Red Pines, Prange Pond, Plum Creek

Our 2nd all-day trip began with a very serene and brisk (yes, those 2 things can happen at once!) trek around Yellowwood Lake. Great views of the water and gentle little ascents and descents got us going at a fast clip and we were soon in a sort of meditative state, saying very little and making great time. The stretch around the lake ended in a regal pine stand. That dusky aroma of sun-soaked conifers always takes me back to the west coast. Not sure exactly what comes together to make that heady smell, but anyone who’s hiked through a stand of evergreens on a warm, sunny day knows what I’m talking about.

Around the corner two park employees came with clippers and rakes, cleaning up the trail. One of them, a petite, rugged woman with an easy, mellow voice floated out, “Neal Cassady” as she passed us. Except the words were stretched out so it sounded like “Neeeeel Caaasideee.” Turns out she met Cassidy somewhere before and remembered him by tying him to the tragic beat gen icon.

This day was easier mentally. We were getting into our groove and we knew by now to chunk out the trail into motivating landmarks and really study the terrain we would encounter beforehand. Yellowwood Lake to DuBois Ridge–we would have to climb up top then dip into little side ravines, then a steep decline and ascent up to Patty’s Garden Ridge. Something like that.

We ate lunch on Patty’s. Then headed on to Prange Pond, home of lovely pink water lilies.

My friend Dave had stashed water there. Even though at this site we could’ve filtered some from the pond, it was nice not to have to take our packs off to do that. Dave placed water at a few points all along the trail–some days it was an added bonus, sometimes a necessary treasure! It was cool to have such a symbol of friendship out in the woods. Having seen virtually no one but each other for 4 days, here was evidence that someone cared enough about Cass and me to take time to drop water for us. I love that.

From Prange Pond to our camp site may have been the most beautiful lengths of trail on this trip. We hiked across 2 sections of private property–well maintained yet rugged. (How great would it be to have our back yard butt up against the Tecumseh!) We also followed Plum Creek, which offered dramatic ravines and land formations but steep up and down climbs into little side feeder streams. Little did I know it but these hurtles were the beginning of the end for my right knee.

We made a final climb up a ridge to find Dollsberry Junction and a sprawling backwoods campsite. We collapsed into this space as late afternoon sun filtered down to the forest floor. Sounds of human life floated up from Lake Lemon below. It was comforting while the sun was up, a little eerie at dusk, when we heard (or thought we heard) voices a little too close for comfort. Among the sounds of a live band somewhere in the distance and all the strange echos bouncing around the ravine, I also heard a barn owl and (I think) coyote.

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