• Hello Sheltowee ReTrace '08?
Hello fellow Sheltowee enthusiasts,
If I had to do it over again (ReReTrace), I would make sure the Heidelberg food drop works out or stock up for a few days at the general stores on the road walk north of Heidelberg or at Natural Bridge for the leg to Morehead.
The navigation aids we used were 33 topographic downloads from this site, GPS with tracks loaded (thank you!), Johnny Molloy's mileage table photocopied, and Daniel Boone maps (southern, central, and northern). The marking (plastic diamond with Sheltowee turtle design) were abundant in poor places mostly like Cromer Ridge. Still the ST needs better junction markings, at turns or where it merges with forest service roads or paved roads. Overall the markings were very good.
The section north of 64 is still in need of work although we are very appreciative of the crew who cleared all those downed logs. General brush clearing is in dire need in many parts of the Trace, although the route is passable in these parts. Poison Ivy is a major problem, worse than bears, and be careful of deer ticks in the southern Trace.
There are three shelters along the Trace. In case of rain, there are options for cover at the campgrounds and a few picnic awnings like the one at Holly Bay.
John "Sassafras" Ryan
aka John Aralia or Knit
• Sheltowee ReTrace '08 Stats
Sheltowee ReTrace '08
May 4-25, 2008
Total days: 22
Average distance per day: 12.5
Town days: 3 (Whitley City, London, and Morehead)
Other hikers spotted: 6
Buffets: 2 (Cumberland Falls & Natural Bridge)
Wildlife encountered: coyote pup, quail family, turkey family, whitetail deer, squirrel, chipmunk, deer tick, rattlesnakes, lynx, hawks, bald eagle, red eft
Best trail conditions: Yahoo Falls, Cave Run Lake
Worst trail conditions: north of 64, Cromer Ridge, several other patches
Longest pavement walk: 20 miles (Heidelberg)
Total resupply hitchhikes: 2 (1 to Whitley City, 1 to London)
• Sheltowee ReTrace '08 Resupply Notes
Mile 29.6: Yamacraw Bridge Store is closed (has been for a long time). We opted to hitchhike to Whitley City (motels, Krogers, library, post office, outfitter, restaurants, more). The volunteer at tourist office, Mr. Green, gave us a ride back to Yamacraw.
Mile 43: Second Whitley City option. Short 3-4 mile hitchhike south on US 27
Mile 60.3: Cumberland Falls. ST passes right past small grill with sandwiches, drinks, snacks. The Lodge is 1/2 mile uphill and has restaurant with menu and buffet
Mile 99.2: Hitch to London, about 12 miles east on KY 80. All kinds of lodging, grocery, restaurants, post office, and library. The town is spread out.
Mile 106.1: 49er Diner and Shell station. Limited supplies and restaurant.
Mile 142.5: Restaurant on US 421 before left turn on FS 370 is closed. There is a soda machine outside preschool on corner.
Mile 161.1: Turner General store in Arvel is closed.
Mile 172.7: ST passes Heidelberg Post Office. Open M-Sat 8-2. Good for a mail/resupply drop
Mile 176: Conveniently Country store with small deli and good supplies for few days
Mile 180.7: Mary's General Store with restaurant and selection of goods. Fine for several day resupply.
Mile 196.2: Natural Bridge Lodge, restaurant with buffet. Stores, motel (Lil Abner's?) restaurants down the road. Ask at the Lodge.
Mile 248.9: Brown's Store
Mile 253.7: Morehead shopping district with Krogers, motels, restaurants, Chinese buffets, and a lot more. Library in town of Morehead.
• Dry Branch Road to Northern Terminus
May 25, 2008
Roadwalked it to the northern terminus to preserve our sanity. Just not into plodding along on the overgrown Trace no more. Sunny and clear Sunday morning where BH met us at the trailhead and whisked us to breakfast in Maysville. I can't bear another muddy creek, the water has lost its taste. And if I ever see another poison I plant again, it'll be too soon. No more traipsing over logs or barbed wires. No more negotiating ATV or motorbike tracks full of sludge water. Horse and human prints do not match. No more disppearing general stores or restaurants. A final road walk and hopefully the last of my trekking career. I am too old for roadside antics, and not interested in the behavior of cars as they gawk at human travellers with backpacks. I am not just "hitching around" gentlemen, I have ReTraced it 08 style!
• Jake's Back Porch to Dry Branch Road
May 24, 2008
Dry Branch Road
Epic day. Left Jake's Back Porch bright and early considering the quick step out of camp (no tent folding, no major packing up, just roll the bag and hit it). Found our way back to Trace andcontinued along under powerlines (first break, wonderful sun and view) then FS 977 dominates the day. Hot and dry, we had to filter from a puddle, alkaline rainwater, and guarded it against passing horse trailer (they just didn't understand). Good thing we got water at Jakes, the forest service road is high and dry until crossing of 64 for third and last time. Came upon family of quail, we did, and I do assert that a wildcat lynx maybe crossed the path near end of FS road. Entered notorious ice storm section and immediately lost the trail and found gasline clearing right of way to follow. Damn, I didn't take note of those topographic lines, very close together at the place where gasline closes in on Big Tom Brown Branch. What a descent, black diamond style. Reached the swinging bridge over Holly Fork, a dilapidated one plank bridge, much like a tightrope in its challenging of one's balance and center of gravity. Gave the Trace another chance to Dry Branch Road, where it was overgrown to the britches with my favorite old plant from souther terminus area, Poison I, plus blackberries, bittersweet, and more. Then we ended up losing the Trace at another gasline crossing and had a downhill bushwhack from purgatory, crossing into private land, dogs barking at the commotion. Reaching the road, yes, our patience wick was worn thin and we decided to road walk the 377 to homeland of northern terminus. Sanity was at stake. As was our final day aftertaste, would it be consumed with bushwhacking and poison I or a smooth Sunday morning country lane walk to freedom. We chose the latter.
• Morehead to Jake's Back Porch
May 23, 2008
Jake's Back Porch
Best overnight stay on the Retrace 08. Began day with cab ride back to the Morehead Ranger Station, where we commenced well graded and cared for trail to highway 60. Then a long road walk past Brown's General Store and chili dog specials served by cute-as-a-button sweetheart. Delightful walk along Bluestone Road, free of dogs and whizzing cars and very sunny, before rainstorms. Under bridge of 64, found chick gaping for food, hope he found some. I was on a similar quest, to Krogers and mecca resupply center. Continued along 32 south then abrupt left into private squashed stripped area to ridge walking and invitation from Jake to backporch stay. Rain approaching so we took the invite, much to our delight. Just as we got to the porch, downpours began, but we were dry and with a couple beers and even did some video recording of thoughts impressions of Sheltowee Retrace 08. Really hospitable and worked out very sweetly although we didn't think we could get to the spur trail by pm.
• Clear Creek Campground to Morehead
May 22, 2008
Walked the paved road out of camp to Buck Creek Trail, to intersect Sheltowee but ended up on Zilpo Scenic Byway. Found eastward bend in byway so bushwhacked to trail trending north. Entered Cave Run area and trail to White Sulphur Horse camp. ATV track with many many mud holes and sticky, gooey, smelly mud to contend with. Made for slow going but eventually got to the dam and crossed the paved road to the visitor's center. Gently coerced ranger into giving us a lift to Morehead and before depositing us to hotel, he showed us the route of the ST over private bulldozed area slated for housing complex. Good times ahead.
• Corner Ridge Road to Clear Creek Campground
May 21, 2008
Clear Creek Campground
Commenced with road walk to KY 77 and very closed general store. Lots of dirt road walking then reached Furnace Arch and some views. Felt like we would never reach Clear Creek Campground especially with twilight descent of long switchbacks but alas picnic bench, spiget water, signage, and an old coal furnace, I believe. Happy and tired by dark and fell into sleep although a cold night by the creek without padding. Low on food and a bit alarmed although could be much worse. Rationing what I have and looking forward to the bounty again. Have considered nettles and Indian cucumber but will wait until really hungry. A violet salad. Tulip Tree flowers and oats. Hmm.
• Red River Gorge to Corner Ridge Road
May 20, 2008
Corner Ridge Road
Entered Red River Gorge Recreational Area last evening and camped well off the trail in a clearing under oaks and pine. Slept well after firing up alcohol stove and having my tea and rice. A little concerned about leaving Natural Bridge with only a day's worth of food and looking towards the possibility of general stores on Highway 77. Entered Pinch 'Em Tight trail and crossed Right Fork Chimney Top Creek, had some more tea there as well. I will trace the Trace with my tea breaks. Some of the better views of the Trace nearing Clifty Wilderness and Gladie Creek before descending past a handsome arch. Great camping spots near confluence of Gladie Creek and Salt Fork and actually saw another hiker, a rarity in these parts, who said he would walk a little up the trail to see if Cave Run Lake were there. Try two days more, son. Followed old railroad grade out of Clifty and decided to camp in grass flat near trailhead sign on Corner Ridge Road. Offered the flatest camping around and last spot before long road march.
• Natural Bridge Ridge to Red River Gorge
May 19, 2008
Red River Gorge
Slept nary a wink last night because of cold back, a pad makes heaps of difference, for comfort and ease of rest. A lesson learned, the hard way, as all mine are learned or so it seems. Eager to leap up at 3am, don't recall sleeping from 1:30am to morning, tossing and trying, hoping for warmth and the right ergonomic hole or rill in the ground beneath tent. Off early enough, by firstish light, and honed in on buffet at Natural Bridge Lodge, which was as spectacular as I expected. Gravy, biscuits, sausage (forget my vegetarian ways), french toast sticks, blueberry pancakes, need I say more, forget the natural beauty, here was something spectacular. Missed out on bridge and park was something not so memorable, but met up again with LW, about 4 hours behind was he. Ditched the dinner buffet, I should add that I am at that point in the journey where it's all about the food. Roughly 4.5 days remaining in this Kentucky adventure.
• Copperas Cave Branch to Ridge Before Natural Bridge SP
May 18, 2008
Ridge Before Natural Bridge SP
Still haven't found LW. Hope he is trekking well and that we meet up soon at NB. Mostly on roads today ever since Copperas Cave Branch, passing the most barking, aggressive or mock-threatening dogs in one day ever in my time ever. Heidelberg was a VERY small town with the tiniest post office and a comfortable park near the Kentucky River. Locals are loathe to say hello too busy working on a supply of rusted junkers in their front yards which hug the road and there is always the barking horde of dogs. Up highway from town, I felt fortunate to encounter two stores, the first Conveniently Country, like an oasis on the hot horizon of road walking, with very nice owner who inherited store from grandmother and wished me well with a ham on white. Forded Sinking Creek Upper and Lower, or something, and afterward had encounter with mad dog, I swung a few times at it and later received apology from owner up the paved road. I was angry and annoyed, yet again, with the Trace and southern culture. Arrived to Standing Rock Church and this site near old oil tanks, never knew about the KY oil industry.
• Middle Fork to Copperas Cave Branch
May 17, 2008
Copperas Cave Branch
Seems I've misplaced my trekking partner. We missed Turkey Foot campground but on to Resurgence Cave where War Fork emerges from ground. I pushed through sticky muddy section before Arvel, out of water and wanting to check out the general store the guidebook mentions twice. It did not exist, Arvel was a few homes with an especially dense and dull feel to it. Couldn't wait to get out of there and back to cover of the woods. Finally found water after more annoying trail of mud holes, poison ivy, and blowdowns. Days like this really make me dislike the trail and the rural culture of Kentucky. Found a hidden spot before start of long road walk and ditched it in the woods. Natural Bridge is two days away, if I had my druthers I'd rise at 4am and make it there by dark tomorrow to finally get this intolerable stretch finished. And of course hitting the post office on a Sunday. Well, no sign of LW, not that he'd see me tucked away in these trees as I am very hidden. Hope to meet up with him in the morning. The ground was cold last night, will I awake cold again tonight?
• South Tree Campground to Middle Fork
May 16, 2008
First half of the day went quickly, second half pretty fast as well. Unscenic for the most part on these atv tracks with massive puddles (small ponds growing aquatic plants, lakes in the making) in the way. The forest is damp and cool with this stormy front through now and the duff under leaves smells of rot. Reached halfway mark ofthe entire Trace, an unnamed creek near dead turtle. Not a bad omen, nah. Road walk near screaming cars and break spot near weedwhacker with promise of restaurant dashed to pieces outside preschool, only a soda machine remains. Now, at terribly average Middle Fork and restless about having no sleeping pad, the cool is already wafting in below. Maybe they'll have something soft I can use at general store in Arvel tomorrow.
• Denny Branch to South Tree Campground
May 15, 2008
South Tree Campground
A totally soggy day between six river crossings and drenching rain. Just no chance of staying dry until reaching this campground and shelter of picnic awning. Mostly on forest service dirt roads the whole day. Crossings of Horse Lick Creek and mussels, freshwater filters of water and can be as old as 100 years. Horse Lick has one quarter of state's freshwater mussels. Missing my sleeping pad and hope to get another soon, this hard table will be harder without the cushioning. Misting now and crickets softly tuning to song as the night sets.
• London, KY to Denny Branch
May 14, 2008
Little dog followed us for a mile or so to suspension bridge over Hawk Creek. Sweet small dog, maybe a terrier of some kind. We had to point and made loud noises to get the dog to go back the other way. Passed much hyped up Cromer Ridge without incident in the heaving rain and I can attest to having seen worse, more abused landscape. Down to the gas station diner 49er where I managed to spend zero money. An accomplishment after lush resupply in London. Walked along old Wildcat Road to Wildcat Mtn, first Civil War battle in Kentucky. Felt the agonizing wrench of dying in gunfire and all the lost lives, young cut short for a bullet in the left chest. What a way to be remembered, as having died in a war. What unrealized dreams. Soon I'll be forgotten too, in less time than those men, a life passed through and processed. A disturbing feeling really, for those with enough free space in mind to entertain the short nature of being alive.