Friday, November 22, 2019

Sheltowee Trace IX

Day One: 4.0                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2488.6
Day Two: 8.0
Day Three: 8.0
Day Four: 10.5
Day Five: 3.5
Total Miles: 34

This is our first visit back on the Sheltowee Trace since 2011 when we finished the whole trail. Since that time they have rerouted the trail through the Big South Fork, so we thought that we would go back and do the reroute. The sections that are also part of the John Muir trail, which we hiked in 2009, where the only repeated sections.

We planned on exiting our trip at the Parch Corn Creek trailhead on Terry Cemetery road. This trail is no longer maintained by the park. Lora and I found it in a book in 2012 and hiked it back then on a loop hike. It was well overgrown then, but who doesn't like a challenge? I felt a little confident on the location of the trailhead and we left the car there.

We drove to Burnt Mill bridge to start this hike at the Southern Terminus of the Sheltowee Trace. Once on the trail and seeing the jalapeno man we learned that the John Muir also relocated to this same trail. This is a very pretty hike along the river with a lot of bluff walls before it climbs up and starts through the woods. There is a creek that shows on the map about four miles in on the trail. When we dropped down into the gorge we could see water, but when we crossed the creek it was dry. So down hill we went until we found the water and we made camp here. It was a good night telling lies around the fire drinking cough medicine.

Day Two:
We got up and on the trail. Just before you get to the Honey Creek loop, the trail turns into road. As the Sheltowee was famous for back in the days, there was no marking which way to turn from here.  With a little exploring, we decided to continue straight and it paid off. The Honey Creek loop adds some challenges as you climb, drop down, and crawl through rocks and obstacles. After the loop you climb over the ridge and start back down to the river gorge. We saw a doe and two bucks cross the trail in front of us. There is a picnic table before you start the drop.

I know that horses are not stupid, but somehow they end up on these trails clearly marked for hikers only and warnings about how dangerous these trails are. They have torn up this trail. You go by an Indian rock house and a water fall on your way to the O&W bridge. We crossed over the newly repaired bridge and followed the trail along the main river. We stopped about two thirds of a mile from the Leatherwood Ford on an old road bed to make camp for the night. We saw our first two people who were trail runners. It started sprinkling about the same time we got our hammocks up so there was a small panic as we got our tarps out and deployed. No campfire tonight, but it did stop raining.

Day Three:
We headed up and crossed over the Leatherwood Ford bridge. The old hiking bridge is still out. It was a beautiful day for hiking as we climbed up to the Angle Falls overlook. This is where we saw our second two people who were out day hiking. We enjoyed the overlooks and rock walls as we took the Fall Branch trail around and down to the John Litton loop. We made camp just into the Scott State Forest. Plenty of good firewood here for the night. Stars were out and we heard owls and coyotes.

Day Four:
Today we had good weather again. We hiked around the Honey creek campground and across Jack's Ridge dropping down to cross Laurel Fork Creek and Black House branch. We stopped by the Charit Creek Lodge for a visit on our way by. They have done a lot of work here getting the place cleaned up.

We continued our hike out to the big river to make camp for the night. Once again lies were told and medicine taken around a nice campfire. Right about midnight the rain came in.

Day Five:
There was some apprehension about me finding the Parch Corn Creek trail. Just cause it was years ago and I didn't hike it from this direction and I didn't remember much about it and.......
We headed out feeling good because there was a sign with Parch Corn Creek on it stating we had 1.1 miles to get there. After we crossed the creek we turned left and started following the trail. Where the trail crossed back over the creek I knew we had to stay on the right side of it even though the trail faded off into the river. We crawled along the bank until it turned back into a road bed. Then we came across the old home site and I felt better. The trail continued out and then through a field which I didn't remember so back to the home site we went. I found what could be a road bed and it was going straight uphill so I knew it had to be it. After we climbed a while I found the tail tail sign it used to be a trail. The sawed off tree along side! Continuing up the side of the mountain following the faded trail we finally got to the top where we found the two poles with a sign stating no cars beyond this point. I was feeling good then. We continued to battle through brush until it opened up to a road bed and finally the rock walls with the Indian rock house. And yes, the car was at the end of the trail!

We had a great hike followed by Waffle House after we retrieved the truck from Burnt Mill Bridge.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Big South Fork

Day One: 9.6                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2454.6
John Litton Farm Loop 4.2
Duncan Hollow road 0.6
Duncan Hollow Bypass 0.2
Duncan Hollow bike loop 1.7
Duncan Hollow Bypass 1.4
Jack's Ridge Loop 1.2
Laurel Fork Creek 0.3
Day Two: 9.7
Laurel Fork Creek 3.7
Fork Ridge Trail 3.8
Black Horse Branch 2.0
Laurel Fork Creek 0.2
Day Three: 8.5
Laurel Fork Creek 6.6
Slave Falls Loop 1.1
Middle creek loop 0.8
Day Four: 9.6
Middle creek loop 0.8
Fork Ridge road 1.2
Salt Pine Ridge 2.5
Laurel Fork Creek 0.4
Salt Pine Ridge 1.7
West Entrance trail 3.0
Total Miles: 36.6

Troy called out sick for this hike. Since we were planning on doing a part of the Sheltowee and didn't want to have to repeat the trip for Troy, Marco picked some trails in the Big South Fork.

We parked by the pool at Bandy Creek Campground and took the John Litton farm loop. It follows the creek to an old farm where Marco got surprised by a large black snake. When we got to the Duncan Hollow road we took a right and followed it to the Duncan Hollow Bypass road and then did the Duncan Hollow bike trail. This is where the extremely large bear poop. Almost 2" in diameter! Back on the Bypass road we got to hear a Baird Owl calling and then when we got to the trail junction of Jack's Ridge Loop we saw a Momma bear and her four cubs. She stopped and checked us out for a minute and then headed on. We took Jack's Ridge Loop down and crossed the Laurel Creek, for the first of 30 crossings, and took the trail crossing once again before setting up camp for the night. It was a peaceful night around the campfire.

We got up and headed East towards the big river. We had 4 more crossings today. We got to see a small garter snake just before connecting to the Fork Ridge trail. It is an extremely sharp climb up the ridge before it levels out for a nice walk through the woods. We took the Black Horse Branch trail back to Laurel creek and then took a right on Laurel Creek trail and found a nice campground for the night. 

We got up and got read this morning. We had twenty five river crossing today. We hiked about four miles with crocks on because we crossed so many times. It started a light rain and by lunch we had to have poncho's on. The rain stopped by our last crossing and we climbed up the ridge to the Middle creek trail where we found a spring and stopped for the night. We had a nice campfire again tonight and dried things out. It was a warm night and stayed warm all night. Heavy rain later that night.

We got up to the beginning of steady rain that would hang with us most of the day.  We packed up and headed to the Fork Ridge road which led us to Salt Pine ridge. We were wondering about the Laurel Creek after all the rain. The one crossing we had today was about a foot higher then yesterday just up to our knees. We crossed and headed up to the West Entrance trail head. The wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping fast. We ended up with the rain coats on and gloves under the poncho. The rain cut out for lunch and mainly it was just water off the trees. 

After our celebration at the Waffle House, Marco drove through a small snow fall.