Off We Go!
The last week spent as home was a frenzy. We finally found a renter for the house and we’ve spent the last 4 days cleaning the place up so that he can move in without thinking we are big slobs. We moved all our belongings out of our bedroom to make room for John’s stuff. It was a perfect match as he is a newly hired executive at a local bank and will be moving to Lynchburg from out of town. John isn’t quite sure what to make of us for leaving this place for seven months but so far has been easy to work with.
Tigger, the dog, received her annual spring haircut and we delivered her to our son, Mick’s, house (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Richmond. We packed our packs, loaded our food, and made ready to go on the trail. On Friday, the 28th of February, we drove to southern Ohio and spent the night in Marietta. It rained about three inches during the night. On Saturday, we started our 210 mile hike on the Buckeye Trail.
March 1, Saturday
After months of planning and preparation, the day finally arrived. We parked the van at Herb’s house and he drove us to the Buckeye Trail at Chesterhill, Ohio. We started hiking at 9:30 am in 58 degrees and a steady rain falling. Our first wildlife we saw were farm geese, a salamander, and lots of night crawlers escaping the sodden ground. Within a half hour we passed an Amish farm and a buggy and driver walking down the road we shared. By 10:30, the rain had stopped and things were looking up. But all too soon we came upon an impasses — the gravel road we travelled crossed a ford which was now a roiling torrent of brown muddy water. Bushwhacking around the ford on a ridge, we found that the trail forded another stream and returned to our side of the stream again. A log crossing over a smaller stream returned us to the ADT.
Again, things began to look up. But travelling for another 1 1/2 hours, we were again blocked by the raging streams. We backtracked to a trailer with friendly people. We stopped and ate lunch on their porch and then they showed us an alternative bushwhack up a high ridge until we were again able to rejoin the trail. The rain returned by 3 pm, and tired, wet, and not making the miles we had expected, we plodded on, hoping to convince a farmer to let us stay in his barn. After several “nobody homes” and one refusal, we lucked into a wonderful man who let us stay in his child’s playhouse which had a table, chairs, and even an electric lamp. Finally dry, we settled in for the night.
March 2, Sunday
What a storm we tried to sleep through last night! Lightening and thunder and buckets of rain lasted for hours, but we were safely ensconced in our playhouse. This, on top of the three inches that had come the night before, turned every little trickle into a raging torrent. We were on the trail by 7:30 AM but again ran into trouble with high water. Herb had told us that some of the streams feeding into Burr Oak Lake would be difficult to cross so we walked the road down to Boat Dock #3. It and the trail was completely submerged under about 4 feet of water. We saw the blue blaze and the ADT marker far in the water. Turning back to Rt 78, we hiked to the lodge and talked to a ranger. He said that much of the trail would be under water but that we could bushwack above it if we wanted. We used this approach to Boat Dock # 2 and then #1, but it entailed much slippery travel, extra mileage to go upstream enough to cross each inlet, and numerous boot suckings in the mud, mud slides, and briars poking holes in our Goretex pants and pack covers. When we sat to rest, we discovered that Laurie’s belt pouch had come off and it contained the maps and other needed items. So, discouraged, we dropped our packs and retraced our steps until we found it floating in an inlet we had jumped across. We then decided to leave the trail at Burr Oak Lake and took the road to Bishopville and then on to McLeish. There were floodwaters everywhere, but at least the roads were open, although in “downtown” McLeish there was only a two foot wide strip of pavement showing through the receding water. Again faced with nothing but soggy ground, with the luck of trail magic we were invited to spend the night in a home.
March 3, Monday
We awoke to more rain. We were on the trail by 7:50 am and it was 2 hours before we passed our first house. The temps were in the mid-30’s and the rain constant. We learned that southern Ohio had had 10 inches of rain and many counties were being declared disaster areas, the worst flooding in 30 years. After 12 miles of hiking we were cold, wet, and tired. We hiked into the pizza shop in New Straitsville looking for a tourist home or motel. Instead we were invited into a home once again. We really needed the warm shower and dry clothes and hot food. The people in southern Ohio have been wonderful to us.
March 4, Tuesday
We were on the trail by 7:50 am this morning and the weather was finally cooperating with us. It was in the 50’s with some sun appearing in the afternoon. In the morning we hiked through some mature pine plantations which were scenic and soft on the feet. The ground in most places, however, remained soggy wet. These Appalachian foothills seem very different from our Blue Ridge Mountains. During one trail section today, the trail meandered through convoluted hills with numerous twists and turns. If it wasn’t for the excellent blazing showing the way, we would have never been able to follow our maps. On another trail section, we came upon a beaver dam which had flooded the small valley. We could see the blue blazes on the far side and in the pond, but there was no way across without wading. We bushwhacked upstream and found another beaver dam. We cut a breach in the side of the dam which served to lower the water level enough that we could make a scary crossing on the main part of the dam. An exciting moment! Tonight, with the ground still too wet to camp on, we have set up our tent in the gazebo of a willing trail neighbor. This “camping” on the Buckeye Trail hasn’t been too hard to take.
March 5, Wednesday
A little later start (8:15) since we had a shorter day planned in order to stay with our friends, Mike and Sherry. The morning was cloudy and rain started by 11 am and continued throughout the day. The trail in this area was not remarkable except for a beautiful area of waterfalls, and a fast-moving stream with potholes. Forty foot high cliffs lined both banks of the river which undercut deep into the rock. We were excited to get to Mike and Sherry’s house to get out of the rain and to get our next box of food which we had shipped to ourselves. This is the first day that we were able to hike the designated trail route with detours due to high water. Thus, we have hiked 76 miles of the Buckeye Trail thus far. Our spirits are high in spite of the continuous bad weather as our luck has been great in finding relief at night.
© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet