I have been taking a break from writing this summer just because of lack of motivation, writer's block, or something like that. My summer adventures have been wonderful as I have continued my section hikes as a part of the Hiker Challenge. I also led a few backpacking trips on the Sheltowee. I last wrote about May's section ending in McKee, so for this entry, I'll summarize June through August's sections.
These sections were brand new to me and were certainly spectacular. It was a new kind of Kentucky forest. I've explored plenty around Red River Gorge and Big South Fork, but these parts had there own special charm. There was a lot more covered forest trails and not so much ridge-top views. A few times we had trail magic from other Hiker Challenge participants. They set up ice coolers with Gatorade and electrolyte popsicles. It really was quite magical.
From McKee, we hiked south along Rock Castle River which was a nice water source but had lots of crossings. In the summer heat, the cold water rushing in my trail runners was so relieving on my sore feet. Crossing over I-75 was cool and the trail south of it was prettier and more wild than I expected. From the 49er diner, which is a great resupply spot, the trail followed a ATV road over beautiful, red sandstone rock on a ridge-top. This part was over grown with some charming summer weeds. Queen Anne's Lace was prominent and glistened with early morning dew. The trail skirts Laurel Lake and as we hiked in the woods we saw many people enjoying their boats. This hike was particularly hot and taxing- I could not have done it without Tracy hiking with me. I usually didn't necessarily try to always hike with a buddy, but sometimes you really need it when the going gets tough. I was grateful for her pacing me and encouraging me to keep going. Without her there, I would have been sluggish and might have even bailed out. We ended that section at the Laurel Lake dam and while the waters looked inviting, I opted to run up to the Holly Bay campground and payed to use their showers before my 3-hour drive home. The August section was the longest of the whole Hiker Challenge. The trail follows Laurel River through a patch of Kudzu that completely overtook the trees and tall cliffs. It was an other-earthly scene and made for a good photograph. We hiked on to Cumberland Falls and stopped for hot dogs and Slushees at their snack stand- the most satisfying lunch I've ever had. The rest of that day was some hard, but scenic hiking as the trail followed the Cumberland River. I ended up logging total 23.7 miles for the day- the most I've ever done. In the same day, I had the most satisfying dinner- Cumberland Falls Resort has a all-you-can-eat buffet with home-style country fixin's. As I laid down on my bunk bed in a Sheltowee Trace Resort cabin, I wondered how in the heck I was going to hike another 10 miles tomorrow. But I did. I was actually the first or second hiker to reach the Flat Rock Baptist church where my car was waiting. I hiked fast because I wanted to get home and get out of the heat.
I cannot wait to hike these sections again because they were so green in the summer. I don't think it would be very enjoyable in the winter with the leaves off and water everywhere.
Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail
This trail is 333 miles long running from Morehead, KY to Oneida, TN. These blogs are about my experiences backpacking this trail. I've hiked every section at least once and was a class of 2019 Hiker Challenge participant.