Saturday logged miles- 21.27
Saturday map miles-18
Sunday logged miles-11.83
Sunday map miles-11
I'm still trying to find the right amount of time it takes to break in a new pair of hiking shoes. I haven't found it yet. The hardest part of this section was that I was wearing new trail runners that had less than 10 miles on them and had horrible blisters. Another hard part of this weekend was simply getting down to the shuttle point on Friday night. I had forgotten a lot of things for the Friday night campout. I stopped at Walmart on the way to grab a pillow and comfortable blanket so I didn't have to deal with my backpacking pillow and my small down quilt. I also forgot beer and thought it would be really nice to have some for car camping. Walmart didn't sell beer and it took me another trip to the gas station to realize I was in the middle of a dry county. I backtracked 15 minutes to the next county over and finally got a 6-pack of some Country Boy Cougar Bait. I didn't exactly know what to look for when trying to find the shuttle point and I got lost. I thought it would be right on the trail, but it was a mile out. When I finally got to the grassy lot, I sat down with a few other challenge hikers and we chatted around a fire. I set up my tent next to the car and didn't sleep very well under the bright, full moon. It was really frustrating to wake up to a soaking wet tent in the morning. The grassy lot turned into a beautiful field of white fog as the Challenge hikers rolled in for the 7am shuttle to Heidelberg. I hopped in the front seat of Billy's Double Dog Adventures shuttle and we had a great conversation about traveling. I smiled for the group picture and was the first one who took off down the road and over the Kentucky River Bridge. I wanted to see what kind of pace I could maintain and for how long so that I could train for my future hikes this summer. I started out at 3.7mph but it dropped down to 3 around the middle of the day. It was such an awesome relief to come upon the support van with gatorade. I took a long break on the side of a gravel road next to the van and chugged two little bottles. I looked at my feet and knew I had to put moleskin on a few toes. Eventually I got back up and went on down the road in the heat of the day. I put my music on and tried to just cruise it. After a few miles, I had to stop to take pictures of the cool rock shelters. The moleskin didn't stop the toes from pain. It was really hard to push through the last 4 miles. I was exhausted and was regretting not breaking these shoes in more. At the last mile, I caught up with 4 ladies who obviously felt the same way I did. We hiked the last downhill stretch and counted the tenth-miles as we went. We heard water and knew we were almost to the cave and creek where we were camping. I found a nice flat spot and claimed it by throwing my tent bag down and left my pack next to it. I hobbled over to the creek and stuck my feet and legs in and it felt so numbing but in a good way. My feet were so swollen and they welcomed the chill. The creek was flowing directly from underground through Resurgence Cave, so it was pretty clear. The blue shale creek bed made the deep waters a beautiful turquoise. After a while, I got up and hobbled back over to my campsite and set up my wet tent. I had to let it dry before putting anything in it. This was annoying as I really wanted to lay down and put my feet up. I made the best dinner of Packit Gourmet's Chicken Ramen Rescue with creamy chicken ramen. It was tasty and flavorful. After talking around the campfire for a while,- making sure everyone knew about the backpacking trip I am leading this weekend- I crawled in my new NEMO Hornet 1-person tent and tried to get some sleep.
I woke up at 3:30 and did not go back to sleep. It was hard to sleep because the ground was very uncomfortable and I was in a lot of aching pain. Somehow I managed to pack up my tent- which was dry, thank god- and started up the hill away from the cave. I was going a solid 2.2 miles per hour. I couldn't even begin to tell you all the negative thoughts that flooded through my head. This shit was hard. I looked at the elevation profile and gasped in horror. It was literally a gradual uphill for about 6 miles. Then it was flat for 5 miles and downhill for 1. I was so discouraged and in pain, I stopped to put Chris's phone number in my phone. I thought about texting him to pick me up so I could bail. As beautiful as the trail was, I just couldn't enjoy it. I stopped on the trail and sat on a rock at a particular long, steep hill. Margo caught up with me and I knew I had to keep going with her, or I might not make it. We went at the same steady pace all the way until the last mile. I enjoy letting my body propel me downhill with some tricky footwork and Margo took the safe route and hiked down with her trekking poles. At the bottom of the hill, the trail came out at a wide creek and then on a road that led to the shuttle pick-up point. I let my feet get submerged in the cool water as I tried to get down the road one more tenth mile. Chris picked us up on 421 and drove us back to the grassy lot. I got in my car, exhausted, and somehow made it 3 hours home with a nice stop at Jimmy John's.
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.
Saturday- 11.2 recorded miles
Sunday- 17.1 recorded miles
Woot woot the first hiker challenge! I drove down Friday night and stayed with Bob and Lucy (thanks:)). I can't say I got a whole lot of sleep. I was excited and a little nervous, especially because there were 40 people that signed up to hike. That's a lot of people. I drove a few minutes to the Morehead Conference Center and hopped on a shuttle to the northern terminus. It was raining cats and dogs- of course! We took our group photo with our rain gear on and took off into the wet woods. It was the same trail I remember from hiking last summer. Just a little less green this time. I was really glad I bought these gaiters last minute. They were actually keeping my legs and feet warm. The hike this day was only 9 miles so I took it easy. I thought for sure this I wouldn't get solitude in a group hike like this. I still don't understand. 40 people began hiking at the same time and within 30 minutes, I was not within earshot or sight of another hiker. Just the soggy trail and the sound of raindrops. I took a side-trip down a jeep road for a few minutes. I looked at my gps to see where I was. The road eventually would go on private property. I thought it best to turn back. I hiked up and down the rolling hills of Rowan County and eventually passed some people taking a lunch break and eating under their rain ponchos. I just ate a packet of buffalo chicken while I was walking. I also looked forward to the chili supper. The rest of the day was pretty much the same as the beginning- roller coaster type of trail. I eventually reached Dry Branch about 2:30 and got my tent set up at Clark's Park. I was pretty exhausted so I took a nap. Dinner was served at 4 by the wonderful people of the Cave Run Lake Chapter. I'm glad Lucy was there- it was nice to have someone to talk to. I didn't really know anyone else besides Steve. I did eventually make friends with a few people my age. We bonded over some Makers Mark whiskey. I slept well that night thanks to my 0 degree bag, but I felt bad for other folks because it dropped down to 9 degrees overnight.
I woke up in 3 inches of snow! Frozen boots is one of the worst things that can happen to you backpacking. There was no time to dry them out on the portable heaters, I had woken up pretty late. I savored every moment though. I tore down camp keeping my sleeping bag around me, waiting until the last minute to stuff it away. I shoved my feet in those frozen boots and ran over to give Steve my 5lb drop. Off I went up the familiar hill and through a gate that you had to keep closed. I looked back at the empty Clark's Park covered in a blanket of snow with scattered footprints. I got over the suspension bridge on Holly Fork Road and skirted the field to find a creek crossing. It wasn't a shallow one. I looked fairly easy to jump over, but my leap was not so graceful. I smeared a good amount of mud on my pants and had one hand immersed in the soft bank of the creek. Well there go my dry gloves. Now I hiked with my hands in the pockets of my puffy. Crossing over i-64, it was still 17 degrees out. As I walked down the forest roads, the sun came out. I put on the cruise control as I listened to music and watched the snowflakes sparkle and reflect the sunlight. Gorgeous. I was pleased to see Eagle Lake as I rounded a corner and reached the top of the hill. Almost there. So close to eating Penn Station! (The after-hike meal is solely what keeps me motivated on long backpacking trips.) I walked to through downtown Morehead and was surprised to see I had logged 17 miles- the most I've logged in one day! I was super super sore but I can't wait for the next section!
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.