The trek began as we tied our noble black steed at the trail head. We call him "Ford." We donned our gear and wondered if these were really our summer packs. They felt heavy. We dropped back into the 18th century. As we had ridden through the night, we hit the trail in the early morning. As we started in, we heard the water sounds of the Castle Rock River. We also heard gunfire. Was it friendly fire? Cautiously, we proceeded, alert for hostiles. Ah yes, a figure on the path. He looked surprised to see us. Or was it our manner of dress which drew the look? He was dressed peculiarly but cradled his gun as we approached. He was not a wordy man, but we did exchange greetings. He smirked. Bill kept a watchful eye over his shoulder to make sure his intentions were good.
With the river on our right and the the rock face
on our left, we decided to do some exploring. We turned to the rock
face and began a short ascent. We found a rock house with evidence
of the previous occupant. The fire pit had stone-cold, charred
wood and a leaf bed was noted. Trouble must have found the previous
occupant as clothing was left behind.
Once on the trail again, a beautiful brown salamander with orange spots greeted us. Not far down the trail was a wee, little snake. I decided to try to pick it up to show Bill. I have and irrational fear of snakes which I'm trying to shed. At its wriggling at my touch, I decided to spare us both the ordeal and let it slither into the weeds at path's edge. Onward, across a couple little streams and the creek that "can be crossed if you really want to" (Mitch's direction) and to the HILL, Kentucky hill that is. We took several stops to get up the hill. This was an effort to keep our heart rates under 300 and our pounding hearts in our chest. Coughing and gasping all the way up, we finally crested the edge of the rock castle.
Ahhh, home (huff puff), sweet home. Everything was as we had left it in March except Jerry's cup was moved to cairn. Maybe the finder thought it was dead. It looks sad. It contents were gone. After a reasonably long recuperation time, the cairn which Thom Osborne made from the fire pit of the March trek was converted back into a firepit. We looked at each other, gathered strength and started back part way down the hill to collect fire wood. Huff puff, Why did we decide to camp up here?
Fire wood collected, we headed for the spring which flows from the rocks in its own little rock house. Thank goodness it was running and making happy water sounds. Plink, plink, plunk. Cool water and so clear. Ahhh. We collected water in the kettle Bill had lugged in and up the hill. By this point, we could begin to think about drinking anything hot. After Bill used his master fire-starting skills, be brewed up a big pot of coffee for us and those who followed.
Light was waning. I began to wonder if the others would find us before dark. I also wondered if we would live through it if they did. The original plan was to camp at the bottom of the hill. Mitch and Amy were the first ones in and made it up the hill well in the 88 degree temperature and high humidity. Jerry and Spike came next. Spike made it up in reasonably good shape. Jerry lagged behind a little and looked more like Bill and I had a couple hours earlier. Next came Bill Hines. We never have to worry about our back trail when Bill brings up the rear. It's so good to see such good friends again even when sweat is pouring off their bodies. This is when the stripping began. Off came the hats, packs, canteens, shooting pouches and horns, mocs, leggings and finally, after Jerry reminded us "we're all family here," off came the men's shirts. What a display of white, white skin. These chests haven't seen much sun that was for sure. Although I jest, everyone who trekked that hill in that temperature seriously needed to cool down.
Darkness fell. Gun fire was heard in the
distance. Return fire
issued from camp so signaling the way in- and up. It was Chris.
He reported he did a little squirrel hunting on the way in and had dropped
his pack. That meant he had to go back to get it and darkness gathered
faster that he anticipated. He stashed his canteen and squirrel in
and obvious place, easy to find on his way back in. In the shadows,
it was missed. He was glad for shared water at the hilltop after
making the treacherous ascent in the dark while directions were being shouted
from atop. The fire, coffee and tea were enjoyed by all as the evening
matured. We were all entertained by the "Spike and Jerry show," again.
Everyone picked on everyone in good jest. Sometime, in the middle
of the night, Spike and Jerry started again!?
Trying to wake up, I wondered what prompted the encore. The laughing came on the heels of the attack of the Marauding Turtle!! The story gets kind of confused here. It was pitch dark. Chris hears, a small rustle in the leaves by his bed. Another rustle----and ANOTHER CREEPING EVER CLOSER!!!!! He wondered, "What's that? A snake, no! IT'S A MARAUDING TURTLE!!!" Okay, he didn't report that, exactly, but the effect was the same. Struggling to get a candle lit to find what was making the noise with his knife poised to strike, he dimly makes out the marauding turtle looks remarkably like his shooting pouch sliding down the hill. Poor Chris. No quarter was given.
After the laughter subsided, all found a couple more hours of sleep.
Day broke and the fire was fed followed closely by the rest of us. Tasty bacon was fixed by Jerry who graciously shared with all and there was coffee. Everyone decided what he wanted to do for the day. John came in and joined the group and did his own exploring of the area. Chris decided to do a little hunting (watching out for turtles all the while). He eventually crossed the river. Jerry and Spike recovered from the arduous trek in and cooked again--all day. Thanks again. Bill Hines followed the escarpment above the trail where we came in. Spike did take enough time off to find a little waterfall. Mitch and Amy crossed the river to explore more rock houses. Bill and I followed the escarpment up river. It was humbling. The rocks are as big as houses. I admire the tenacity of the huge old trees which cling to nearly nothing. We found spectacular spider webs glistening in the sunshine and sunbeams through the mists of the trees. We also found more rock houses but none as fine as our quarters for the weekend. All came back to Jerry's big pot of community stew. Spike donated venison. We ended up eating 2 pots of stew that day. Kitchen duty must have been tough. The outdoors surely stimulates one's appetite. Maybe the stories of what was found and how far we went were exaggerated some but that's what good camp stories are made of. No more marauding turtles anyway. The Marine, Navy, Navy "wannabe," Army and Air Force did verbal battle among themselves. Sniping back and forth, the Marine took most of the flack but came through the battle with applause. He was the newbe to the group. Initiation. The civilians were safe. Darkness moved in. It comes fast in them hollers. "Our" rock castle forms a ledge so it's nowhere to be strolling in the dark. Bill Hines gave us small lanterns made from cans. He fixed bales onto them and they work remarkably well lending a seemingly huge amount of light for their size......little but mighty. As night deepened, dark it was. Pitch black after the last candle was extinguished. The leaf bed felt really good. Sunday morning brought some sore muscles to which I was able to render aid. Hence, Chris elevated my rank to "patron saint." I wonder if I will hold the status after he reads this. We all ate more Spike and Jerry bacon and our cold breakfast food and moved out. The trek out was beautiful. The river sparkled and sang as we trekked along it. More salamanders scurrying on the forest path. Also, we enjoyed each other's company while trekking out. As we arrived at the parking lot and into the 21st century, our noble steeds were waiting to carry us home. Although we were sorry to leave the company of our friends, we know we will see them just down the path.