River to River Trail and Shawnee Forest Exploration
River to River Trail Hike
R2R Thru Hike 2021

R2R Thru Hike 2021

Jo Ulmer and me on our 165 mile R2R thru Hike attempt starting Fri. 15th.This is what happened. I only know my part of what happened. Joe might still be hiking, and I hope he finishes. A great friend and fellow hiker.

A little background. We have hiked together before, and after seeing on a hiking site that I was going the 15th, he joined up. The weather forecast was for all day rain with thunderstorms starting about 3pm. I don’t rely 100% on the weather forecasts and they change hourly. I did have alternate plans of starting at Battery Rock, the old Eastern leg which is about 7 miles longer but less muddy after a rain and less creek crossing. We were all going to meet about 8:30 am at E’town and Joes truck would be left there and Paula would shuttle us to Battery Rock.

That morning the chances of rain were lowered quite a bit and Thunderstorms were pushed back until 5pm. So we started at E’town. It was supposed to have rained overnight, but we only got sprinkles and after we got going about 8:45 the clouds pretty well cleared out. A perfect day to hike. Plans were to go as far as we could, and I was really wanting to get past High Knob 18 miles away. That is where we I had always got to. There are some nice Bluffs about a mile further and that was my ideal spot.

We had no problem with water, all the bigger creeks had a flow. I think we stopped for water at the creek before “Big Creek” (the actual name). and refilled. We had a spot of near rain about 3:30pm, I’d call it heavy sprinkles and took our ponchos off again about 20 minutes later. It was warm hiking and too hot to leave them on before the cold front came through. We passed the old Battery Rock leg intersection about as it was getting late evening and only having 2 miles to go, we pushed on getting into High Knob campground after dark about 6:30pm. (with rain starting to fall).

Lake Tecumseh
Someone’s lost coffee cup

We were quite willing to pitch our tents, but JoJo insisted we take a cabin and after not much persuasion we accepted. Let me say JoJo knows me and she has always been like that. If you are her friend you have a friend for life, but if you drive over 10 miles per hour through her campground, heaven help you. End of Day 1.

R2R Thru Hike day 2We headed West in perfect conditions, passing Buzzards Point, Garden of the Gods and arriving at Rocky Top. (a little short of One Horse Gap) one of the nicest places to camp in the Shawnee. It is set up to be a big camping area and we were lucky to find it empty on a weekend. Earlier in the day we stopped in at the church at Herod and they have a pavilion right off the trail that has a refrigerator stocked with snacks, water bottles (lots) and on top, lots of provisions like bandaides, sterno and even a can of coleman stove propane! I got some protein bars, a bottle of water (cold!) and one of the 2 bags of Doritos! (Joe got the other) THANKS! I should mention that up to this point, I found on the trail, a bic lighter to replace the one I accidentally left at home, a bag of dorito ranch style, a pair of sunglasses, a can of garbanzo beans (left it sitting on the side for someone else. A can of sweet peas (left it too) 2 bandannas (left) They say the trail will provide.

Quail Habitat
You MUST go through the gate to the right, then follow the tire tracks curving left (North) Only someone’s silver i on bottom of gate pole to help. No blaze’s

On the new reroute down trail 070, we came upon a campfire still burning in what is actually a dry woods. Dangerous, but we didn’t carry water to spare. I had a bottle and a half and there would be no more until tomorrow on this ridge so we had to leave it. It was probably ok, but unlike in the movies, there wasn’t a heap of dirt nearby to throw on it. It was getting late then, we had to move on. We set up camp with the sun setting and after the Early evening yipping of the coyotes, (they all go at it for 5 minutes as the sun sets and are silent the rest of the night.) we went to sleep. That was about a 16-17 mile day I think.

Day 3. R2R Thru Hike. Today Eddyville.

We headed South along the trail hoping to fill our water bottles at a stream along the way. It was dry the first place we crossed, but running the next place. So we didn’t run out. After the long, long hike North we ended up at the horse camp south of Bethesda Church where a guy at the camp had told me it was ok to get water out of the blue tap which was city water. So we filled up there instead of a mile further at Lusk Creek.

I was doing 17-18 miles a day in Crocs, but my furthest forward toe was really getting bruised badly on both feet. Not much forward brunt force cushioning.

We crossed Lusk creek a couple of times then eventually made our way to Circle B and Lusk Creek Trailhead. We could have filled up at the last crossing with the beaver dam-

Bowed tree crossing, now with more beaver.
Owl Bluff

but it was just a few miles to Eddyville and Shotgun Eddys which was open late on Sun Night. I managed to run low on water and asked a couple people standing at the entrance of Circle B if they had a faucet we could get water at. They gave us a choice of bottled water and we both took one. We both ordered the Eddy Burger and fries and a large coke. I had that guzzled before a couple minutes were up and I ordered a pitcher, Joe ordered one of Sprite. I drank all of mine, then got a glass of ice water to go. We decided to just walk the few blocks to the community pavilion and spread out our sleeping bags under it. At about 3:30 am I felt the flutters from my heart. I checked my pulse and it was racing. Just like 9-10 months ago. Just like last time I didn’t feel bad, and I really wanted to continue. I said , “Joe ?” “Yeah?” “I hate to ruin your day, but I need to call 911 and go to a hospital.” I called and told them I had A fib and needed to get to a hospital. We would meet them at the Eddyville P.O. a couple blocks away. The Pope County ambulance service was dissolved on Sun. This was now Monday and they had to dispatch one from another county.

R2R the Hospital part. What happened after I left Eddyville.

So we waited at the Eddyville P.O. The first guy to show was a volunteer with the Eddyville FD I think. He may be the guy who was on his way to Shotgun Eddys for breakfast and I think he gave Joe a ride there after I left. Some local EMT’s also showed up and I told them about the local policeman over at Makanda that was going to take me into custody while I was mowing the trail and how he didn’t have a hat, but did have a badge and he had to borrow my phone to take my picture and send it to his station, and I hoped this ambulance service from another county was better than that. We all had a good laugh, and I was feeling perfectly fine. So after quite awhile the male EMT says “Here they come!” I look and say, “Oh great. They have a headlamp out.” which was true. The female EMT tried to cover her face. So I got in, laid down on the gurney, they strapped me in, asked which Hospital I wanted to go to. I said the closest to Mt. Vernon. The trip there was smooth as silk and before I would have guessed we were pulling into the hospital. The driver was very good I’ll have to give him credit. So I get into the emergency room and they do their stuff, ask their questions and hook all their EKG stuff up. They go to get an IV in and due to my dehydration, they can’t find a vein. The ambulance guys had already tried without success. They poked all the usual spots and one nurse finally got one crossways on the bottom of my left wrist.

They gave me some slowdown medicine and my heartbeat “converted” to normal about 12:30. Now my best buddy Randal and my wife had been there quite awhile and Only 1 could come in at a time, the other had to wait out side and it be came clear I wasn’t coming home that day, and I wasn’t going to croak so they headed back home to give me some rest. Well, it turned out that I also had developed “Rhabdomyolysis”-“Rhabdomyolysis can be a life-threatening condition caused by muscle breakdown and muscle death. This dangerous muscle damage can result from dehydration, overexertion, trauma, toxic substances or disease. As muscle cells disintegrate, they release a protein called myoglobin into the blood. The kidneys are responsible for removing this myoglobin from the blood so urine can flush it out of the body. In large quantities, myoglobin can damage the kidneys. If the kidneys cannot get rid of the waste fast enough, kidney failure and death can occur.”

So that is actually why I was in the Hospital 3 days. They were pumping Saline solution into me constantly and not much was coming out the first day. Then I had to use that glorified jar every hour when I started getting better. I wasn’t a very good patient to visit. Thank Goodness Paula had brought me a package of 8 body washing premoistened towels because when they released me after 3 days, the last time I had a shower was that night at JoJo’s Horse Camp and there was no soap then. Paula didn’t need to come the second day because I wasn’t going to be released anyway, after 2.5 days in that same bed unable to hardly move I was going to leave that 3rd day no matter what it took. The Dr. told me I was going home about 10am but it was going to be a couple more hours. I had no problem with that but thank goodness I had a phone and a charger for entertainment.

I will say that in hindsight, it was actually a lucky thing that I had the Afib that night because we were going to be in the woods past Gum Springs trailhead out of phone service the next night when the rhabdo would have worsened. I might have been in a lot worse shape with a lot harder evacuation than in the middle of a town. I also might have needed dialysis and gotten kidney damage. I never had heard of rhabdomyolysis, and I’ve strained myself this hard plenty of times but I realize that I got lucky and I’ll dial it back from here on in.

Strangely I didn’t take but a couple of photos in the room, but after the nurse and doctor saw my feet after the 35 miles of mud and dust on the trail wearing crocs, I got an hour soak in scalding hot water with a LOT of iodine. It gave me a nice tan.