|The Dutch Oven Gang in attack formation|
I said goodbye all too soon as Gretchen and her youngest son Chris dropped me back on the trail at Wehrspann Lake. The morning was crisp and cool and I made good time along the placid lake. Occasional shouts from a bull horn alerted me to an Autism Puzzle Race in progress far across the park.
After an hour I left Chalco Hills, rejoining the highway for a short span before noticing a stretch of trail parallel to Highway 50. I'd reached a section of the Mo-Pac, a rail trail which will eventually link Omaha and Lincoln. I followed the dirt path into Springfield, where I encountered some new Nebraska cuisine.
The runza is a minced meat pie with melted cheese and other toppings. The sandwich, said to have originated in Lincoln, is structured similarly to Hot Pockets, which formed about 50% of my diet during the college years and a few beyond. All part of my elaborate plan to become the unhealthiest eater ever to walk across the country.
Five more miles on the Mo-Pac brought me to the Platte River, which I will be following for much of this state's girth. The trail abruptly ends here so I hopped onto Highway 50 once more and completed the last mile into Louisville (pronounced Lewis-ville) Recreation Area where I would camp for the night.
Shortly after reaching my campsite, while pondering the possibility of one day erecting my tent, a young couple approached. Ryan and Christy had overheard me speaking to the park ranger about my trip and wanted to invite me to their Dutch Oven supper club. Despite being leery of rituals involving baked beans and sleeping bags I immediately accepted.
When I arrived at their RV I was mobbed by a group of a dozen people, including their children Ryan Jr. and Victoria. I don't have the cognitive capacity to remember every member of the group, but I won't forget Bob Furr, who gave me a pedometer, or his wife Lucy Furr, currently the clubhouse leader for best name of the trip.
We settled down to a bonanza of food all cooked in Dutch Ovens. Though beans were absent most everything else was not. Pineapple rice with spam, taco casserole, bacon meatloaf, tender pork with sauerkraut, tequila lime chicken wings, and peach cobbler were among the mouth-watering options. The fellowship was equally delightful. These are the days that raise your spirit, the memories you cling to when the road grows tedious and lonely - and wet.
15 miles/1836 total miles.