The Adventure Hiking Trail provided me with some unique challenges during my first solo backpack this weekend. I couldn’t anticipate all of what was in front of me, but I did research the trail as extensively as possible. It is a 22 mile loop around O’Bannon Woods State Park. A big shout to Ron White of the Ohio Valley Backpackers for the heads up on the trail head parking, recommendations for water caches, and some other general stuff! The Hoosier Hiker Council website was a great resource as well with links to a few good maps of the trail.
I had never hiked a trail where I had to cache water and was a little nervous that my cache would disappear before I got to it! Didn’t happen, my water was waiting for me!
This trail is in southern Indiana, which has a Karst topography. This topography includes highly soluble rocks such as limestone. There are many underground drainage opportunities, in addition to caves and sinkholes (of which I saw several). The water just doesn’t hang around on top, so all the creek beds are dry. Oh you might find a small pool here and there, but not nearly enough to keep one hydrated. Thus the water cache.
Friday night I checked into the Forest Office, then stashed water at two trail crossings, the crossing on Cold Friday Road and the one on Old Forest Road. Driving down Cold Friday Road was an adventure unto itself! Gravel, rutted in spots, and with one place where the road fords the creek (must happen only in a big storm because it was just a low bridge when I went over). As I placed my gallon of water, with my name and date of pickup labeled clearly, a rumble of thunder sent a chill up my spine. Okay, good enough, behind a tree…now for cache number two! Old Forest Road was a regular paved road. What a relief! I pulled off the road, thunder and clouds rolling, threw my gallon up in the woods and ran for it! I swear, I love and I hate thunderstorms and it all depends on where I am when they hit.
Anyway, water cached successfully so I headed back to Corydon, Indiana where I had a room at the historic Kintner House Inn. No hiker trash hotel for me! The woman who owns place is super accommodating and I recommend it to anyone coming to this part of the country.
They made me a special early breakfast so I could get to the trail early. It was a decent day for the middle of summer, mid-80s, low humidity, and no storms! My car parked at the 462/Old Forest Road lot (space for maybe 3 creatively parked vehicles), I did a last minute check of gear, then headed in a counter-clockwise (west) direction headed for the Ohio River Shelter.
Test #1: Do you like spiders? Or rather do you like spider webs…in your face, in your hair, draping from your nose and your cheeks to your ears and your chin to your chest? I looked like a freaking drum major marching down the trail raising first one hiking pole and then the other in quick succession in order to catch as many of the webs as possible before they hit my face once again. Every once in a while, I’d get lulled in a false sense of security, then WHOP, right in the face, spider on my eyeglasses, ugh. After about the billionth spider web, I gave up. I just started to plow right through them, with my lips tightly pressed together. NOTE TO SELF: Buy a hat with a brim and put mosquito netting over it.
Test #2: Do you like wet feet? My feet were wet from dew in about 30 minutes of starting my hike and they didn’t dry out all day.
Test #3 Do you like to bushwhack? Because if you don’t, then stay off the trails in southern Indiana in the summer. All those winter pictures of the Adventure Trail that I found online…yeah, totally get it now. In general, I backpack at an average pace of 2 mph. It took me 5 hours to go 5.5 miles!!! Holy moly! When I reached the Iron Bridge, I sat down to have lunch just shaking my head. Was the rest of the trail going to be like this? Bushwhacking takes a lot out of you! On the positive side, the trail is extremely well marked! After I would fight through another bunch of overgrown grasses, briars, and young tulip poplars I was immediately rewarded with a trail marking. The emotional gratification of that trail marking cannot be overstated here!
The trail improved after the Iron Bridge, so I was able to make faster forward progress, which put my head back in the right place. I followed a nice wide fire road from the Iron Bridge up to the Horseman’s campground. This was a planned water stop for me. While at the campground, I also took the opportunity to wash the spider webs out of my bandannas and clean my glasses which had so many webs crisscrossing them it was hard to see! Felt like a new woman!
The rest of the trail to the Ohio River Shelter was lovely. Well marked, well maintained. I reached my destination at 3:30pm. Shortly, afterwards, two guys came in from the other direction and we had a fun conversation about what we each had experienced thus far. They were out for a long day hike. In fact, I had just passed their water cache, which they had put in a tote bag, and chained to a tree…omg! I told them, “I was wondering about that bag and thought, wow, there must be something pretty special in that bag. I might have just found a use for my pocket knife…” They were good guys! Terrible, I can’t remember their names now…I’ll just call them the Evansville crew.
The Evansville crew gave me some good info on the trail ahead. There is more bushwhacking and the last two miles (their first two miles) was like my first 5.5. They also said, “There will be a place where you literally can’t see which way to go. Go straight ahead. It won’t look like it, but go straight ahead” I gave them my map and they pointed approximately where they thought that place was located. God, I felt like I was in Hunger Games.
The Ohio River Shelter is a popular spot. I was visited by a bunch of trail riders, a fellow backpacker from Indianapolis who I continued to leapfrog with all weekend, and a nice family who were taking their kids on their first campout. I tented, Adorable Family got the shelter, and I was totally okay with that! The shelters along the Adventure Trail are nice, but too closed in for my liking. They seem dark and dank. I preferred my tent.
It was a beautiful first night out, with a bright moon shining down on me.
The next morning I was up and on the trail before anyone in the Adorable Family was stirring. It was going to be very hot today and I was hoping I could finish hiking at about 2 pm. First stop was Cold Friday Road to get my first water cache. Yay! There it was, waiting for me! I filled up my 3-liter bladder and 1.5 liter bottle, then drank what was left.
While I was there, my Indianapolis buddy came by. This is when I found out he had not cached water. He had a filter and thought he would be able to get water on the trail….oh, buddy. He started up the next hill and I followed after smashing the now empty gallon jug and attaching to my pack. I caught up with him again, sitting on a slab of limestone in the middle of an almost dry creek. He had found a small pool at which to filter water. Thank goodness! I continued on up to the Homestead Shelter for a lunch break.
Indianapolis buddy passed me while I was munching away. However, it wasn’t long before I caught up to him again. Honestly, I was kinda worried about him. He definitely was not drinking enough water, but I didn’t have any extra to offer him, but would have given him some if he had asked. The bushwhacking had come back full force today and it was freaking hot, like 95 degrees.
We hiked together then until we reached the Indian Creek Shelter, my stopping point. I know my limits…and heat is one of them. The bushwhacking was a trial for me and for Indianapolis buddy.
Ohhh…I forgot Test #4!
Test #4 Do you like climbing over blowdowns? If so, then you would love this trail! I lost count at 50.
It was nice to have to someone to share the bushwhacking and blow down hopping experiences with, for sure. I mean, here I am, in the middle of bushes that are taller than me, and I have to decide what to do when I don’t immediately see a blaze. It’s unnerving. I had to backtrack at one point to regroup and think it through. God, and it was so hot! I was so glad to stop hiking that day! Poor Indianapolis had to hike out…5 miles and less than a liter of water.
I took a look inside the shelter, immediately saw spiders. I sat down at the picnic table, immediately had a teeny little tick crawling up my leg. What is this place?????!!!!! Ummm…I think I’ll tent again. When I rolled up my tent the next morning, ants everywhere…I knocked off as many as I could…the rest have met with an unfortunate demise within the folds of Big Agnus.
Officially ready to end my first solo backpack, I headed down the trail immediately meeting my first blow down of the day. Despite the blow downs, this section from Indian Creek Shelter to Old Forest Road is definitely the prettiest section I hiked.
There was more bushwhacking, and it took a while to get to the road, but it wasn’t as bad as day 1 or 2. I had my last water cache at the road. However, when I exited the woods the weather had taken a turn. Thunderstorm was on the way! The wind picked up and I left my cache and took off down the road to my car (1.5 miles away). Walking as fast as I could, I watched the clouds blacken and start swirling around. Thunderstorms in Indiana, oh god, yeah, great, a fitting end.
Test #5 Do you like hiking in Thunderstorms? Me either. After I passed a field of cows, I started looking for houses. The sky was seriously black now and really scary. I pulled in to a house and knocked on the door. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Carol K. for going out of her way and giving me a ride back to my car. Whew! That was a close one!
This trail tested me and I rose to the occasion, but I am paying an itchy price. Chiggers, poison ivy, ticks…and despite my using copious amounts of bug spray, my waistline is covered with red welts where I plucked off one little bugger (could have been a tick, could have been a chigger).
So while I dab on another layer of Calamine and pop another Benadryl…Hike On!