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.