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!


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