Day 41 – IAT Mile 769.4 to 809.3

The IAT trail miles are about to get confusing and there are a few reasons for it.  

If you are paying attention to the IAT miles in my subject lines, you will have noticed that we jumped from starting at mile 743 to 769.  This jump is for logistical reasons.  We will be going back to hike those miles after Penny gets into town and hands Brianna’s car off.  The horsemen left for Michigan this morning and the only lodging we could reserve for tonight is in Janesville, WI, a 50+ mile hike if we didn’t make a temporary jump like this.

Another mile mystery you might have noticed is how it looks like I hiked a 40 mile day today.  I may be capable of such a feat, but that is not what happened today.  The official IAT connecting route through this area goes wide north and is 33.7 miles long.  Since the IAT allows you to make your own connecting routes (road walks) and the logic behind their official route made no sense to us, we cut through on a back road, reducing the connecting route miles to about 17.  My actual mileage for the day was around 25-26 miles.

Even with the reduced mileage via our hack, my day still started out with a long 17 mile road walk.  I wanted more than anything to have Brian drop me off on the other side, on actual trail, but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.  Hacking off miles seemed like more fun than cheating them, I guess.  My decision was rewarded about halfway through the road walk when an older gentleman in a boon hat walked by me from the opposite direction and stopped to ask if he could turn around and walk with me for a while. More than happy for the company, I replied, “yes, please do!”

I can’t for the life of me remember the gentleman’s name, but we talked about life and adventures for a solid couple miles.  He was a GM retiree and was able to directly relate to my modest Michigan origins.  He also recounted a tale from when he was in his 20s.  He didn’t explain why he did it, but he hitchhiked from Wisconsin all the way down to the Florida Keys.  He agreed with my assessment of Wisconsinites being a generally good and helpful folk.  He was also a firm believer that most people in the US are good and wanting to help others, it’s the bad people that get all the attention.

The rest of my road walk, after parting ways with my newest friend, was filled with sun and exhausting to the core of my soul.  Hiding in ditches alone is just not as fun as it is with Brianna.  The last 3 miles were on a busy road with nearly no shoulder space.  It’s takes a long time to make 3 miles when you have to jump into the weeds every few minutes to avoid getting hit by trucks.  I also had my sunbrella out, which would get taken by the wind of passing by vehicles, wanting to suck me into traffic if I didn’t react and retract quickly enough.

I was able to complete the road miles and make it to actual trail on the Janesville segment by around 2pm.  A long 7 miles separated me from Brianna and I was out of both food and water as I carefully stepped my way through the Devil’s Staircase, which was beautiful and definitely worth seeing.  Reaching the end of the Devil’s Staircase was especially cruel, but not for the reasons I would have expected.

If there is a hiker heaven, it would include fresh food, ice cream, pop, water, the works.  Today found me stepping down from trail and into the Riverside Park Music Festival.  There was a live cover band with people sitting around the stage in camping chairs.  Lions Club was roasting big chicken legs and selling everything I could have wanted.  There was however, just one problem, it was cash only and Brianna carries the cash.  I’m not sure what the people were thinking as I, a homeless looking dude, descended the stairs and made my way through the crowds.  What I do know is that no one offered me any food or drinks.  Not that anyone should have, I just wanted to be clear in that they did not!

I am a firm believer that not having Brianna here, my shield, dramatically reduces my approachability.  That said, today has proven that I am not completely unapproachable, homeless as I may look.  Soon after finding a drinking fountain at the park to fill my water bottle at (no cash needed), a shirtless and muscle bound dude, Timothy, called me over to his grill and insisted I try one of his world famous chicken wings.  He explained that his technique was learned in prison back when he was a bad guy, but he is a good guy now and I look like the road has been long and rough.  The chicken wing was delicious, thank you, Timothy!

The rest of today’s hike hugged close to Lake Koshkonong outflow river, leading me into town and to exactly where Brianna was waiting for me.  The horsemen were kind enough to drop her to our hotel on their way to the ferry over Lake Michigan.  Brianna had to wait from 10am until 3pm to check in, her own set of challenges and adventures that were probably as frustrating as a 17ish mile road walk.

Since we have no vehicle and Brianna is not yet ready to hike again, our plan for tomorrow will likely be for me to catch an Uber 27 miles northeast of our hotel and hike back into town.  We push on!

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