Friday, August 12, 2022

Day 131: Town after town after town.....

August 29: I slept well in the dugout and nobody ever bothered me during the night, but I had a long day of road walking ahead so I didn't linger particularly late and was up and hiking by 7:00am.

I stopped at a gas station on my way out of Ennis, filling up with water from a spigot outside.

Heading out of town at the break of dawn...

From here, I had a few different options to continue my hike. The most scenic option was likely through the Tobacco Mountains to the west, although I had heard of some other hikers somewhere out there who had been heckled by locals saying that they were on private property while walking down a public road--a scenario that I preferred to avoid (especially after my own run-in with accidentally entering private property). It actually seemed safer to stay on busy highways than remote, country roads--something I never thought was possible.

So I decided to stay on the highway, heading north out of town. Looking at maps, I knew it was going to be a brutal day of hiking. The highway was busy and paved the whole way, and there was nothing in the way of trees for shade on another very hot, sunny day. At least there was a decently wide shoulder to walk on.

My biggest worry was where I might camp overnight. Maybe if I was lucky, I'd find another ball field with a dug out. That worked out really well for me last night! I definitely added ball fields as new possible stealth camp location in and near towns.

The one nice thing about walking along the road is that I'd be passing through several small towns, some of which had services that hikers could make use of such as water or food.

The first town I reached was McAllister. There weren't really any hiker services available, although I did see a restaurant. It was closed when I walked by. I assume it was because it was early in the morning but for for all I knew, it might have closed permanently. This didn't seem like a particularly bustling community.

At the edge of town, the route into the Tobacco Mountains turned off the highway and I spotted two hikers and their dog getting dropped off on the side of the road. I didn't recognize them, and they were too far away to talk to, they started walking into the mountains so we never actually crossed paths. I never did find out who they were.

Hiking through farm country now. Those are the Tobacco Mountains in the background, which I decided not to follow a route through.

I continued down the highway, eventually reaching the town of Norris. Norris boasted of a Sinclair gas station, where I was happy to stop for a lunch break. Inside was an air-conditioned bliss. I bought lunch--which consisted of a hot dog, extra-large soda and Zingers--and threw out the little trash I had, charged my devices and used the restrooms. I couldn't get a cell phone signal in town, however, and the wi-fi didn't appear to be working so mostly I read my Kindle after finishing lunch. In all, I stopped for an hour or two for a good, quality break.

But it was time to push onward, and I reluctantly left my air-conditioned haven for the brutally hot road walk. Waves of heat radiated from the road and it felt hotter than ever. Ugh.

I spent my lunch break at this gas station convenience store. Heaven on earth! =) (And aren't y'all missing those gas prices back then?)

For a little while, I was able to walk on the dirt next to the road, but that path eventually faded off into nothing leaving me walking on the asphalt once again.

A couple of hours later, I stopped for a short 5-minute snack break on the side of the road, during which I was attacked by what appeared to be a swarm of flying ants! Thousands and thousands of them! There was absolutely nothing for the first couple of minutes, then thousands of these flying ants descended in biblical proportions. What the heck was happening?! They flew up the openings at the bottom of my pants, in my beard, and down my shirt. I fought them off by putting on my head net and tucking my pant legs into my socks--the best I could do for the time being--then then they faded away as mysteriously as they appeared. Five minutes after the swarm started, they were completely gone. It was bizarre and baffling.

I finished my snack, then continued onward down the road.

Near the end of the day, I was approaching the town of Harrison and ready to look for a  place to camp. I hoped I'd find another ball field in town, although when I had checked Google Maps, I didn't see anything that really jumped out at me. I planned to look for somewhere in town to stealth camp, then if I couldn't find anything, walk out of town and stop at the first hidden place I found. In this wide-open terrain, however, that might be miles away.

The last trail town for the day....

At the edge of town, I saw a car drive by, then make a U-turn and head back my way. I wondered if they were going to ask me a question, if I was the reason for the U-turn. She pulled over next to me and asked if I was hiking the CDT.

Yep, she had come back for me. She introduced herself as Angie and said she had a lot in town where I could camp for the night if I was interested. Heck, yeah! She gave me directions to the location, not more than about a 10-minute walk away. She never offered to give me a ride which I actually liked. It's like she already knew that I wanted to keep my steps connected. I'm sure a lot of hikers would have been perfectly happy to skip 10 minutes of a miserable road walk.

I found the location a little while later. She showed where I could camp and where I could get water from a hose, and I quickly set up camp, glad for this fortuitous turn. It wasn't an ideal place for camping--basically right there in the front yard in plain view of anyone who happened to be passing by--but it was quiet and a couple of blocks off the main road through town.

We chatted for a bit, and I told her about my particularly long day yesterday after getting chased out of private property that I had accidentally wandered onto and she asked me more specifics about exactly where I was when it happened. So I described it, and she told me that she actually knows the owner of that property and pretty much everyone thinks he's asshat. Well, not in those words, precisely, but she wasn't surprised that he'd be such an ass about the situation.

Around 10:00 at night, there was a local guy wandering around the neighborhood looking for a lost dog. He didn't seemed surprised to see me camped in the front yard of this property--I guess I wasn't the first hiker to stay here--but he did ask if I had seen a stray dog wandering by. I told him I hadn't, and he continued his search.

It was a couple of hours later, when I was woken from a deep sleep by what sounded like a pack of warthogs--or at least some sort of hogs--killing a dog not far away, perhaps just on the other side of the railroad tracks where I was camped. The dog sounded frightened and hurt, and the horrible noise echoed through the neighborhood for about a minute before dying off and silence once again lingered in the air. The whole event send shivers down my spine, though, and I remembered that guy looking for his lost dog and wondered if I had just heard the death cries of his poor pet.

It didn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in myself, either, knowing there were blood-hungry hogs running around nearby. Although I suppose if they were feasting on a kill, they'd have little reason to come after me. All the same, I checked that my bear spray was still readily accessible then tried to go back to sleep.....

I camped near these tracks, and during the night, it sounded like something absolutely horrible happened around them.

This was pretty much my view the entire day.

Somewhere out there, a kid is crying.

Did I mention what a brutally hot day it was today? With pretty much no shade the entire way?

Norris would be where I'd stop for lunch. The junction with MT 2 I hoped to reach tomorrow. And I-90 I hoped to reach the day after that. I had a lot of road walking ahead....

It almost looks like the sign is pointing to the top of that hill, doesn't it?

That is definitely the biggest boom box I've ever seen!

Out of Norris, I did have this small trail off the road I could follow. I also noticed footprints ahead of me, so I know I wasn't the first thru-hiker to take this route.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Loved the photos today! Boom box, teddy bear, truck with hay bales. It's sad you had this miserable highway road walk in the blazing heat. I almost wrote you should hike the Coastal Path in the UK for rural scenery and cool weather but realized they've been having a heat wave in the 90s with few houses air-conditioned. However, it's always cooler by the ocean.