Miles 97-108. 12.5 recorded miles. The “Heidelberg Death March”.
The rushing creek was a soothing sound that lulled me to sleep. Somehow my aching feet and back were healed by the restful sleep I got. I started hiking at 10am and had to cross the creek with my shoes off to get back to the trail. I started walking on a dirt road only to come to another creek crossing 30 minutes later. This beautiful part of the creek was lined with an overhanging rock shelter and some ruins of a suspension bridge. The sun reflected off the water and made some cool dancing patterns on the sandstone walls. I dried my feet and put my shoes back on and continued hiking uphil. The dirt road turned to a gravel Jeep road. At a quite inconvenient part of the uphill hike, I encountered about 20 Jeep off-roaders making their way into the valley. I stoped and let them pass and waved at them all. It looked like SO much fun. I would love to go off-roading sometime! There are SO many trails around Kentucky because of all the logging and oil wells. I kept hiking and finally came to the top of the ridge where I knew I wanted to stop and have lunch. I also knew that somewhere at this point there was supposed to be an arch called “Sheltowee Arch” right off the road. I looked for any sign of a trail that would go down to the arch but it was way too steep. Finding this arch would require some bushwhacking and I didn’t have the time or energy to spare on this trip. After lunch, I kept hiking and came to beginning of the the paved part of the road. I waved at the horses as I walked past and looked on my GPS to see that I had 10 miles to go today. 10 miles on paved roads with minimal shade and no clouds in the sky in 90 degree heat. Yikes! I can’t believe I’m insane enough to do this! Somehow it was easy to just put one foot in front of the other and my sun hat and sun glasses really made a difference. I found myself taking lots of pictures. These people’s backyards were gorgeous!! Views of the bluegrass mountains in the distance. Rolling hills with wildflowers and singing birds. The decaying barns and trucks made for interesting centerpieces to my pictures. I watched my GPS for mile marker 100 so I could take a selfie. I passed a few other packs of dogs, thankfully without incident, and finally saw a roaming little cat. I’ve been seeing all these dogs but never any outdoor cats until now. (I’m an animal person, but cats especially.) I walked on the hot sunny road all day and was getting pretty thirsty. I rounded the corner and came upon Conveniently Country, a small grocery store run by a nice lady named Rhonda who wants to open a hostel on her land for the Trace hikers. I told her it was a good idea and that businesses catering to tourists around the Red River Gorge and this area are booming. I got a grape soda and a vitamin water and sat outside in the shade with her dog. He was a really nice, lazy dog. The next five miles blew by as I passed more countryside houses and bluegrass landscapes. I just kept one foot in front of the other and before you knew it, I saw the railroad tracks and the blue bridge of Heidelberg- signaling I was almost to the car. I got to my car and put on my sandals and went to take pictures of the bridge and the Kentucky River. My feet and legs are so sore. Definitely the worst I’ve ever felt from hiking. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a better shoe than mine for walking dozens of miles on paved roads. Hoka One One. They look rediculous (There were no color choices. So naturally, women’s One One’s are bright purple and pink.) but are so cushiony and shock absorbent! I only had one small blister on my pinky toe and I’m so happy it’s not worse. People who hike this section: choose your footwear wisely! Tennis shoes are better than hiking boots for these road walks. This section was challenging mentally and physically and I feel pretty bad ass for doing it alone. Honestly I would do it again if the weather was perfect. 💙
Miles 84-97. 13.7 recorded miles.
Another “wow” day on the Sheltowee. Every section of this trail gives me something that makes all the hardship worth it.
I drove down from Cincinnati at about 630am (gross) and met my shuttle driver, Donna Lucy, at the Heidelberg Park where I will end this section tomorrow. Donna is a true blessing from heaven. I like how her car says “trail nanny”, but “trail ANGEL” is a more accurate description of her. She was basically the nicest person I’ve ever met. We talked the whole 1 hour car ride to Natural Bridge State Park and probably could have talked the whole day. She dropped me off at Hemlock Lodge and off I went up a steep climb to Natural Bridge. I was out of breath a few times from the elevation gain. I made the side trail to go stand on top of Natural Bridge and get a vista of the Red River Gorge. I met a nice backpacker named Andy who said he was making up his August section of the hiker challenge and he was going to meet up with the challenge group tomorrow and do the next section. Off I went on my favorite trail section in Kentucky: the Narrows. I hiked through the almost spider web-less forest and out to the Twilight Arch vista. I’ve never encountered another soul at this spectacular vista. It is on my top 3 favorite vistas for sure. I ate lunch and began to dread the heat as the temperature rose. I hiked back out to the Sheltowee and skipped going under to see the massive White’s Branch Arch. I needed to save some time and energy- plus, I’ll be there next month with my family. So begins the hardships of today. Road walking. Only the truly insane backpackers thru hike this trail with all these road walks. My feet are killing! I hiked out of the state park and out of the forest trail and hiked on a gravel road for about 2.5 miles. Some shade, but still uncomfortably hot. Then I came to a paved road with lots of residences... and loose dogs. 😖 I already have a fear of biting dogs to begin with. A few weeks ago, a lady backpacker and her dog got bit when she was hiking on this road by the loose dogs. I’ve been really nervous about this day for fear of being bit. I walked for a good few hours, baking in the sun, and could not stop thinking about cold Gatorade or soda. Plenty of water weighing down my pack, though. Better drink that... Only a few cars passed. One guy on his motorcycle stopped and talked to me. It was Mr. Gross. Steve had told me about him so it’s funny I actually ran into him while hiking. He’s nice enough. He warned me about his pack of dogs guarding his house, RV, and 700 acres of land. He told me all their names but I only remembered Pepper’s. He said just talk to the dogs and don’t go towards his house and that the dogs won’t hurt me. Well this didn’t make me feel a whole lot better because I knew for a fact one of those dogs was the one that bit Angie. I pass 2 houses with dogs that came out and hollered at me. The first time I froze and stopped for a few minutes to see if they would go away. I was so scared I really teared up. I wanted to keep going but was nervous about them charging at me if I started to move again. I really had no choice. So I started talking to them and walked slowly. They got close, but no bites. The second house, I thought I could be sneaky and walk quietly, but a tiny beagle saw me and the other dogs were alerted. These dogs were thankfully called back by the owner. I kept going, mace in hand, in the open position. I saw Mr. Gross’s RV and my stomach got butterflies. Like I expected, all 6 dogs came into the road barking up a storm. I just looked straight ahead, didn’t make eye contact, and walked slowly on. I think I saw them try to jump up to me so I tucked my arms up so they couldn’t bite my hand. I felt a cold, wet nose on the back of my leg... but that was it. Once I had walked about 50 yards away from his driveway, the dogs turned around. Wow. I was so relieved. I actually had a flood of emotions and starting crying and my breathing sped up. I couldn’t believe I made it through. I looked at my GPS and was even more relieved to see that I had 1 mile to camp. I had walked 8.75 miles on paved or gravel road and when I saw the Little Sinking Creek, I wanted to stick my feet in so badly. I followed the Trace back into the forest and came upon Little Sinking Cave. It was awesome. There’s a little natural bridge that goes over some water in the cave. That was a treat since now I can check it off my arches list. Next to it were 2 more cave rooms. One was dry and I went back a little bit with my headlamp. There were some cool stalagmites/tites (hanging from the ceiling) and a sinking hole that lead to the other cave room. There were also bats... as soon as I saw them I left. I felt bad I had disturbed them. The other cave room you had to crawl down into. I didn’t go down, but I could see and hear rushing water down there. It was a very cool place. After exploring, I kept hiking about 100 yards on trail and then saw a flat spot that I could set up my tent. I took it. It was a short distance to the creek so I was very excited to go for a cold swim. Rushing cold cave water was definitely a reward for all that hot road walking. I’m aching all over but I hope I can drink my water and make my pack lighter for more road walking. Hoping for cooler weather for the 10 miles tomorrow. Kentucky is a beautiful place and I wouldn’t want to road walk in any other state. 💙 Now time for Pad Thai...
Sheltowee Trace Trail
This trail is 323 miles long running from Morehead, KY to Oneida, TN. This blog is about my journey section-hiking the entire length of the trail. Some trips are a part of the Sheltowee Trace Hiker Challenge. This is a group trip offered by the Sheltowee Trace Association. Once a month I go and hike a different 2-day section of the trail with a big group of backpackers. After doing this for 11 months straight, I will have completed the whole trail within a year.