On to the Second Leg
After making some purchases in Walmart, Jim, George, and I followed the aromatic smells to the McDonald’s corner of the building. We stood and gawked at the menu a couple of minutes. Turned out it was the same as every other McDonald’s. Good. That would make it easy. Our ordering completed, we staked out a table away from the other diners, assuming they would not like cheesy-smelling hikers with their Quarter Pounders.
The skies had just let loose, and rain was drumming loudly on the store’s roof. We could have gotten a free shower out in the parking lot, but we were content with dry and smelly. I was thankful that the precipitation had held off till the end of our first leg. Not so sure about the people at the nearest table, though.
We drove to Leith Run where we had planned to spend the night, but the campground was temporarily closed. After a short conference, we decided to drive back to Ring Mill and sleep in the previous night’s shelter. It was another cold night in Ring Mill, but at least the rain had subsided. George said he didn’t wake up once all night. If that would ever happen to me, I’d think I was dead. I slept until one, finally becoming so restless that I got up and walked along the Little Muskingum. I enjoyed the time alone, listening to the hoot owls and gazing at the moon through a break in the clouds.
The next morning we packed our bags for the second leg, a 57-mile section of the trail. We would drive to the end point of the leg to meet Dave. He had graciously agreed to come from Marietta and return us to our starting point. Before we left, I drove to the top of the hill to talk to Bonnie. She had exciting news: free chapters of Hiking Without Dave had been made available on my website. That meant the publication date was getting closer. Some not-so-exciting news was that freezing rain and maybe a dusting of snow was possible Friday night into Saturday. But we could weather it. That was the night we would be staying near a barn. And the farmer had told us that rain or snow would give us a pass into the shelter.
We drove to the end of the Whipple section to park in an area called Onion Run. A local resident would be keeping an eye on our car. Dave arrived promptly and shuttled us back to Point One of the section. He gave us a look of envy—or was it pity?—as he pulled out after dropping us off at the chilly and somewhat blustery trailhead. Even though this was a planned zero day, we picked up our water jugs and walked about a half mile to locate a good campsite.
That evening, a bright, nearly full moon provided a night light. I was comfortable during the night due, in large part, to the military long johns my son Matt had handed down to me. Their weight would be well worth carrying through this section if the weather predictions were correct. When I finally crawled out of my tent the next morning, I was greeted by a cold but cheery sunrise.
We headed out for a strenuous eight-mile day in the forest. The trail was clear and well-blazed. Bob and I had been there four years ago. At that time, it was nearly impassable, and out of frustration, we had finally bushwhacked our way down to the road. There we had met the Kendall family and escaped a downpour by slipping into their shed. I asked Jim and George if we could walk down and see if Mrs. Kendall still lived there. We found her taking out the garbage. She did not seem the least bit surprised when we emerged from the forest. She met us with, “You said you’d stop back again someday.”
After a very nice visit, we moved on. We would have stayed longer, but five miles still lay ahead of us. That night we camped alongside the trail, and the next day we began the hike which would take us to the barn. Some hills were very long and steep, but the switchbacks, some newly benched, made an efficient thruway. The Wayne truly has some AT-like trails. As we left the forest, we grabbed our stash of water jugs and began walking the road. It started to rain, but our five-star accommodations soon came into view.
A black cat reluctantly vacated the barn when we entered, obviously not happy that we had invaded its domain. After we ate, we set up our beds on the hay wagon inside. We could look out the large entrance and see a small family cemetery. It was a perfect setting for Halloween evening.
I still had six Fun Size M&M’S left from my Walmart purchases. I thought they would come in handy in case any trick-or-treaters stopped by. I told Jim and George they would each get a couple if no one came. They proceeded immediately to switch off their lights to signify nobody was home.
The hay bale bed felt good under me as I hunkered down in my bag, nicely shielded against the sleet and howling wind, and munched on my M&M’S. I watched the cat cross the road and enter the cemetery. The only thing missing was the Great Pumpkin. Of course, the night was not over yet.