I woke up at 5:30am to the pitch black and started my day. I was feeling great! It was really windy, so I had to be careful taking my tent down so it didn’t blow off the knob I was camped on. For breakfast I made the same oatmeal sludge as the day before, and it was still pretty good. I guess. The hot decaf coffee felt like a treat.
Since I was up so early, I was ready to hike while it was still dark, but I wasn’t really comfortable with that, knowing how tough the trail can be to find at times, so I sat on a log and waited about 10 minutes. By then it was just getting light and I was able to navigate fine with my headlamp. I was hiking by 7:15am.
There weren’t as many spiders in the morning, and I quietly celebrated to myself. It was a good thing, too, because the hills were crazy for the first half of the day. Some were so steep I could’ve glissaded down on my butt if I didn’t mind a little gravel-rash. I chose to just hike it. I thought about coming back in the winter with a sled, though! Oh, and I missed a turn, hiked up a huge hill for a quarter mile, then realized my mistake and hiked back down. Oh, you silly knobstone trail!
When I got close to Elk Creek Lake, I started fantasizing about it. “I know there’s a boat landing. Maybe there’s a beach. Maybe I can yogi a cold soda off of a fisherman. Ooh, I’m going to make beef stroganoff for lunch! And drink cold coffee! And swim. I hope there’s a beach.”
Just like many forested backpacking lakes in the midwest, it was green, silty, and mostly made for fishing. And there was a boat ramp, but no beach. And no people. I sat in the grass along the edge of the parking lot and made my stroganoff and cold coffee while I waited for my green, silty water treatment to do its thing. Then I stepped into the cold water up to my knees, washed off my filthy, awesome hiker legs and let my eyes roll back in my head from the natural healing affect of cold water on tired feet. What a total morale booster!
Just before I left, a DNR truck pulled up to the boat ramp and dumped a tank full of what I assumed were little minnows of some sort. Thankfully I got my water before that. Or had they been there once already that morning? They could’ve been. That water tasted so dirty… I mean like actual dirt, and had a bit of a gritty texture. I don’t know why, but it still surprises me when a stagnant puddle of water tastes better than water from a big lake. I added about three flavor packets and topped it off with an Emergen-C. That’ll fix it, right?
When I arrived at the Oxley memorial trailhead, I was anticipating a road walk of about 2 miles due to timber harvesting, but when I arrived, the pink ribbons and detour signs were all taken down! Great! And in a mile I had my second jug of drinking water that I’d cached. I dumped out my Elk Creek Lake water and refilled my bladder and bottles with the good stuff. Then I moved on.
And then I got tired. Man, I was pooped! I took a break and just rested my bones. I ate a Pro-bar and threw a few jelly beans into my mouth, and I could almost feel the sugar coursing through my veins. Yes! Let’s hike!
A few miles from camp, I was stopped by another spider web. Only bigger. And the spider was different, too. He was quarter-sized. His large, globular butt was bright yellow with black specks and his legs and the rest of his body a bright orange. He was kind of pretty, but those creepy legs! I did not want them on me. I saw one other just like this another mile down the trail, but that was it. Thankfully. The good thing about these being so big and bright, I usually could see them coming, at least. Unlike the other more camouflage guys. Blecht.
I passed up a small campsite under some tall Pines because it was low and felt damp and creepy. I’m glad I did, because I climbed yet another steep hill and found a cute little site at the top, just before a dirt road crossing.
I got set up and put on my nanopuff jacket. My sweat wasn’t totally dry and the temperature had dropped just enough to give me a bit of a chill. Hot decaf was again a really nice treat. Dinner was loaded mashed potatoes with a bacon Epic bar (so delicious!) chopped up in it. I threw in some cheddar cheese, Frank’s hot sauce and threw more potatoes on there in the form of my crushed-up chips. That was the last of ’em. Best trail food ever. We’ll, it’s all good. Most of it. For dessert I had three pieces of Dove dark chocolate with almond butter. So good!
I was in bed early again, glad to be resting and reflecting on my journey so far. I only had 5.5 miles to go in the morning. I was excited to see Adam, but fantasized that he’d pick me and take me to eat a big dinner, get some ice cream, sleep in a bed, then I’d resupply my food bag, he’d drop me back off on the trail, and I’d keep on hiking.
It doesn’t matter how long a hike is… It’s never long enough.
A few more photos from the day:
Tonight I love food. Especially during a hike.
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!