Despite the utterly discouraging failure last weekend, I formulated a plan to get the rest of the miles done in 3 days. I was so grateful for my brother, Michael, who adventured down to Big South Fork with me driving a separate car. He was willing to shuttle ourselves to complete two disconnected sections of the Sheltowee Trace. We did a 1-night backpacking trip starting Friday morning from Yamacraw, where I left off last weekend, to Peter's Mountain. Then Saturday night, we got a room in the Big South Fork Trail Lodge and are planning on day-hiking tomorrow (Sunday) from Leatherwood Ford to the southern terminus at Burnt Mill Bridge. I know Michael loves hiking and backpacking, but he was an angel to drive all over Tennessee and Kentucky to help me complete the challenge.
We met at Peter's Mountain and took my car over to Yamacraw. It was cloudy, but dry. We had a good first mile and a half until we got to the infamous Rock Creek crossing. It is a very wide creek that can get up to your waist when the water is high enough. It was up to our knees when we crossed it. I gave Michael one of my trekking poles to help him cross the creek without falling over. It did not work. In fact, when he fell, the trekking pole slipped out of his hands and floated off down the stream. The rapid water carried it too far for me to try and go rescue it. Sorry to leave a trace, but I hope someone finds it and can use it. Good thing Michael's fall didn't result in injury, just damp pants and backpack. We sat on the banks and laughed it off as we put our dry shoes back on. Off to a good start, aren't we? Now I had three days to hike with only one pole, but could never be mad at him for losing it. I'm just glad no one was hurt and we could go on. We spent most of the day in the forest, had a short road walk and made it to the new reroute on the Kentucky trail. The trail went uphill to the Blue Heron bridge in the old abandoned mining town. It was the first time we had seen other people all day. We made it to the Catawba overlook around 4:30pm and realized we would have to hike some in the dark if we wanted to make it to the campsite at Ledbetter. We got our headlamps ready and continued on a ridge top. By the time it was completely dark, we walked through this patch of field that would have made a good campsite, but we had to keep going just a few more miles. It was so cool we heard an owl give a little who-who. Night hiking is a really fun thing especially when wildlife comes out. We finally made it to the forest road, greeted by a creepy cemetery. A few more feet and we came to the Ledbetter trailhead where there was a wide open space to camp. We set up and chowed down on like more than half of the food in our food bag. I tried a new Mountain House meal- chicken fajita bowl- so yummy!!! As we got in our sleeping bags for the night, rain started trickling down on our tent. Saturday's 12 miles were tough as the rain wouldn't let up at all and the temperatures were dropping. I was battling that hip pain again, but there weren't any options for bailing at this point. We were soaked to the bone and our rain jackets had been compromised. Even though I was limping half the time, I was still able to appreciate my magnificent surroundings. It was a humbling day. I don't know if I could have done that knowing I had to set up a tent again. Michael and I fast-walked down the forest road back to Peter's Mountain and were so looking forward to checking in at our motel room. Once we were back to our cars and driving back out to Yamacraw to get my car, I was violently shaking I was so cold. Michael's car heater wasn't enough even on full blast. I really didn't stop shaking until we checked into our room and I hopped in the hot shower... not saving any hot water for Michael... oops!
We watched the football games until dinner time and went into Whitley City to a local restaurant where they kill the cows out back. Murf's Bistro had the best hamburgers I've ever had! What an awesome way to end a crappy day. I'm looking forward to the good weather on our day hike tomorrow.
Even with all-day rains in the forecast, I somehow convinced my fiance, Mason, to come along with me on section 9. The plan was to take 3 days to complete all of section 9- Flat Rock to Peter's Mountain. Trail angel Susan Stretch shuttled us and by the time we got to Flat Rock, the rain was holding off for a while. Off we went into the wet woods with orange leaves glistening on the ground. A few miles in the rain picked up and really didn't let up until we reached camp. There were quite a few beautiful rock shelters that allowed us to take a break from the rain. 10 miles later we were soaked to the bone and my feet were wet. I was complaining in my head how much the rain sucked and how nice it would have been if it were dry. Mason was complaining out loud- at least he had new boots that were keeping his feet dry. We made it down to the river and were relieved we found a large campsite. We started to hang some clothes out to dry, but the sky soon started sprinkling on us. How frustrating. It was also frustrating we were tent-bound for the rest of the night, and it was only 6:30pm. The next morning was gorgeous! The sun was up and shining through the wet, sparkling pine trees. Glad we had a dry day ahead of us, we filtered water from the river, packed up camp, and hiked out.... taking a wrong turn at first.... we quickly backtracked and found the Sheltowee as it skirted the edge of the river. I was in good spirits for a mile or two... until I felt a sharp pain in my hip. I've had this pain before on a long hike, but it went away after a few miles. I was concerned, but expecting it to go away. Well, it didn't. After 5 miles, we reached Yamacraw and I threw the towel in. With tears coming down my face, frustrated with my failure, I texted our trail angel, Susan, and she came and picked us up within minutes. I'm so grateful to have people like her around the trail. I was also discouraged because it meant having to put in a great effort to complete the Hiker Challenge before The Gathering (Hiker Challenge award ceremony) in just 2 weeks. There was a good chance I'd have to make 2 more trips down to complete the last 50-ish miles. I had 4 days off work, including Thanksgiving Day to get the miles done. Not impossible, just a lot of shuttling. Stay tuned to find out...
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.