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June 29, 2013

Stoney Cove Loop via Caney Trail and Sheltowee Traill

9.4 mi 

This was a very scenic and relaxing hike by the Lake Cave Run in Daniel Boone National Forest.  The lake is formed by the damming of the Sale Lick river.  The trail documented here, is a loop which begins at the Stoney Cove Trail head.  A kiosk marks the trail head.  The hike begins by starting up the gravel service road.  Once you reach the tree line, Caney Trail (TR 1226) begins on the left.  The trail is marked and the distance is 6.2 miles to theh Sheltowee Trace trail which makes the loop back to the gravel service road.The ups and down are very moderate and if you do any hiking at all  you will not find this difficult in the least. The trail is shared with horse riders and mountain bikers so keep your eyes open.Along the Caney Trail the views of the lake and mountain are beautiful.  You will also hear the sounds of people enjoying the lake; however, I found that relaxing as well.  I saw jet skis, motor boats, house boats, and yes, even sail boats.  Kayak rentals are available in the parking as well.You will have several creek crossings and muddy clay areas along the way but none are any trouble to cross.  After the 6.2 miles you will see the sign (although you have to turn around to see it) directing you back to Stoney Cove, via the Sheltowee Trace trail.  This is a straight shot pretty much back to the parking lot.  

Kevin Johnson created a new track, Natural Bridge State Park - 1,236 ft 
June 28, 2013

Natural Bridge State Park

1,236 ft 

A round trip at Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky.   I started from the parking lot near the dam/spillway on Lakeside Trail.  This part of the travel is a relatively flat, gravel path that leads to the swinging bridge.  After crossing the bridge you will find the gift shop and restrooms on the right.   This trek proceeded on trail #2 - Balance Rock Trail.  I absolutely think I missed "balanced rock" but I did see the cave which was really cook.  A barricade prevents people from actually travelling into the recesses but with a flashlight you can look around in there.  After .75 miles (per the map), I chose to continue on to Sand Gap Trail.  After about .25 of a mile into the trail is is completely shaded which is nice if you are trying to escape the sun.  You can still look out to the side to sneak a few views but the trail eventually leaves the ridge crossing many creeks and streams. Most have very nice foot bridges across them.The next portion of this trip was continuing the loop back on trail #6 - Hood's Brand Trail. This trail goes deep into the forest and has a very nice creek crossing.  It is 3.75 miles (per the map) and leads back to Natural Bridge.  There is an option to take the Upper Hood Loop but I by passed it for the sake of time.  Toward the end of this trail, you will see some beautiful rock formations. I was running low on battery so I did not include many of them.Eventually you will see the sign for Natural Bridge and it isn't far away.  It is breathtaking as you see it for the first time.  A word of caution, to get to the top of the bridge you will have to pass through a very narrow gap between the rock.  I am 32" waist and I had to turn sideways to fit through with my day pack. It is really narrow.  This leads to the top with amazing views to enjoy.After taking a few pictures, I came down the same way and continued down "The Original Trail" (trail #1) and back by the gift shop and parking lot from there.

Kevin Johnson created a new track, TR102 Hamburg Trail - 1.1 mi 
June 21, 2013

TR102 Hamburg Trail

1.1 mi 

This is a quick out and back hike through the longleaf forests of the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge.  The trailhead begins at the Tates Trail kiosk located at the dam of Lake Bee and ends at Hamburg Pond.  Parking is permitted along the grassy area by the paved turn around.  Out and back loop is 2.2 miles.

From the kiosk, the trail crosses the Lake Bee dam and continues into the forest.  Be sure to continue straight/slightly left into the forest along an unmaintained road bed after crossing the dam and not on the service road that curves around to the right.  The trail will meander a bit through what is sometimes thick undergrowth.  As the old road bed begins to come to an end begin looking for a path through the heavy reed growth on your left.  A path along old pond dam is marked with a “No Hunting Zone” sign.  Unfortunately, going out you are facing the back of the sign which makes it a difficult find.  Once you locate the sign, pass with it on your left and you should be on the path.  However, if you follow the GPS track, you will find the general area.  As you cross the the old dam, you will step across a small stream.  A tree is across the creek to minimize your stretch.  Continue straight and you will rejoin another service road at which you will go left.

Along the trail you will enjoy a mix of the traditional longleaf pine forest and hardwoods along wetter slopes. You will likely be surprised to find large rocks embedded in the embankment to your right after rounding a long bend to the right on the road.  The sandhill area is seldom recognized for rocks of this size. The limestone outcroppings are remnants of larger deposits where centuries of erosion washed away all but the hardest deposits.  You will also pass two grassy meadows and enjoy a very nice, shaded walk while listening to beautiful birds and other wildlife.  At last, you will reach a clay and gravel service road. Turn to the right and you will find Hamburg Pond, a one acre shallow pool with crystal clear water, down on the left.

The runoff from both this pool and Lake 17 collects and funnels under a road drainage pipe down the service road you crossed.  The water there is clear also thanks to the sandy soil of the region.

Early fall to late spring are the best times to maximize enjoyment on this adventure as these times exhibit the least undergrowth and more pleasant temperatures.  The comforting sounds of nature on the dam of Hamburg are soothing for an afternoon nap.  Summertime can be fun as well giving views of wild flora not possible during other seasons and the pond will be buzzing with bright blue dragon flies which will give photographers a challenge for a beautiful blue subject against a reflective green background.  Hikers will want to take precautions from the heat which can exceed 100 degrees in the July - August months.   Hunting is permitted during certain seasons, so a check of the refuge calendar or hunt brochure is recommended before you embark on your journey.

Animals You May Encounter
The refuge provides sanctuary to many animals but here are a few more common ones that you are likely to see.  From their website, “ ... more than 190 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 41 species of reptiles, 25 species of amphibians, and over 750 plant species. The refuge employs various management techniques, including prescribed burning, to maintain this ecosystem, and also supports the largest population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on US Fish and Wildlife Service lands.”    Wildlife is more likely to be seen in the dusk/dawn hours but can happen at point during the day.

Keep an eye and ear out for snakes.  Rattlesnakes typically rattle if you get to close as a warning.  If you hear a rattlesnake, stop, determine the location, and slowly back away.  Other poisonous snakes to look out for are the copperhead and cottonmouth.   Unfortunately, neither of these have the warning system of the rattlesnake but would generally rather attack prey than humans.  Therefore, it is important to look carefully before crossing logs or when walking in heavy underbrush and not surprise them.  If you encounter a snake on the trail, remember, you are in their territory and slowly back away and go around their space.

Summer hikes are extremely hot and one my argue that in a pine forest is hotter than most.  However, as the forest mixture varies, so does the temperature.  It is shaded most of the way. 

Kevin Johnson created a new track, Hike to LikeLike Falls - 1.1 mi 
June 16, 2013

Hike to LikeLike Falls

1.1 mi 

This is a beautiful waterfall that can be accessed from many different starting points.  We chose to start out hike on Auloa Rd right off Pali Hwy.  You can park you car on the road side of the dead end street Auloa Rd.  Park down from the "No Parking" signs.  Follow the paved street up through the gate by the private residences.  You will see three concrete drain pipes turned up on end and the entrance is on the right.  Continue up the paved street which is the old Kalanianaole  Hwy/ Auloa Rd.  It will eventually come to an old intersection at which point you leave the pavement and hit the trail. The road curves sharp to the right and you continue straight to the unpaved trail ahead.  You will see "Water Fall" painted in white on the pavement . You will wind your way through dense tropical forest and it is beautiful!   You will reach a dirt trail intersection.  Continue straight across as the trail is marked with white paint and arrows that point to the waterfall on a tree straight across.  We made the mistake of turning left which takes you the the Pali Hwy drainage ditch.You will continue and eventually come to another junction.  Turn left here.  It is carved in the tree but not painted.  Not sure where you come out if you go straight instead.Advice from a local that was at the falls.  The waterfalls is frequently flowing very little but in our case it was great because they had experienced wonderful rainfall.  The waterfall may also be access from the old road accessible down to the right of Pali Lookout.  Great views from this waterfall from the trail and points at the falls themselves.

May 25, 2013

Linville Gorge Southern Loop Back down by River

5.4 mi 

This trip is adapted from the "Linville Gorge Mini Grand Southern Loop" posted by kurtisk on May 18, 2011.  His trip was inspired by a write-up in Backpacker Magazine.
Our company was comprise of 8 (ages 40M, 24M,19F,18M, 17F,17F,15M,15M) and proved to be a major adventure for all of us.   Of the group all had hiked Mt. Mitchell from Black Mountain Campground up except four, and four had hike Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain from Cades Cove.  This adventure was close to the Thunderhead Mountain experience.
Our trip began at Wolf Pit parking area which is a very informal, end of the road area.  There is no security or monitoring nor any nearby businesses.  Cars are parked between available trees and so forth.   We had no trouble with leaving our cars there over Memorial weekend for the hike.
We backpacked about 20 miles in three days spending two nights in the Gorge.  The first night was at Saddleback Campground which is beyond Shortoff Mountain.  I would highly recommend it as it has The Water Chimeys right there as a water source.  However, it leaves significant hiking for the remaining two days.
Along the hike to Saddleback are excellent views and especially the next part beyond Saddleback to the Tablerock area.  The hike is along the ridge so mid-day hiking will allow the sun to absolutely suck the life out of you.  There are water sources along the way.  We had hope to find fountains at Table Rock but did not have success.  Be prepared to encounter rockclimbers on the way and some awesome rock openings that you have to hike through.  We found a fabulous formation to have lunch at.  
Once we arrived at Table Rock we found a sign indicating the bridge across the river had been washed away two weeks prior.  Determined to cross we continued our trek.   Another backpacker on the other side of the river in the same dilemma worked with us to tie a rope across and use a carabiner to slide our packs across.  After that 6 of use crawled across a knotty pine log then balanced on a slipper log, jumped a wide span and made it across.  The  other three swam across in the very cool water.  We had to dive to recover tent poles.  If you swim across, do so upstream from where the bridge is as the current is very swift on the other side.
After crossing the bridge (which took 1.5 hours) we were beat and setup camp not to far afterward.  This left us an estimated nine miles to hike out the next day.
On the third day we broke camp early but still an hour behind schedule and got on the trail at about 8:00 am.  I had hoped for 7:00 am but it was hard to corral the group after the previous day.  Once we got going this side of the trail offered some of the easiest to trek although many areas still proved to be treacherous.
We passed the Lead Mine trail mentioned in the post by the kurtisk version but I think we are glad.  Given his description of the trail condition and ascent our rock scaling was more fun and adventurous.  We stuck to the river all the way down to our crossing  This meant we had to scale rock which wasn't too back but required agility, attention to detail, and most of all teamwork.  
The island did throw us for a bit of a loop as we crossed onto the island and then back on the trail when we could have just followed the trail across a dried up stream to save a few steps. It was worth it though.  
If you take this path, be aware that part of it is along private property and signs are posted.  We stuck as close to the flood line as possible to avoid trespassing and to respect the private ownership.  Eventually you make around the private property onto an old forest service road and it is a pretty stiff uphill climb.  Once it levels off you will see the Mountains to Sea trail to your right.  If you cross hill it looks like a VERY STEEP climb on the other side of the side.  We opted to go down a little further to where the river split and was more shallow.  There were lots of rocks so we crossed with our boots on.  The current was swift but manageable.  
After crossing the river there is no reward on the other side.  It is still a steep a rugged climb back up to the intersection back to Wolf Pit Parking area.  It is also  un-shaded so doing this mid-day to late afternoon is again asking for the energy sucking sun.
First Draft:  Additional Edits and Pictures Forthcoming