It turned out to be a rather cold night. We each began to stir but not wanting to get out of our warm sleeping bags. We knew that today would be a long day. We had what the map showed to be thirteen miles but would eventually turn into sixteen miles. The spur trail to the Sugar Jack Shelter was 1.5 miles with the spur trail from the Brush Arbor being .5 miles. We made ourselves some breakfast. Because Josh bowed out the day before, Mark’s resupply had bacon and pancake mix so I got to eat Josh’s portion. It was a very nice breakfast to be eating out on the trail. Better than Ramen or pop-tarts for sure.
After breakfast, all I could think about was the miles between shelters. It literally killed me to think today would be a very long day. I wasn’t aware of the scenery that we would get to see. I just knew that we would be seeing trees, trees, and more trees.
Instead of hiking up the spur trail, we decided to take a different more moderate route back to the trail. While I slumbered the day before, Mark and Dalton took off to find a much easier route to get us back on the trail. They returned not too long afterwards and informed me that if we just followed the creek around, it would bring us to the bridge we crossed when we took the spur trail. So that’s what we did. There wasn’t much brush to fight and it was a much easier walk rather than walking up the big hill and back down the other side.
I made a comment to Dalton that one of the worst things about hiking and staying in shelters is the hike is typically on the ridge but the shelters are down off the ridge meaning each day ends and begins with a slow climb or decent. Typically coming off the ridge is not so bad but I have a saying – What goes down must come up. This is so true in the hiking world. You may go down to rest but to go further, you must go up. There’s no way around it.
Some say hiking is about the smiles, not the miles. Unfortunately, you can’t get smiles unless you are enjoying something. That something most times is the view and there is no view when you are down in a valley. So you hike up high where you can see everything but you can’t stay up there for the dangers of winds and storms. You must come down to rest in the safety of the hillside.
The day would prove to be long and rather unadventurous. It was a day of listening to podcasts instead of music. The selections were all about hiking to encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the hardest thing is to keep moving forward knowing that backwards would be much quicker in getting you out. But backwards, like Carlo expressed, is not an option. You must press forward. With each forward motion is the pain that starts in the crawl of your foot and shatters every nerve as it pulsates up your body to your brain letting you know that it is uncomfortable. Pushing forward also gets you farther from tha familiar as I found on day two when I couldn’t find the spur trail to the shelter. It would have been easier to go back to the Trace but that was not the mission. The mission was forward.
So the podcasts that helped me continue putting one foot in front of the other were none other than hiking podcasts. It’s been said if you want to be successful, hang around successful people. If you want to be financially stable, hang around those that are financially stable and same goes with just about anything in life. Do what encourages you to move forward and not backward. For me, it was being prepared by downloading hours of hiking podcasts to listen to so that I would be encouraged to move forward instead of backwards. These podcasts were:
- Smoky Mountains Radio
- Travel with Rick Steves
- Appalachian Trail Backpacking
- January Series of Calvin College – Jennifer Pharr Davis (the world record for fastest hike of the AT)
Much of my time was spent listening to these podcasts, checking out the views of Kentucky Lake and thinking about my wife and son who I was beginning to miss deeply. We also got to see some old homesteads that were torn down when the government took over the land and pushed everyone out of the Land Between the Two Rivers. Before the government came in, there were only two rivers, the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers.
In the 1940’s, as part of the TVA formation, FDR dammed the Tennessee River creating Kentucky Lake, flooded some of the low-lying land on the western side of the area, resulting in the condemnation of land and the forced removal of some area farmers. This in turn ran off some of the folks in the area, a very unpopular move with the locals. as part of the TVA formation, FDR dammed up the Tennessee and this created Lake Barkley.
A plan was developed shortly after this to use the United States Army Corps of Engineers to dam the Cumberland in such a way that the two lakes would be at the same elevation, and the two streams could then be connected by a canal without the need for any locks. This would considerably lessen the shipping distances for goods going to ports on the Gulf of Mexico for products leaving the Cumberland Valley. This was completed in the 1960s and this resulted in creating Lake Barkley.
The plan called for a new dam and the evacuation of the entire former “Between the Rivers” area, not all of which was to be flooded. The area was to become Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – a TVA experiment designed to show a multiple-use approach to recreational lands. Unlike a national park, there were to be areas where hunting would be allowed. Over time, many other attractions were to be developed, such as a buffalo range, and a recreated 1850-style farm called “The Homeplace”, complete with an on-site staff simulating life on the farm in period costume and working it using period agricultural techniques. (Both of these attractions were added in the 1970s.) The road through the Tennessee portion was renamed from State Route 49 to “The Trace”, which is what many roads and paths were called in pioneer times.
Today, remnants of old homeplaces still stand. Their foundations are there but the houses long gone except for what still lies in the memories of the families that once lived between the rivers. Buttercups that are still there are symbols of life for the families that once raised their kids and farmed the land. These small yellow flowers are all that’s left after the families were run out. They bear a memory to every person that walks past these areas reminding everyone that happiness in the form of family once was strong there.
Now there’s nothing but a foundation that tells the story, the true horrible story of something being taken away for future generations to have fun, fun at the expense of broken homes and broken dreams. I admit, my fun came at this expense. You won’t find houses, barns, stores, or anything else of the like in LBL. The point of creating such an attraction was to allow the land itself to be the attraction. If you’re a fisherman or hunter with hobby needs, you must leave LBL for your supplies. The only thing a hiker can benefit from is a Snickers bar at one of the welcome centers. Depending on your interpretation, LBL can be the greatest American Experiment or one of the greatest American Disasters.
The day was growing long and late. My feet were screaming again. We were drawing down on our sixteen miles for the day when we came to the fork in the road not really informing us that to the right was the spur trail to Sugar Jack Shelter and forward would keep us moving towards North Welcome just fifteen miles away. We turned right and began walking down a forest road. I turned it into high gear ignoring my feet. Hard ground wears heavily on my feet when hiking but I bore the pain knowing in less than twenty minutes, I would be able to crash in the pea gravel that lined the shelters. My pack was weighing heavy and my back was desperately needing the break it was so craving.
Upon arriving the first thing I noticed was some Christmas garland on the shelter. Some of the shelters in LBL are close to a forest road so those who are familiar with the area tend to go to the shelters away from civilization and drink a little too much of Grandpa’s cough medicine. Someone had brought some garland and decorated for fun so it was nice on the eyes to receive some home decor to spruce up the place while we were there.
I chose a couple of trees right beside the shelter and set up my hammock It was growing dark and we had enough time to filter some water and eat supper but we were way too tired to even worry about building a fire. I laid in the hammock while I made some cocoa then boiled some water for some pasta and tuna. Mark and I sat talking about the day as we ate. Dalton sat in the shelter with his bed already made writing in his journal. About 8:00, we all turned in to sleep. It got rather cold that night. I couldn’t keep my air pad straight in the hammock so I got some butt-freeze through the night.
Butt Freeze is when air blows under the hammock and the only thing separating you from the wind is a thin layer of material from the hammock. There are ways to keep this from happening. You can use an under quilt made for hammocks to stop the wind. It’s kind of like a sleeping bag or quilt made for the underside of the hammock. Another way is the way I chose. Place you air pad in the hammock and sleep in your sleeping bag on the pad. You have two materials blocking the wind however, if you don’t stay placed on the pad, you can easily acquire butt-freeze.
The hammock was given to me. It also has a built-in bug net. It’s very tricky to set up If you get it too tight, when you sit in the hammock, it puts pressure on the ties and you can easily rip the bug net. I did this in January on my trip to Sugar Jack, the same place we were staying this night. Through the week, I added a few more rips so I decided to go ahead and cut the net off the hammock. This relieved me of the aggravation of tying it up and a peace of mind knowing that it would be tickling my nose through the night However, now I have no bug net in case I stay in areas where mosquitos are prevalent.
Two more days, one more night and I’ll be in my baby’s arms and the joy on my son’s face will be priceless. All I need was to sleep just a little longer and walk 15 more miles. I can do this. I will do this!