River to River Trail and Shawnee Forest Exploration
River to River Trail Hike
The story of the worst night on the R2R!

The story of the worst night on the R2R!

So in 2018 I was doing a Thru hike with 4 others. The Forecast was rain for most of the trip and 3 of the others dropped out on the second night at Eddyville. (2 for rain, 1 for a family crisis) Don Wall and I slugged on, but he decided his tent was too heavy and left it in Eddyville and was just going to use his ground tarp!

The background is important to explain why the heck we decided to spend the night under the I-24 overpass just East of Dutchman Lake. If only we knew then what I know now. I was hoping somehow we would get to Ferne Clyffe with the overpass as an emergency backup. I had been keeping tabs on heavy rain headed our way. It was supposed to hit about midnight. We SHOULD have kept on by flashlight and found some shelter at Ferne Clyffe or Goreville but that was a lot further than we felt like traveling.

So here we are committed to spending the night there. We get up there and it’s like two and a half feet from flat concrete to big girder with a couple feet higher in between the girders. Cars and trucks roaring by over our heads. It was getting dusky…6:30PM. This was early spring the nights were still very long and its overcast. There is a little ledge at the back and we put our supplies up along it. I’m thinking the traffics going to die down sometime. (Ha!) It’s very chilly, maybe 45 degrees, and a stiff wind is funneling through the gap.

I’m wearing everything I have which isn’t quite enough. I finally decide it’s surely getting towards morning. I turn on my phone. 9PM. Auugh. Then the critters show up. I can hear something in my food packets. Turn on the flash light. Nothing. This goes on every half hour at least. Never anything. I hear Don snoring from time to time. Good for him.

Midnight comes and goes. The traffic is still going along fine. You can hear the trucks aproaching for a long time. I keep kicking myself for not setting up my tent further up the road and letting Don have this nice place to himself. No signs of rain yet, maybe I have time? I have hours to think about it. It’s never going to end! But there is something I can’t put off any longer. The chill has done it’s job and I have to make a trip out from under the bridge.

The ramp to the top is close to a 45 degree angle, and I have to walk straight down then turn East so I don’t bump my head. It’s pitch black, no people live close and a very cloudy night. I didn’t want to wake Don and I didn’t want to turn on a light anyway so I made the whole trip out and in silently and in the dark. I counted about 4 girders and crept back up feeling for my sleeping bag. Got it. Wait! There is something in it! I had Don by the ankle!

He started yelling and kicking, and I was trying to explain that I just went to get a little relief, and miscounted how far back in I had come. He said he thought a raccoon had him by the ankle! Sheesh.

He said what time is it? I looked and said 1:30. He said he hadn’t got to sleep yet. Right.

So back we went to try and sleep I think about 4 or 5 I finally crashed and slept until it started to get light. It had warmed up a little overnight and all our stuff was soaking wet from condensation and everything outside the overpass was dry as a bone. We headed up the trail and I got a signal from my wife who said big storms were coming about noon and we had to get to Goreville right away, and she had us a cabin rented for the night. So we spent a down day that night in a cabin with me on the couch and Don in the bedroom with heavy rain finally coming down. We did finish the thru hike, but it rained the next 3 days. Paula found us places to stay along the way and came to give us transportation to and from. Compromises had to be made.