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This is the third and final installment of a three-part series of Trip Reports on a recent trip I took with three other Trailspace members.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2013
H: Mid 60's F
MILES HIKED: 8.0
Since we made the big push on our second day, we were able to take things a little easier on our third (thank Jesus). We decided to sleep in a little and take our time getting out of camp. We snuffed the ends of the fire logs into the ground to make double-sure there weren't still smoldering, and with that, made it back onto the trail (or lack thereof, in some cases).
Breakfast the second morning was a package of Peanut Butter M&Ms. While that wouldn't make my mom proud, I'll also say it was a “meal” you didn't find me complaining about. Made the mistake of eating all my "breakfast" rations on the first morning. Then again, they were Little Debbie snack cakes, and it's not like I lost a tremendous amount of nutritional value going from danishes to candy. Ironically, I think I agree with hikers like Skurka, and would rather have a a pre-packaged, no-cook, entirely-satisfying chocolate bar than a half-assed and hurriedly-cooked hot meal.
Passing through Lusk Creek Wilderness, we finally left the R2R Trail at Bowed Tree Crossing, and made our way toward Indian Kitchen.
It took a little way-finding and a little map reading. The blazes were few and far between, and it took some thought to figure out which direction was the right one. Fortunately, we'd the creek to go off of, and it made navigation a little simpler, if not entirely easier. Finding our way through solid wilderness was a little harder, without any prominent landmarks to use as a reference.
We made our first creek crossing.
Vince and Joseph kept their quick-drying trail runners on, while Jeffrey and myself shucked off our hikers so we could enjoy the rest the day's hike with dry feet. For those who give #$%^ to the guy clipping a 'biner to his pack, well - guess what? That's what I use to clip my shoes to my pack, or hang my food bag, what have ya. It sure does come in handy. The water was colder than it was deep, which felt nothing but theraputic on our collectively barkin' dogs.
After making it across the water, we decided to take our "lunch" pit stop at a horse camp, where there were trees to sit on, and we'd have a chance to look at and attend to our feet if we needed.
Luckily Joseph's an ace when it comes to foot care, and I was able to borrow a couple strips of leukotape from him to treat the two and only blisters I received on the trip. I chalk them up, mostly, to having to hike an entire day in the rain, and then having to hike half my second day in still-soggy shoes. The tape held fine the rest of the day, and even through the hot shower I took immediately after coming home. Suffice it to say, that stuff's made it's way onto my checklist.
Along the trail we ran into our second group of folks riding horseback, and they suggested to us a cave along the cliffs at Indian Kitchen. Well, you don't have to tell Jeffrey twice when it comes to caves. As soon as we made the hike there, he rummaged through his pack to find his headlamp - that guy was ready to jackknife right into it!
The hike was downhill and relied heavily upon using a combination of intelligently-placed steps and firmly-rooted trees to make sure you didn't tumble down the slope. Eventually we found our way to the side of the cliff, and shimmied off to the left.
Joseph stayed behind to rest and was kind enough to watch our packs. There were a few others sitting around. They weren't the menacing type: looked more like bird-watchers than anything else. But hey, better safe than sorry. I was just glad to go without the extra 25 pounds for a few minutes - especially when I'd be relying upon balance as heavily as I would, here.
Sure enough, there was a small cave.
Jeffrey joked it'd be a good place to hang a hammock (if he can't go spelunking in a location, his mind immediately jumps to hammock-hanging). If you could lock some cams into the cavern walls? Sure! It'd be a great spot. Otherwise, you'd be reaching your body out trying to tie-off onto a tree growing out of the rocks. At that point? I'd much rather cowboy-camp. Well, looks like someone else had the same idea, because near the cliff edge outside the cave were the remnants of a small campfire.
The "cave" was a very narrow, fifty-foot crawlway from one side of the rock face out to the other. If we'd the time, and still had the energy, I'm more than sure this would've been something we conquered. Nothing wrong with a little thrill-seeking leftovers: another adventure for another day, there.
After making it back uphill, we'd nothing left but the final, mile-long push to the shuttle car in the parking lot across from the trailhead.
We hiked at a good clip, but halfway into the hike, I hear Joseph call out from behind me, "Snake!"
Jeffrey stopped in his tracks in front of me (he was in the lead position), and I stopped behind him - less than a foot from my right ankle was not one, but two snakes. Now, there're few things in this world I fear legitimately. Snakes are one of them. Before coming down to Shawnee, I researched what their three resident and venomous vipers looked like: the copperhead, water moccasin, and the timber rattlesnake.
Well, the second I saw the color and the markings on their backs, I knew immediately what they were: sure enough, copperheads. @#$%.
Slowly took a step away and then hauled @#$ down the trail, making damn sure I didn't take a step anyplace without seeing where my foot was landing first. Luckily, those two snakes were mating, and more than distracted enough to not care about the bumbling hikers making their way past.
Felt like some character in a Hollywood film, where the cop a week out from his retirement almost gets shot in the line of duty. Well, I didn't want to be the Danny Glover (so long as we're going with cops who get shot references), so I didn't waste any time making my way to the shuttle car.
Jeffrey was kind enough to bring his truck, and the bed was more than enough room for us all to stow our packs and poles. Reeking to high heaven, we climbed in and made our way to the one and only local gas station for some well-deserved refreshments. Never in my life has a bottle of Mello Yello and a slice of gas-station pizza tasted so good. This also was a good spot to dump any garbage you had to pack-out (as Cadiz doesn't have a single trash can there).
We headed back to the GOTG area where we saw Vince off in the backpacker's lot, and then Joseph and myself made it back to our cars in the lot at Cadiz.
It was really cool to spend the drive back passing the places and trail crossings we had traveled through the last three days, and definitely made me feel a sense of accomplishment.
It was better still to make some new friends, and finally put some faces to the names I've grown so familiar with here on Trailspace. I'd more than gladly hike with all those gentlemen again, and - with any luck - will join 'em again soon.
Thanks for a great weekend, fellas, and a few new cocktail party stories to add to my repertoire.