Sheltowee Trace – March

Need to get to the beginning of the hike? Click here. For the month of March, a last minute change moved the Friday night camp spot to Sand Hill RV park on Rt 700. There was plenty of flat ground so I was able to comfortably sleep in the back of my truck once again. Saturday night we were being put up at a local Baptist Church gymnasium, so no tent was needed. In addition, there was even a five-pound drop in effect, so the load could get even smaller. Mine was a towel, toiletries and such as showers were available.

With the light load, I hoped to move fast as it looked like it would be a long hike on Saturday. The plan called for 22 miles and the estimates had been consistently short up to this point. Steve would be parked around 3 miles from the finish to pull hikers that were running out of steam and/or daylight. With Sunday’s hike estimated at 12 miles, the slower folks would have time to pick up the 3 miles the next day.

After an apparent “Symphony of Snoring” (which I slept through) we were shuttled by Sheltowee Trace Outfitters back to where the weekend’s hike was to begin. It had rained on and off through the night, but stayed partly cloudy and in the 50s (nearly perfect) throughout the day.

Smooth trail in rocky surroundings

Smooth trail in rocky surroundings

The hiking was on very good trail starting out. Walked part of the time with Keith and Rick, both from near Cincinnati. It seemed a bit odd how often Rick checked his altimeter. However, in talking with him, I learned he flies 737s used to fly F-15s. That made it much more understandable. Interestingly, Keith was also former military, a Marine.

The recent warmer weather had some spring wildflowers beginning to emerge, adding to the scenery of one significant overlook and several abandoned mines. The trail stayed relatively well constructed and easy to follow, though we had to wade Rock Creek. While the day was warm, the water was not. It was actually painful getting across the 50-foot stream.

Cold crossing of Rock Creek

Cold crossing of Rock Creek

Just about lunch time we made it to the Little South Fork Grocery adjacent to the Yamacraw Bridge and took the opportunity to have a non-freeze dried or granola lunch. Their specialty was a fried Bologna sandwich that was as big as your head. Frozen Moon Pies (and other items) were available for dessert.

I spent more time at the grocery than the others and hiked through the afternoon alone. The trail spent the next 10 miles or so running parallel to the Big South Fork with no significant elevation changes. There was plenty of elevation change near the trail however and a short detour to Yahoo Falls was well worth the extra walk. The Cotton Patch Creek crossing was also interesting.

Yahoo Falls

Yahoo Falls

The day was getting long when I made it to where Steve was parked, about 3 miles from the Flat Rock Baptist Church. I was the last one of five that Steve let through to walk the stretch. That may have been an error on his part as I got lost. Things ended up fine as I blazed through underbrush to a short road walk just before darkness fell. Per Rick’s GPS, we had walked 24 ½ miles.

I had a late, but hearty dinner provided by the ladies of the church. There was vegetable soup, potato soup and a wide assortment of desserts. After a shower I found a spot on their carpeted running track and settled in for a good night sleep.

We lost a couple hikers that day. Sam had developed some huge blisters and was calling it quits. Patty had fallen while crossing Big Creek and though she waked to the next road crossing, got her leg x-rayed and had broken it.

I began hiking straight out from church at first light (7:30 am).  Though the trail stays near US Route 27 for a mile or so, I could hear a pack of coyotes yipping the entire stretch. Once leaving the road, the trail follows near a creek for several miles. It was in this stretch that Keith caught up to me and we continued together.

Trillium ready to bloom

Trillium ready to bloom

One thing to be aware of on Sheltowee Trace is the wide variety of blazes along the trail. There are metal signs with a blue turtle, a brown turtle or a white turtle on a brown background. At other times, the turtle is painted directly on trees. Occasionally there are signs with diamonds and also diamonds of various colors painted directly on trees. Keith and I got lost for a half hour or so after we walked by a brown blaze on a brown tree. Once back on the right route we caught up to Rick and all finished the 12-mile day together at 1 PM. 226 miles to go.

The ongoing saga of finding the right footwear continues. In January, I wore Saucony Xodus. They were comfortable, but slick on the rocks. February meant North Face Ultra MT, which have a Vibram MegaGrip sole. They held the rocks well, but the size 13s were tight on my feet with the padding I need for my neuroma issues. For March it was Merrell Capra. The 13s I used on the Long Trail gave me some black toenails so I moved up to a 14. It looks like the search will continue in April.

Apparently, a roomier shoe isn't the answer.

Apparently, a roomier shoe isn’t the answer.

So, what about April?