Trail 8


A couple of weeks ago the hubs and I got away on a mini 25th anniversary trip.


Mini. Small. Quick.


Because COVID and various political mayhem canned the previously planned and looked-forward-to Alaskan cruise. We toyed with flying somewhere for a long weekend. Then those “somewheres” didn’t want Hoosiers in their states without negative COVID tests and a fourteen-day isolation. That’s not a long weekend. That’s stress wrapped in possible divorce court proceedings. And for our 25th? If we want 25 more, we’d have to figure out something else.


Other drivable trips were downgraded to a 160-mile round trip, one-tank, one-night getaway to a state park we’ve never been to and a quaint town with tourist-ish shops and “art district” venues.


Now, before my rant, I want to be clear: We did enjoy our time together, which was the whole point. Enjoyable moments. Making memories. Reminiscing. All of that stuff that we try to do regularly, but the 25th poured on extra pressure. (And we were supposed to be on a boat, doggonit!)


Because with the pandemic, travel plans even just a few counties from home are complicated. One must pack for the unexpected. Will the restaurants be open for dine-in or open at all? What time will they be open? Will we be dining in our front seats, air conditioner blasting with a grand and glorious view of the restaurant’s parking lot? If so, make sure the SUV is stocked with utensils, salt packets, napkins, etc.


Do things board up early in this small town we’re visiting to allow for deep cleaning of the facilities? Uh-oh. In the event we stayed out too late in the state park, we could end up eating dinner from a vending machine.


So pack the dollar bills and quarters—


But wait! There’s a coin shortage. Will the machine even take quarters, or will we be required to “round up” our $2.75 Snickers bar to an even three bucks?


And don’t forget to pack the masks. Disposable or cloth? Gaiters or tie-ons? Should I pack the same number of masks as underwear? Is that the general rule of thumb? Or double? Maybe double the masks—


But wait! I’ve experienced a grand, out-of-nowhere, no-warning-given sneeze in one of my masks during a grocery run. Now that was unpleasant, being stuck without a backup mask and other patrons looking at me like I’m Typhoid Mary. Really, it’s allergies—or more likely single, rogue mask fiber made its way up a nostril and tickled just right.


Then what? What if our seasonal allergies kick in and we each sneeze once an hour? Inside our masks? Factor in migrating mask fuzz and fibers, and who knows what could happen. Pack every mask in the house and buy a box of disposable ones to cram into our pockets.


Hand sanitizer? Check. Some in the car door (it hasn’t exploded in the heat yet, I’ll count us lucky on that front). Small bottles for the purse, backpack, and pocket. And I’ve had a container of Clorox wipes (brand name, even, pre-pandemic purchase) rolling around in the SUV since February.


Patience? Is our one suitcase for our one-night trip big enough for all the pandemic patience needed? Probably not. Because we have to save room for flexibility too. Can’t plan anything for sure—and I like my plans and ducks to be in nice neat rows… Oh, well.


We arrive at the state park.


A too-cheery gatekeeper told us a few of the most sought-after areas had been closed due to too many people gathering in one spot. Well great.


But no worries. Trail 8 loops around from a lookout tower to the lake. And we should try out this Trail 8.


Now, loop implies circle and the trail map said 3.5 and “moderate.” Not being hikers or trail people for the most part, we thought, cool. A few miles. A tower. A lake.


Moderate.


And hardly anyone around.


My kind of trail.


Well. There was a reason no one was around.


They lied. The paper map with its impossible-to-follow dots and lines. The cheery gatekeeper at the front entrance. The fading sign at the lookout tower. They all lied. Trail 8 is not 3.5 miles. And it’s a figure-eight with a line through it. So what about that is 3.5 miles? The whole loop? The cut-through to the lake? There and back again, and you don’t even see Hobbits in the Shire?


And the mud. Oh, my, the mud. It was a single trail, not wide enough to walk side-by-side. Lined with poison ivy (hubs has an awful reaction should he get into that mess). Briars reached out to greet around some turns. Dense, lush forest trapped in more heat and humidity the further we went, and me in front as the unofficial “poison ivy pointer outer.”


Now, we did enjoy bits of it. Streams, little footbridges. Fungus groupings of all shapes and shades where my Little Miss Muse started to dance and chant, “Fairies, and Gnomes and Elves! Oh, my!” Beds of ferns as far as you could see. So that was cool.


The mud, though, caused us to walk the trail straddled most of the time, grasping branches and each other as best we could so as not to wipe out. With all those masks, we had to pack light and would’ve required purchasing a new change of clothes for each of us for the return home.


We met a few folks here and there who said they’d been traipsing through mud and ivy forever and never saw a lake (one red-faced gasping lady had two hiking poles, so she had to know more about these things than us small-town newbies). Another couple said yes, there’s a lake, but their dog rolled his eyes at us and gave us an over-the-shoulder plea to go no further as they tugged his leash and they walked off.


We reached the water. Finally.


When I say “Lake” every one of you pictures in your mind some sort of hole in the ground with water in it, most likely. The lake in my mind’s eye is big enough for hundreds of boats and jet skis and has nooks and crannies for fisherman to feed their families. Maybe I can see the other bank, but its blurry and the people and boats over there are a fraction of a millimeter tall.


Your lake may be bigger like Lake Michigan or smaller, like a 50-boater.


“Lake” was a bit of a reach for this bit of contained liquid. There was water. And people fishing. But I could read the brand name of the tackle box next to the gentleman casting his line from across this “lake.”


Now I know why the dog was so disappointed. That look was “Don’t waste your time, lady. More mud and no lake.”


Back at the car, drenched and weary, we wiped our legs down with Clorox wipes. Yup. In a pinch, it was worth the sting not to have to go to the ER and get hubs shot up with Benadryl and Prednisone.


I hope I don’t lie to my readers. If my “trail guide” blurb on the back of the book says the story promises a cozy mystery that pulls the heartstrings, I hope I don’t “Trail 8 Lake” it and give you an epic space saga clocking in at 100K that leaves you muddied down and itchy.


We made memories, though. And we can check “travel during a pandemic” off our 2020 bucket list.


And we both bought new tennis shoes after Trail 8. I made sure mine had a tick of purple trim for Little Miss.


Thanks, nature, for the anniversary gift.


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