There it was. I was in mid-stride when my mind unconsciously reacted to a snake-type object located in a small gap that lead to the bottom of the bluff.
I gasped and uttered some unintelligible words and took several large steps back. There I was staring down at one of the most feared reptiles in the Shawnee National Forest. I had just encountered my fifth snake of this kind in the wild, Crotalus horridus or more commonly known as the timber rattlesnake.
Time to Explore
The truck came to a halt. I lifted the handle and exited. Early morning light filled the forest as the coolness of night was quickly slipping away. I breathed the moist air and was glad to have had the day off.
Raum Road could be seen through shifting trees. Just off of Raum was a small forest road that ended abruptly with an area for a couple of vehicles to park. That day I was the only one there. This area was not your manicured, signed trailhead.
It was just an open invitation to explore wherever you wanted.
Somewhat scary, but freeing at the same time. Lots of unknowns lurked behind the walls of dense forest, but that is why I had come.
This was a place that I had wanted to explore for years, but its remoteness and lack of established trails kept me from putting the boots to the ground.
This was not the established west side of Lusk Creek Wilderness, where Indian Kitchen, Saltpeter Cave, and the actual stream Lusk Creek reside. This was the east side, where only the River to River Trail and Forest Trail 406 ventured and neither touched the area I wanted to explore.
What kept my attention for so many years was the 3-pronged claw-like valley located in the lower-right of the topographical map above and the large bend mid-left in Little Lusk Creek.
The 3-stream creek was especially interesting for the potential of waterfalls. The squiggly elevation lines seemed to scream come and look.
Putting Boots to the Plan
I put on my backpack, slung my camera over my shoulder, and felt the cool sensation of metal as I grabbed my tripod. I was ready to explore.
I headed down a faint trail that the topo map said would lead to Fulkerson Cemetery, which now was on Shawnee National Forest land. Never seeing the cemetery I continued on, as the faint trail quickly ended. The first place to explore was the middle stream of “The Claw”.
The elevation change here was reassuring as small rocky outcrops appeared. They were not exactly the bluffs that produced waterfalls, but it could be that I needed to go further upstream.
The steam gurgled with last weeks rain. Rocks littered the creek, making it a chore to make my upstream. The sides of the valley were too steep to make them a viable option for movement. The rocks seemed to merge together as I planted my hiking boots on the uneven terrain. My eyes were scanning the area for the possibility of copperheads or water snakes, but to no avail.
As the blue arrow on my GPSr pushed forward, the possibility of a waterfall on the middle stream soon disappeared. Although the gradient was steep, a bluff canyon never appeared. A little disappointed, my feet turned back downstream to the second stream, occasionally stumbling over uplifted rocks.
Stream Part Two
The second stream was narrow, but the gradient looked promising and the hillsides were steep, with a small bluff to the left. It was easier moving here, because I was not limited to the creek only.
The stream zig-zagged impeding my view upstream. With each turn it felt like I was getting closer to something big, but soon the sides of the hills started to shrink and the prospects of a waterfall on the second creek evaporated.
Stream Two redeemed itself by revealing a shallow overhang shelter, which was protected with a wall of leaves. After pushing through the wall, I was able to enjoy the stream from above and take in all its natural beauty, but Little Lusk Creek was calling in the valley below and I needed to answer.
Part 2 – Coming Soon!
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