The summer semester of college was a beast. In eight weeks, I took three courses that were very in-depth; World Missions, Church History 101, and Creative Writing. For this reason, I got burned out on any writing because of all the papers I had to write. Therefore, I am a tad over a month away from the semester writing this post. The very reason of even writing this post is because a couple of friends of mine and I went on a hiking trip to celebrate surviving the semester.
The weather was forecasted to be rainy. A lot of rain to be exact. But I figure if I’m going to enjoy outdoor activities, rain is part of the outdoors so that wasn’t going to stop us. They make rain gear for that plus it adds a different dimension to the fun when precipitation is involved.
This past March, I hiked the whole North/South Trail at Land Between the Lakes. We came across an island with a cemetery (Brown Cemetery) on it but didn’t take the time to explore. It was a long day of 16 miles and extra walking did not seem enticing so we kept moving past it. I wanted to revisit this island found at Higgins Bay. I did my research to find out exactly where it was. I called the LBL offices, checked maps, read blogs and my Land Between the Lakes resource book. I finally found where it was at and planned accordingly.
We would start at Sugar Bay campground where the N/S Trail came within yards of the parking area. Our first intention was to hike in to Higgins Bay which would be about 3 miles and campout close by. It has a beautiful view and would make for an easy hike. However, in my lust, I talked my buddies into walking from Sugar Bay to Jenny Ridge which was about 13 miles. This proved to be a bigger adventure than what we initially bought into but more on this later.
The day came and we met Kevin at a store as we picked up some last-minute needs and breakfast. Then we headed off to LBL where we parked my truck at Jenny Ridge picnic area. We jumped in Kevin’s truck and drove up about five miles on the Trace to Sugar Bay access road. The access road is a gravel road about 2 miles long. A little over a mile you come to a paved area in the road. We all were rather curious what this was for but I theorized that because it was on a steep hill that it was paved to save on washout on the road since trucks use the road to put their boats in Kentucky Lake.
We arrived at Sugar Bay campground, prepared our packs, took the obligable hiking picture and we began. I knew that this would be a rather easy hike starting off and didn’t want to get too fast-paced so we, as I call it, moseyed down the trail looking for our hiking legs. It had recently rained before we got there and upon arrival was lightly sprinkling. the rain quit just after a few minutes of getting on the trail and contrary to the forecast, we would never feel the likes of rain for the rest of the trip even after we had come to beg for it the next day. But again, more on that later.
There are three bays that we were expecting to cross by; Sugar Bay, Higgins Bay, and Vickers Bay. Reading the map, it’s easy to see the separate bays but when you are actually hiking, it is difficult to actually tell what bay you are at. We walked enjoying conversation and the view when we came to where the trail began tracing the shore of Kentucky Lake. We kept questioning which bay we were walking near. I knew that when we reached Higgins Bay we would know it because the island would be there.
When we finally reached Higgins Bay and we stopped for a small breather. Unfortunately I did not get to explore Brown Cemetery because I would have had to ford the water that separated the island and the main land. It was warm enough and the water was just over a waste deep. Carlo and Kevin told me I can go over there while they sit and eat lunch but I did not want to do that for a number of reasons. I did not want to get in the water and knowing that when I got back they would be ready to go without me getting my lunch was not appealing to me.
So we moved on. We had plenty of daylight and needed to find the central point of our trip to set up camp. We hiked up some elevation and when we reached the top, we found some shade to sit down and take a lunch break. Jerky, Pringles chips, and some candy to fill the tank and we were off again. I told the guys the story of hiking the other way during my through hike of the trail and remember this area being the biggest hill of the day and it kicked my butt. I realized as we were descending that the side we just hiked up the opposite side was that very hill. It’s much easier to go south than to go north.
As we descended, we reached a flat area and realized someone had already utilized the flat surface for a campsite. We decided that since we had reached about middle ways of our hike that we would go ahead and set up camp. We were near the lake for water and a fire ring of rocks had already been set up. Kevin and I set up our hammocks and with the only level ground just feet away from the fire ring Carlo set up his one man tent.
One thing I definitely like about hiking is once you get to camp, there is usually plenty of time to nap before having to gather fire wood and prepare for the night. So we all crashed for a while. Carlo said he kept hearing buzzing around his head and later when he was trying to get out of his tent, he got stung on his leg. We found out later that Carlo had pitched his tent inches from a ground hornet’s nest and he had to move it. So we moved the fire ring a few feet over so he could have room to get away from the hornets which seemed to calm down after he moved.
As Kevin and Carlo went to get water I decided to go back up the hill to look for some birch-wood to help with the fire building process. I began to hear some rustling in the woods and my imagination took off with me and I began to wonder what it was. I crouched down so I would be right at the level of the horizon and there I saw two adult armadillos. Those are some neat creatures. I began looking again for some birch-wood and heard two more armadillos further up the hill. There are a lot of those boogers at LBL it seems.
I got back to camp and we then all gathered some wood and proceeded to build a fire. A lot of the wood was still damp from the previous rains but we did get a fire going and had some dinner. I always enjoy taking a few Mountain House dinners and for this trip I brought Chicken Teriyaki and Rice for dinner. I’m not a big fan of this one because it’s always more than I can eat. Plus I really don’t think it’s all that good but I wanted something different because I normally get the lasagna. One thing to be sure, from my last hike, I learned that the Backpackers Pantry Cheesecake is a delight so I made sure to grab me some of that to take with me. That stuff is like crack in a bag!!!
I pitched my rainfly a little low and set up my hammock so that it would block the rain that was forecasted to come in that night. However the only moisture that we received that night was from our own sweat. Just before the trip I purchased the ENO Bug Guardian. It did very little to let any airflow into the hammock but does work well for keeping bugs out. I laid down about 9:00 and read my book, The Green Mile, for a few chapters till I was just too hot to read anymore. I tried to go to sleep but I had a hard time because I was so hot. Finally, and I’m not sure when, but I fell asleep but it was a restless sleep all night due to the heat. There were a few sprinkles throughout the night but no accumulation of rain. Just enough to dampen the ENO Rainfly.
Morning came and we all got up to eat breakfast and prepared for the hike out. It was already crazy hot and we knew that the heat was going to be relentless. Before the trip I had bought a pack of tortillas but failed to pack them so I had to eat my Mountain House Breakfast Skillet without a tortilla. I also had some Russian Tea. I learned how to make this hot drink from a fellow YouTuber BabelFish5. He has a video on making trail drinks. I have to admit that it sounded like a weird drink at first but I bought the ingredients and tried it hat home first and as ShugEmery says, Woooo Buddy!!!! That stuff is some good drinking. So I had some for the morning drink.
As we were packing preparing to leave up the hill came about five bike riders. This trail we were hiking is also rated for mountain bikers. I don’t necessarily agree with that but I’ll save that for another blog post. I did have some of my stuff sitting in the trail but they were nice enough not to run over it. We put out the fire, and began our trek out. We had hiked roughly six miles in so we had about that to make it to Jenny Ridge.
I would say the hike out was an uneventful one but what made it most eventful was the heat, humidity and lack of water. We were unprepared for the lack of water. We expected there to be water sources but during the months of August and September, most water sources dry up at Land Between the Lakes. I was unaware of this when I planned the hike but Carlo said he read it on the website. I guessed I missed it.
We decided not to fill up at the lake for two or three reasons.
- It was lukewarm and not near as refreshing as spring water
- We couldn’t get close to the water without getting real muddy
- Unfortunately the mud made our water filters clog up so we were practically ruining our filters
We decided to go further and look for a spring. The one we knew of, Dead Beaver Spring wouldn’t give us any water. It was covered up the last time I came though so we bypassed it looking for other sources. We finally came to a small inlet from the lake and we were in desperate need so we stopped to filter water. It was not the best but it worked.
It was becoming so hot and humid we were praying for it to rain but the rain never came. It got to the point that Kevin became nauseous due to lack of water and we grew concerned for him. He had to stop about every fifteen minutes to break. Carlo needed to keep moving because he had previously hurt his foot and if he stopped, it would tend to lock up on him making it harder for him to get out. So he kept walking and I would stay back with Kevin.
I began to realize we were not making good time and it would be much longer if we had to take a break ever few minutes. At one stop I asked Kevin how much his pack weighed. He guessed about 30 pounds. I told him to take it off. I threw it over my left shoulder and demanded he keep walking. He didn’t want to but he knew what I knew. We’d never get out of there at the previous pace.
Carlo made it to a bridge and waited on us to get there. When we finally arrived, we drank the last little bit of water we had. It was only a couple of miles left so Carlo left again while we stopped for a breather. When we began to walk again, I knew Kevin was not going to be able to tote his pack out so I grabbed it again and we finally came to the split at Jenny Ridge. Kevin asked which way to go and I didn’t know but had a an idea since I was the only one familiar with the trail. I thought if I go right and there is a bridge with a trail heading up the hill and the main trail heading down, I know we are at Jenny Ridge.
Land Between the Lakes needs to get a sign put up there. I saw the bridge. I saw the trail and knew we needed to cut up. When we got up the hill, I saw the truck and hoped and prayed that Carlo knew that split was at Jenny Ridge. I threw the packs in the back of the truck and looked around but there was no Carlo to be found. He must have continued on. I told Kevin to stay put. The trail came out on the Trace about a mile down and I knew that if Carlo made it to the Trace, he wouldn’t backpedal through the woods. He’d take the shortest easiest route which would be the road.
I jumped in the truck and drove down a bit and sure enough, there was Carlo walking up the road. I picked him up, turned around and went to get Kevin. I explained to Carlo about the split and he agreed, there needs to be a sign.
We drove just a few short miles up to Sugar Bay. I dropped them off at Kevin’s truck. Carlo rode with me up to LBL but Kevin was in no shape to drive so Carlo drove him home.
I thought it was a great hike and many lessons learned. It turned out to be way more than we bargained for. We wanted a simple enjoyable hike and got a few hills that took work to get up, the humidity was unbearable and the lack of water sources was a cause for concern.
I can’t wait to get back out there. I love it!!!