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  1. #1

    Default ST Hike #1 Burnt Mill Bridge to Charit Creek

    October marked the beginning of my Sheltowee Trace section hike completion! Now that the AT is 92% complete and out of reach until next July I have set my sights on something closer to home, more appealing for hiking companions and not such a big elephant to chew.

    Trip #1 began at the southern terminus in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This was my stomping grounds during college and I have spent countless weekends wondering the trails it has to offer. It was nice to get back to some roots after many years of completing the AT. The drive is only 1.5 hours from my home at the southern terminus, 4 hours from the northern terminus. I cant tell you how happy I was to be "there" after 1.5 hours of driving!

    There were a lot of first's for others on this trip. It was my sweet bird dog Lori's first hiking trip, both my comrades first time in BSF and on the ST as well as their first time for some wildlife we saw including a Timber Rattler and 2 bear.

    The ST was a very nice change of pace since slogging up and down the AT in NH and ME lately. From my perspective the trail was flat! there are no climbs on the ST over about 500ft and they all take typically a mile or so at that. A nice stroll.

    Blazing...The AT spoils us. I would confidently head out to the AT with no planning, no maps or GPS and could easily walk the trail. I found very quickly that not all trails are like this which boy scout GM had planned for. I had the 2020 map, nat geo maps for comrades and the GPX files uploaded to gaia. All of which came in handy at some point. There were several stretches of 1-2 miles with no blazing and if I had not done some research, it could have proven to be tedious finding the correct way. But overall, not too bad.

    Friday night started with some snafu's on the car drop side of things. Folks should have gone here but they went there, others should have gone there and they went here! At the end of the night we got the cars setup and we hit the trail about midnight. Walking about a mile we stumbled upon a nice tent site next to the river and that was home. It gave me a chance to try my Stratospire 2 setup with tarp only no mesh and I immediately loved it. SO much room! I came to the conclusion that I will keep taking the mesh inner but in fair weather would just sleep on top of it, in bad weather I can clip it up top and have some extra protection or if the bugs are bad the mesh will be there as well.

    Saturday was a slow start but we had gotten in late and the terrain I knew would be very mild so I wasn't concerned. The day was spent heading northbound toward Leatherwood ford with the trail leading us through the Burnt Mill and Honey Creek Loops. Suddenly up ahead of me I heard some hollerin' and 1 of my 2 hiking partners was holding Lori back. Rattlesnake in Late October? It was 33* the night before and this just blew me away. A nice 4 foot "jimmy" as Tipi Walter would say was sprawled out for some last minute sunbathing. We admired the snake for about 10 minutes and moved along down the trail. Later on we came across the O&W Bridge which for me, was a real highlight of the trip. We heard it before we saw it as dozens of horseback riders were making their way across the bridge suspended 100 ft above the canyon floor. It sounded like a train bridge until we saw it. Very cool experience. That evening we met up with the Leatherwood Ford trailhead and used their bathroom facilities and water spigot. Making our way along the little south fork river we made camp on top of Angel Falls Overlook, had a nice fire and I continued to embrace my stove less cold dinner approach which I have rather enjoyed all year.

    Sunday we were up and headed for Bandy Creek Campground which proved to need some blaze love. I had to use my GPS tracks to follow the trail thru the campground and for a few miles thereafter. After Bandy Creek we ran into a couple that had camped near us the night before, they had hiked the CDT this year, the AT and PCT in years prior and were headed back to Massachusetts and thought they would stop along the way to hike the ST in October. To be so accomplished in hiking, their ST plan seems sporadic splitting it into a 3 way flip flop over 330 miles but HYOH! At around 2pm we hit the end point at Charit Creek Trailhead and after hitting the long gravel drive for about 1 minute we saw a bear and cub run across the road, and then pause for us to watch them. This was a first bear sighting for my hiking partners and was my first bear seen in BSF, great experience!

    Overall this first of 11 trips on the ST were uneventful but a relaxing time. I am looking forward to Novembers section and the ones to come after. My 2 hiking partners got bit by the completion bug and are going to attempt to attend every trip, we had a good time talking about all 3 of us finishing the whole trail together.

    IMG_2274.jpg IMG_2272.jpg IMG_2277.JPG IMG_2283.JPG IMG_2287.jpg IMG_2296.JPG IMG_2317.jpg IMG_2318.jpg IMG_2322.JPG
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  2. #2
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing.

    Big South Fork is not somewhere that I would want to night hike. One wrong turn and you could step off a cliff!

  3. #3
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Very cool, great trip report and good you are getting out there and have a new agenda and goal.
    Tent looks good and great looking dog.
    That last picture is that ginseng?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Very cool, great trip report and good you are getting out there and have a new agenda and goal.
    Tent looks good and great looking dog.
    That last picture is that ginseng?
    That's a bear!

    Lori is a GSP and at 6 months old a working machine. Made her wear a pack but was pretty much empty she loved every bit of it.
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  5. #5
    AT 10,000 Miler
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    Nice! I just did that same hike this past weekend.

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    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    That's a bear!

    Lori is a GSP and at 6 months old a working machine. Made her wear a pack but was pretty much empty she loved every bit of it.
    Oh ok duh my bad I see that big black shadow in the background now and really doesn't look too far away thanks sorry carry-on.....

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    People have been complaining in the Facebook hiking groups about the terrible overcrowding in the Smokies. Hah! Big South Fork is about the same distance in the opposite direction, much fewer cars and people. Plus the terrain is more interesting, to me at least.

    Honey Creek Loop was our favorite dayhike, but we've done it so many times that we've stopped going for 2-3 years. Really enjoy the ruggedness. Thank you for the pictures!

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    There were several stretches of 1-2 miles with no blazing and if I had not done some research, it could have proven to be tedious finding the correct way. But overall, not too bad


    and to think, the blazing has gotten better after the association started up......

    when i lived in lexington, i would hike parts of it, and there would be no blazes, no maintenance so the trail would be overgrown
    and try to figure out if it's exactly a trail or not........

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    and to think, the blazing has gotten better after the association started up......

    when i lived in lexington, i would hike parts of it, and there would be no blazes, no maintenance so the trail would be overgrown
    and try to figure out if it's exactly a trail or not........
    Curious what years this was?
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  10. #10

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    There is some inconsistency in ST blazing format and spacing.

    The northern terminus starts out with turtle blazes, but older blazes show up as you move south. It isn't hard to wrongly take a white diamond only to realize you are not on the ST.

    Some sections are so well blazed it would take talent to lose the trail, while others are seemingly forever unmarked. Another hiker said blazes in some sections are vandalized or taken down (e.g. Bandy Creek area).

    Another issue is the road walks. It is really easy to know the trail resumes in say 3 miles only to overshoot its entrance. Hiker cannot be too vigilant. My Backcountry Navigator with Caltopo GPX saved me from myself at times.

    Last year I encountered more trail maintainers than hikers, so Sheltowee Trace blazing appeared to be on the upswing.

    I was proud to complete the AT, but the ST reminded me of how satisfying it is to be a backpacker.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Curious what years this was?


    i was living in lexington twice....

    first time spring of 1996 to fall of 1997....

    second time----fall of 2000 to december of 03.....

  12. #12
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    Gambit, thanks for the trip report! My husband and I are planning to hike some of the trails in Big South Fork area soon. We are spoiled by the AT blazing as well, and I want to be prepared.

    I see have Outrage GIS Mapping has GPS of trails and mile markers, is that where you got your GPS data?

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by JackieO View Post
    Gambit, thanks for the trip report! My husband and I are planning to hike some of the trails in Big South Fork area soon. We are spoiled by the AT blazing as well, and I want to be prepared.

    I see have Outrage GIS Mapping has GPS of trails and mile markers, is that where you got your GPS data?
    https://www.outragegis.com/trails/pr...-mile-markers/

    I purchased the above...
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  14. #14
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    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to the others. Curious as to how you've already got it planned in 11 trips? Just weekends?

  15. #15

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    Major thanks to everyone making the information on this fantastic trail more accessible! I'm looking back though my old writings on this from my '96 hike, and found a few good quotes on navigating back then. I was trying hard to get the Forest Service to increase the maintenance and signage. Just a reminder- this was back in the days of maps and compasses and having to write to the each ranger district to get information on their section of the trail.

    This section is not used much and could use more blazes. It also doesn’t match the maps- instead of a 10 mile road walk, we figured we only did five. Quite a wonderful surprise!

    o r

    Then after referring to the 1983 forest service map we decided that the trail should have turned at an unmarked fork in the stream. (The trail was not blazed in this section, though signs were placed at most intersections.) We followed the stream, finding four blazes in the next couple of miles. We encountered more problems as we went along; it appeared that the land had been logged and the trail had not been worked on since then. After a long bushwhacking session and many stops to verify our location on the map we emerged next to a church on an asphalt road. You can only imagine our surprise when we turned off the road onto KY 52 and saw a large sign indicating to Southbounders that they should turn in the direction from which we had come. This was our first encounter with a trail in an inexcusable state of disrepair (or else we were so completely lost that we never found the trail despite following the map and ending up on the correct road according to the current sign!)

    or

    We turned onto 460 during a rainstorm and hid in Bryant’s Market for an hour or so. While we sat around eating we obtained information on where the trail went next, information that saved us hours of hunting since we only had the 1983 forest service map in our possession....However, navigating with the topo map we later obtained from the district office would have been a breeze.

  16. #16
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    I was trying hard to get the Forest Service to increase the maintenance and signage. Just a reminder- this was back in the days of maps and compasses and having to write to the each ranger district to get information on their section of the trail.


    yeah....

    that's how i got what little info i could get on the trail......

    i really couldn't believe at that time, what little was out there...

    especially after moving the first time outta lexington and going to tennessee and getting
    spoiled by the little brown book...

    my last summer before i left lexington (i was never going to stay there anyways) i had a wild notion
    of trying to do some sort of guidebook or info............was going to buy a wheel and measure the trails....

    after a few really, let's say interesting, hikes on the shelowtee, with high weeds, little blazing, not much
    trail maintenance right down to wondering where the actual path went------i knew what a daunting task it would be......


    thankfully, it's gotten better over the years-----maps actually are coming out, and a guidebook......

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