Today’s schedule did not call for me to hike to Mandale. The plan was to shuttle my car ahead to Delphos, then backpack two days, camping overnight at Hipp’s Lock. But long-distance hiking always requires flexibility. Let’s start with what happened last night.
I’d read in the Far Out app that there was a light in the gazebo, and that a lot of trains went by at night. No big deal, I thought. During my thru-hike of the Natchez Trace, I was often camping near restrooms with overnight lights. And a lot of trains rumbled past during my thru-hike of the Potomac Heritage Trail. Since I had my car with me, which was filled with a variety of items, I grabbed two big blankets and placed them over my tent to block out the light. Problem solved. And then I turned in.
Overnight Woes and Rain Lead to Mandale
Well, the blankets didn’t block out all of the light, plus it was pretty windy, so the wind kept blowing them askew. Then the trains, Oh my goodness! I honestly think trains passed all night. As in, every hour or more, blowing their horns and rumbling along the tracks. Between the light and the trains, I didn’t fall asleep until about 3:30 a.m., and it was a fitful sleep at best.
Some guys showed up around 2 a.m. and were yelling for each other. And people started showing up at 6 a.m. to hike or walk their dogs or something. Long story short, I got very little sleep. On top of that, rain is forecast to start tonight and continue until the end of the day tomorrow. Camping in the rain, then packing up wet gear and backpacking with it all day – especially after a night of crap sleep – was not appealing. So my husband added a second night to my Delphos Microtel reservation and I decided to hike to Mandale, a tiny town a few miles past Hipp’s Lock. At least I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the reservoir!
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Making My Way to Mandale
John met me in Mandale, then shuttled me back to the reservoir. He showed me the route I’d be hiking, noting in one place that he often had problems with an aggressive dog here, and had to use pepper spray. I hate dog incidents, so that unnerved me. I pondered hitting the road instead of the trail there. But that spot was near the end of the day, so I’d think about it later.
John was doing some trail work, so after a short time on the roads, I segued onto the trail and found him with saw in hand. He is such a dedicated trail maintainer, not to mention trail angel. I am so grateful for people like John!
I thought most of today was a road walk, but it was a nice mix of roads and trail. And there were some cool historical spots, like this old aqueduct from the canal days and Viall Lock. But I have to be honest. It was a pretty brutal day. I walked into 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) headwinds almost the entire day. While that tempered the 82-degree temps (27.8 C), it was still exhausting. Perhaps more challenging was just the roar of the wind in your ears all day. I did listen to podcasts with my AirPods, which helped, but it was still a difficult day.
Eventually, I reached the spot where John said he’d had trouble with an aggressive dog. This part of the trail has faded blazes, and the Far Out app is outdated. So I hiked about a mile (1.2 km) out of my way before finding the correct path. The path here was pretty overgrown, too, so it was a little challenging. I unzipped my backpack pocket that held my mace. My biggest fear was that this dog would come at me when I was in a windy spot, and if I’d have to use the spray, the wind would blow it back at me! Luckily, no dogs were on the loose today.
I’m not sure what tomorrow’s trail is like, but I’m so glad I completed this section today. The off-road portion was soft and mucky in many parts, so the coming rain will make it challenging. I actually hope I have a lot of roads tomorrow, since I’ll be hiking all day in the rain. No matter what, though, it’s all good!
NCT Miles Today: 22.6 (36.4 km)
Ohio NCT miles to date: 101.2 (162.9 km)
Total NCT miles to date: 2,040 (3,283.1 km)
Total NCT miles to go: 2,560 (4,119.9 km)
I’m now at the Microtel, and it’s a great place. The only negative is it doesn’t have laundry. But it appears new (or newly remodeled) and I can’t complain about anything else.