Why don’t you watch where you’re going?…

Well, it’s day three and already an adventure.  Just to sum up a few events ASIDE from the content focus of this post, we hit the road on Saturday and spent the night in Springfield, Illinois to visit with one of Dave’s friends and break up the journey to Missouri.  Our hang out with Dan’s family was a fun and relaxing social gathering, and a great opportunity for Eli to show off his walking skills.  Eli at Eckert'sThe next day we stopped in Belleville to go apple picking at Eckert’s Farm with one of my oldest friends, Becca, on her birthday no less!  Eli “picked” his first apple and we endulged in a fried chicken feast for lunch.  More social time and perfect weather too!

Then, we continued our venture to our campground. (So now I’m getting to the heart of my post).



I want you to picture St. Louis.  Good.  That’s where we were driving.

Now, I want you to picture the country.  Good.  That’s where we were driving next.

Now, I want you to picture the lovechild of Highway 1 and the first season of True Detective.  That’s where we were driving next when we first thought, “Hmmmm.  Where exactly are we GOING?”

The winding roads were truly frightening.  Think roller coasters.  We couldn’t see what was ahead of us at the top of the hills until we were well on our way down.  You go over that peak and…. Ah!  I’m just praying every time that there isn’t some stupid teenager passing someone.  And don’t forget, we’re towing 36 feet of massive camper.

The forrests are massive.  Now, I’m a huge fan of trees.  Love ’em.  But this  has the feel like they would swallow you whole if they hadn’t cleared them in the first place.  Tall overhanging green that seems to just ooze darkness.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but this ride had bad mojo.

Dave and I are both quietly knodding and crossing our fingers.  We want to see new things.  We want peace and quiet.  The confederate flag catches Dave’s eye.  The bible verses handpainted on wood signs catch mine.

It’s a two-lane highway, and I really don’t want to stop on it.

Maybe we should have looked where we were actually going before we came here.  Maybe.

Johnson's Shut-Ins Finally we make it to our destination, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, recommended to us by a friend.  Now, if peace and quiet was what we sought, this place is the bomb.  Hiking trails galore, a clear sky of stars, the hum of silence interrupted only by the birds, bugs, and whatever noise you made yourself.  No internet service, no cell service.  Wait…. Oh, f*$k!

Did we mention before how Dave is still working full-time and needs internet and cell service all the time?  That he bought a cell booster and a wifi hotspot just to make sure his connections were strong?  So, yeah….

But it’s not hopeless!  See, there is free wifi at the store in the park.  Yay, right?  Oh but wait, the store is only open Friday-Sunday.   And there are some parts of the campground that get some cell service sometimes… Like the hill that the dump station is on, or parts of the pavillion out by that field over there.  So Dave, is this gonna work for you?

Shut-Ins OfficeLike a champion, Dave sat outside the store all day plugging away in his rugged office with 180 degree views of the great outdoors and a full supply of fresh air.  The weather was perfect.  There are worse ways to spend the day…

(Side note: I am writing this post as I too sit outside the abandonned store.  It’s 9:45pm and I’m waiting for laundry to be done.  Eli threw up his entire dinner + 6 ounces of milk all over me and our bedspread about an hour ago.  So it seemed like a good time to do laundry.  Which in turn seemed like a good time to write a blog post.)

Last night, we were looking at the map (again? for the first time?) and realized that this park is definitely “out there.”  “No cell signal for miles,” Dave says with a sigh.  Neither one of us is quite sure how this happened, except for the undeniable variable of looking where you are going.

So more good news: the hiking here is great!  Eli and I ventured out on a 1.5 mile loop around and through a canyon, cleared years ago when a dam broke in the valley above.  It washed away trees, rocks, dirt – everything.  Underneath it all are rock formations dating back 1.4 BILLION years ago in formations you rarey see anywhere else.

Note: that dam that broke?… It’s still there, rebuilt.  There’s a great big red sign before you enter the canyon, “If you hear a siren quickly move yourself 200 steps out of the canyon.”  Cuz, you know… Dams break sometimes, powerful enough to wash away billions of years of earth and wildlife.  Comforting.  I should probably do this hike alone with my baby on my back and no cell service, right?  Right!

More signs: “CAUTION – This hike contains trails with loose rocks, waterways without bridges, inclines greater than 10 percent, slippery surfaces, mud.”  I should probably do this hike alone my baby on my back and no cell service, right? Right!

Which brings me to another point.  This whole no cell service and no wifi thing?… Awesome.  I mean, for me.  Not Dave.  Me.  I’ve been talking now for a few weeks about how I’m pining for the 90s.  I miss setting up plans on the phone and just committing to them.  Or hardly ever sending emails.  No facebook.  No texting.  You talk to people, you disappear, you reappear, you figure it out.  Ah…. so good.

This revealed itself quickly as I had to slow down in almost every way as soon as we got here.  I’ll check the weather – oh wait, no.  I’ll tell my parents I don’t have cell service – oh wait, no.  I’ll check my e-mail – oh wait, no.  I’ll look up the hiking maps – oh wait, no.  And then today, I dropped Dave off at the office and said, “When do you want me to come get you?”  I drove away and until I came back, we were apart.

And on my hike this morning, I got lost.  Well, not totally lost, but I lost the trail.  I was in the canyon so there was only so far I could go, but I really didn’t know where the trail was.  I just had to FIGURE IT OUT.  And maybe it took 15 minutes longer than it would have if I had a working phone, but I used my BRAIN and I used my INSTINCTS and that worked really well too.

There were those stacked rock formations I call, “Buddhist rocks,” cuz I’m not sure what their proper name is.  Anyways, there were all these stacked rocks in the canyon when I couldn’t find the trail.  So I thought, “Well clearly other people have gone that way and survived, so let’s give it a try.”  I passed stack after stack.  Still no trail, but the stacks continued.  I knew I didn’t want to turn back, but I also didn’t want to get too far without finding the trail.  I’ve got a sleeping baby on my back, only one bottle of water, and it’s already been about an hour into the hike.  How far am I willing to go?  And where are those f*$king red flags to mark the trail?

Then like a beacon I saw it.  Another of the obnoxious yellow CAUTION signs in the distance warning me of slippery surfaces etc!  Hooray!  The trail!  After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the loop.  Good thing, too, that I’m not color blind.  There were red, maroon, and brown trail markers identifying separate trails.  Really?….

Eli slept through the entire hike, by the way.  He didn’t see a single rock formation, babbling brook, or tiny lizard.  Which was actually great.  I got an entire hike with me, myself, and I, with the added fitness bonus of an extra 35 pounds of cargo.

Another interesting tidbit… When we got into the canyon at first, I kept walking through single threads of spider web.  A common event for any hiking experience, and usually no big deal.  But these were noticably tingly  threads.  Like, sewing thread thick.  And as I was noticing this I thought – for real this is what happened in my head – I thought, “Gosh, this web is seriously thick.  I wonder how big the spiders a – AHHHH!”  Just as I was thinking it, one of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen in person dangled at the other end of the web I had just passed through.  How big, you wonder?  His butt was between marble and grape sized, and had colorful designs on its belly that were clearly visible to the naked eye.  No picture?! No picture.  I just wanted to skidaddle.

So, why don’t you watch where you’re going?…. This is resonating for me on multiple fronts.  Literally first, Dave and I need to be clear about what campsites we are staying at.  While I wouldn’t mind a year of being off the map (almost literally), it’s not exactly jiving with Dave’s goal to stay employed.  And then figuratively, even when we are at campsites with all the amenities I can still watch where I am going.  It may seem simple, but it’s easier to keep moving quickly and just picking up that device for the answer, for the question, or for the escape.  If I want to hike without it I can just hike without it.  If I want to set plans and stick to them, I can skip all the text messages.  If I want to spend my free time coloring and crafting instead of Facebooking or whatever the hell, I can just do that.  I had intentions of doing all those things instead anyways.  This trip to the middle of nowhere – however brief – has been a nice detox and reminder.

The time is now to make this trip how I want it to be.  It’s day three, after all…

2 Responses to Why don’t you watch where you’re going?…

  1. Mom

    Amazing and scary…..and wonderful!!! I almost feel like I was there with you…..and you know how that would have gone!!!! Like reading a fabulous story from a book….love it!!! Back to what it was like for us raising all of you, being out-of-touch and actually surviving!!!!

  2. Dad

    Awesome! Although now I feel like an entranced addicted loser cuz I read this on my iPhone.

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