Saturday- 13.9 miles
Sunday- 14.1 miles
This was going to be a good section. I have done this one before and its pretty scenic. I parked my SHLTWEE wagon in the parking lot and hopped in Steve's van with Tyler and Brit and Sprinkles. We got to Morehead and took the group picture and headed off down Main Street. Through the Clearfield neighborhood and up Mill Branch. I met back up with Tyler and Brit and we strolled along the trail as it wove in and out of an old logging road. We finally came upon the beautiful Cave Run Lake basking in the sunlight. I stayed behind to get some pictures. I got to camp and set up my tent on the other side of the trail. I walked back out to the lake to sit by myself and take it all in. The water was so blue and the mountains hovered right above them- something I am not quite used to seeing next to a lake. They had a warm brown glow as the sun set behind me. I started to walk back and took pictures of the sun glowing over the field on the way. Everything is always prettier at sunset. I grabbed my cooking stuff and hiked over to sit by the campfire with the other 30 people. Steve was talking and making everyone chuckle. I enjoyed my pad thai- Good to Go is the brand. Its the best freeze dried meal ever. Me and a few other folk stayed around the campfire sipped some Wild Turkey and Makers Mark. I'm more of a beer snob, but when backpacking, you have to think about the weight to alcohol content ratio.
The next morning was foggy and gray. I almost got my tent down in time for it to start raining, but I was too late. It was sleeting softly as I started out in the dark on the windy trail that skirted Cave Run Lake. It has always been muddy from horses on this section, This part of the trail is gorgeous and pretty much flat- easy to put on that cruise control and listen to some tunes. The water in the lake is some of the cleanest in Kentucky. At the deepest, the it was a dark blue. On the Stoney Cove shore, more of a dark sea foam green. In the inlets, it was bright sea foam green. The color was an amazing contrast to the brown and red leaves on the hillside. It is really an odd sight, but certainly a beauty of Kentucky. 6 miles later, the trail was flooded with this bright sea foam green water- TRULY an odd sight. Going around the flooded part required bushwhacking. I wasn't even sure which direction to whack, but everyone helped each other and I was not alone in this battle. It was a strenuous half mile detour, but eventually I got back to the trail after getting whacked in the face with a few rhodo branches. It was a few more miles back to Clear Creek, through Cedar Cliffs, which offered an obscured view of the next ridgetops over. I love the Cave Run area, but the Gorge offers the best views. Still, the fog was still peacefully lingering in the valleys, making for an excellent sight. I remember when I had done this section in the summer and how I got ticks and had to wade through spider webs. I pretty much had a breakdown on the trail because the spiderwebs were so bad. The conditions were much more favorable this time. I descended the familiar hillside and was happy to say that "it was all downhill from here." I got to the Clear Creek parking lot and passed Steve's van which had my 5lb drop in it. I got back to my car and got ready for the 2 hour drive home. I waited as long as I could to wake up the snoozing Steve so he could unlock his van and get my 5 lb drop. He awoke with a fright. Sorry Steve. My afterhike meal this time was McDonalds. It was not satisfying and I will have to plan better next time.
Miles 37-47.5. 14.08 recorded miles.
Today was pretty hard. I almost cried. There were a few moments I really wanted to just fall over and be carried out of the forest. I slept great and once I made my coffee, I felt ready to go. The trail led to the lakeside. I could only see it through a few trees. It is really clear and blue. I really want to take my kayak down here. The trail wound in and out of the coves of the lake. I hiked through a pack of 5 dogs and somehow only came out with only slobber on my legs. After that, I saw no one the rest of the day. About 12 miles I was completely alone. A lot of people don’t like hiking alone. I looooove it. I don’t really notice that I’m alone or not with people. I guess I don’t feel alone because I know the trees are watching and the birds are singing their songs for me. The birds were plentiful . The spider webs were also plentiful. Very very plentiful. Honestly, the spider webs were the most difficult part of today. Not the 14.08 miles, not the mud puddles, not the crazy elevation changes, not the heat, but the spider webs in the middle of the trail. It was awful! I couldn’t hike! They are so hard to see and pull off of yourself. I had a spider stick, but it only really prevented me from getting webbed half of the time. I couldn’t just NOT try to get them off of me. I would say on average, I stopped every 3 minutes to get the webs off me and to make sure there wasn’t a spider attached to me. It was really discouraging to stand for a minute getting webs off you only to turn around and run right in to another one. The mud puddles were pretty often past the lakeside part of the trail. Only one foot got completely submerged in muck though. I stopped to eat lunch and seriously did not want to get back up again. I was almost halfway through. Once I did get up I actually began hiking at a faster pace, but the webs still slowed me down. I was counting on a creek to be running because I had visited it before when it was flowing back in March. Today it was bone dry so I had to ration my water for the last 4 miles. 7 liters of water for a 2-day, 2-night trip in the summer is definitely not enough, but I did make it back to the car without feeling dehydrated. I took the last sips from my water bladder just as my car came into sight. The last 0.25 mile was cruel. Ups and downs and I could see the road, I was almost there, but the trail kept going. Finally I reached the road crossing and literally drug my feet to the parking lot. I parked by a boat launch on Clear Creek Lake, so I was able to get in the water and wash the webs and ticks off before my 2-hour drive home. Overall, it was a very tough trail: 1,225 feet of elevation gain, trying to stay on your feet walking through mud puddles, and some overgrown brush in some parts. Even though I was on the verge of tears at some parts and ready to quit, I was still just happy to be there. So that section is down... 254 miles to go!
Miles 29.5 - 37. 9.2 recorded miles.
Boy am I glad I took my time with this section. I did 8.5 miles plus a side trail that was about 0.5. I woke up to the beautiful fog and noticed how unbelievably quiet it was. It was pretty cloudy, but at 2pm, the sun came out. I made coffee and it wasn’t even bad! I climbed down back to the Trace and started the spider web whacking immediately. The trail was very well maintained and blazed... by me! I walked by the blaze Mason and I put up back in January while we were volunteering with the Sheltowee Trace Association. The trail went from the woods onto a overgrown gravel road and I was greeted with beautiful wildflowers and butterflies! I took a side trail to Limestone Knob- the highest point in Rowan County. It was a straight up hill eroded trail but I saw this weird looking blue mushroom on my way up. I would think it is a rare mushroom because I haven’t seen any pictures of such a mushroom, especially in Kentucky. There was a very old geocache up there. It was placed there in 2007. There wasn’t anything interesting in there... Oddly enough, most of its contents were hygiene products. I brought a few mini index cards, so I got one out and wrote what had been on my mind this morning. “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.” I stuck it in with the log notebook and began the climb down to the Trace. I kept going on a hilly, ridge-top single track trail and met 4 mountain bikers at an intersection. Mountain biking looks so fun! I went down the Trace, Trail #100, and they soon passed me. I stopped for about an hour to eat lunch on the side of the trail. I wish I had kept going because there was a man-made bench just around the corner that would have made a great spot for lunch! I soon got to highway 801 and met some nice labradors who wanted my spider stick. I turned on the road and made my way across the Cave Run Lake Dam. Woooow! I stopped and took it all in. It was huge and the mountains in the background were gorgeous! Everyone had their boats and wave runners. How fun! I walked down to a rocky beach and sat in the water for a good long time. Then I dried out on the grassy knoll for a good long time. Then I sat down at the picnic table and snacked and watched the boats go in and out, also for a good long time. I walked up back into the trail and only had to walk 3 minutes until I found the campsite I planned on using. Well 3 minutes from the lake meant I could still here all the noise. Then 8 ATV riders were riding past my campsite for like an hour. It’s still a bit noisy now, at 9pm. I tried a new freeze dried meal that I put together myself. Freeze dried chicken, freeze dried green beans, instant mashed potatoes, and garlic salt. It wasn’t the best.... but it wasn’t bad! 13.3 miles to go tomorrow and then I have to drive 2.5 hours home. I hope I can get a early start!
Weather is so unbelievably frustrating. The forecast told stories of storms, hail, and gusty winds. Well the forecast changed drastically last minute! I had planned to start hiking in the morning on Friday. When I was all packed and ready to go, I checked the weather app again. It said high percent chance of storms with gusty winds and hail possible. As you can read below, I told myself I’d never go out in storms again! So I stayed and home and checked the forecast again about 4 hours later... it had improved to the point where I wish I had decided to go! It’s really disheartening to think about what I missed out on yesterday and today, but I’m glad my dad got the opportunity to come down with me. I made a new plan to hike a little with him and then he would shuttle me to the starting point. I met my dad and our dog, Charlotte, in Frenchburg this morning and we hiked to Devil’s Markethouse Arch. After our successful trip to the arch, we dropped my car off at the Clear Creek Trailhead (my ending point) and drove to Morehead.
With my 31.7 lb. pack, I put on my hiking shoes and said bye to dad. I hiked about 5.5 miles through the cute towns of Morehead and Clearfield and made it up to Amburgy Rocks. It was mostly sunny and I didn’t see a drop of rain until after I set up my tent, and that shower blew over fast. It was so cool to walk by the turtle blazes that I had painted myself a few weeks ago! Amburgy Rocks are some beautiful rocks! They are very similar to the sandstone Rocks in Red River Gorge. I love how you can see the tiny patterned holes and the underclings in the rocks. The wind has painted beautiful lines in this sandstone. There’s a nice campsite with a “winter” vista on top of Amburgy Rocks. I’m always a little scared when camping in new places.... I don’t know if there’s a greater chance for bears here than RRG... the town of Morehead is making a lot of highway noise so maybe that will ward them off. But close to town also means townies might come up here to party- or something like that. I don’t have a lot of miles to do tomorrow, so if I don’t fall asleep tonight, I can sleep tomorrow.
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.