Friday, October 31, 2014

Sal Hollow

Before we took our cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park we noticed a station for backcountry permits, and figured why the heck not? We got a trail map and chose a back country campsite and that was that! Little did we know we were in for a strange adventure.

Our tour ended after 4pm so we decided we’d sleep in the van at the trailhead and hike out the next morning. As we we’re driving through the park checking out wild deer grazing on the side of the road, unfazed by cars and humans, and just taking in the views of the dense wooded land suddenly the road ended going right into a river! I slammed on the breaks and Mike realized there was a small ferry taking cars across. Somehow this was very exciting, and also baffling that they didn’t just build a bridge instead of manning a ferry for like 15 hours a day. I’ll admit I don’t know a thing about bridge construction.

We made it to our trail head parking lot to find this area is heavily used for horseback riding. There were piles of evidence everywhere. We slept well in the van that night and got a late start the next day since it was only 5 miles to our campsite, Sal Hollow. We started in and found out that this park is possibly the flattest National Park in America. It was a nice walk with sights of more deer and forest landscapes, and the sound of acorns falling from trees frequently.

We made it to our campsite in 2 hours which included a detour to the Miles-Davis cemetery, a centuries old graveyard. We thought the graveyard was pretty cool at first because of its age and remoteness, then realized it was full of the resting places for many children and babies of the Miles-Davis family. I knew that infant/child mortality at the time was nothing like it is now, but this family seemed to have suffered a lot if loss.

We made it to Sal Hollow at around noon and wondered what on earth we were going to do for all of the hours until dark. We decided to make an epic campfire starting with magnesium and flint, so we started gathering wood. It is really hard (or we don’t know what we’re doing) to start a fire with magnesium and flint so we eventually gave up and used a lighter. We’ve lit a fire that way before and it literally took hours haha!

Later on we went to collect more wood and Mike came across a bear’s scratching tree about 100 yards from our camp.

This was not a good sign! By this time it was too late to hike out and changing campsites wasn’t an option so we ate dinner, strung up our food in a tree and went to bed when all of our wood was burned. As soon as we got into our sleeping bags panic set in. Suddenly the dropping acorns sounded like footprints, and Mike swore he heard the sound of scratching on that tree he saw. We were frozen. My heart was beating hard and my mind was racing. It’s dangerous to hike at night, but surely we couldn’t stay there! After Mike unfroze he explained that he has never been more aware of his place on the food chain.

Eventually Mike fell asleep and I was still panicking. I decided we couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stay sane laying there terrified all night so I assumed the fetal position, stuck my finger in my war that wasn’t muffled by my jacket I was using for a pillow and fell asleep too. I slept better than I expected even though I woke every hour or two to check the time and to hear a pack of coyotes howling and barking 3 times. Overall the park got quieter as the night passed. When day broke we packed up and had breakfast quickly then took the same 5 mile route out instead of the 7 mile route we had originally planned. 5 miles of super flat trail is plenty!
The creepy hike out.

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