Signs of Civilization
Prior to the last resort bus there weren’t any real signs of civilization along the trail. No houses or other things. After the bus we started to see more human evidence. This old shack looked like a fixer-upper special.
And, then, this guy just randomly parked his pickup in the middle of the trail. He wasn’t around when we showed up but we managed to wiggle by.
Kiamichi Fire Tower
If you’ve read any other K Trail reports you have probably heard mention of, and seen pictures of, the fire tower. I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time and to getting a few good pics. I didn’t have a gun so I wasn’t able to add my own personal bullet hole to the collection. Next time.
Both Jon and I climbed up the tower but I was kind of nervous about it. Only one anchor wire was still attached and I wasn’t sure if the tower was going to topple over at any moment. But, I needed an aerial picture so up I went. And people wonder why men die at an earlier age than women. 🙂
Jon decided it was safe enough and climbed up after I was back on the ground. Everyone else wisely decided to stay safely on the ground.
Milton decided he was tired and needed to rest. Little did we know it was a portend of things to come.
At the Crossroads of Life and Certain Death
As we rode east I took every opportunity I could find to grab photos of the fellows. I would zip ahead when possible, jump off my bike, grab my camera, and wait in ambush for them to arrive.
It was tough getting pictures of Smiley since he always seemed to be riding up front and I could never catch him. So, here’s a picture of a pretty flower.
Then we arrived at the crossroads. Let me explain. Each of us has our own personal idiosyncrasies – characteristic or personality peculiarities. Well, one of JT’s idiosyncrasies is the desire to explore every trail he encounters. If you and JT are riding a trail that neither of you have been down before but that you know for a fact is a good trail that you can get through and you encounter a trail that you don’t know anything about, JT will invariably choose to ride the unknown trail. There’s nothing wrong with that – you just need to know that he will make that choice.
That is exactly the situation that we found ourselves in. We arrived at an intersection of the K Trail and an unknown faint trail that was shown on JT’s GPS. One glance at the unknown trail and you could tell that it was not often used. In fact, it looked like it hadn’t been used in 50 years. But it’s clearly shown on JT’s GPS.
“Hey, JT, what map is that on your GPS? That trail isn’t on my map.”
“Rich, it’s a hand drawn map from 1882, presumably drawn by a hermit living in these woods. It was discovered buried in a cave not far from here during an archeological dig and eventually was submitted to the University of Texas maps archives where it lay untouched for over 100 years until I found it. I scanned it and converted it into a map for my GPS.”
“Oh, well in that case, I’m sure it’s an accurate map and we can completely trust our lives on it’s accuracy.”
JT indicated that the southern end of the trail intersected the K Trail several miles from here and that he was going to see if the trail did, in fact, go all the way through. Taylor had already decided to go with him down the trail.
So I turned to Jack and Milton and pointed down the trail and said “this is the trail to certain death.” Then I pointed down the K Trail and said “this leads to life. Which way do you want to go?”
Milton: “Certain Death?”
Milton: “Okay, I’m definitely going that way.”
We agreed that JT, Taylor, and Milton would explore The Road to Certain Death and Smiley, Jack, and I would continue on the K Trail and meet them at the southern intersection. Both groups went off on their respective ways.
My group arrived at the southern intersection first. After a few minutes of waiting I came up with at different plan. I asked Smiley and Jack to ride into Mena, check into the hotel, and then go find some cold beer (Mena is in a dry county so they would have to do some searching/riding to find the closest beer store) while I remained behind waiting on JT’s group. Off they went.
I waited at the intersection for 1.5 hours, occupying my time by taking a few pictures of the flower I posted earlier.
A pack of 4 wheelers came up the trail and stopped to visit with me. They informed me that JT and crew were stuck about a mile back, unable to cross a major river blocking their way, and were going to have to backtrack to the K Trail.
At this point I decided I didn’t need to wait any longer. By the time those 3 fellows arrived at my location they would easily figure out that my group had continued on our way.
I rode to Mena, checked into the hotel, and got a cold beer from Jack. After a quick shower the 3 of us headed over to the restaurant for dinner. It was nearly 8 pm at this time. Near the end of dinner I got a call from JT.
“Where are you guys?”
“In the restaurant. Come join us.”
“Okay. But Milton fell in the river and so we left him there.”
“Ha ha. That’s funny. See you in a minute.”
When JT and Taylor arrived I asked them where Milton was.
“I told you we left him at the river.”
“What? You really left him?”
“Yes, we did.”
JT informed us that the trail to the river was very tough, with many large rocks, deep water crossings, and severely overgrown vegetation. Once they reached the river they discovered that there was no way to get across and would have to turn back. However, Milton was simply too tired to continue. After dropping his bike a few times he decided that he wouldn’t be able to ride his bike back up The Road to Certain Death and would, instead, stay the night on the trail. He had some power bars, water, a bivy sack, and a way to start a fire. He made camp while JT and Taylor rode out and then on to Mena.
I was a bit worried about that decision but Milton is a big boy and has been known to sleep on the side of a trail when he gets too tired.