Gloriously short hike this day. Our destination was a mere 5 or 6 miles away at a Lutheran Church Camp. The church camp welcomes anyone passing through to stay over or just stop for a brief rest at their AT-style shelter. Inside the shelter are two plastic boxes with journals inside for people to leave a note about their travels, who they are. We spent a good hour or more reading some of the entries. Also inside were some energy bars, a Bible, a couple business cards, and other odds and ends people would leave behind for others who may need them.
But more about the hike. We started at noon, knowing it would be a short day. Lots of gentle slopes and grassy ridge tops until we got to the infamous Indian Hill. I heard this thing was a monster, and it was–a gravel road so steep the crews have a hard time keeping gravel on it. Before our hike I thought I would be relieved we were going down it instead of up, but I discovered by the end of our trip that going down is just as hard if not more difficult than climbing. Murder on the knees! Still, I have to say Scarce O’ Fat and that heinous, neverending climb earlier in the week had this beat. I wonder why no one warned us about that section? On the way to Fox Den we saw 2 snakes. It’s a wonder I happened to be looking down to see them (how many snakes did I barely miss when I wasn’t looking down?). I’m pretty convinced one was a timber rattler, but I’m pretty sure that’s probably what everyone says when they encounter a snake with even remotely similar markings. Still we waited patiently until it slithered away. And when it decided we weren’t a threat, it slowly made it’s way off the trail, gently parting a sea of leaves and grass as it went.
We crossed railroad tracks and spent a brief time on busy Highway 45 before we reached a peaceful country road that meandered through the woods and opened out into a sun-drenched meadow. We reached another of Dave’s water stashes at Carmel Ridge Rd. It was a perfect place to stop and quench hunger and thirst on a soft cushion of pine needles. Our food rations were running low, so every bite was cherished. After lunch, I left Dave a love note and we hiked the last 1.7 miles to Fox Den. One last series of hard ascent-descent. Then, we gradually followed the contours of the slope up to the ridge top. We soaked in this spot for the rest of the afternoon–peacefully, hungrily, passionately.
We sat outside our tent for long, lazy stretches of unknown time. We watched titmice fly in close, trying to pick nesting material out of our well-used (actually pretty gross) dish towels we had hung from tree branches. We took lots of deep breaths and drank in the bliss of being alone together.