Illinois River to River Trail 2018

Knowing the heat would be a huge factor; we left early and headed to Village Creek outside of Forest City, Arkansas with hopes to arrive before the humidity set in.  We arrived on July 4th to find the visitor center open and manned. The hostess checked us in, even reviewing my coggins and looking at Cisco to be sure it was the correct horse….Good show Arkansas! We had reserved site 93 at the suggestion of the gal I spoke to when I had called in and it was perfect – large, flat and Cisco was within view. The barns are all in the center of what looked to be 30 or more sites, some rather small. But, the barns have lights, operating ceiling fans and although they advertise 10 by 10 stalls the one Cisco was in was actually 11 by 11 and I believe they all are the same. Nice set up with a covered manure bin at each barn. We settled in and again a ranger came by to check my coggins! Only one other equestrian camper was there. The trail map showed there to be 28 miles of trail and the last time I was there (several years ago) the trails I rode were rocky but beautiful. I didn’t ride this time. We were up and loaded by 6:30 to try to beat the heat heading to Eddyville Illinois. After crossing the Ohio River from Paducah, Ky we left Interstate 24 on the first exit (37) and travelled straight up 145 catching Eddyville on 147 and then on to Bear Branch Horse Camp. I was told Bear Branch is the second oldest horse camp in the state with High Knob being the oldest. I chose Bear Branch exactly because of the off reviews….I felt it would be more relaxing with a dog and had hopes that I could find a patch of grass to set up Cisco’s electric pen. They also told me they had a tongue pulled trailer we could use to transport Cisco to and from the trail heads and not have to fight taking our big rig. (I try to come back to base camp every night possible as that makes my transport buddy the happiest and you got to try to take care of a fellow who would sit around waiting for us for hours with no complaints!) There are a couple of other camps close by but each had strict rules about dogs, pens and on and on….If I didn’t have a dog I might have gone to Little Lusk Creek Lodge just up the road. It’s a nice facility, great gal who tries to oblige and it sits on rolling hills overlooking a lake…High Knob was very nice but full and very busy, not relaxing because of it as was Hayes Canyon  which had very small sites and trailers tight against each other. Okay, as to Bear Branch Horse Camp….the bad reviews are not without merit. The camp is very run down with so much work needed that it makes me tired just to look around. They have a grand old lodge not being used, a large barn with stalls in several stages of disrepair and I walked thru the shower/restrooms and was concerned about it’s integrity. But, the gals who met with me were very sincere, showed great attention to my requests and did everything to accommodate me. I felt at home and knew that living/camping here would ease the tension of being away for all of us, Cisco and Bo included.  Our site was level and Cisco had a nice pen in the shade. The trailer was hooked up to electric and water was right at each site, many with sewer as well! There is a   round pen that is oversize and shaded. The gals allowed me to set up a nice mini pasture for Cisco where he could graze and see other horses and so we’re comfortable!  We spent the following day checking out access to trailheads. The trailer Bear Branch had made available for me was a very old model with a good floor but no safety features, the coupler didn’t have the usual drive that locked it, the walls looked like they had seen the best days years ago and I was just too scared to put Cisco in it. They knew their trailer and how it went but I didn’t and wasn’t going to take a chance on it. So that left us with 2 choices: use the big rig to try to get to the trailheads or ask Roy to bring our little trailer (11 hours of driving one way) then we would have 2 rigs to get home and I didn’t want Burton to have to drive all that way…The big rig it is….we would have to break camp every night, hook up the truck, haul to and from the trailheads and then get the rig set back up for the night…Ugh!

Trail day 1

           Elizabethtown to High Knob was the section we were to take on first. About 18 miles but not too much gain on elevation and only a mile or so of road. I saddled up at the Ohio River, Burton took pictures and we headed north up Watson Lane….approaching the single track I realized that I only carried one extra boot and the rocks were merciless on his Easy Boots. At  our first climb I looked down to see that he had already lost one and now if I didn’t find it I would not have a spare…only 3 miles out….no good. So I jumped down, put on the spare and walked all the way back to the road…no boot….darn…I decided to continue to walk going back to where I realized we had a boot missing and darn if that errant boot wasn’t right where I got off! I had not sealed the Velcro tight enough and it just slipped off like a slipper! The boot was in excellent shape and we were good to go again.  The brush was encroaching on the trail as if the trail crews hadn’t been out but the footing was safe and the trail clearly defined. Then we hit Lake Tecumsah and the whole world must have dumped all the unwanted trees from every-where onto the trail. Tall trees, some 30 feet were unceremoniously uprooted and cast about the trail having me lose any hope of staying on it. I just knew that this was an isolated situation and we bush wacked our way around hundreds of deadfall for a quarter mile…So glad that was over and again we were on a nice foot path. I checked our boots and all were secure so we hustled along…..for a minute or so! Then again another set of fallen trees crisscrossing the trail and no evidence of trail anywhere, in fact I couldn’t even see the ground because of so many intertwined trees.  Surely, this had been a big wind event and the rest of the trail would be better….Cisco worked his way over 30 inch trees with one foot only to have to pick up his other foot to climb over another huge tree and on and on he labored until he was caught….both front legs were over the big hugger but he couldn’t get his hind legs off the ground….I jumped off to find his heels caught by a smaller (smaller only because they were next to these monstrosities)…I would be an hour sawing him free if he couldn’t do it himself….I climbed over the one under his belly and stumbled and climbed over the next one so I could look at him and ask one more time for him to give it a try….I did and just as he made this heroic effort I fell backwards over one of those $$$$XXXX logs, right in Cisco’s path. He made a kind of contortion with his whole body right next to me only grazing my boob as he landed….Yes, it hurt but tears came to my eyes as I realized how much effort he put into not crushing me at the last moment. My eyes are watering as I write this….what a great horse I have the privilege of company.  Bo came running over offering his support and I readjusted mine and cursed the field of trees in front of us. At this point we had come too far as I would not ask Cisco to go back through that mess…we had to go on. Things got ever so slightly better and we were able to detour thru the brush (sometimes for quite a stretch) but forward always. We were able to find plenty of water and when we finally got to Bassett Road I actually appreciated the gravel surface! Then back into the forest and we continued to fight for each mile…Rough going but better….Cisco must have heard the truck and trailer as he hurried to reach Karber’s Ridge just as Burton was driving by! Tough first day!

Trail Day 2

High Knob to Herod was the scheduled ride but I met a well-informed gal Loretta Wheeler (who had ridden the trail 3 times) attending a mule breaking clinic put on by Bear Branch and she conveyed that there was a nice new trailhead (Golden Circle Trailhead) just up and across the road from the Garden of the Gods and that way we wouldn’t have to drive back to High Knob. That appealed to me and we found the trailhead just as she described it. I saddled up Cisco, told Burton that if the trail was a dead fall mess I was coming back so please wait an hour or so….It didn’t take long for the first tree to obscure the trail but we were able to get by it. We rode towards the R to R Trail to try to make the connection and got almost to it when there was more dead fall. I just wasn’t up to the fight so we headed back and took a more northern trail to Garden of the Gods. Within 30 minutes the trail was blocked at a cliff over hang and drop off. I decided that Burton and I could go to see the Garden of the God and I would try to ride the valley R to R Trail in the next section tomorrow. The Garden of the Gods was certainly a must see and although Burton had trouble with the walk he gamed it all the way along the Observation Trail. A kind fellow took our picture and we ambled back to the truck.

Trail Day 3

The trail goes on a slick, blacktop road from above Herod to a mile or so past on Williams Hill Road a very dangerous road with blind curves and no shoulder. Burton drove us past the worst of it and we unloaded at a bridge where there was a bit of visibility. We left Williams Hill Road and started the climb following the locals’ connector trail to R to R, going from 500 feet to gain 700 in short order. The trail had been brushed out and was easy to follow with fresh signs and little dead fall. The rock formations were inspiring and frequent and I enjoyed the trail. After 4 or 5 miles we got to One Horse Gap and it looked foreboding so I opted not to ride up it as it really wasn’t on the trail. I had seen pictures of riders on it but if Cisco slipped and got stuck few would be able to help. I rode on hoping I could talk to some people who rode it and get more information so I could ride it confidently another time. We traveled another 3 or 4 miles and got to a huge tree over the trail. Cisco and I circled down the mountain and then up above the tree and couldn’t find the trail….we were heading straight so it had to be on the other side of the tree but it wasn’t. We circled back to where we stopped and still no signs of the trail. Time to take out the map…well, the trail was right there but over our shoulder…I hadn’t seen that it was a very tight switch back and I kept looking in our travel direction….sure enough right up the hill was the trail….on we went now knowing that we were only a couple of miles from our set meeting place with Burton. Up the hill we got to a brand new trailhead that looked like no one ever used it….across the lot the trail continued on passing an old cemetery with Cisco picking up his pace…He must have seen the trailer.

Trail Day 4

Last night we were able to camp at One Horse Gap by invitation of the owner and his wife. A beautiful ranch sitting at the top of a hill and just off the River To River Trail. Cisco had nice pen loaded with grass and I was able to move him 6 times into different pens so he ate all night. The ranch had some fine, gaited horses all fit and looking well taken care of. The lodge had showers, restrooms and a big dance hall…Once a year they hosted a fall ride for a week and had entertainment and guided rides…A great option for those who still have a real job but want to see some of the best Shawnee has to offer. I rode out hoping to ride to Bear Branch through the Lusk Creek Wilderness. After only 3 miles the trail had been washed into Little Lusk Creek and we were on the high side so I bushwacked through to where I thought the crossing was and it was clear that once horses had crossed at that location. We waded in with me watching Bo immediately start to swim….Cisco cautiously followed but when the creek got the bottom of my boots I opted not to continue…it just didn’t feel right. Across the creek was a very steep back and a bit of an area where horses “may” have climbed but it was riddled with roots and rocks and looked very dangerous. If I continued and was wrong Cisco would have to come down through that and I just wasn’t willing to take a chance on getting him hurt…We turned around and luckily Burton hadn’t left One Horse Gap Ranch. I texted Bob the owner of the ranch and he responded that I was correct and we did have to climb that deadly wall of roots and then go back into the creek and climb out once again! So glad I didn’t continue….tomorrow I would ride in from the west back to Little Lusk Creek and still see the same terrain but not expose my wonder mount to such peril (at least, not on purpose!)

Trail Day 5

I couldn’t wait to get on the trail and head back into Lusk Creek Wilderness. The trail showed heavy horse use and was easy to follow. We first came thru the Lusk Creek Trailhead across from Circle B Horse Camp and then into the forest, crossing a few small creeklets and passing some interesting trails that intersected with the R to R. If I have time I would love to ride them while we are in Illinois but the main objective was the R to R Trail so we continued on towards Lusk Creek, no not the Little Lusk Creek where the crossing was so ominous but the bigger version! I have to admit that I was apprehensive.  The footing was well defined but very rocky with steps, and drop offs making Cisco work very hard. On the cliff side of Lusk Creek a huge tree had fallen right across the trail jetting out over the trail into the canyon below…It looked impassible but Cisco was pulling upward, me…I was evaluating whether we had a show stopper or not. I have to give Cisco credit as he must have seen the faint hoof tracks which climbed the rock cliff and seemed to go under an overhang.  I tied him up and climbed up to find that we might get through without me having to take the saddle off. All right Cisco you asked for it…He just marched right up the rocky cliff, bent around the tree and narrowly went under the cliff overhang…Good show Cisco…I might not have tried it! Next we had to cross Lusk Creek at Bowed Tree Crossing and it was a like crossing Billy Creek on Trail 5 at Cedar Lake! No problem what so ever! Taking a nice long drink Cisco picked up his head and started. We continued on for another 3 miles enjoying the trail in spite of the numerous dead fall to arrive at 700 elevation and the trail dropped pretty fast down to Little Lusk Creek at 460’ but I didn’t ask Cisco to go down knowing that we would climb right back up. We turned around and headed back to Bear Branch Camp finding the challenges somewhat easier the second time!

Trail Day 6

From Eddyville to Trig Tower was our intended section and I was so looking forward to riding Hayes Canyon once again and seeing how we would do on all the other trail impediments that might be between. Burton dropped us off on Washington Street Road and we headed into the forest with Hayes Creek on our right. The scenery was lovely and there were signs of horse travel along the way comforting our travel. Lots of rock formations and a horse camp called Petticoat Junction but no petticoats! We came up to Crow Knob – a nice horse camp and look out. At Cedar Grove Road crossing Burton met me with water which we didn’t need but a group of gaited riders were just heading onto the trail so Cisco had his first company since we started. They gaited and I didn’t have to ask Cisco as he was doing everything in his power to stay up with them….they hustled along and then they rested…I didn’t see much scenery as I was watching the footing, overhanging trees and Bo. While taking a breather I found out they were from Terra Haute and the fellow leading was a local guide. I was happy to get to ask him a few questions about the Tin Whistle Tunnel under the railroad tracks. He offered that I should take the lower trail at Millstone Lake and not the one that goes over the dam. This was very good advice as I was to find out shortly.   We parted company and I headed to Millstone Lake opting to at least try the upper trail over the dam. What a mistake! The trail was certainly deadly for horses although hikers would be able to get through so we backtracked and followed the lower trail as advised. That part of the trail was deep mud, some of the old road was completely under water but horses had found ways around the worst of it and soon we were at the base of the dam…looking up I realized it was never meant to be for horses…horrifying! We pulled up out of the basin, passing a tunnel that went under the railroad and continued to Tin Whistle, although there had been much written about this tunnel it was one of the least challenging ones Cisco and I had ever been in, I could ride and still have room to stand up in my stirrups! I guess if a train had gone over maybe some unseasoned horses would be a handful but Cisco had been under a railroad trestle when a train went by and although he was very concerned he was a gentleman…from there we were just a bit from Trig Tower where Burton was to pick us up.

Trail Day 7

The heat and humidity was horrible and reported to be well into the 100’s so I opted to ride a short 4 miler – The famous One Horse Gap! The plan was to haul as close to the Gap as possible, ride Cisco up and nosey around and get back to the trailer before 10. We left camp at 6 and thanks to some landscape contractors we found TK Ranch and the closest trailhead off of Dutton Chapel Road. TK Ranch was a nice hillside camp with electric but no water or other services…almost primitive but not quite. The thing about TK Ranch is that once you get there you really don’t want to leave to go anywhere else as just finding it is incredible! Saddled up Cisco was fresh and we motored up the rocky, root strewn trail towards One Horse Gap. I had seen it when we went through but actually riding thru the tiny crevice between two boulders is very interesting. Cisco just treated it like another day in the park and we were on top in seconds, with me watching my legs, thighs, saddlebags and camera! Once on top it was a horse camp with spectacular views and mostly all on rock slabs. We snapped a few pictures and heading down Trail 175 to get to 175A so we could take a different trail back to the trailer. Cisco was game to go back the same way but one look down that gap made me appreciate that we had other options. We followed along the ridge for a mile or so before descending towards the road and the trailer. Cisco’s only concern was the water stuck in the holes of the slabs that looked like giant eyes. I had to call Bo back to give Cisco confidence to pass.     

Trail Day 8 

           Trig Tower from the nice trailhead towards Boot Ranch at Gilead Church Road was a good trail. Overgrown a bit but still well-travelled. The trail followed a very old road almost all the way to Gum Springs Road where it crossed and offered a good opportunity to get water at Gum Springs. It is a big trailhead but it drops off a bit from the main road. Following the main road for just a moment we turned back into the forest and soon followed another old road bed. The grade rose and then dropped into Cedar Creek all the while the footing was very muddy from 4 wheelers who had easy access. Luckily the trail got better as we followed along Cedar Creek. Burton was sitting at the hitching posts right on the trail and road intersection after we passed Boot Ranch.   

Trail Day 9

           Fern Cliff had a big trailhead at it’s southern border. The trail started out very well groomed and wide. We passed a wonderful horse camp with lots of grass in a perfect setting. From there we dropped into the Buck Branch Basin and followed a finger of it for a mile or so. Bo climbed down into the creek and followed us from there until there was no place for himto climb out as the sides were so steep. I wasn’t worried until he found a big hole at the water level and we both knew that it was occupied. I called, whistled and screamed for him and he finally found a way up, much to my relief. Then we headed towards Sullivan Road, water was plentiful but the creek had washed huge gullies that made it difficult to attain. We passed a Fern Cliff Ranger who was extremely nice and complimented him on keeping the trail so nice. The hill to Sullivan Road was difficult but only because it gained so rapidly and we were to turn around and head back as Burton was picking us up at the southern trailhead since the northern one really was nothing more than a pull off for a car or two.

Trail Day 10

           Panther Den to Giant City State Park Horse Camp was our trip this day. Burton dropped us off at the Panther Den Trailhead and we travelled the road for a good bit to try to find the trail but the road gave out prior to hitting the trail and there were several other trails intersecting the main trailhead trail…We finally found a marking saying it was trail 371, not the trail we needed so we continued on until I took out my GPS and cross countryed  to get to trail 001- The River To River Trail…the brush was wicked with lots of thorns but I was able to finally find it but somehow I wasn’t sure which direction to go as there were so many immediate turns, we travelled for a while in one direction only to realize I had guessed wrong. Poor Cisco, he was  ready to march on until we turned back and rode over the same trail again….He hates that…..I reached into my horn bag and gave him a peppermint and it seemed to satisfy him….We crossed a very muddy section at a creek but the area was beautiful, scenic and well worth the misguided trip I had taken. Panther Den Wilderness is a very nice section of trail and I loved it. We left Panther Den to enter Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and I would have thought we entered a jungle. Heavy vines crisscrossed the trail, there were few signs of foot traffic let along horse traffic and very little tread. We mostly guessed where the trail was. Trying to see the direction by sun was impossible because the whole area was so closed in….in a few short years that trail will be totally impassible.  Cisco stopped dead in his track which is so unusual for him that I had to look down to see what the problem was….about 20 or 30 thorn vines had crisscrossed the trail and hemmed us in….I dismounted, broke a few with my hands and realized that would take all day…we had to find a by pass but where…with all those thorns and vines everywhere it seemed impossible…Surely, after all the obstacles we have been thru these vines weren’t going to make us return to the starting trailhead….I wouldn’t hear of it….so we pulled back a 100 ‘ or so and beat our way thru the lightest of the thorns….Cisco is like a bulldozer and as I watched he bulled his way with thorns pulling at his hide, then a huge vine and low limb stopped him. I had to dismount again and try to ease under that mess holding up the vines over the saddle horn. Crab Orchard…I would not be marking my log as a repeat area.  Finally, we circle around and got to Antioch Lane at Antioch Cemetery and I felt Cisco’s nervous energy mount. There was white van parked all way back in here with Missouri license plates. The road into the cemetery was decrepit and it was a wonder that the van could have been driven in at all.  I wish I had taken a quick picture of the license plate but when the back of my neck stiffens and Cisco is in hyper alert I have learned to leave as quickly as possible….We hurried down the old gravel, washed out road and into Giant City State Park. I knew I only had a few miles to go and hadn’t studied the map as I had seen the trails in the park were so well maintained that I thought it would be a piece of cake….no, not true…the very first step into Giant City brought us to a trailhead and no signs, no signs of a trail, just a road and a small pond that had been mowed around….We started out on a westerly direction on a very old road but soon found we weren’t anywhere near the trail so ….you guessed it….we back tracked…took another faint path that had been mowed….back tracked again and finally crossed the little dam that held the pond and there was the trail….no Cisco had little confidence but he trudged on waiting for me to turn him around once again but this time I had it….We were only 2 miles from the wonderful horse camp just off the River to River Trail. The camp had water, electric and vault toilets and lots of grass. Perfect!  We stopped to talk with the park stables manager Ramona and she told us about her friend who could keep Cisco for the night so we could go get our big rig 2 hours away and he would not have to ride in the trailer all that way. So with Cisco dropped off at Jenna Hill’s horse farm we moved the lq trailer to Giant City the next morning.  Giant City had a very relaxing, resort feel to it. We even had dinner at their grand lodge while Cisco enjoyed the lush grass in his 3/4 acre pasture I put up for him. He had no desire to do anything but graze! Dinner was okay but the lodge was spectacular and I had a mango beer that was delis!

Trail Day 11

           Giant City Horse Camp to Alto Pass was the section we were to travel. Saddled and on the trail by 7, we already felt the humidity. This was to be the hottest day of the year so I wanted to get finished as early in the day as possible. We left out of camp following the R to R Trail for 3 miles as it was integrated into the Giant City State Park trail system. The Giant City trails are well maintained and there were only a few blow down but easily passed. The rock formations were worth seeing and I felt so much more could be done to make the system more interesting. Lots of crevices invited exploration but Burton was waiting at the road to pick us up so we didn’t have to travel over the blacktop and railroad. If “I” had anything to do with the horse trail at GC I would add 10 or 15 more miles and make it well worth riders to haul and stay at the wonderful horse camp but having only 12 miles of trail there is at best 2 days riding….still Cisco and I enjoyed the easy footing knowing that the wilderness later today could bring all sorts of challenges.  Burton hauled us to Lirley Trailhead on Rowan Road and he headed to Alto Pass where we were to meet. Cisco hoofed it down the Cedar Lake bottom towards Clay Lick Creek with the elevation dropping from 700’ to 450’ but with adequate switch backs and Cisco was eased to see some signs of horse travel. A few trees slowed us but none were very challenging.  Upon dropping into Clay Lick Creek we found the trail had been washed away and it was even worse than back at Little Lusk Creek in the Lusk Creek Wilderness days earlier. We worked our way around a huge tree with it’s limbs sticking out then past the wall of roots and finally were able to gain the bank but with considerable effort. The trail had huge hole between the roots and was extremely dangerous. I had dismounted to give Cisco every advantage to get himself up the bank and as always he was up to the challenge. He just picked his way between the roots and holes and in a flash he was safe.  The map showed us following along a road which I didn’t like but it turned out to be an old abandoned road with trees overhanging and tight. I would much rather fight brush than blacktop or busy roads. I enjoyed the level grade until the trail pulled off to the northeast into a nice pine grove with tall, strong pines saluting as we passed. The elevation had gone from 700’ to 500’ then back up to 700’ and the footing was nice and dry with little mud giving us a reprieve from the work we did at the creek bottoms.  I worried about the trail as it went between the Cedar Lake and Little Cedar Lake since I couldn’t find any notes or comments about a dam and only saw a narrow strip of land on the map and even one map showed no strip of land….Were we to swim? I had packed very light just in case we did end up in deep water (it would not be the first time we had to swim to stay on a trail!) I wasn’t worried about Cisco as he is a very forward horse and if he could see the trail on the other bank we would get there but all the worry was for nothing. A nice natural dam consisting of slab rocks separated the two lakes. Now those water holding eyes were Cisco’s nemesis but he trusted me and Bo and tiptoed between them. Lovely lakes and interesting trail way with scenery calmed even the most frantic souls. I jumped off and walked for a bit looking at my maps and gps, climbing the old road and realized we weren’t on the trail. If I had been astride Cisco would have just followed the trail as I read the map but with me leading him he didn’t take any initiative to watch the trail, he just followed. Unfortunately we went a half mile with me leading him up the hill, back down and then once again up the hill….This time I studied the map and saw that the trail stayed close to the lake but at a higher elevation…We had to go back once again….Cisco always hates for me to do this to him….I wonder what names horses have for this ridiculous display and I could feel the hesitation in my lead that he just wasn’t happy. Back down the road and there were 3 big signs pointing the cut off for the R to R Trail…I had been looking at my map all the time and missed the well-marked turn 3 times! Well, it was hot and humid – that’s my story! The trail following the contour of the lake was lovely, gradually losing elevation down into Cedar Creek until we got to a fence which separated us from some cows. We followed along the bottom until we got to on old field that had been plowed in the past but was now overgrown with tall weeds. On a far tree I could just make out the trail sign but no trail was immediately visible so we bush-wacked our way towards that sign and finally we found our way to Cedar Street just a mile out of Alto Pass and Burton was there waiting in the shade…

Trail Day 12

           From Alto Pass to Devil’s Backbone was the next section we undertook.  It was bitter sweet as I knew this was the last section and only a short one at that. Burton was to pick me up where the single track ended and the serious road walk began. He dropped me off at the Godwin East Trailhead, a tiny trailhead that had room for a small trailer if no cars were parked and the trail dropped right off from the parking lot. Bald Knob Cross Road was an easy enough blacktop road but there was heavy traffic going to view the 111’ peace cross erected in 1959, visible for many miles.  The trail itself was well used and well maintained. The first quarter mile was pebble stone covered and wide although the trees hid any views. The ride through the Bald Knob Wilderness was mostly a ridge ride with rapid fall on both sides of the trail – when the leaves were off the trees one could imagine that the views were lovely. We did cross a few dry creeks and Hutchins Creek had pools for Cisco and Bo to drink but otherwise it was pretty dry. Large vines hung Tarzan style from the trees at the creek with the trail avoiding them. There was only one bad tree across the trail and because there was enough foot traffic a path around was visible. I enjoyed the ridge and met 6 different hikers along the way as well as a family of hopeful fishermen (I didn’t spoil their enthusiasm by telling them there wasn’t any running creeks.)  From Bald Knob we moved right along covering the ground at such a fast clip that I suspected Cisco knew this was the final leg…He wasn’t really interested in munching the good wild oats along the trail…he just wanted “forward.” It wasn’t long until we got to Godwin West Trailhead and Burton had somehow turned the trailer around between the hiker cars and was sitting there waiting! He took us down the mountain and across the levees to the river…the Mississippi River with a tug boat pushing upstream with great effort an impossible load of barges. It was over….we waved to the tug, Burton smiled for a photo and we headed to Devil’s Backbone to primitive camp in a beautiful field with lush grass and a couple of horses in view…A perfect ending to an exciting adventure!