I spent the night with two priests and a Catholic dog....


Make ready. Go forward!
Jan 21, 2012
I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it's not and it turned out to be a really fun evening. It all started about a week ago for me. I decided on a whim to get a bit of hiking in right after Christmas. I checked the upcoming schedule and realized that I would not have any family in town until later in the week so I decided to do a quick over nighter on the Tecumseh trail here in Indiana.

I was pretty pumped about this trip for a couple of reasons. First I had some new gear to test out, (Reviews are coming I promise.) and second I read about an A.T. style shelter along the trail that I really wanted to check out. Apparently I have no life. I've never stayed in this type of shelter and it sounded like an adventure.

So, the day after Christmas I kissed my wife good by and set off for the trail. I started off down the trail by myself. Within the first mile I passed by by an older gentleman out walking his little doggie. Said "hi" to him and kept walking. Shortly after the man and the dog I passed by several people all in a group near one of the roads. They were all just standing around, I don't know if they were just taking a break or what, but no matter I said "hi" and quickly hurried on by.

For the next several miles I say no one and was content to be alone in my thoughts. I passed by Bear lake, and then in the course of the next 4 miles I passed over several streams. I made it a point to count how many on my way back the next day. (7 streams.) Including stopping for breaks and to refill water bottles I made it to the shelter by about 4pm.

I generally don't like making camp with too many hours before bedtime. I pack fairly light which means I don't have a book to read, or cards to play etc. It only takes so long to pitch and tent and make dinner. Then after that what do you do? Sit around and be bored? No, generally if I get to were I plan to make camp too early I'll just keep hiking until closer to dark, but alas this was my destination so I decided to make the best of it.

This shelter is generously provided by a local Lutheran church. It's a nice little shelter scarcely 20 feet off the trail. There's a fire ring and picnic table setup in the clearing next to the shelter. Upon arrival I found a small plastic tote container in the shelter and a broom leaning in the corner. In the tote were a couple of notebooks and plenty of pens. One of the notebooks was type of log book and the other was presumably a spare. There was also a small Bible in the tote. I laid out my sleeping bag and setup my small stove. Glancing at my watch I noted that it was still only around 4:30pm. (Still too early to make dinner.) I decided I might as well get hunkered down in my sleeping bag and read the log book, perhaps a bit of the Bible, add my own two cent's to the log book and then make dinner. I knew it would be dark by 6pm so I figured after dinner I'd read a book on my droid until I got tired.

I had just finished reading the log book and righting my own post when I thought I heard voices in the distance. I paused, quiet, listening. A minute or so later I heard the voices again, closer. I figured there was a pretty good chance the voices would turn into people spending the night in the shelter so I sat up, quietly waiting.

I didn't have to wait long before I heard some scurrying coming up the trail, before I didn't had time to process that it was too fast for a person. A black lab wearing a red saddle bag darted around the corner, turned saw me and froze. She did a low half bark sort of growl, like she wasn't quite sure what to do. I figured I'd sit calmly as the owners wouldn't be far behind. The voices noticed the behavior of the dog, and now I heard two guys talking. One was commenting about the behavior and the other voice observed there might be people in the shelter. Taking the cue I called out, that indeed there was someone in the shelter.

Then around the corner came two fellows. Both nice enough, if not ordinary looking gentlemen. They introduced themselves as Todd and Michael. The dog's name was Sheba. I set about moving my stuff off to one side. (I had previously setup in the middle as I wasn't expecting company. I made small talk and they seemed like nice enough guys. Todd told me that he was still learning the ropes of backpacking, and his friend Michael was showing him the ropes. Todd set about making a fire in pit while Micheal unpacked his bag and got Sheba settled in. They talked amongst themselves and I quickly realized they were a couple of guys who liked to cut up and have fun. They were both easy going and I was pretty sure I was in for a pleasant evening. Usually when I'm off backpacking I'm by myself so it was a nice change of pace to have people to interact with.

Their first hurdle of the night was realizing that they no cooking pans or what not to cook the steaks they'd brought over the fire. Should have brought freeze dried food in a pouch like me and you wouldn't have that problem, but perhaps that's sour grapes on my part. After much playful bickering back and forth Michael finally came up with the idea to have some fairly thick sticks just off to the side of the fire. He placed the steaks on the sticks and rotated them every so often and before long they were enjoying thick juicy steaks. (For the record they did offer to share.)

It was about this point while they were eating and I was playing with Sheba that I casually asked what they did for work. Todd replied that he was Priest at a parish in Indianapolis and Michael was a priest at another parish in Indianapolis. Michael told me that this was a well deserved break for them as Easter and Christmas are non stop mass after mass. They enjoying their break by hitting the trail and getting away from the city for a few days. I told them I could relate a bit as I was preacher's kid and was quite familiar with the long hours that ministers put in.

We talked about everything from Tequila to Buster Keaton in then next hour or so. Michael, according to Todd, is a bit of a Tequila snob. This after Todd asked him about this brand and that brand and Michael said he didn't care for either. Micheal said that a year or so ago he was down in Mexico at some church convention. The evening in between the convention was spent with some of the natives teaching him all about Tequila. There was a fair amount of hands on teaching involved.

Todd revealed, half kidding, that he didn't like dogs and didn't know about Sheba. He went for a short walk with Sheba following close behind. When he came back he was telling Michael that his dog attacked him by, suddenly, and without warning, jumping up on him. Michael told him that Sheba just wanted to play. Honestly how can you be a priest and not like dogs? I think it's one of God's laws or something. Probably somewhere in the book of Exodus.

It was well after dark when I turned in for the evening. Todd and Michael sitting near the campfire. Reciting prayers together. Growing up protestant I'd never heard anything like this so I lay awake listening. One would read a sentence of prayer, and then the other would answer the sentence with another sentence of prayer. There were a few hallelujahs and amens mixed in. After their prayers Todd stayed awake to read a few more prayers that he'd missed reading earlier in the day.

I awoke the next morning around 7:30am and noticed a light dusting of snow on the ground. The snow was still coming down. I glanced at my watch and saw that the overnight low had been down to 34.6 degrees. I had slept comfy and cozy all night. As I sat up Sheba got up from her spot and came over to greet me. She was excited that someone was finally awake to pay attention to her. She was shivering and was quite eager to hunker down in my bag next to me, uninvited. Normally I wouldn't let a dog get in my bag, but Sheba was just so darn cute. I let her burrow in a bit as I petted her and mentally got ready for the day.
Shortly there after the two priest stirred from their sleep. Micheal was groggy and complained that he wasn't ready to get up for the day. I asked him if He'd heard the song, "Rise and shine and give God the glory." He'd heard it from his mom as a child. He said she was Southern Baptist. It struck me as funny that an Irish priest grew up in a Southern Baptist home.

I have no idea how our conversation veered in the direction that it did, but we quickly had a lively debate going on the evils of Wal-Mart and social injustices of the world. We fell along the lines as such. I'm fairly conservative, Michael is a liberal, and Todd is a libertarian. Needless to say it made for a lively debate as we ate breakfast and packed our bags.
After we said our good-byes we exchanged emails and set off. They were headed South and I was headed back North. I sincerely hope our paths cross again. It's been awhile since I've had such a fun, and lively discussion.
Here we are the following morning before departing. The snow was coming down fairly heavy. I'm on the left, Michael is in the middle with Sheba, Todd is on the right.

I thought about writing more about the actual hike, but really the time spent with the two priest and one Catholic dog was the high light for me. For the record, I tried to "wind up" Michael a bit by telling him his dog was actually a protestant. He assured me that wasn't the case. I'm not sure how he'd know, but perhaps he baptized the dog as a puppy?

The hike, for those interested, was about 8 miles long and started at the north end of the trail. Hiking was a bit chilly, but a nice clear day. Hiking out the following day was through thick falling snow that lasted until noon and then turned in to a light rain for the final part of the hike. I saw no one one on my hike back.

Some extra pictures
This is me when I first arrived at the shelter​
Crossing over one of the back country roads​
The same view, but in vertical​
A very nice bridge crossing one of the many creeks.​
I like the depth of this picture.​


Aug 9, 2007
Seems like half the fun of any solo outing is the people you run into. That area looks great in sepia. :twothumbs:
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