Good evening my friends!
I took a low census day at work today thinking that today was the day Mike got his test results for cancer back, I wanted to be there. But I was mistaken, wrong date. But since I'd already called in, I took the opportunity to hike again. I've done very little hiking this year, and I've forgotten how much I love it.
Sunday I went to the local state park, Indiana Dunes State Park. I took a nice long hike, one big loop that took me from one end of the park to the other and back starting at Devil's Slide. Normally you start down at the beach for trail #10 (the longest trail in the park) But since Ike took out a huge portion of the devils slide trail head parking area, the only way to the trail was to take a deter strait up Devil's Slide, a very steep sandy dune that you could literally sled down and have a wild ride doing it. What a nice little warm up that was! I followed a narrow trail between fencing (which keeps you on trail and off the protected portions of the dunes) The re-route takes you back down to the beach, on the other side of the giant sink hole. Its then a long walk along the gently lapping lake Michigan. I was tempted to take my boots off and wade, but it was chilly out with a slight breeze. There is no shade, and this portion would be almost unbearable on a hot day. You'd certainly get sun burnt. This part gets kind of monotonous after awhile, so I stopped now and then whenever I saw a particularly flat smooth stone to perfect my stone skipping techniques. (I really do need the practice!) I managed twice to get seven skips, my best score ever! It's hard to tell where to leave the beach, there are no clear signs and I way over shot the turn off. In fact I walked myself right out of the park and came to a road. Try as I might, I could not find a road on the map the park gave me. So I walked a bit along the road to see if I could see a continuation of the trail. I did not, but I did see a different trail head stop for a trail I never knew about in the Indiana Dunes national lake shore, plus, there were bathrooms which I took full advantage of. The little trail that goes from there is a birding trail, a .6 mile loop and boy was it hopping with birders and birds. A pleasant surprise for a mistake. after taking advantage of a bench to take my boots off and fix my socks which had been bunching up on me, I went back along the road to the beach and walked further up in the dunes trying to find my real turn off. About 10 minutes of regaining the beach, I found it. The sign was way up in the dunes, not visible from down by the water at all. My guess is most people go the opposite direction then I was going. The hike up from the beach on that end is not even close to as steep as Devil's Slide. Its still a sandy hill though, but not difficult. For the first time the entire hike, I'm in the trees, just in time for when it starts to warm up in the sun. A bit of a stronger breeze kicks up but since I'm moving, I don't get chilled. The trail takes you back west, on the back side of the dunes you were on the other side of, hiking east. It's a whole new environment there. The trees are mostly native tulip trees, oaks and some others I'm not sure of. You hike through alternate dry and swampy areas. The trail goes through "Paradise valley"first which is a calm, flat area. I stopped here to take a short break as other hikers passed on by. I certainly wasn't alone on this trail. There were far too many people for my taste, but with such a nice weekend, I could understand the need to be out. Next comes swampier areas, filled with ferns, trees that like more water, and the resinous white pines, filling the air with a scent that is near and dear to this Californian conifer forest dweller. I stopped to examine a small tree with dark blueberry colored fruits, bell-shaped. I'm reminded of Thoreau's book, Wild Fruits, and I'm tempted to eat them. I resist, barely, and move on. Lots of muddy trail follows, and then a boardwalk through more marshy land. A few stealthy mosquito's get a snack but it's not enough of a bother to spray the deet I carry with me. I leave the wetter areas for more solid ground again. The trail intersects several other trails, number 2 and 9 I think. Number 10 isn't a complete loop. I end up at the nature center and have to walk through a large and very busy campground (or should I say RV ground, I only saw 2 tents out of all the visitors staying there...and Rving is NOT camping!!! Don't kid yourselves! I hardly even count Car Camping as camping.) I hit the "Beach Trail" at the end of the second part of the campground, right next to the potties, that takes me back to the devil's slide area. It's a boardwalk the entire way that boarders a little stream. It's not far then, until I was back at the car.
Today, I stayed even closer to home and went to Deep River for a short hike. I wanted to take my favorite trail and maybe harvest some Hen-Of-The-Woods, where I had two secret spots of it. However, when I came to the first foot bridge, or where it should of been, I knew that Ike had done it's damage here too. That first stream crossing without the bridge is no big deal, its small. and the other bridges I came to, though damaged, were stable. The trail though, was something else. The river had gorged out big sections. A few times I had to climb down 3-4 feet lower then it was before. I had to weave through tree roots that I used to walk over unseen below my feet! There was a lot of standing water on parts of the trail that had to be navigated around. Trees were down everywhere. It got worse at the train trestle, where the soil and rocks had been heavily eroded away. I climbed on down anyway, the footing was tricky. Beyond this, the trail had been completely obliterated as what looks like a new arm of the river had made a gorge of the trail, and filled it with water, then surrounded it with heaps of downed trees, so many the thought of climbing over or around in hopes of finding the trail again was daunting. They don't really keep the trails in this park maintained, though, so It didn't surprise me too much. Mostly its those of us who hike them who do anything to help, and this was beyond help, I think. I found a way around this major obstacle though, but was unsure where the trail was after. I would of gone further had I brought my GPS or at least my compass, and if it didn't look like it was about to rain. So I turned back. I do not want to be caught back there if it rained, it floods an awful lot in this park. My hen-of-the woods were somewhere past that mess, if they were still there at all. My forage foray was not all together ruined though, I came to Haw heaven. Lots of fruit on the hawthorns this year, and the light frosts have made them sweet and very flavorful. No wonder there were so many robins, they were likely getting fat off of them. They are not Washington haws, or pear haws, its a new kind I haven't yet identified, but defiantly a haw. The leaves (the few left), the bark, and the thorns are all pretty distinctive of haws.
As I hiked today, I came to thinking about all kinds of things, about how I have myself always spread so thin around and getting nowhere, and not enjoying it. I've shoved things aside that I love (such as backpacking and hiking) for things that are mediocre to me, and for dreams that are probably unattainable for a long long time, if ever at all. Is a dream worth chasing if you never reach it or is it something worse? I'm just trying to survive, but if what I do to survive kills the things I love, is it worth it? I had to stop and think over this stray thought. I have to really look inside my heart. Sure I'd love to have a farm someday, but would it be attainable, or worth it? Am I making my life miserable for a possibility that may never happen? I don't want to live like that. I want to live for the moment. Hiking makes me feel at peace, being in the woods, brings calm and sometimes clarity. Why can't I just be happy where I am, living in this trailer with a small garden?
I'm rambling but I can't help but think the trail is the place for me. I've probably spoken of this before, but once, when I was laying in a hospital, near death, ready for it in fact, I had a dream. I was on the trail, I was hiking, hiking, hiking, up hill. There was a place I had to get to, a mountain top. And as I hiked, no mater how fast or far, it remained out of reach. I just could not get to the top. In my dream I grew fearful. I couldn't die yet, I had to reach that mountain. I was meant to. I was supposed to. I lived, I began getting better after that dream (In fact I don't remember a whole week of lost time before that dream so it really sticks out in my head).
Anyway, I have a whole lot of thinking to do. A farm dream is all well and good......but in all reality, I have my doubts if I would be able to attain it. Maybe it's just not meant to be.....
9 months ago