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.
It started out a very sunny and happy morning. Birds were singing and the green forest was glistening. The spider webs were also glistening... every 15 feet in the middle of the trail... at least I could see them. I packed up my tent and off I went whacking the webs with my spider stick. The farmer's field was beautiful with the morning mist and mountains in the background. After hiking on a single track dirt trail for a few miles, the Trace turned onto a beautiful grassy forest service road. I hiked across interstate 64 and onto a gravel forest service road. I was honestly glad to see the gravel because I was tired of hiking in grass and getting my feet so wet. The wildflowers were abundant on this part of the trail. I loved seeing the swallow tail butterflies flutter from flower to flower. This part of the trail was my favorite over the two days I've spent on the Trace so far. I plodded along and stopped on the side of the road around 11am to let my shoes dry out a bit and I ate some lunch. I saw some more turtles on the gravel road. The trail continued to go through the forest and back on gravel road and back into the forest and back on the gravel road. I didn't like going back into the forest because of the spider webs. But I'm glad I did because I saw a timber rattlesnake. I almost stepped on it. It was halfway on the trail and I believe its tail was buried in the leaves. Its head was distinctly in the shape of an arrow, so I'm sure of its species. As I made my way to the ridge tops that overlook Morehead around 1pm, I finally got a good vista..... unfortunately I could see the dark storm clouds coming my way. The trail continued on a single track and had some cool rock features. I hiked past the Eagle Lake and started to feel a bit sick. I must not have had enough water. I stopped at the university and had a seat outside. The rain and thunder came on quite all of a sudden. With one mile to go on the road back to my car, I decided I had had enough. I called Paula, the trail angel shuttle driver, and asked her if she had time to come drive me back to my car. As soon as I texted her, she was on her way. 15 minutes later, I was back at my car in Morehead. I headed over to Arby's to get some nourishment and felt better fairly quickly.
Even though I skipped out on the last 1 mile, I still made a huge accomplishment. I am surprised I did not get discouraged or frustrated at all the thunderstorms. I really am hoping all my future sections will have better weather than this one!
Paula, a trail angel and volunteer of the Sheltowee Trace Association, drove me to the northern terminus of the 323-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation trail today. I was really excited to be hiking south. Every step takes me further from Ohio and closer to Big South Fork, Tennessee. It started off raining.
I think my shoes were waterlogged within the first 15 minutes of the day. The trail was green and the green was wet. Some parts were puddle. Then it started to thunder a little. There was no more singing after that. It continued to rain and thunder every now and then all day as a made my way along the forest trail. I finally made it to Dry Fork Road, 10 miles in, and Clark's Park at 3pm. The sun had made an appearance and I took off my socks and shoes to dry. About 45 minutes later, I could see dark clouds rolling in and I packed up. I should have just went back and unpacked because Clark's Park would have been an optimal camping site for this evening. Right as I went through the red gate, winds picked up, the sky darkened and the clouds began to get noisy. (Why oh why didn't I go back) 2 miles to Holly Fork- that was my goal. I fast walked the 2 miles in loud thunder, close lightning, and seriously deep puddles on the trail. I made it to the campsite and managed to set up my tent in the rain. Everything was at least slightly damp. At the end of the day I was bone dry in my sleeping bag and slept through the night. I saw 4 turtles.
I originally planned to thru hike the 323-mile trail in 2018 after I left my job to move to Colorado. That move has been put on hold and I don't have the ability to take off work for a whole month. I have now set a goal to section hike the whole trail before the end of the year. Every 4 weeks, I have 4 days off in a row and I plan on using those to backpack parts of the trail.
I have a 4-day weekend July 20th through July 23rd. The forecast looks absolutely terrible- storms with "some of them severe" all 4 days. While I originally wanted to backpack 47 miles from the northern terminus to Clear Creek Lake, I think I'm going to just do one night. 24 miles from the northern terminus to Morehead. I am all for hiking in the rain, but I'm not experienced hiking in storms. Still, I want to know what its like. I'm about to set out for my first backpacking adventure in thunderstorms.
Preparing for a 1-nighter is something I've done hundreds of times so it didn't take me very long to pack. I definitely didn't want to carry a stove this time. There is a great chance I'll be trying to cook in the pouring rain anyway. I got an awesome new poncho that I'll probably be wearing the whole time. I got a gently (never) used SPOT 1st generation off of a flea market page. I think this device gives the solo hiker some peace of mind and is well worth the monthly fee. I am also bringing my waterproof pouch I use for kayaking. My phone still works through the plastic.
With food and 3.5 liters of water, my pack weighed in at 27lbs.
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.