So I had some time to spare Friday and decided I wanted to go trail running. It was a little after 2 PM and I figured by the time I got ready to mountain bike it would be too late, being that it starts to get dark around 4:30 this time of year. I threw on some clothes and headed for the trails.
Since the Federal Wilderness areas are off limits to bikes they are naturally my favorite places to run, and when I say run what I really mean to say is less of a run and more of a fat man’s shuffle. I decided on the fly to go to Indian Kitchen, one of the deepest canyons on Lusk Creek. I was wondering about driving in the back way, which shows up on the map, but I’d never explored to see if it was actually there. Shortly after passing the road that I was pretty sure would take me to Indian Kitchen, “the back way” I saw a guy on a 4 wheeler picking up trash off the road with a tricked out 5 foot grabbing pole so he wouldn’t have to get off the seat. He looked like he would know a thing or two.
I stopped beside this guy and asked if the road back there went to Indian Kitchen. The man took a good look at my clean Honda Civic and my funny cap and he said, “Son, I don’t want to sound like a smart-aleck but you can get wherever you want to go from here.” So I explained I knew where the Indian Kitchen trailhead was, but I was wondering if that road connected. He answered, “Yeah the road connects, but we’ve been trying to get the bridge fixed for years, you’ll never make it in that car.”
So that’s what I thought, sure there is a road there, but you need a monster truck to get through it, so now I need to drive the normal way to Indian Kitchen and I need to get going because the daylight, but as I get ready to thank him, he asks, “Do you ride or hike.” I answer back that I hike, and ride, but I’m running tonight, because I didn’t bring my bike. “I ain’t talking about bikes, I’m talking about riding horses,” he said.
“Nope, no horses, couldn’t afford to feed one,” I say with a laugh. He didn’t seem to think that was funny.
“We’re getting more and more bikes out here in the wilderness,” he says while shaking his head.
“Well, I’m running out of daylight I better get going,” I say.
“Where you from,” he asks.
“Harrisburg,” I reply, which was about 13 minutes down the highway.
“Well, you’re not traveling to far to get to the wilderness,” he said, which I thought was funny, especially how he kept mentioning wilderness. Even though Lusk creek is technically a wilderness area I don’t really think of as such.
“Well look son, have you ever been to Millstone Bluff,” he asks.
“Yeah, its been awhile,” I answer back.
“Well they’ve got a real nice paved path up to the bluff, easy to follow,” he says.
“Yeah, I’m going to Indian Kitchen,” I said.
“Well let me ask you, what kind of phone do you have,” he asked.
“Umm… I shrugged, I don’t know,” I answered. With the truth that I didn’t have a phone not something I wanted to get into.
“Well you need to get you a Verizon phone, it’s much easier for us to find you when you have a Verizon phone. We do alot of search and rescue when folks come out to the wilderness,” he said.
“Allrighty, thanks a bunch,” I said as I drove off amused by the 5 minute conversation.
In a few minutes I was at the Indian Kitchen trailhead, I took a cursory glance at the map and took off down the trail. In 24 minutes I was at the rocky bluffs and took some time to look around. On the way back I decided to try another trail which I though the map said would return to the road about half a mile from where I parked. It was a few minutes after 4 and I was getting just a bit worried. My trusty GPS said I wasn’t going towards the road, so I made a command decision to bushwhack.
One of the best parts of the forest in winter is how open everything is, but still it was hard to keep a straight line, the sun had set but there was plenty of light and some orange in the west. I checked my GPS every few minutes and saw that I was moving generally west. I wondered if without my GPS would I be needing search and rescue, would I be needing it even with my GPS?
I made it back to the road and jogged the final mile back to the car in twilight thinking about Mr. Search and Rescue. In my mind I’m a local, Shawnee forest dweller. In his mind I was a city slick’n, bike riding, fancy cap wearing, city boy that he was probably going to have to go rescue.
Hope I don’t ever prove him right.