So that was the first day of my journey away from home. It felt oddly normal, I must say, like any other "there and back" trip, only without the "back" this time. I felt no internal sense of how far I'd come, no twinge in my gut to tell me I’m going the wrong way. But the Midwest doesn't feel all that different from home, so far. There's still the same humidity, the same trees, and the same road signs (those, at least, will be a constant all through my trip across the US)--nothing to say that the Sleepy Hollow Rd. I passed in the Chicago suburbs wasn't just some unknown stretch of the one that runs by my house. At least not yet...
I woke in the night to a scuffling sound just outside my tent. My ears pricked, listening through the blind night and my tent's opaque rain cover. The sound continued; something was out there. A bear?--no, not here in Illinois--possums? Raccoons? Perhaps. I sighed in relief. No doubt the critters would soon move on, for there was nothing in my camp to interest them, not with all my food sealed up in...
...my car, whose windows I'd left cracked after dinner. That's what they were after.
I fished my keys out from their hiding place, beeped the car to scare them off, then crawled from my tent to inspect the damage. Thankfully, there wasn't much; the window gap was too narrow for them to get in (though one can only imagine the contortions they'd gone through trying). All they'd left were a few dusty footprints on my windshield.
|In the light of day.|
The next morning, I took a walk around the bottomlands before heading out:
|Good morning, river.|
|With that width now, just imagine its size in life.|
I wandered over to the riverbank:
then on to the far end of the field, where I discovered a trailhead leading to a place called Tower Rock.
A rock formation? Count me in.
The trail sloped steeply (for Illinois) up at first, then guided me through the spiderwebby woods atop the bluff. It hewed close to the edge, but not close enough to allow downward views--the rock was crumbly and the soil loose.
|With some exceptions.|
|The rock, #nomakeup.|
Just then a voice spoke to me. "What's the hold-up?"
"That ledge of yours," I said. "I can't see a way around it, so..." I lowered my hands to descend.
"Hey hey hey, wait just a minute," the rock replied. "So I've got a big ol' ledge. So what? You can't handle a bit of a bulge? I guess you’d rather zip up one of those anorexic little spires, huh? Well, let me tell you, cliff-shamer, that real boulders have curves, and if you can’t handle me at my worst-"
I resumed climbing just to shut it up. A few tricky moves (and some frantic cobweb-clearing), and I'd made it. The rock was flat on top, marked with the graffiti of previous climbers. Out here, above the trees, I could see all the way up the river:
a fitting reward for my efforts, and a far better view than the official overlook down the trail. So. Down?
I peered over the edge. The cliff looked an awful lot steeper from the top. Deep breath. I slid my weight over the edge...
...and soon found myself stuck on top of that same stupid ledge. I dropped a leg... no holds in reach. Sat down, legs dangling, and reached out an arm... nothing.
The rock chortled to itself. "Give up, hiker-girl, there's no way down. Not if you can't even turn around to face me."
Turn around... aha, that was it! Gripping the rock, I swung around and lowered myself over the ledge, probing for footholds.
"Better, but you're not smiling. Smile at me, girl, and say I'm beautiful."
Oh, come on. "You're... beautiful," I panted, leg fully extended, "just the way... you are."
-and just then, like magic, my foot found a hold. Gripping the ledge, I swung my other leg around, then hopped down to the breakfast ledge.
The rock loomed over me once more, pride gleaming from every grain of its bulk. "And don't you forget it."
I scrambled the last few steps down, then scurried off into the forest. So that's why they'd warned not to climb the rocks.
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