Sunday, February 21, 2016
Day One: 13.5 Outcasts Total Miles: 1953.93
Road walk 11
Long Branch, No Business, to Kentucky trail 2.5
Day Two: 7.5
Burkes Branch to Big South Fork river
Day Three: 9.4
Big South Fork to Three West Hollow
Day Four: 1.5
Three West Hollow to Blue Heron Overlook
Total Miles: 31.9
The 22.2 mile Kentucky trail is a beautiful hike through the upper section of the Big South Fork Recreation Area. It runs from the old community of No Business to the Yamacraw bridge. It is labeled on the BSF map and in the 100 Trails of the BSF, but is not labeled anywhere on the actual trail. Mainly they post the next creek or trailhead, but never call it by any other name but "Hiking Trail" on the signs. So you need to know at all times where you are and where you are going.
The trail has three markers: the old red arrow head on the white background, the green square, and a biker marker. Luckily, none are consistent and you don't have to worry about having any of them where you really need markers.
If you are a bike rider and plan on doing this trail on a bike, I make the following suggestions: Get the lightest frame possible, remove the seat as you won't be using it, remove the tires as you will break them, remove peddles and chains since you don't have tires, get a good piece of webbing and strap it to your back. You will be carrying the bike more than riding the bike!
Now for the Outcasts, anyone can do this trail in good weather. I suggest late fall, winter, and early spring since I am sure this trail grows over rather fast. As for us, we wait until a good freezing rain and snow before we head out.
When we get to Blue Heron we are met with a barricade, a ranger, and snow plow. We tell him of our plan to hike the Kentucky trail and we need to leave a car. Of course he is not familiar with the Kentucky trail and there is no way we can go to the Blue Heron parking area because of trees and ice on the road. He said that we could park at the Overlook if we can make it up there. So this is what we do. What is one extra mile?
By the time we get back to the lower part of the park it is pouring down freezing rain and the road is getting slick. Divide road, which we need to take to Terry Cemetery is covered with ice and snow. We head to Pickett State Park and rented a cabin. The Ranger there has never heard of the Kentucky trail, but knows where Terry Cemetery is. We have to hike to No Business Creek to start the trail. Rain turns to snow.
The next morning we head out and get a few hundred yards down Divide road before we get stuck. We back out to the main road and think, and think, and think....
Heading back towards Pickett we found a ranger at the Forestry garage and stop. We tell him that we cannot make it down Divide road and need to find a place to park. He has not heard of the Kentucky trail but knew where Terry Cemetery was and Blue Heron was. He said that four wheel drive vehicles cannot make it down Divide road when it is like this. He let us park by the fire tower, but wasn't really sure that he would ever see us again. What is adding 11 miles to the hike?
So we hike down 154 to Divide road to Terry Cemetery road to Long Branch trail. It didn't take long to find out what an ice storm does to Hemlock trees. For every Hemlock standing, there were three across the trail. Only for the entire hike we went over, under, through and around trees. Our first foot washing, shins, knees, thighs was the No Business Creek. It had quite a bit of current as well. After three foot washings, we came to our first bridge at Dry Branch. This is where the Kentucky trail begins. They had signs everywhere for everything except the Kentucky trail. Made us feel good right off. Anyways, we set up camp for the night. We got to hear owls and coyotes during the night. When Marco and I hung the bear bag, we ended up with a branch on top of us. Must be too much food. Had to find another branch.
More trees down. It really slowed us down and gave us an over all body workout. We were really amazed by the bike trail markers as you could not ride a bike even without the storm damage.
When we got to Difficulty Creek a tree was down across the bridge which required another foot washing. This became our running joke as trees were down on all bridges after this and on everything else.
When we got to Troublesome Creek we found that these creeks are kind of depressing just by name alone. Troublesome Creek bridge had a hole through it about the size of a horse.
When we got to the Big South Fork River, we found us a spot to set up camp for the night. We watched the sunset over the river and settled into a night of telling lies and taking cough medicine. After Troy had gone to bed, Marco and I heard a loud cracking sound like a limb falling off a large tree and then a yell. We headed over to check out the damage, when we found Troy laying under his tarp on the ground. The tree that he had tied his hammock off to had fallen over. I don't know how, but it fell sideways instead of on top of him and fell along side my hammock without damaging anything. After making sure he was OK, the laughter began. We helped him get set up again before going back to the campfire. Troy wasn't scared, he was back asleep within minutes.
This morning we hiked down the river. If the river had been up to flood stage this trail would be impassible. We could see where it had gotten up to the last time and it was still muddy from that. When we got to the trail to go up out of the river valley, it to was covered in downed trees.
The area around Ledbetter Trailhead was gravel roads with trees across it. Not much as far as markings, but referred us to the "Hiking Trail".
I went to check out the Big Spring Falls as Troy and Marco cleared the trees off the Big Spring Hollow bridge. From here the trail follows the old Tram bed all the way to the bridge of Blue Heron. You get off it long enough to see Dick Gap falls and the Catawba Overlook. We set up camp on a level area above the trail for the night.
Just before you get to the Mine 18 tipple bridge you start finding parts of old mining carts. We crossed the bridge and headed through the "Cracks in the Rocks" which is just like it sounds. They have stairs where you go over fallen boulders. We climbed up to the Blue Heron overlook and then headed back to the car.