Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Ridge State Park-Cancel

Due to the freezing rain coming in Wednesday we regretfully have to cancel our hike to Big Ridge. Now we get to have a makeup hike.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sheltowee Trace Part VII

Day one: 6.13 Miles..........................Outcast total: 1007.46 Miles
Day two: 13.17 Miles
Day three: 12.61 Miles
Day four: 9.36 Miles
Day five: 9.19 Miles
Total Miles: 50.46

After work Troy, Marco, and I headed to Kentucky for another section of the Sheltowee Trace. We headed to Natural Bridge State Park where we were supposed to meet up with Luke to drop us off where we got picked up by the rangers last hike.

After a small change up, Stephanie from the Natural Bridge State Park Hemlock Lodge was nice enough to drop us off and even offered us a ride back Friday if we needed one. Since we were losing daylight earlier this time and we would be hiking back to the car, we left our packs in the car and did a day hike of Natural Bridge State Park.

We put Marco in charge of the Thru Hikers Manual of the Sheltowee Trace. The only draw back was every time you asked him where we were, he would start from Natural Bridge and go all the way through the manual. This added alot of entertainment, especially by the end of the trail.

We passed a guy cutting wood on the way. He asked us where we were hiking from and we told him Tennessee. He said that he had wanted to hike the whole trail and was called back to work after he had all of his plans made. He was a little surprised that we hiked this far with no packs.

The Sheltowee passes over White's Branch Arch and next to the Natural Bridge. We then hiked to Balance Rock and down the many many stairs back to the parking lot. It was getting dark now so we packed up and headed to Red River Gorge with headlamps. Once we got past the Whittleton Campground we made camp.

As I was testing my hammock I heard a loud zipping noise. This was indeed my bad day as my hammock ripped completely through about a quarter of the way down the length. As any Outcast would do, I cut the remaining part off and tied a knot, rehung and tested again. Not much room anymore as the length was now the exact length of my body. No stretching out for me over the next four nights and it had a really bad lean to the left which I still can't understand why.

We ate dinner and then got ready to start a fire when the rain set in. We knew it was supposed to rain that night and were hoping it would be done by morning. I let them know that we would hike as long as it wasn't a down pour in the morning.

The next morning we hiked out in the rain. Troy and I had different ideas of "down pour", but as all Outcast do, he went along. It rained all day and into the night. Sorry about no pictures that second day. It was through the beautiful Red River Gorge. This area is rough terrain with beautiful overlooks, rock formations, waterfalls, and of course water crossings. There were six that were at least two feet deep. We ended up the day with a minor misreading of the guide book causing another headlamp hike to the next creek and place to make camp. The rain went into the night replaced by snow in the morning.

Day three started out cold with the tarp ropes frozen to the trees. We hiked in the snow with flurries on and off all day. We tried to air out in the afternoon, but everything was just frozen.

Knowing that we were not going to have water in camp, we started filtering about a mile from where we were going to make camp. There was a house right there so I walked up and asked if we could get some water from them. They were more than willing and wanted to hear our story. I did notice as I walked into there driveway that I had my picture taken by a deer camera at the entrance.

There was a lot of road walking today making sore ankles and feet. We crossed over KY 1274, climbed the steep hill and made camp. We actually got to have a campfire and see the stars. That meant dry feet, shoes, and socks. This was the first night we stayed up past 7pm. We even had a fire in the morning which was nice with it being as cold as it was. We were even in camp before dark....or right at it.

Day five was probably the toughest day of terrain. Lots of steep ups and downs with some beautiful sights including a natural bridge. We got some of our highest points today looking over the other mountains. We got to air out today and dry completely out. We made it to Clear Creek where we filtered water as it began to snow. Darkness was coming on and we had to use the headlamps to cross FR 129 and get into the woods to make camp. The snow was coming down heavy and you could still see the stars bright and beautiful. We agreed to finish that we would have to get up and on the trail early in the morning. We set alarms.

The next morning, no fire, pack, eat, and walk. We had a very long steep climb up to the road that we were not supposed to cross. OOPS! Look for correct trail, study map, look for correct trail, study map, study map, study map........Ohhhhhh! Road walk to find trail. This was the only place that we saw deer. We kicked up one doe in five days of hiking. We all found the trail at the same time different ways. I found the sign for the boarder of the wildlife management area, Troy found the county line sign, and Marco found the Turtle sign. Back on the trail again.

After getting back on track I called Luke and talked to our backup man Doug from Cave Run Marina for our pick up this afternoon. After I got them lined up, the memory kicked in. They are on Eastern time! Guess what guys.......we are an hour behind already. LET'S GO!

This part of the trail was all ridge walking. The Guys said it was more like a forced march. We stopped for lunch at a spot where we had a good view of Cave Run Lake far far below. We then started the descent down to Cave Run. At the end of the lake where we took a break, we saw our first person since we started the hike. It was a bike rider who stopped and Marco and I both thought we recognized him from the Sheltowee Trace Facebook. He knew of Steve from the Facebook. From here you start the long hike around the end of the lake.

At a quarter of a mile from the end we came across ten rangers coming down the trail. They were "checking the trail conditions". They wanted to know all about our hike, but weren't interested in hearing about our account of the trail conditions.

We hiked out to the Cave Run Lake Dam forty minutes early and waited for Luke to pick us up. Doug stopped by too, just to make sure that we had a ride. Great guy. We are going to use him on the next section of hike. The FINAL hike of the Sheltowee.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Big Hill Pond II

Day One:5 Miles.....................Outcast Total: 957 Miles
Big Hill Pond Access trail
Big Hill Pond trail
Azalea Spring Day Loop trail
Dogwood Point trail
Day Two: 10 Miles
Dogwood Point trail
Azalea Spring Day Loop trail
Boardwalk trail
Horse Trail
Dry Ridge trail
Total: 15 Miles

Marco, Troy, and I headed out to Big Hill Pond State Park. Marco had to stay late at work trying to get his Engine back in service after a Semi fire on the interstate, so we got a late start.

We swung by the Visitor Center to sign in. Just like last time, the Ranger said that all he needed was to know is what truck was ours so when he did rounds he would recognize it. No paperwork necessary.

We headed to the boat ramp and parked in the overnight lot. We got out and while we were organizing our packs Marco found a large rock that a fellow firefighter had hid in his pack. The firefighter had committed about his pack being heavy and Marco thought that he was up to something.

We went down to the boat ramp and then hiked across the bridge. On the other side we started to come across horse back riders and we saw plenty of them until we got to the Azalea Loop. One group had stopped and the one rider asked if we were going to stay out here tonight. He had that look that we are so used to. The "are you crazy?" look. "You know its going to get cold tonight." We've heard this sooooo many times.

The trail was marked pretty good and in decent condition until you get to the pond. From the pond there is many trees down and the horses have made other trails and the marking is bad. The Azalea Loop needs alot of maintenance including the bridges. When you get to the Dogwood Point trail you are on your own. It was in bad need of maintenance two years ago. Now it is two years past needing alot of maintenance.

We were running out of daylight so we called camp at the Pipe Rock shelter. This shelter sits at the top of a very steep hill which the river is at the bottom of. The shelter of course was in poor shape, but the bat population was going strong. There was bat dung on all the bunks and all over the floor. There was a dead bat on one of the bunks and two live bats on the ceiling. Oh yea, we didn't stay in the shelter.

We had a nice campfire and enjoyed the owls talking and the peaceful sounds of the train whistle when it went by. The stars were out and it was suppose to get down to freezing tonight. We had cough medicine and cleaned up scars from the brush we battled on the trail.

The next morning after a good breakfast by the campfire, we headed out and finished the Dogwood Point trail. We took the Azalea trail to the boardwalk trail. You could see where they had been repairing the boardwalk.

We stopped at the break area on the boardwalk for lunch. Just after settling down, Troy let out a damn. His water bottle had rolled off the bench and off the boardwalk. Just like a superhero, he climbed over the rail and hugging a tree he slid down like a fireman on a pole. He grabbed his bottle and climbed back up the boardwalk before I could even get my camera ready.

After lunch we headed to the end of the boardwalk where the light drizzle started. We practiced our single man poncho deployment skills and headed to the tower. Do to the rain and limited visibility, we skipped the tower climb and headed down the horse tail to the Dry Ridge trail.

The rain had stopped as we continued our hike. The last couple of fingers on the Northwest side of the lake would be a good place for a bridge. As before, no changes had been made in the last two years and you are still balancing on tree branches crossing over water and mud.

On the North end of the lake where the trail crosses, it is mainly swamp. There is a variety of makeshift bridges in this area. One is actually just under the water level. It makes you wonder how a park that has a boardwalk over a mile long over a swamp wouldn't be able to make a couple of short bridges.

We made it back to the truck and celebrated later at a Waffle House.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sheltowee Part VI

Day one: 6.7 miles………………..............……Outcast Total: 942.45 Miles
Day Two: 12.56 miles
Day Three: 12.52 miles
Day Four:7.29
Total: 39.07 miles

For our first five day hike of this season we decided to keep up a couple of traditions including the no sleep the shift before and snow on the hike.

We had a lot of time to study on this section of the Sheltowee and even some more information about the trail has been put out. The Thru-Hiker's Manual for the Sheltowee Trace by Scot Ward is a gotta have for this trail. You can get it from the Sheltowee Trace Organization

After sleeping an hour and a half in a row the night before, we started our five hour drive to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky. Troy drove while Marco navigated. In between snoring, I tried to interpret for Marco so Troy could understand where he was driving to. Greg and Shadow could not make this trip.

As we pulled off the road to get some lunch, Troy saw a man on the side of the road holding one of those signs "Will work for food". Troy stopped and told him to hop in. Well it turned out that it was an advertising sign not a work for food sign.

Right about the time we were going to stop for lunch, I noticed the time change. That is also the time that I realized that we would be missing our ride to the trailhead by an hour. Oops. Luke Moffett was going to meet us at Natural Bridge and take us to Turkey Foot campground. He runs a taxi service out of the Natural Bridge State Park area if anyone needs a ride to trailheads. A super good guy! A phone call was made and we met shortly after the scheduled time.

There was a lot of smoke in the Natural Bridge area as they were fighting a wildland fire for the last month just North in the Red River Gorge area. They had a ban on burning and gave us two numbers to call for more information. Of course no one would answer either phone number.

When Luke dropped us off at the trailhead, I noticed that his trunk was a little wet. The mouth piece on my bladder had gotten squeezed and I lost two liters of water into his trunk and his down sleeping bag that he keeps in the trunk. My bad!

So after Luke left, we picked up our stuff and headed out. I filled the bladder at the first water source which was at mm 154.84 at the cave. We made it about a half mile short of Alcorn Branch when we ran out of day light. We found us a spot and called it camp.

I don't think anyone had trouble sleeping the first night on the trail. We got to listen to owls while we ate dinner and see the stars shine.

The next morning we got up at daylight and hit the trail. Alcorn Branch was dry! I looked down stream and saw a drop off. After some investigating, there is a spring over the drop off with about three foot of water in it. We stopped and filled up.

As we hiked this section we noticed that there was smoke all through the river gorge below. We thought that this was a long way off for smoke to be traveling from the Red River Gorge area.

At mm160.68 There is an overhang with a spring in it if ya need some water too. Shortly after that there is some big rocks in the trail that Marco loss his footing on and did an old fashion face plant. I held his pack still until he got his footing back so he wouldn't do that face scrape maneuver.

We walked through the big town of Arvel. There is zero stores here if you need anything. At Hale Ridge Road we chose to hike the road over the 1.6 mile of trail that is overgrown. When the trail came back to the road I wanted to get on the trail and Troy wanted to hike the road until it met up again. We decided that Marco would have to make the deciding vote. Marco asked for a secret ballet. After a much needed laugh Troy headed down the trail.

Other than needing some trees cut in this section, the trail was well marked and clear. We stopped at a spring in the otherwise dry creek bed for lunch. We were going to air out the tarps and sleeping bags. As soon as we got the tarps set up it started to rain. OK plan B sit under tarps and eat lunch. It sprinkled on us the rest of the day.

We made it to Heidelberg that night and camped on the South side of the bridge out by some corn fields. We ate under tarps and went to bed. It poured that night beating the tarps.

By morning the rain had stopped and we headed into town across the bridge. Heidelberg has a post office about the size of my living room. It looks more like a small shed. There is no store in town and obviously no one has a cell phone as there is no service. We started out big climb up the mountain on hwy 399. Hwy 399 is a dangerous road to hike. There is limited view and no shoulders to walk on. At the top there is a grave yard where you get a phone signal. We called and checked in.

Conveniently Country Mart and Deli is a good place for resupply, or in our case lunch. The lady working there let us use her trees to hang our stuff out to dry and offered the water spigot out back to fill up.

After lunch we hiked on to Mays Food Mart where they have a resturant as well as a store. This would be a great place for lunch or dinner if you got there at the right time. She also offered a spigot between the house and store if you need water.

The next part of the trial is not marked so you really need the trail discription to find your way. You walk down a paved road to a gravel road which desends down into the gorge. From there you walk a four wheeler path to a trail to a creek bed. The campsite at mm 182.82 is the only campsite until the oil storage at 183.98.

We stopped after crossing the Bald Rock Fork at the overhang as it started to rain again. We heard a large bang which sounded like a blasting but too long. After a couple of more we figured out that it was lightning and it was echoing off the bluffs around us. We stayed a little longer as the rain poured down.

After the storm, we hiked to where the trail goes down the creek bed. I don't know what you would do if the creek was running. There are bluff walls on either side of the creek.

We got to the Oil storage area and found a place out in the woods to make camp. It was wet and after we ate and got in the bunks, the rain let loose again. Between last night and tonight, we did us some sleeping.

We got up and hit the trail. We stopped at the creek by the bridge at mm 184.47 and filled up with water. We hiked to Big Bend Road and found us spot to air out our goods again. We had one fellow stop and ask if we were fighting the fire. No, we are just hikers from Tennessee.

After getting things dry we hiked on to mm 188.52 where we came across two forestry trucks sitting in the middle of the road with a load of fire trucks and vehicles on the other side of them.

When we walked up to them I told them that I wasn't expecting to see them yet as the fire was North of Natural Bridge. They informed us that we had hit the end of our hike as a new fire was burning here involving 1700 acres. Soooo after they tackled Troy who tryed to run past them yelling "you can't stop me"! They gave us a ride back to our car. We were about five miles from hiking to the car.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Longhunter V

Long Hunter.........................Trail Rating.............Outcasts Total: 903.38 Miles
Volunteer Trail...6.0 Miles.........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Volunteer Trail...6.0Miles..........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Total………………16.0 Miles

Of the many many people that said that they were going to show up and start hiking with us this year, the original outcasts were the only ones at the trail head this year to start the annual beginning of the season hike.

Greg and Troy were talking about their lightweight backpacks and passing them around. They had made some progress!

The four of us and Shadow headed out. We had some gentle gale force winds blowing, but the temperature had not dropped out the bottom of the thermometer yet. The trees were showing color and there were areas of yellow leaves that we got to hike through.

The trip to camp was pretty much uneventful as we basically walked and caught up on where we were in our lives. For some reason my recent marriage was brought up alot. Not really sure why, but it provided entertainment.

We had gotten on the trail by 10am and figuring that we would be first to camp being a Friday, we were surprised to see a hammock hanging in camp along with a number of coolers. Well, surprise to me and Marco....... Craig had taken his boat to the camp and brought beer and burgers. LIFE IS GOOD! This also explained why Greg and Troy's packs were so lightweight.

Greg not only showed off his new Crocks, he showed us how he can collect fishing lures with them. Cool new benefit. Thinking about a new pair myself now.

There might have been some cough medicine taken while the burgers cooked and we suffered through another survival camp as the season began.

After the campfire got going Greg provided us with much entertainment as we worked out our sides with laughter. We had a peaceful night except when an owl did a little screeching and flew through camp. The next morning we headed out.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mammoth Cave

Total Miles 16.98 Miles....Easy..............OUTCAST TOTAL: 887.38 Miles

Mammoth Cave Lantern Tour......3 Miles
Good Springs Trail.............4.21 Miles
Collie Ridge Trail.............0.67 Miles
DAY ONE: 7.88 Miles

Collie Ridge Trail............2.02 Miles
Good Springs Trail............2.08 Miles
Service Center to Mammoth Dome Sink Trail 1 Mile
Mammoth Dome Sink Trail.......2 Miles
Overlook plus Heritage trail...2 Miles
DAY TWO: 9.1 Miles

Marco and I headed to Kentucky for an overnight hike. Neither of us had been to Mammoth Cave so we thought that we would check it out. They have 300 miles of cave, 60 miles of hiking trails, and 27 miles of river to explore.

We left straight from work and caught the first tour they had when we got there which turned out to be the three mile lantern tour. They had some really cool guides that fed us a lot of information about the cave. We were amazed as to how large this cave is. It took us three hours for the tour. While we were waiting for the bus the one tour guide about talked us out of hiking with his warning about the snakes and ticks. He was pretty descriptive about what the bites would do. We ate lunch at the restaurant there and then headed to the hiking trails.

We got to take the Green river ferry across the river which can take up to three cars at a time. From there we headed to the Good Spring Church trailhead parking. Since we didn't reserve a spot we took the available campsite which was the Collie Ridge Campsite. Marco went to sign in at the trailhead marque. The last person to write in it wrote down "WASPS" in big print. Marco looked up to see a swarm of wasps looking him in the eye. He slowly backed away from the marque. Needless to say we didn't sign in.

The trails were in good condition and as we hiked we were thinking about the tour guide's warnings. We passed a couple of horse back riders who asked if we had seen any yellow jackets. They told us that in the last week they had to haul two different people off the trail because of stings. Well isn't that nice. It wasn't a quarter mile more down the trail when Marco said the dreaded words.....SEED TICKS! And the panic began. We picked, swiped, and finally drowned them in DEET.

We hiked on the the campsite. They have a good size site and there was water flowing at the spring. We washed first to finish off the ticks and then set up camp and collected firewood. The temps finally dropped down to where we could get a fire going so we could tell some lies and take some cough medicine. We also tried out Marco's new platypus gravity filter which turned out to be pretty impressive.

The next morning we got up and hiked out. When we got back to the car there was another couple that were heading out on the trail. They had a blow up double size air mattress carrying between them. He was carrying a gallon jug of water and she had a backpack on. Kinda makes you wonder.

We drove back to the Visitor center area and parked at the camping store. From there we hiked to Whites cave and then the Mammoth Dome Sink trail. We hiked back to the restaurant for lunch. After lunch we headed out for home.

This park has a alot of activities to enjoy and I know we will be back to do some more hiking.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Sheltowee Trace Part V

Day one: 4.7 miles……………………………………Outcast Total: 870.4 Miles
Day Two: 17.3 miles
Day Three: 11.3 miles
Day Four: 10.5
Total: 43.8 miles

Well Marco is out for the season with his ankle. Troy, Shadow, and I went ahead with the five day hike scheduled for the Sheltowee Trace. Since Troy got picked up at Camp Wildcat on our last hike, he wanted to start again from that location. I just wanted to hike so I agreed and that is where we started.

Aaron from Holly Bay Marina dropped us off. As he was driving the three miles up the one lane road to Wildcat, he said something about this being a rough road with all the pot holes. I told him that this was the easy part. The hard part would be backing all the way back down to the main road. What a look I got. Troy jumped in and said not to be so rough on the man. There is a turn around on the top. Aaron said that there were no bets being placed this time as the weather was too good.

Off we went. Got on the trail around two o’clock. The 2.8 mile section of trail between 4078 and 490 crosses Denny Branch 24 times. This is where the “two seat” hunting stand is in the woods. Two car seats mounted up on a platform. We stopped before the last two crossings and made camp. It was a wonderful night with the stars shining. This was the coldest night in the low twenties and we had frost on the inside and outside of our tarps.


We got up a little late this morning. We hiked up the hill and back down to Parker branch which we just rock hopped this time. Then we hit the pavement. What is worse than road hiking? Road walking with spiders! I guess that spiders think it is spring. They were all over the road. I guess that We hiked 490 to 89 and this time just kept going on pass Horse Lick Creek, knowing from our previous hike that the water was too high to cross. I was going to take a picture of the shed by the road with the stove pipe coming out, but when we got there the man was standing outside. He had hair down to his waist and a beard to match. The only way to tell his front from his back was the nose that stuck out. He seemed like a nice guy as he said hi as we passed.

We cut off the road and took the four wheeler trail up to 431. Some more road walking, all the way to S-Tree campground. We knew that there was no water at the campground so we hiked to the Sheltowee and headed west a half mile to Raccoon Creek. We made camp there. Some cough medicine was taken and lies told. This was the night that Troy threw his raisins into the fire. Actually, his stove did as he laid them on top of it and when it came to a boil the lid bounced and the raisins flew. That night the coyotes sang to us.


The section from S-Tree campground to Turkey foot campground is open to four wheelers and motorbikes. I would suggest that you do not hike this section on a weekend. Especially on a really nice weekend. We got to see a lot of both. The trail is in good condition and only needs marking at intersections.

We stopped for a good old creek bath before 421. Luckily we managed without being interrupted by four wheelers. After we crossed 421 and hiked the road the trail heads off by Elisha Branch Road. Troy wanted to walk just a little farther up the road. I was trying to see what he wanted. Finally he said that he had found a restaurant on line that was supposed to be right in this area. We found out that it had moved down town.

We collected our water from Elisha Branch then hiked up the mountain and camped on top. We had an owl talk to us and then it was a peaceful evening.


We slept in again and then headed out. The trail follows the road most of the way. After you get away from the road it goes downhill and follows the middle and Elsam fork. Since we were a day early getting to Turkey Foot, we called and Randy was able to pick us up that night. We hiked another two miles up to 587 to meet Randy and of course he came in the other way off 89.

Another wonderful hike.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Sheltowee Trace Part IV

Day One: 4.6 Miles.........................................Outcast Total: 826.6
Day Two: 17 Miles
Day Three: 13 Miles
Total Miles: 34.6

On this hike Marco, Troy, Shadow and Craig went. We started out the usual way with running fire calls all the night before. As we headed out we watched the weather as Memphis had already gotten four inches of snow that morning. What were the chances that it would go all the way to Kentucky?

We headed to Holly Bay Marina again as Randy was willing to help us do the shuttle to the trailheads. We were starting out at I-75 and heading North to Hwy 421. For some unknown reason, the further we go North the longer it takes to get to the trailhead. This part of the Sheltowee Trace is a lot of road hiking.

We started out with some beautiful weather for hiking. Marco was having problem with his ankle from a previous hike. As the famous words of Greg, "Pain is Fear leaving the body." We hiked to the Camp Wildcat Battle Monument the first day which is about five miles. This is all road hiking. There is a monument at the railroad crossing, then a sign half way up the hill, and another monument on the top to include a pavilion and outhouses. It's a pretty good uphill climb. There is a small spring on the top of the hill. I don't know if it runs all year long or not, but it had water this time.

We ran into two ladies from Ohio at the pavilion. They were heading home from Georgia when they saw the sign and stopped to check it out. We had a good visit with them and then they headed out.

We found us a place off the trail to make camp. We got camp set up and a fire going before sitting down for dinner. After dinner, we started to get a light dusting of snow. We were all tired from the long night before, so it didn't take long for us to call it a night and go to bed.

I got up some time that night to find about an inch of snow on the ground. Later I woke to the sound of rain hitting the tarp. It was a steady rain that lasted all through the morning.

Marco and I got our breakfast going under the tarps and packed up. When I got with Troy, he said that he was soaked, his clothes were soaked, and his tent was soaked. He said that while he was stuffing his tent in the bag, that water was running out the other end. He was wet and with the rain supposed to keep coming all day he was ready to head to the house. We hiked back to the pavilion at Wildcat and made a phone call to Greg to come pick up Troy. Knowing that all was well, Marco and I headed out in the rain.

The next section of trail is all dirt or jeep road. This road had large mud puddles all down it and you wouldn't think that anyone could drive down it unless they had four wheel drive. Well, here comes a little Toyota pickup with a guy and gal in it. They stopped and asked what we were doing walking in this kind of weather. We told them and they said that they were out picking up trash as this was their fathers land. I don't know about that, but we asked them to offer Troy a ride to the restaurant when they drove by him. When we got further up the hill we found a spot with a view. You could tell that they had stopped here with the truck and then turned around. There was some fresh tissue on the ground too. I don't think it was trash they were after.

We hiked this jeep trail in the rain to road 760 which was paved. You definitely want a map to follow all the road sections. There are some interesting trailers in this area and where you turn on road 4078. From there we got on the three miles of actual trail. During these three miles you cross Denny Branch about twelve times. None of these crossings has bridges and some are rather challenging. The last creek crossing is Parker Branch with an old fashion foot washing. Put on the crocks and go about knee deep.

From here you are hiking Road 490 to Lamero, which is a collection of houses. Once you cross the bridge over Rockcastle River you turn right on Road 89. The rain had stopped and we got to view some interesting Kentucky homes. We passed one 10x12 shed that had a smoke stack out of the top. There was smoke coming from it, but it had no electricity or for that matter any windows. As we went by, the traditional dogs started barking and we passed the front which had a single door on the front made of rough cut lumber. There was one space between the boards that was about two inches wide. Well, when I looked back at it again, I saw a person pulling his head back in and closing the door.

You turn off of Road 89 onto White Oak Branch Road which is a dirt road. On the corner was another of these fancy sheds with the stack out the top. This one had a single dog house next to it. A dog stuck his head out and started barking. He came out and another head stuck out and started barking. He came out and another head stuck out and started barking. He came out and another head stuck out and started barking. He came out and another head stuck out and started barking. In all, five dogs came out of that little house. On the other side of the road there was a small camper trailer. In the window was a sign that said "Dog food inside". Not sure what that was all about.

We followed this road until you cross the bridge and take a right on another jeep trail 455. This road followed Horse Lick Creek until you came to a river crossing. Well this crossing was way over our heads and about thirty feet wide. We studied the maps and saw where there was suppose to be another crossing up stream with a concrete plank. On we hiked. When we finally got to where this crossing was and I pulled myself out of the knee deep mud, the water was way over our heads and about twenty feet wide. If there was concrete, it was deep. There was no safe way to cross and this was the end of the road I guess you could say. Well the road ended.

It was getting dark and we decided to make camp. We got a fire going and ate dinner. Then the snow kicked in. It came in strong with big flakes. We gave up and headed to the hammocks. Enough was enough. I studied on the maps and the only way I saw to get across was to go back to Road 89 and hike an unnamed road to road 431.

After a good LONG sleep, we woke up to three inches of snow and snow still falling. The wind had beat the tarps against our hammocks most of the night. It takes a while to get the ambition up to get out of bed in these conditions. Both of our boots were froze so solid it took us forever to get our feet in them. Finally we got packed up and started back tracking. We had to hike 5.7 Miles back to Road 89

We got to go by the dogs again and then headed East on Road 89 to an unnamed unmarked road. I was worried about leaving the trail because we hadn't had a phone signal since we left Wildcat. We passed a trailer with the traditional dogs barking and a lady came out to yell at them. We asked her about the road and of course there was no such thing to this lady. On we hiked.

Finally we found a two rut road that fit the description with a no trespassing sign on both sides. It ran along a farm fence so we walked down to the farm house to ask permission. A lady answered the door and said to go ahead. She gave me a description that matched the map, so I felt like this was the right one. I tried one more time for a signal and got one on the phone. I called my people so they knew where we were and what our plan was.

It was a steep climb to the top and about a hundred mile an hour wind when we got there. The logging road across the top was in really good condition. We finally found a dirt bank that was high enough that we could get out of the wind and eat some lunch. After that we walked on to 431 which other than the four inches of snow and high winds, was easy walking.

We walked to the S-Tree campground where Marco called it quits with his sore ankle. He had lost enough "fear". We called Randy to pick us up at the campground. We got under a pavilion and sat at a picnic table in our sleeping bags drinking hot chocolate until Randy showed up. We did have another car stop by which made us feel good that they could make it through the snow. These people were just out joy riding.

Randy and his brother showed up and gave us a ride back to London where our car had been prepositioned for us to get on I-75. At one point I thought that we might have to give Randy a ride as his transmission was acting up. It ended up that he was low on fluid.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Collins Gulf-Unplanned Group Hike

Collins Gulf Rim Trail to Stage Road Campground 7.4 Miles
Stage Road Campground down Stage Road to exit 7 Miles
Total 14.4 Miles

This is the story of curly locks and the three bears. Millette has made many trips to the Smokey Mountains and has yet to see a bear. As another attempt to see a bear in the wild, she took Marco, Lora, and I out to Collins Gulf where there are suppose to be three bears living in the area.

We met after shift and head out. We met Lora at the Savage Gulf visitor center to sign in, then we headed to the Collins Gulf trail head. We got on the trail around 9:30am. We hiked to the split and then we headed East across the swinging bridge and up to the rim trail.

I had practiced my bear call with a couple of whistles and then "Here Bear, Here Bear". I tried it numerous times while we were hiking with no luck. I think that the bears got tired trying to keep up with Millette as she smoked down the trail. She even tried to starve me to death, until I finally caught up to her and begged for a lunch break.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day for hiking and once you get across the bridge and up on the rim it is easy hiking.

We hiked into the Stage Road campground and made up camp. We got a pile of wood collected for the night and then set in to burning it. Some stories were told as cough medicine was taken. We were talking about the bears when I heard something coming up behind me. I turned around to see Ranger Litefoot walking up. He didn't say anything until he saw me looking at him. He had walked up with his light off and not letting us know he was coming. Good thing we don't get excited! As always in the Salvage Gulf, the rangers were extremely friendly and we had a good visit.

We just happened to carry in three stuffed bears for Millette and waited patiently for her to take a potty break from camp so we could plant them in her tent. She got a bit of a surprise when she went to bed.

The next morning we got up and Millette fed her new friends and attached them to her pack for a nice hike. We hiked down Stage Road and took a break at Saw Mill campsite. The trail through the Gulf was very pretty and a nice hiking trail. As you get toward the falls the trail gets more difficult with a lot of uphill. There are bluffs and water crossings before you get to the falls.

The ice formations get better as we reached Horsepound Falls. When we got to Suter Falls we were almost overwhelmed by the sight of the frozen falls and all the ice. It was a bit challenging to get to the trail here let alone make it along the trail covered with ice and having to go around large icicles.

We never did get to look at any real bears, but I think that Millette was happy to see the ones she did.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sheltowee Trace Part III

Day One.......4.3 Miles......Easy.........................Outcast Total:792 Miles
Day Two......11.1 Miles......Difficult
Day Three.....8.4 Miles......Difficult
Day Four.....8.15 Miles......Difficult
Day Five.....1.75 Miles......Easy
Total........33.7 Miles

Crazy, Insane, Lost your mine, what the h___? Just a few of the things we heard as we carried our packs out through the snow to the truck. Yes, there were two inches of snow on the ground in Kentucky and another inch falling while we drove to the trail head. Troy, Greg, Marco, and I headed out. Shadow was left behind because of the snow, which would mean wet dog for five days. She made her point as she tore something up every day that Troy was gone. Shoes, trash, another shoe, something every day.

Well on the way to Kentucky I had to explain to the guys that they had nothing to worry about. Yes, we were driving through snow, but the further north we go the warmer it gets. I told them that we would be driving out of the snow. Well when we got to Corbin, the snow had stopped. We went to a Wendy's for lunch which was a mistake. The guys saw that Corbin had a Holiday Inn Express. So every time the trail got hard they reminded me that they had a blue card and platinum card and Corbin had a Holiday Inn Express. Yes, I heard that alot.

We drove up to Holly Grove Marina to start this hike. Randy, the manager, was planning on picking us up and bringing us back to the Marina on day five. There was plenty of snow when we got there and the lady at the office was very polite as she never called us nuts to our faces. We dropped off the truck keys, picked up our packs, and started hiking.

The scenery was beautiful with the fresh coat of snow on the ground. We made it North of Laurel Lake by Road 775 when we called it a night. The snow fell as we made camp and got a fire going. The trail up to this point had been gentle rolling hills and well marked. Make sure that you take a left and the North end of the lake and don't go over the earthen dam. It's not marked.

We got done with dinner and tried to stay warm by the fire. The guys made fun of me for sitting barefoot by the fire. They were still in the learning process of becoming Outcast tuff. Some lies were told and cough medicine was taken.

We were woke up at one point in the night by a couple of coyotes that were celebrating a kill. Everyone but Marco got to hear them. It brings one to immediate attention even from a dead sleep. During one of those many bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, I saw a million bright stars shining down on the new inch of snow that had fallen.

Greg had gotten up first and got the fire going. It was going to be another beautiful snow day to hike. We hiked into the Cane Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is a beautiful area to hike. One of the prettiest areas on this hike. It was especially cool to see all the snow on the evergreens. We got pictures of the frozen solid Van Hook water fall.

You really need the map when it comes to the road hiking sections of this trail. They are not marked very well at all. Especially when you get to a spilt in the road or have the option to go either way.

We met one of those "Road Hunters" while we walked down the road. He said that he was hunting coyotes. We figure that he was hunting anything that moved and that might also include hikers. After a short visit, we hiked down to the Big Dog Branch and camped at the campsite there. Another wonderful campsite along the creek with icicles hanging all along the other side.

We had a little trouble keeping the fire going as the wood was damp and the temperature was dropping fast. Marco impressed us again, by picking another dead branch for the bear bag. Yes, it broke again. Greg gave up and just hung his on the tree by the fire. I know it was a good five feet in the air. If a bear would have come into camp, it would have hit him on the head. His reply was that if the bear ate his food he would go to the Holiday Express.

We did some visiting and took a little cough medicine for health reasons. This was one of the 0 degree nights. When I woke up to my face hurting, I knew it was cold. I zipped up the old bag and went back to sleep. Sometime in the night, Troy heard a four legged visitor heading through camp.

We woke up to some very cold temperatures. It didn't take long to get the fire going, but it sure took a long time to get the guys away from the fire. We got a late start this morning. We started with a couple of good water crossings. One right at the camp. Luckily we didn't have to get wet. We did a little bridge building and rock placing to get us across. As soon as we crossed the first one and figured out which way to go at the split in the trail, we came to the second. This one was wider and deeper and frozen over. A little exploration and talent and we got across.

Just after the bridge on Sinking creek there is a campsite where we got a fire going for lunch. It was the longest lunch we had on this trip due to us freezing every time we stopped. The trail involved some road hiking and then headed down to Pine Creek where we had to break the ice and do some old fashion foot washing. While we were figuring out how we were going to cross, Marco changed into his crocks. I was so proud of his training. Couldn't hop this one. It did build some character. We made camp just on the other side.

We got flurries while we sat by the fire. This was one of those fires that put Marco on the second row. The tree we were sitting on had two branches. Every time the fire got up, Marco moved to the other branch because it got so hot. This was also the night that Greg made the mistake of hanging his hammock on the same tree as I did. Yes, he got to enjoy my snoring and breathing breaks. He didn't sleep all that well for some reason.

Today we had a lot of hills to climb. Just to add to the spirit, it snowed all day. We crossed the Poison Honey Fork and Hwy 80. We had a short but cold lunch on the other side down in a valley.

When we hiked down to Hawk Creek, we got to see some things! On one of the hills, we stopped for a break. Troy walked by us repeating over and over "My name is Troy, there is B shift tuff and then there is Outcast tuff!" He always comes up with something. The ice formations were wonderful as well as the frozen water fall. We also got to see the chimney rock formation.

Once you get past Hawk Creek you start doing some "road hiking". I use this term loosely cause it is mainly four wheeler trails across the top of the mountains. No sooner did we get on the road, I turn around and Marco has his pants off. I guess his zipper broke, but he wasn't scared of the cold!

There is no water there so make sure that you fill up before you leave the waters of Hawk Creek. We camped somewhere where the map shows a Laurel Branch off to the west. We never saw this branch but assume that it was down at the bottom.

Another very cold night around 0 degrees. The same guys that were making fun of me on day one about being barefoot around the campfire all had their shoes and socks off. I guess it's something that Outcasts do for comfort.

Marco entertained us with holding up his cup to wipe the snow off the bottom. When he did, he tipped it and spilled water right on top of his stove putting it out. That brought on some horse laughter. Then he tried to light it again. He ended up having to dump the water out first. We all stayed up late that night just having a good visit.

Over all our campfires claimed more equipment than ever. All of our clothing got burn holes in them. The prefilter of my water filter fell off into the fire. Greg melted the leg darn near off one pair of pants. A water bladder had a hole melted into it. My inflatable seat got two holes in it. And at the end three out of four pairs of shoes were shrunk. Guess who's wasn't......HEE HEE HEE! Oh yea, Marco caught Greg when he lost his balance and almost fell into the fire himself.

The next morning we hiked to I-75 and stopped at Spur Oil RV Park. They have a really good restaurant there where we could get some good old fashion burgers. It is a clean place that offers showers along with the fine cooking.

Arron from Holly Bay Marina picked us up there and took us to our truck. What a wonderful hike. At the end, I proved my point. The further we hiked North, the warmer it got!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Hobb's Cabin III, Savage Gulf

North Rim Trail to Hobb's Cabin...8.2 Miles....Easy........Outcast Total:758.3
North Plateau Trail to Office.....9.4 Miles....Easy
Total: 17.6 Miles

Troy, Shadow, Marco, and Craig were able to make this hike. Yes, they were calling for snow. Yes, they were calling for a 11 degree low and highs in mid twenties. WE AIN'T SCARED! We were trying to decide if we should bring both sleeping bags or just one.

After work we headed out to do some hiking. Originally we were suppose to hike Virgin Falls and Bridgestone/Firestone. The river is over four feet deep right now and flowing fast. So, this brings us to plan B. Where do you want to hike? Marco had never hiked to Hobb's cabin so here we go.

We got on the trail by 10am. We decided on the way in to hike the Rim Trail to Hobb's cabin and hike out on the Plateau trail. On the way in we met a couple of new hikers that were just getting into backpacking. We like to see more people get into backpacking. It's a great sport and there is so many places in Tennessee to see. We can take pictures, but you don't see the true beauty unless you are standing there.

Shadow was so excited on this hike she just kept running back and forth between us. I don't know if it was the cold weather or just her love for hiking. We did have to use gloves and some face protection from the temperature. The views were beautiful as always out here. The guys pushed me on past my lunch time til we made it to the next overlook. When I refused to leave the overlook until I ate, they gave in. Marco had brought some baked chicken for our lunch and dinner.

We past three hikers that had been at Hobb's cabin for the last two nights. They were heading out. They said that there was still some firewood left.

A few miles before we got to the cabin, we had another couple of guy's pass us heading to the same spot. We would meet them at the cabin.

We arrived at Hobb's cabin around 2:30pm. Our camping partners were there and already had smoke coming out the chimney. That's always a good sign. After introductions we started the collecting of wood. This area had been cleared out pretty well.

After we got a good stack of wood and collected some drinking water from the creek, the decision was made to have an outdoor fire as well. We needed to burn some of the longer wood in half so we could use it in the cabin. Also, the fire warmed the cabin up, but we needed something to warm ourselves up a little faster. This provided some entertainment as the wood, leaves, and twigs were all frozen and did not want to burn.

After the fire started, Marco and I set up our hammocks. Troy, Shadow, and the other guys were going to stay in the cabin. Marco and I are the stupid, I mean diehard backpackers. We came to camp!

First things first. Dinner! We got our dinners going and Marco boiled his water twice as he used his first cup to wash down the table top. Always cleaning! After dinner we gathered around the multiple fires and started taking cough medicine. The temperature dropped as we looked at the extremely clear sky filled with an amazing amount of stars. Lies were told and the fire building class was entertaining as ever. I have never seen a fire rearranged and rebuilt as many times as this. Sometimes you just have to stand around a say WOW! We had multiple fire designs with rolling logs and gear burns. Yes, I had plenty of laughs.

After the last killing of the outside fire, I went in to watch Troy working the inside fire. It was bed time and out to the hammock I went. I asked Marco if he was warm enough as I passed his and he said yes. He was snoring by the time I got in my bags.

We woke up to snow. What a beautiful morning. Marco had gotten up and got the fire going in the cabin. The water in the back of the cabin was frozen, but our bladders that we left by the mantle were not. We thawed our water and filter while making breakfast and packed up for another day of hiking. Our new friends never stirred so we left them with a warm fire.

The snow that was falling was so cold that when it landed on your clothes, you could see the individual design of each. It was beautiful. Our trip out was pretty much non eventful. We saw the rangers driving through the woods, but that was it for other people.