We rounded up the crew and were out the door by 6:25 or so Thursday evening. We arrived in the dark at Wilderstead and moved in. Only Marshall and Jordan had been to my cabin before. Everyone thought it was cool, though. We ate a snack and drifted off to bed.
Wake-up the next morning was at 6:00 a.m. We ate a quick breakfast by lantern light and got our stuff together. We were out the door and heading for the gate around 7:20. Dawn was just touching the hills with pink as we stumped across the south fork of Laughery Creek, heading for Milton.
At Milton, we turned and went up the ridge, following the road to Bear Branch. We walked along the ridge for most of the morning, eventually coming to St. Peter's Church. The forecast was for rain showers, but the day was rapidly clearing. The sky was blue and the clouds increasingly fluffy. The breeze was cool, but the day promised to be warm. In the end, it was an absolutely beautiful October day: as good a day for hiking as one could hope for.
We turned off the high ground at old St. Peter's Cemetery, and soon the road plunged downhill toward the Laughery. We reached Lost Bridge -- the halfway point -- around 12:50: just over five hours to go ten miles, a good pace. We had a nice break for lunch, then filled our water bottles from a rivulet flowing into the creek. All the guys got to learn how to pump water through a filter.
After lunch, we crossed over into Dearborn County. "Lost Bridge" is so-called because it's way out in the boonies. The bridge's official name is "The Oregonia." It was built in 1916. Last time I was out here, it was a nice, rusty orange. It has since been painted bright red; the road has been resurfaced and spruced up, too, on the Ohio County side.
We met an amazing number of dogs on this hike, several of which were inclined to follow us. A couple were very friendly and wallowed us in their desire to be petted. We also saw several deer on the road or in the fields, but none close up. Finally, there were many different small species of roadkill, in various stages of freshness.
By the time we reached thirteen miles, fatigue was starting to show in some of our hikers. Part of that is a mental thing. Ten miles seems long if you're used to five-mile hikes, until you dial in a new set of expectations; likewise, twenty miles is hard to get used to, even after you get used to ten-milers. But feet were starting to hurt, and there were some afflicted in other ways. Food-wise, we were in good shape, since we had a second breakfast along the trail, and around 4:00, we had a snack to keep us going until supper. Trail mix boosted our energy, too. Around the sixteen- or seventeen-mile mark, Marshall began to experience significant distress. We couldn't do much for him. We trudged on.
At this point, I began to broach a problem with our route that could no longer be avoided. In my original plan for this hike, I had laid out a twenty-mile route that crossed Laughery Creek above the union of its two forks at Hueseman Ford. It's a fairly easy crossing, especially in summer. I told the boys all about it. I also told them to bring extra socks and a towel, etc., because we would get wet. It's all part of the adventure.
But the swollen condition of the creek was worrying me. By the time the two forks joined, there might be way too much water in the ford for a safe crossing. Plus, at the rate we were going, we would be at the ford as night was falling, and it might be too dark to see what we were doing in such a challenging situation. But if we turned and went over the creek by the Milton bridge, we would add an extra mile or so to the trip. Most of them were for trying the ford, anyway, since they preferred a shorter route to the problem of getting wet. I told them that the choice of route was theirs, but judging the safety of the crossing was mine, and if I judged the crossing unsafe, we would have to retrace half a mile and still go by way of Milton, thus adding two miles to the hike. That prospect moved the consensus to finishing the hike dryshod, and we turned south on the highway into Milton as evening began to descend. I broke out the caramels I was packing to give the boys a little extra power for the last leg.
While stumping along Hartford Pike the last mile and a half, full darkness descended upon us. Wearily, we gathered ourselves at the foot of Akes Hill Rd. and began to schlep ourselves up to Wilderstead's gate. Halfway up, the rain, which had held off all day, began to patter down. We hurried as best we could to the cabin and collapsed inside. It was 7:50 or so -- twelve and half hours after our morning's start.
We cooked up some ramen with chicken and rested our beat-up bodies. We went to bed early and slept soundly. The rain came down steadily most of the night. I got everybody up this morning at 7:00 a.m. We ate breakfast, packed up our gear, and cleaned the cabin. We paused to look at the Pishon before we left: it was swollen with runoff. I'm glad we didn't try to ford Laughery! We got back home at noon.
And now, for the pictures!