River to river trail, Shawnee National forest Sothern Ill
Well Iíve been eager to learn and participate with someone experienced, but situations were never right and I didnít get to go out on a hike/hang with someone experienced. So, after a lot of reading I said, to heck with Iím just going. An opportunity presented itself while I was planning a vacation to visit with family. My dad and sisters live smack dab in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest.
The River to river trail 167 miles from the Ohio to the Mississippi was just what I was looking for. Not much in the way of big man eating animals and only a few poisonous snakes. I figure Iíd do a section and when I come back to visit Iíll do some more!
I had to learn a few things fast. REI and YouTube had some good land navigation which I had to cram in fast (I didnít need it but more on that later) before the trip. I down loaded maps from the US Forest Service website and laminated them. I later found two excellent guides one of which was all I needed to use to navigate because the section of the trail I was on was so well marked. Which filter should I get for water; I went with the Katadyn Base camp because Iíd be making water for at least 2 maybe three.
I wanted to do something memorable with my son whom had just graduated from high school. I felt this would be the last summer I spend with my son as boy as I know this time next year and forever more heíll no longer be a boy. I also brought along my nephew because he seemed like he really wanted to go also.
So we started at Gum Springs rd trail head at 1200 pm we made our way along the north side of the creek because there were some supposed to be some Indian pictographs on the rock walls, and there was. After finding the pictographs we realized we lost the trail! So we found a nice flat rock looking over a creek (Gods kitchen table is what we called it) and had lunch.
After lunch and reading the maps we decided to follow the rail that crisscrossed the creek and figured we run back into the main trail because it crossed the creek numerous times. Then my nephew Josh spotted a blaze and we were back on the trail. The trail was so well marked (once we found it) that one would need to used navigation tools, but this was only how I found this section.
It was about 98 degrees and humid like a tropical rain forest. It was awesome and just what I had needed. UntilÖ. We ran into our first snake in a hoof hole filed with water on the trail. A copper head coiled in the hole. It let us pass without incident I believe it was just too hot for it to move. So we moved cautiously past. We hit Max creek about 630pm about 6.7 miles. I had figured a mile an hour so it was right on!
We sat and took in the scenery for a minute then I got stomach cramps really bad. So I had the boys look for the perfect spot of the trail and away from the creek while I filled up on H20 took some aspirin. I started feeling a little better and we step up our hang.
Next I used my homemade bushbuddy too boil water. It worked well till the fire melted the aluminum gutter guard I was using as the pot stand. So I held the pot to boil dinner. We had the mountain house spaghetti and meatball meals. I added individual packs if green beans to balance out the meal. It was funny to see those boys eat, slurping up every last drop. I thought it tasted like Lipton cup o noodles with watery catsup and old Vienna sausage. They swore it tasted homemade. Hungry boys will eat anything and love it lol!
So we went to sleep and Josh went out as fast as he lay in the hammock, Kevin my son was next letting me know with his heavy mouth breathing. Me well I was in a Hennessey for big guys, and it was feaking hot in there. So I sat out in the breeze till bout 330 listening to the symphony of the forest with its different movements. I was cool about 4am and man when I found that sweet spot I slept till 930 and still didnít wanna get up. The boys were both still out, I had to wake them up. Kevin slept in a ENO single nest with ENO bug guard and slap straps. Josh slept in my diy dual layer with homemade bug guard and whoopee slings. The tarp over them was a hybrid I made from looking at many designs, its made of 1.9 coated rip stop nylon.
We never made it to the next planned campsite because I was struggling in the heat; second day was 99 degrees with 104 heat index. So we hiked out about 4 miles to highway and called Joshís Dad to pick us up.
The boys kept chiding me saying that they could have made it. I was carrying 50lbs my son had 25 and Josh had 15. I said I doubt it! LOL Iím not in the best shape but I told they boys next time they gotta get bigger packs and carry their own gear. LOL
I had a wonderful time and even learned a few important things about me that Ill share. First I am spoiled when it come to AC. Second I have way to many things cluttering my (physical, and spiritual) life that I donít need and arenít important.
I plan to do more sections of the River to River, and after learning of my experience and seeing my pics a few friends want to go with me when I go in the fall.
Thanks to all on this site for all that youíve posted I have learned a lot and hope to contribute ideas some day.