Today Jay and I parted ways. He was going back to his job in civilization and I was to continue northward towards the Clifty Wilderness but before leaving we took advantage of hot showers and fresh water that the campground had to offer. I also used to this time to “lighten my load” by removing extra food and batteries that I was carrying. I was very familiar with the remaining miles ahead and knew where I could get supplies if I needed them. I too, was running out of time before I had to return back to the real world and was looking for anything I could do to speed up my progress. Jay took some photos of his dog and me on top of a bridge near our camping spot the previous night.
He wished me luck and I said farewell to my harmonica playing friend as I continued up Whittleton branch trail and across the bridge that crossed Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway and down tunnel ridge road. The trail cut to the left and wandered through the woods for a while before it cut across the road again. I followed the trail, knowing that the trail and the road were both going in the same direction and would intersect at the gravel parking lot at the Grey’s Arch trailhead. I took turns walking on the road, in the spirit of speed, and the trail, for the scenery and softer walking conditions. Hiking past an area that had been lightly burned a couple years ago, I noticed the mostly pine trees, that had been affected by the Southern Pine beetle, were mostly what the fire seemed to consume. After what seemed to be about a mile and a half I came to the parking lot and trail head of Grey’s Arch. Just down the trail, from the parking lot, I spotted Jim Graf’s memorial. He had died from falling off Grey’s Arch many years ago. Flowers and other decorations can often be seen at the arch, dedicated in his memory.
In the interest of time I decided to wander off of the Sheltowee Trace and follow another trail to the Martins fork trail head and follow the Nada Tunnel Road to Highway 77. From there I took highway 715 to the Gladie log house parking lot, the entrance to the Clifty Wilderness area. The day was unusually humid which made me stop more frequently for water breaks. It must have been pretty humid because the usual knats that pestered me on the trail were not out. What I did not realize was that the sudden humidity built up was due to an oncoming cold front. I soon found my self in a two hour down pour with little tree cover to offer me protection. My GPS was water proof so I was not too worried about it, however, the SLR camera had to be put into a Ziploc bag. Ironically, the rain lasted until I got to the log house at Gladie. I was already beginning to feel “hot spots” forming on my feet and if not dried soon they would turn into blisters. Somehow, through the rain, I spotted an unopened beer bottle on the side of the highway. Knowing that there was a State police DUI checkpoint on the other side of NADA tunnel on the weekends, I immediately associated that to the logic of finding an unopened bottle of beer. I took it with me…after all I did not want to leave litter laying around.
I finally made it to the Gladie log house where I was able to dry my gear on the front porch by pushing the moisture into the floor boards. I ate dinner and enjoyed my much deserved beer. Dusk was coming and lured some deer out of the woods to a muddy and sparsely planted field in front of me. They grazed on the young shoots that were attempting to grow. After a couple of hours of drying my gear out I packed up and continued on, using my L.E.D. headlamp, but a heavy fog from Grassy Creek had settled in just above the trail head. The trail going toward Clifty Wilderness was not visible and my intended camp spot was still three miles away on very rocky and wet trail conditions. Accepting the circumstances, I set my hammock up near the log cabin and stayed the night, waiting for the light of the next day to guide me though the Clifty Wilderness. A Whippoorwill found me again that night, among a pile of drying socks, and sang me to sleep.