The Bear Creek Loop combines three trail systems at Land Between the Lakes, the North/South Trail, the Telegraph Trail and the Ft. henry trail connector, and runs roughly 6.6 miles. I have been wanting to do this short hike for some time and knew that I could make a day hike out of it. Normally, even on day hikes, I will carry my large pack to train and keep my body in good hiking shape.
I talked with my friend David to see if he wanted to go and he was up for it so we made plans and off we went. David was going to meet me at the trailhead at South Welcome with his dog but last-minute decided not to bring his dog. We grabbed a map (because I always take one), filled out the trail register, took the obligatory picture and onto the North/South trail we went.
We made small talk (and I mean I talked a little and David stayed quiet) as we walked slowly up the trail. I didn’t want to get too fast. I made that mistake when I hiked the N/S Trail a few months ago and realized I hike fast sometimes. I wanted to enjoy the leisurely stroll through the woods. I was also keeping an eye out for a lean-to shelter I spotted a few months ago. I wanted to take a picture of it, a closer up picture.
We came across a teepee that someone had put together. I wasn’t expecting that one. We took a closer look and admired such handy work and wondered if it worked for whoever had built it. After a moment, we continued on down the trail and found the lean-to I was looking for. I took a photos of it and talked about it for a moment before continuing on.
I began to wonder where the fork in the trail was. I knew we had to be getting close to the split where the North/South Trail splits from the Fort Henry trail connector. I have the tendency of thinking I had walked further and longer than I actually have and begin to wonder where things are when I know they should be near.
When we finally made the split, we sat down for a snack and some water. This is where I about fell over laughing at David because he doesn’t believe in water bottles. No sir. He would rather drink from a water jug.
It was hot and sweat was beginning to pour down every direction of my body. Gold Bond is a miracle worker in preventing chaffing plus I don’t wear anything that doesn’t wick moisture away. I’ve learned the hard way the when the legs and underneath area gets hot and sweaty, you can have a great time or a miserable time. It just depends on if you came prepared.
After our break, we turned left onto the Fort Henry Trail Connector. This part of the trail got a little boring but there was plenty of growth to enjoy the beautiful greenery and we found a few frogs jumping across the trail that took our attention for a moment. After the trek through the undergrowth, we came to a cornfield that hadn’t been planted this year. David and I walked around the vehicle barrier entering the field and stared across the field for a moment. There was a slight path worn through the weeds and we moved on. Also in this field was some sort of contraption that looked like had something to do with the weather. Not really sure but it did look strange sitting out in the middle of the field.
About twenty yards into the field the path disappeared and we began to wonder exactly which way to go. We saw no blazes nor any noticeable trace of a path. We decided to keep walking straight because we were nearing the road to Piney Campground and we thought maybe if we got to the road, there may be a marker or a blaze on the other side directing us.
We made our way across the road and down an old vehicle path rutted out till we came to a ridge where the dirt road stopped. To the left we saw the blaze directing us and an old farming planter of sorts sitting there. We discussed what it may have been used for before continuing on.
Again, another portion of the trail that lacked in entertainment. It felt like it just kept going through weeds and trees of green. We skirted past numerous corn fields till we reached a spot where the trail turns left to take the Telegraph Trail or right to take the Fort Henry Trail system back to Piney Campground. This fork was not marked very clearly.
We checked the map, drank some water and discussed which way to go. We knew left was the right way but it looked rather grown up. Once we got our packs back on we took off left. After the initial blaze that pointed the right direction, we didn’t see anymore blazes for a while as we hiked creek side. We finally came across a blaze on the other side of the creek so we crossed and followed the creek for another few hundred yards before turning from it to the right.
Right took us up and down some terrain but not enough to wear us out. We were circling back around. Another couple of miles would lead us back to our car but there was one thing I was waiting and looking out for. The trail would take us right by an old home site (I can’t recall the name of). As we hiked, I grew more and more excited to see this dilapidated, fallen in, old home place. We finally came to a sign telling us about it. However, the home place wasn’t there. We looked and looked and it was nowhere to be found. I began to get upset. This was why I wanted to hike this trail in the first place. I love old rundown places.
But it wasn’t there. I was really getting upset.
I shared with David how disappointed I was. We decided to move on since there was nothing there but green lush undergrowth I told him if it was there, we probably can’t see it for al the growth. As we walked further down, we came across a small spring of water as it moved with the land. I looked to my right and saw that there was a sign that mentioned a spring under the metal cover. That’s when we noticed the old home place just up the trail and to the left. I began to question why they even had a sign about one hundred yards back when the home place was further up.
We took a few minutes to check out the old home place. I walked around it, took a few pictures, and dreamed of what it had been like back when someone actually lived there. I remarked to David that once upon a time right where we were standing, there was a lively family, children’s laughter, momma washing clothes in a wash basin, daddy smoking a cigarette or a pipe, late night jamborees picking on the front porch. I dig that sort of thing.We also noticed a metal wire up in the trees running the length of the property. We were unsure of what it was used for.
David and I discussed eating lunch but it was way too hot to eat. We just drank some water before moving out. McDonald’s was just three miles away; one on foot and two in the car. So we moseyed on. After we left the home place, the trail began a steep ascent up the ridge. This would take us about 200 feet up in elevation and keep us there for most of the hike that was left till we came back down near a creek and across another corn field, across the road to the cars. I remember last October walking on this ridge with my wife and three-year old. He did such a good job climbing up that ridge then.
Once we arrived to our cars, we laughed as we talked a few minutes reflecting on the hike then said our goodbyes and c-ya laters before getting in the car and heading out.
This is a good hike for hike’s sake. There is really nothing to see for the most part. It’s doesn’t have sprawling vistas, or lake views, or anything to really make you stop and enjoy the view. I’m glad I hiked it to mark it off my to do list but I can’t see hiking it again. I left nothing but foot prints and took only memories.