The third day of our southbound trip dawns early. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep because the wind blowing bits of the trees onto my tent sounded like rain. At first I kept waiting it to soak my shirt that I put over my tent netting instead of the rain fly. I finally changed that out but still kept listening to the foreign noises. So in the early dawn, I crawled out of bed, donned my shoes, and went to gather our food. The foliage around the trail was really dense, so we stowed the food right along the trial north of our camping spot. We tucked it under a log into a dense bush.
Back at the tents, I realized how close we were to the trail and how dense the brush was. I danced around trying to find a place to go potty that was far from the trail. There was no place up or down the trail to get off and pick my way through the brush. But behind our tents there was a hill with thin undergrowth. I climb up there only to find that the trail wraps around the hill in both directions. Unfortunately, it is the only place to go, and I can tell that others thought that as well by all the toilet paper strewn about.
Relieved, I dig out my hand sanitizer and my contact stuff. I have been wondering around in my glasses, but don’t want to hike that way because I don’t see well with them. With my morning ablutions done, I start pacing waiting for the other two to get up so we can eat and go. On the trail we all get up early, so I don’t have to wait long. I am picky about my breakfast choice since it didn’t sit well the day before. A partial packet of peanut butter crackers seem like a good idea chased by a good amount of water to help hydrate me early.
We eat and pack up heading out in short order. Because we get moving so quickly, we forget to stretch. It isn’t until we are down the road a while that we realize stretching would have been a good idea. We decide to rest and take off our packs every couple of miles to let our bodies function better.
Two miles into the morning, we discover a bigger camp location with water. We discuss, as we pass by, how that would have been nicer than the one we stopped at. But, we also admit that we were too tired to have kept hiking at the point when we stopped.
We continue on hiking half the remaining distance without once coming across people. But as we near a lake, we start to hear people and children talking and having a great time. This burst of gaiety lifts our moods and seems to lighten my feet. We cruse around the lake not really seeing a place to get close to water until we are almost around it. At that point, we yell hello to the two men packing up their gear and continue up the hill. For the next several miles we play leapfrog with these two. We also come across others out on the trail.
It is a gloomy day, but we feel happy and positive. After cresting a ridge and seeing the gorge again, we laugh and stop to have a brief snack and enjoy some weightless time. The clouds become darker and the sky opens up a light rain. We start to pull on our packs when I realize that this is the first trip where I am not carrying my rain cover for my pack as well as the first time we are backpacking in the rain. I’m not concerned; we are on the last leg of our trip. It doesn’t matter if things get wet. About that time, I think of the gortex jacket I have had wrapped around my waist for the last two days. Slipping it off, I put it over my backpack tucking the hood over the top and the sleeves around my shoulder straps. It feels secure. Now I have a use for the jacket.
We hear the highway long before we see it. At every rise or turn, we wonder if we are going to see the highway. But we keep climbing and descending and taking curves, but we cannot see the road. The foot traffic is increasing, so we know that we are close to a trailhead. And we continue. This was a ten mile hike to be culminated after we cross the Bridge of the Gods and enter the restaurant overlooking the river. We all speed up as we move along. The end is near and calling to us. We take a turn and it seems we are in someone’s back yard. But the trail skirts the fence, and finally, we arrive at the highway.
The trail follows the highway on the bank, so we are at least ten feet above the traffic for a while. It keeps us separate, and I like that. When the trail descends to the same level as the road we are within sight of the bridge. We know we are going to have to cross and enter the bridge soon. My trekking poles, hat, and anything else that might be blown into the river are stowed. We begin to watch the traffic to see when we can cross. At a small gap the other two race across the road. But it is wet, I am carrying 35 pounds, and I have a bum knee. I am not running on a highway. I wait. I finally get a good gap and hustle across.
We are at the entrance to the bridge in awe. Last year we were on the other side and only walked across half of it. This time we need to walk clear across. There is more traffic coming our way this time, and it is wet. After taking pictures of the bridge and a few selfies with the bridge behind us, we enter. The bridge is made of grating and cement. We can see through the road. It is a bit nerve wracking to be able to see down to the river watching it move across our vision. The metal is slippery; I grab hold of the railing not wanting to let go just as a car rushes past. I feel like I am being pushed around, and it feels like the cars
are barely brushing our sides. But it is exciting to be crossing after several years of dreaming of it.
At the other side, I feel full of energy and excitement. There are few vendors, but we look to see if our trail angel from the previous year is there. She is not, but there is one with cherries. We buy a bag making it our new tradition. When we stop at the Bridge of the Gods, we must get sweet cherries and have lunch at the restaurant. After three days chasing a trail, I am finally hungry. I am craving vegetables again until I smell the grease.
Our ride is there and we join the line to order our food. The others get sandwiches and beer. I get my salad and onion rings. It might be an unlikely combination, but it fits my needs. I have to have my vegetables after several days without and the grease smells and tastes divine.
We might not have hiked the planned 30 miles, but we hiked a good hike and have great memories. Here’s to another.