look North West Bound travelers, it is up there by the orange pipeline marker.

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This is the East end of the road West that connects you to Bowman Bottoms Road. You can tell when you are nearing the end when you start to hear interstate traffic. Or Your wife honking the Horn. I came over a hill and there she was at the end waiting. (Not in this earlier photo though)

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I made it there with a couple of minutes left. She had gotten a cabin at a golf course resort just North of where Rt 51 Intersects Makanda Road. (Not there yet on the trail).

I got a nice hot bath and then a steak dinner at the main building. I also got Winter clothes and a different pair of cargo pants. Tomorrows forecast was 37 for a high, 28 for a low. She showed up just in time!

So with a winter coat and heavy flannel shirt that I took off 5 minutes later and giant blue mittens (ditto) My wife dropped me off at Bowman Bottoms road to continue the hike in 20 something degree weather, which was fine. It had actually snowed just a dusting Friday Night but the temps kept it around most of the day. Since I didn’t need the tent and sleeping bag, I left them at the cabin. That made it about 15 lbs for the backpack. So The situation was ok for the weekend, but I was worried that Monday & Tuesday were going down hill with Monday being a winter mix of rain, sleet & snow. I needed to keep going like I was going to make it, but the weather was looking pretty bad. Not only do I have to live with it, but my wife doesn’t want me going solo in the first place and the worse it looks, the more she objects.

I walked down the gravel road under the interstate and to the access road, Fishin Hole Road. The trail actually just crosses fishin hole road and goes slightly left along yet another old roadbed and meanders around in the woods before dumping you out at the Dutchman Lake Parking lot on the access road where you continue along the dam.

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Yeah, not a pretty day. At the far end of the dam you see 2 ways to go. Left there is a trail, right there is a faint road. Go left. Follow the trail through some prarie looking landscape before entering the woods. I didn’t see a blaze along the way. I may have to work on that.

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You hike through the woods until you get to the finger of a ridge sticking out, and on top of that ridge is a dark tall thick looking Pine woods. I labeled it Mirkwood on the map. It looks to be a leftover from the CCC camp days with its regular rows of trees. It was probably one of the tree nursery plots.

The trees are closely enough spaced that there is almost no undergrowth, just thick pine needles and it is quieter in there. The trees are planted close enough that they rub on each other with the wind. There are a few blazes But the trail is hard to follow which doesn’t really matter as long as you notice the one telling you to exit right. Just walk the rows. The trees still had a little snow on them and on the ground, just a dusting. Very high pines and very open. They only had needles in the tops.I said thank you when I left. The photos aren’t as impressive as the place. This to me was my most favorite spot on the trail. It’s just trees, but I love a pine forest. The map shows a road in it, but I never saw even the traces of one. You could see where people have driven, but no actual road.

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And then way too soon you are on Twinz lane. One of my LEAST favorite places because it means Tall Tree Lane is soon to come.

Twinz starts out primitive enough and becomes More and More improved until it’s a regular drivable road. Then it meets Tall Tree Road. It’s a blacktop road without an end. It just goes on forever, until it hits 37 wich also goes too long. 37 isn’t like 45. It’s got the usual angled thin shoulder that makes you feel like you need a longer leg on the right side, and when you finally see the “Trail Crossing Ahead” sign, it’s another hill, then you see down Rebman Road and yet another Steep hill.

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They have made a new trailhead at the end of Rebman road. It’s a nice gravel parking lot. Around a pond then it hooks up where you used to come in and down the old road into Ferne Clyffe State Park. The tent campground comes up pretty soon and there are vault toilets to the West side of the lot in the regular camping spots.

I’m not sure you are allowed to camp anyplace else in the State Park, but what else are you going to do if it gets dark?

I went around the grand tour of Fern Clyffe on the  you guessed it, old roadbed that the trail follows exploring the South Western corner of the park boundery in a low marshy area before zooming up a Bluff with almost no switchbacks. ( I did run into one of the River to River Trail Societies Guided Spring tours when I came in but most of them were following a trail high up a bluff and I just got one stragglers attention to confirm who they were.)

There are a couple of low shelter caves and a nice arch along the trail. Aside from that, you get the idea they are just looping the trail back and forth to show you every tree in the Park. I was chanting “Get me out of this Dang Park. Let me out of this Dang Park…” By the time I finally made the exit to the North onto Goreville road in someones backyard it seems like. Not that I was tired of traveling the northern border of the Park.

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I really wanted to make it to Regent Lane to start the next day, but by the time I was heading down Happy Hollow Road it was getting late enough to call it a day and meet my wife at the Trailhead there.

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Sunday morning and a nice cool 28 Degrees. 22 low tonight.

Saturday night was the low point. I decided with predictions of a Winter Mix on Monday and colder again on Tuesday I would throw in the Towel and go home Sunday Night.

Paula did some figuring and decided if I could make it to Grand Tower by Tuesday Evening, She could pick me up 2 more days and take 2 days off work. But I HAD to make it to Giant City tonight, and I Had to make it to Godwin Trailhead tomorrow night. She could also pick me up if it ended up freezing rain and my cheap emergency poncho glorified plastic bag didn’t work.

So I started out at the Trailhead on Happy Hollow road and headed past Hawks Cave/ Bork’s waterfall, whatever the name is this week.

Didn’t take a photo from the ground because I didn’t want to take the time, but I got one from above by holding my strapless camera out and not dropping it to a watery grave.

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So I hike up Regent lane and go West on Goreville road.

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I had just crossed I-57 and was checking my maps leaning on the guardrail and who appears? My wife with hot coffee and 3 small snickers bars!!!

Oh Man is she the greatest or what? I sat in the car and talked a minute or three and then she went on to whatever she was doing (shopping, checking out places, whatever she wanted to do for the day) I headed to whatever road that was on the map I was supposed to turn right on. (I had never walked the road part here).

This is the view West when you get to the end of Regency road.

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You can see these radio towers most of the road walking ahead.

This is the T with Lick Creek Road. Mostly took them to remember what the road was for the map. It was a sunny day but cold every time there was a breeze. I spent the day adjusting my clothes. When the wind came up I was in my winter coat. When it slacked off I changed into my heavy flannel. I also had a stocking cap which I wore most of the rest of the Hike.

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Left onto Mount Hebron Road. Lots of road the last half of the trail.

That power pole with the wires crossing the road, and the one it connected to had a really weird sound going on. It was a pulsing sound like out of a sci fi movie. I don’t know if it had a bad ground or what. Never heard a pole making noise before.

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I had seen trees and posts painted purple for years now and really had no idea what that was about. Check this sign out. Last line reads Illinois Purple Paint law. So that’s what it is about.

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Abandoned looking spooky house in decent shape. Big farm nearby. Probably an interesting story. The weird thing is, no driveway. Just grass path.

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Finally onto Wayside. The trail to Panthers Den not too much further. (The ducks are real, they just aren’t ducks.)

Here are those Radio Antennas now. A long way off.

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Into Panthers Den wilderness. Have to make this and get to Giant City tonight. I’ve done Giant City Lodge to Pine Hills (11 miles from the end) in 2 days but I can’t remember what time I got there, or left Giant city for that matter. I got a shuttle ride that time to Pine Hills & walked back. I was able to look West from the ridge here and see the yellow Makanda Water Tower. Thought I saw Giant City tower at the lodge closer and to the right, but I don’t think that was it now. The one I saw was white & squat looking, Giant Citys is futuristic and round.

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Panthers Den. Giant City without the crowds. No time to explore today. Onward & upward. On past the sand cave area, the creek is nice & clear. As I climbed the trail on the switchback over the bluff away from the Creek, I ran into a fellow poster on the River to River Illinois website. Unfortunately I’ve completely forgotten his name. I think his first name was Chris.

He was a trail runner which is completely foreign to me. I can understand the theory but I can’t put it into practice. He was getting his morning workout I guess. Later I was taking a break on a log and there was the sound of several things coming downhill from behind me and to one side. Several deer came into sight and though I didn’t move, they all got spooked and most went back into the woods for the time being. I slowly pulled my camera out and a couple came back and continued down the hill about too far off in the trees to get a worthwhile photo when I heard one right behind me coming down the hill. I slowly turned to get a great photo and it was Chris coming back down the trail.

He had found a tube with a collapsible fishing pole in it down by the creek and asked if it was mine. Not mine. He asked me if I wanted it, but I already have poles I never use so he said he would take it and see if anyone on the website claimed it.

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After zig zagging along the trail I reached the Rocky Comfort Road trailhead where there were a lot of cars parked. I led a Hike here a month or so ago and stopped at the chimney and the old Touch of Nature WigWam then (Just 3 of us then).

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I continued West through the woods along yes, an old roadbed, got to the old Homestead site where the big maples are and ran into a couple young women with a couple young pups. They were big pups about half grown. One was a German Shepard and they were pulling the women pretty hard through the woods. I’m not sure who was walking who. I saw their tracks for a pretty long way. I’m sure they belonged to one of the cars. I hope my posts about the area got some of the traffic going there.

After the Homestead site is a few miles of woods walking then you end up on the access road next to the Antioch Cemetery. (they are everywhere)  When the access road intersects with Antioch Lane, it looks like the access road continues on by the map, and it did back in the 30’s. This is the 17’s It doesn’t anymore. This is what a forest road looks like after all those years with no maintenance.

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The trees do some interesting things with their roots to adapt to the erosion.

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You cross the creek by traveling upstream from where the trail meets it. then crossing in the shallow area. The West side creek committee sent their welcoming ambassador.

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About 3 miles later after passing the Giant City Campground T intersection, I ended up at the Lodge. It was getting too late for good photos of what I already have, so I’ll post a couple of them. I met my wife for dinner there, changed into somewhat more respectable clothes in the car. (It’s ok, I left my long Johns on ) And made the mistake of washing under my arms with a couple year old bottle of that orange pumice filled hand cleaner that Autozone sells. It stung a little but it was the closest to soap I had at my disposal. It did give me a nice citrus aroma though. Another reason for the hot bath later.

Monday, the fun day! Winter Mix Yay! (reverse psychology)

So it snowed last night. It was still snowing. Temp was supposed to get up to 37 today. 22 starting out. Wearing my winter coat & hood with my wool hat today. Goofy huge blue mittens on. My Waterproof Wolverines were wet inside in 15 minutes again. They don’t like any kind of precipitation.

My wife dropped me off at the Lodge and I was off. It was actually decent hiking and I really liked seeing the familiar look totally unfamiliar. My feet were wet, but just cool, not cold all day. I haven’t mentioned blisters but I only got a couple on my right foot between the toes where my weird shaped toes on the foot rubbed. A couple of bandaids eliminated that and they were completely healed by then. I was worried that a day of wet would soften the skin and cause more. Didn’t have any problems from that at all, my feet were 100%. Never did get any blisters on the bottoms of my feet. Never had any pain walking.

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So Off I went through the Winter Wonderland, I don’t think it snowed even this much at our house this Winter. BTW, according to the original forecast it was supposed to be Mostly sunny, 65/44.

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Didn’t meet anyone on the trails today. Nobody here but us turkeys.

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Somewhere in the boonies between Makanda & Cedar Lake is this long closed gate with a nearby trash barrel.  I never can remember where it is, but it pops up out of nowhere on the trail at an intersection with another long abandoned road.

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I only took one more photo this day. A photo of the cedar lake spillway not looking all that beautiful.

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I’ll just have to narrate. I came out on the Road leading into Makanda. I went down to the strip and sat on a bench with a dog under the porch and swapped my wet socks for a couple more soon to be wet socks. I didn’t go into the deli and buy a lunch because Paula had packed me a great lunch. I just finished and walked on past this house and hiked my pet trail up to Old Eastern Star Trail road, and took note that the huge tree is still across the trail and you still have to pass under it. Since talking to the mayor didn’t fix anything I think I’ll go back when it’s time to clear it in a few weeks and cut the 6″ tree that’s keeping it from falling the rest of the way.  it should roll away from it down the rock its against and permanently block the trail from anything but foot traffic.

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It was such an ugly wet day I just didn’t take any more photos I guess. The upper part of my pet trail from Sheppard Road to route 51 is still fine except for a couple little trees across the trail that I’ll also get when I clear it and mow the path across the fields. The fields and US51 roadbanks were all mowed late last Fall and are in great shape.

When I got to 51, I resisted the temptation to call my wife in the hopes I could impress her later when I called at the usual time of about 1PM and say I was past Cedar Lake. Didn’t quite make it at 1pm and the first thing she asked was if I was in Alto Pass yet. (er, no, that’s still an hour or 2 )

 

I know I took a photo of Lireley Trailhead after the road walking, but I guess it got erased.

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The Snow had ended about 10am but just before Cedar Lake I was getting pelted by snow blobs falling off the trees. I had to put on the emergency rain poncho. I went ahead and put my big boonie hat over it. That stayed home the next day. It somewhat protected my face with it’s wide brim but it got soaked and I couldn’t wear it with my hooded winter coat nor my rain poncho and it was so cheap that every drop of water that dripped off was green.

I ran into a couple sets of boot tracks on the far side of Cedar Lake all the way to the Alto Pass waterworks. It was very recent, as the tracks stepped on the snow blobs on the ground that had just been falling off the trees, but I never saw anyone.

The farmer who owns the fields around the Waterworks and has let them grow a couple of years has done an outstanding job of completely clearing his fields. Rather than going around the edge of 4-7 ft. weeds, you can just go across if you see the next blaze.

I wasn’t looking forward to clearing THIS again. I’ll have to change my map though, no more red sumac.

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So I was hiking through Alto Pass heading toward Bald Knob road across the Highway, and the sidewalk ended on the South side so I turned to cross the street and here came Paula with Hot Chocolate! She figured I would be on the road somewhere there and brought me a warm car and warm drink! After a few minutes of warming up, I headed back out and suggested she go on up to Bald Knob Cross. I figured about an hour and a half to make it to Godwin trailhead. (The goal for today) And I had to make it to make it to the end tomorrow. I had done the same route with Swede 2 years ago and knew I could make it in a reasonable time. All I had to do was road walk the last 3 miles today.

I mentioned that my feet were fine. I don’t think I mentioned that my back was killing me like it always does at the end of the day. It isn’t the backpack at all. I’m not sure the pack doesn’t help hold my back in line some. It hurts anytime I walk for a long time whether I’m carrying anything at all or not. But I have to lay down on a log or road or something and pop it straight for awhile. Sometimes I’m good for another hour, sometimes not so long. Vitamin I helps (Ibuprofen) but I only take a couple in the morning, and the afternoon.

So I popped it on the road when I was sure no one was coming and it was fine for another half an hour. I won’t lie though, it was really hurting when I finally made it to Godwin Trailhead and I had Paula drive back to the cabin while I enjoyed the heated seat in the Flex.

Last Day! 22miles of joy.

Last day.  Slightly warmer than yesterday at this time. Just carrying maps, phone, camera various layers of clothing and changes of socks. Feet stayed dry today. I took 3 bottles of water, I had 1 left over. Not a lot of sweating. Another good lunch made of leftovers. I don’t think I mentioned but my wife made me Bacon, eggs, toast and milk every morning the last 4 days. Beats the pop tarts I was having on the trail.

So I get the ride to Godwin trail. I like Godwin trail. It seems shorter than 8 miles mostly because some goof put a sign 2 3/4 miles down the trail saying only 2 3/4 miles to Pine Hills. That last 2 3/4 is a doozy. (Summer intern most likely)

You walk a ridge for the first part, then bottomland until you cross Hutchins Creek. Then climb back up to a ridge that you follow the rest of the way to Pine Hills. The ridge isn’t flat though it goes from peak to peak to peak at least 20 times. Not high peaks, just enough that it is rarely flat. It too was an old road back in the day. As narrow as it is in places, it must have been thrilling. The trail usually runs to the side of the old roadbed like it does in most of the Shawnee. Throughout the whole distance you see old roads taking a straight shot at the top while you are doing switchbacks.

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Most of the trail through here is in Clear Springs Wilderness. Hutchins Creek comes out of area the Clear Springs are at. There is a trail going North from the Creek (called strangely enough,”Hutchins Creek Trail”) that takes you there in a matter of yards. If you are going to camp along there camp up by the Springs…preferably not when it might rain. The Creek REALLY can flash Flood.

Not much labeled on the map. If it were it would be “Ridge, Hutchins Creek, Ridge.”

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Well, that didn’t take long. The trail is nice, the views from the ridge are great, but they don’t take photos well. the creek wasn’t really running today. I’ve seen it underwater and flowing fast from where I’m standing to the top of the far side. Its pretty flat and the rocks are unusually uniform and grippy. The best kind to wade if you have to. Not today though

I didn’t go up the Hutchins Creek Trail so not much more to do but continue on. At least it isn’t snowing. Just past the creek you get the great news!  Only 2.75 miles to Pine Hills road. I think they were just looking at map 22 and thought the edge of the map was the trailhead. Hutchins creek is closer to mid way than 3/4 of the way but it does give you false hope. I hiked it East bound before and a sign telling you that you have only gone 2.75 miles after half a day makes you doubt your hiking senses.

 

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There is another confusing sign much further on that claims you are still pretty close to the East trailhead and bald Knob road. About the same place as the other sign actually. This sign is at the intersection of a trail going South. Not a peep about that trail on the sign.

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Some controlled burn areas about 1/2 mile from Pine Hills road.

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Godwin West Trailhead. A milestone. No more woods! Just a very steep couple of switchbacks on the road down to levee level. That section actually strained some muscle on the back of one of my calves but it didn’t interfere with walking. I Noted it Was 11am when I Got here.

You can actually see the end of the trail from here if you know where to look. There is a great observation overlook from here about a half mile to the South on pine hills road. I use it for my website background.

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But that was the morning of another day, and this was a cruddy day for photos through the trees.

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Walking along the road at the base of the bluffs.

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Bye cool stuff. A lot of people skip this road & levee section and just drive the 11 miles or so to the end. I can’t blame them. It’s like 5.5 Hours you will never get back. But the point is to make it the River to River instead of the River to almost River you have to go all the way IMO. and I will never knowingly criticize anyone for bailing out here. I’ve done it twice now and it wasn’t worth it either time. But I did it anyway because I’m stubborn.

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It’s just flat. Flat forever. My wife caught up to me before the RR crossing. (That and Route 3 are the big events.) She took my pack and I just put a water bottle in one of my cargo Pants pockets. She asked if I wanted anything, and left to get me a coffee and some more small candy bars.  The clouds sure look ominous don’t they? She got the car loaded up and got us checked out so whenever I got done we could go home.

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She caught up again after I was past Route 3 and almost out of sight around a curve. Ah, More Hot Chocolate & a choice of Milky Way or Snickers. :^> (Why decide?)

She drove up the road quite a way and waited. Said I did an 18 minute mile. I sent her up to where the road left the levee so I would be able to see where it was about a mile to go. I didn’t see her again for quite awhile. In the meantime it started to snow.

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I had turned North and it was right in my face. Like weather was going to stop me.

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You actually don’t get to see the Mississippi until you get to Grand tower and the road leaves the levee. You continue to walk the grassy levee until you get to the little pavilion at the end. (which offers no shelter from the wind & snow, the roofs too high)

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When you get to Devils Backbone (the big hill) You can go around it on the River side or on the road side. The Map shows it on the road side. I don’t think there are any blazes either way. I think the last one I saw was mine at Route 3.

I took the river side. It is about the same distance and you get river and the old furnace ruins on the hill. The hill has a lot of history. There was once a huge house on top. I’ve been up there and a Great view of the river but VERY steep. I was wondering awhile back since there are signs of an old trail on top if the R2R used to go that way. The opinion from the R2R Society is no.

Well anyway.

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That ratty little island is Tower Rock.

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This hill is Devils Backbone ^

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This is one of the old Iron Furnaces. (not much to them now)

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And this is The Mighty Miss. The Old Man. And I stuck my foot in it at 4:15pm and said “Hope I don’t fall in” during a heavy flurry, and went home satisfied. Paula got a photo somewhere before she ran back to the car.

And that was my through hike R2R 2017.