The Knobstone Trail, Part One
- Number 69 on my life list.

Part One
Go to Part 1, 2, 3, 4

The Knobstone trail traverses 46 miles through mixed hardwood forests with several exhausting climbs to flat-topped ridges along the Knobstone escarpment. The southern Indiana trail runs from Deam Lake near the Kentucky border to Delaney Park, eight miles north of Salem.

It is the state’s longest trail and has been compared to the famous Appalachian Trail, which is also on my list. I hoped this hike would help prepare me for more strenuous long-distance treks as this land is the most rugged in the state.

I left after work on a Friday and arrived at Delaney Park around 8pm. The plan was to stay there for the night, leave my car where the trail would end, and have a shuttle service drive me to the start.

I pulled in at the gatehouse and learned it would cost $26 to spend the night. The shuttle driver tomorrow would be expecting $60… no doubt also in cash. There was $80 in my wallet. I quickly considered the possibility of sleeping in my car, but where.

Also, I realized I had forgotten to pack my hiking poles. I didn't like the idea of hiking a trail as difficult as this one solo without the security of the poles. They help keep me balanced, reduce the chances of falling or injury, and take some of the strain off my knees. No matter how much I plan, unexpected little things like this always seem to happen. But, with each trip's unforeseen events I gain a little knowledge to prepare me for the next.

I asked the teenage boy behind the gatehouse window if he knew of a place I could buy hiking poles. He pointed me to their camp store just a few yards from the entrance, but didn’t seem to think they would have them. 

From what I could see as I approached the shop’s screen door, I knew I would be out of luck. They didn't have much of anything in their hundred square foot space. Although, if I was in there for one of those miniature Snoopy fishing poles, some ketchup and mustard, and a can of soda I would have been pleasantly surprised.

A woman sat behind a counter being paid to read a paperback novel. I asked her if she knew whether Salem had a 24-hour department store.

"Salem doesn't have anything," she said in a friendly, but melancholic tone. "I know because I live there." I thanked her and went back to the car to check my map. The town of Scottsburg was twenty miles away.

The boy at the gatehouse told me Scottsburg had a Wal-Mart. "What time do you leave for the day?" I asked. "Ten," he said. I still had an hour and a half to get to the store, hopefully find hiking poles, get some extra cash from the ATM, and get back before the gatehouse closed. 

One of the first things I saw going into Scottsburg was the Wal-mart. So far so good I thought. Getting back in time was starting to seem possible. 

I went straight to the sporting goods section and was relieved to see that they had two sets of poles in stock. I reached past a woman standing in front of them to secure a set before they were gone, as though it was Christmas Eve 1983 and she was standing in the way of the last two Cabbage Patch Dolls. 

It was ridiculous to think she was there to buy the last two sets of hiking poles, but they were an important survival tool and you can’t suppress instinct. Nevertheless, if she did grab them, I was fully prepared to pry them out of her hands and sprint to the checkout. She walked away not knowing the primal thought process taking place in my brain. After a quick quality test on the poles, I hurried to the checkout. 

While waiting in line one of the strangest things I ever experience at a Wal-Mart happened. Some of the employees started chanting "Give me a W... W!. Give me an A... A!” until finally ending on, “What’s that spell, Wal-Mart! What? Wal-Mart!” My cashier excitedly got involved as well and repeated the mantra with what seemed like pride. But could it be? I’m not use to this. I've never seen anybody so excited to be working at Wal-Mart at 9:30 PM or anywhere for that matter. Their enthusiasm helped to get me back into a good mood. After a stop at the ATM and after grabbing a quick sandwich at the in-store Subway I headed back to Delaney in good spirits and ready for my trip. 

About three miles from the entrance the clock struck 10:00. Nobody was there. Later I found out that they went home early. I decided to pull into the Spurgeon-Hollow Knobstone Trailhead, just a couple miles from Delaney, to sleep in my car. It wouldn't be the first time. I actually don't mind it.

I drove down the bumpy narrow gravel path to the parking area driving slowly over several dips, so my car wouldn't bottom out. It was dark and difficult to see exactly what was around me. There was a pond or small lake and a van backed up to it with people presumably fishing out the back. 

I backed my car into the gravel parking lot, cracked my windows, watched a couple videos on my MP3 player while eating my sandwich from Subway, then easily fell asleep.

Part 2 >
Go to Part 1, 2, 3, 4