Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hike 2011.073 -- North-South Trail, Land Between the Lakes NRA, KY (Part 10)

Hiked Sunday, October 16. I walked about 7.5 miles of the North-South Trail today, from Road 140 to Savells Bay, where I stopped my Hike 2011.067, on September 23.

To get to the trail head, I took the Trace north from from US68/KY80. After just over 7 miles, I made a left at LBL Road #140, which is signed for Sugar Bay. This road is mostly gravel, with just a short segment paved. After just over 2 miles from the Trace (just about 1/5th of a mile past the paved segment), there's a sign on the right side of the road, announcing that you are entering a "backcountry camping area." It's not "backcountry" in the sense that I think most normal people would use it (wilderness), but that's the term the Forest Service uses for camping areas in Land Between the Lakes that have only pit or chemical toilets and no running water.

The North-South trail crosses Road 140 just before (east of) the sign. There's a wide, grass-covered shoulder on the south side of the road, and that's where I parked. (Obviously, I missed the trail the first time, and drove around the Sugar Bay campground before coming back out and finding the trailhead!).

I started on the trail at about 10:30am. From Road 140, the trail heads into the woods, then turns to the left, paralleling Road 140 briefly before turning further to the south. After what I suspect is just a bit less than one mile, you come to the first green mileage sign of the day. It tells you that Coffin Cove is .2 miles to the right, Buzzard Wing Spring is 4.1 miles straight ahead, Dead Beaver Spring is 8.5 miles ahead, and Golden Pond is 12.7 miles ahead.

Although not indicated on the green sign, I turned around on my September 23 northbound hike at Savells Bay, which I estimated as 2 miles north of Dead Beaver Spring. That meant my destination for the day was about 7.5 miles or so total from where I started my hike (6.5 miles from this sign, plus the mile or so I had already walked).

My first extended lake-side segment of the day was along the southern shore of Higgins Bay. Patches of trees across the bay were in color, and I took plenty of pictures there.

After traveling southeast for nearly a mile, the trail oversees a small peninsula. It was obvious by looking at the erosion patterns that this peninsula is an island during much of the year. However, today, with the water low, it divides the two main arms of Higgins Bay by as little as ten yards.

Several tents were pitched near the isthmus. A 40-foot (or so) boat was anchored off-shore. I assume it's the boaters that brought the tent, probably transporting the stuff to shore via a smaller skiff The beach at the isthmus was smooth and ideally for landing a flat-bottomed boat.

I enjoyed additional peeks at Kentucky Lake as a made my way along this other arm of Higgins Bay. Then I made my way up an incline and into the drainage for Rhodes Bay. This drainage must be lower lying, because it smelled of wet mud. A ring of empty plastic containers along the trail suggested that, at high water, much of the trail could be under water.

After the first approach to Higgins Bay, the trail briefly joins LBL Road #141. As it meets, there are large agricultural fields on either side of the trail.

The North-South trail soon turns back to the right, back towards Higgins Bay. However, I continued a bit further along Road 141, admiring some nice color where this road crested the next hill. Apparently, this is also the road you'd walk on if, while on the North-South trail, you needed to resupply your water at Buzzard Wing Springs. I noticed this mainly by looking at the map as I sit here at my computer, and also, when looking at my pictures of the area, I noticed some show a yellow blaze, which is the color they use in LBL for spur trails off of the North-South trail.

The picture above is pretty much the same as the one at the top of this post, except I exposed it by metering off of the sky. I think I prefer the brighter version, but the dark one looks pretty nice too, I think.

Once back on the North-South trail, I encountered my second green mileage sign of the day. It told me it was 4.5 miles to Dead Beaver springs, so, therefore, about 2.5 miles to the part of Savells Bay where I turned around last month.

This segment pasted rather quickly, and before long, I was overlooking the same spot I stood at last month. The lower water level was obvious. Whereas, in September, I looked down into the bay and photographed a snake and a turtle, both in what would have been about five feet of water, today, there was a fairly wide, flat beach between the lake and the trail.

I took a photograph of the same young bald cypress that I photographed last time I was here, then walked down to the waterline. I took plenty of pictures here, including several more of the bald cypress. There were a few deep red maple leaves laying on the beach, so I maneuvered myself and my camera to frame my shot. No moving of leaves or anything; I just shot what was there.

During my walk, I saw no deer and only got a glimpse of a squirrel or two. I also saw a large bird (probably a hawk, possibly an eagle) fly silently away. Over the past few weeks, I've sen a number of owls, eagles and hawks, and I have really come to appreciate the amazing silence with which they can launch themselves from trees and make their getaway. I see them, but do not hear them at all. It's not like the turkey vultures or the occasional heron or Canada geese, which make noisy (flapping of wings, breaking of tree branches, and vocalizations) departures. The owls and raptors are completely silent, and I don't know how they do it.

I also saw a number of butterflies. The monarchs are still passing through, generally heading south for the winter. The ones I used to call "cabbage" butterflies (green or white) are also common. In addition, I saw a number of common buckeye butterflies and what are probably viceroy butterflies.

Got back to the car just around 4:30pm. Relatively easy pace, as I'm taking plenty of pictures. I'm pretty sure I have less than five miles of North-South trail (less than ten miles of round-trip walking) to cover to complete my coverage of this trail (except for the area that was closed). After I complete this, I'll return to the closed area to see if it's opened, yet. If not, I'll walk the "Model trail," which I saw a sign for down near the closed area, and have seen written up on-line and in books. Probably also likely to return to several areas I've covered for return engagements.

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