Road Miles: 347
Trail Miles: 0
Sites: Kisatchie National Forest
Travel Buddy: RaggedyCrow
I woke up on the late side, still feeling fairly crappy due to the cold that wouldn’t die, which was probably not helped by having thus exposed it to almost every kind of climate (and allergen) we have: desert, mountains, dust bowls, prairies, and now bayous. I checked out the window to see if there was any evidence to indicate RC had been eaten by alligators in the night. His tent appeared to be intact, so I took that as a positive sign.
Upper Caney Lake was also visible outside the window. It looked beautiful: a little dreamy, a little moody, all Louisiana. Sometimes getting to a campsite after dark is awesome – it’s like waking up on Christmas morning, the views being the presents. I took a long, hot, delightful shower and chatted with the camp host a bit before we sat down with the atlas to figure out our onward route. We were in northwest Louisiana, and still had to get through the rest of that state, Mississippi, AND Alabama before we even got to Georgia, where RC was due in two days. Thus ended, abruptly, the idyllic portion of the day.
Other than a stop at the Caney Ranger District office in Homer, the rest of the day was a blur of driving alternated with panicking, with a healthy dose of nose-blowing and coughing on the side. I felt stressed-out and time-pressured, but I had promised to get RC to his start, and I meant to keep my word. It would have sucked less had I not still been sick, and the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to get on trail myself anytime soon added insult to injury. This cold had almost completely killed not just my energy and attitude, but my appetite too, and I was now looking at the prospect of starting the trail even lighter than I’d been when I started the PCT, which wasn’t good. I’d have to worry about all that later, though. The mission now was to get RC to Amicalola to meet his hike partner Tony, so they could start their 5 Million Steps trek to raise money for Sophia’s Fund, a non-profit dedicated to “fighting childhood cancer on all fronts.”
We flew (well, as much as that sweet beast of a van is able to fly) through the rest of Louisiana, and cut up into Arkansas for a minute to catch the closest bridge over the Mississippi River. Woohoo! Freya made it east of the Mighty Miss, which I documented with what turned out to be a very shitty video mostly featuring my lap, so I’ll spare you that. We wanted to stop on the other side of the bridge, but unfortunately there’s no nearby parking on the Mississippi side of the US-82 bridge.
We continued bombing through Mississippi, stopping only for gas, the bathroom, or when my ass got so numb I couldn’t take it anymore and had to get up off it. We passed signs for scenic byways, museums, and the Natchez Trace Parkway, all of which I was longing to veer off and explore. Parked outside of one convenience store, RC graciously whipped me up a gourmet mini-meal of salami, cheese, and crackers, and I wolfed it down with a Dr. Pepper as we bemusedly watched the locals watching us warily as they passed in and out of the store. We observed that the appropriate posture for driving here is to lean as far as possible to the left without actually falling out of the vehicle, rest your chin on your left thumb and forefinger, scooch down into the seat as much as is practicable, and casually drape your right hand over the top of the steering wheel. I gave it a shot, but frankly I think this only looks right if it’s in a car that’s been slammed to within an inch of its life.
As it neared sunset, I was ready to be done for the day. Unfortunately, there are very few public lands sites in Mississippi, and a vicinity search on freecampsites.net came up empty. By now, I was very cranky and irritable, again. The long day of frenzied driving had been exhausting, and my cold was not improving at all. With no other viable options, we ended up splitting a room at the America’s Best Value Inn in Columbus, which was not intolerably sketchy, merely dodgy. There was a drug dealer a couple of doors down, a party upstairs, a manager who definitely overshared the lurid details of her various court cases, but at this point, I didn’t care. It sure wasn’t the worst place I’ve ever spent money to sleep, and all I wanted to do was lie down. Once the lights were out, so was I.