Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hike 2011.074 -- North-South Trail, Land Between the Lakes NRA, Part 11

Hiked Sunday, October 23. Today, I walked what is probably the last segment of the North-South Trail I will be able to walk: From Sugar Bay lake access (LBL Road #140) to near where LBL Road #132 crosses the trail.

Apparently, several sections of this trail have been realigned since the recreation map was published, so the angles at which the trail crossed the roads along the way did not entirely line up with what the map suggested. Nonetheless, with the exception of the short southern segment (From LBL Road #205 to #211), which was closed for a timber sale when I tried to walk it, I'm done.

Next time I'm hiking (probably early next week), I'll drive down to Road #205, again. If that segment of the North-South Trail is open, I'll do it. If not, I'll head north and walked the "Model Trail." I'm not sure if that whole loop is still maintained, since the only description I have found of the loop is from a google book hit, and that one talks about walking the perimeter of the South Bison Range fence. However, I know from past experience that this perimeter is not reasonably passable any more. That means I might just walk part of this trail, then return the way I came.

That is for a later trip.

Today, I parked my car the same place I did for my Hike 2011.073: Off of LBL Road #140, just about two miles west of the Trace. Today, there was one other car parked there; it had a bike rack attached to the back. They either headed south or made a loop of it, because I did not see any mountain bikes on my hike, although I did see relatively recent bike tracks.

From this trail head, the trail begins with a modest climb. It pretty much goes up and down drainages, while keeping a modest distance from the so-called "backcountry camping" of Sugar Bay. At one point, a faint use trail links from a nicely-shaded campsite up to the trail.

You get no good views of the southern-most arm of Sugar Bay. It's only after about a mile that the trail parallels the main section of Sugar Bay. Trees still largely obstruct the view here, however.

Across the bay, shooting between tree branches, I saw distant views of egrets and turkey vultures.

At the far eastern end of the bay, it would not be hard to pick your way from the trail to the muddy lake shore. However, I chose not to make that detour today. Instead, I just wanted to complete my hike.

The trail ascends away from the water, eventually crossing a bridge. A bit of climbing eventually brings you to a sign that says RD 139. I actually think this must be a directional sign, rather than an actual road crossing. The trail leads from here to your right. If you go left, instead, there's a largish and well-maintained cemetery. I'm thinking this must be Pinnegar Cemetery. This cemetery, like many others in the LBL (and there are a LOT of other cemeteries here!), is maintained by a volunteer group, "Between the Rivers," largely comprised of the descendants of those who used to live here, before the land was federalized and turned into a national recreation area.

After about 1/2 mile along this dirt road away from the cemetery, you intersect a more-defined road. Judging by the map, this must be the actual Road #139. A left turn on this road takes you in a northerly direction. A right turn would have taken you back towards the Trace. This means this is another potential access point (along gravel road) to get to the North-South trail if, like me, you're trying to do the trail in day hike slices.

After perhaps 1/4 mile, the North-South trail leaves the gravel road, heading off to the right. It generally descends from there towards Duncan Creek. As you approach the flat area, your path takes you across or adjacent to several large agricultural fields (now, fallow, it being fall). Just before you cross the "last" of these fields, the Nature Station connector trail (yellow blazes) diverges, off, to your right.

Instead, I crossed the field, knowing I was very near the Duncan Lake area where I had started a previous hike. In that case, I headed north.

Shortly before getting back to the road that attaches to LBL #132, I reached the green mileage sign where I had ended a previous day's hike. That sign said it was 5.4 miles back to the Sugar Bay Lake Access. Assuming they measure the mileage to the actual lake, I still walked pretty much that whole distance. After I parked my car at the trailhead, I walked into the campground to use the porta-potty before starting my day. That means 10.8 miles for the day, which is actually somewhat longer than I thought remained.

As noted above, except for the less than two miles between Roads #205 and #211, I've now hiked the whole North-South trail. Just for completion's sake, I hope that last segment has reopened, so I can do that before the end of the year.

Because I did this in staggered fashion, I didn't get any great sense of accomplishment, nor any great finale of a sight to see at the end. Still nice to have accomplished a minor goal on my way towards what may be a second year of 100+ hikes, though. It's also been nice watching the season shift, from high summer to middle fall. The leaves have changed from dark green to either dried and fallen or yellow, brown, orange, or red. Flowers have entered and, now, largely exited, their fall blooms. I've also come across a number of newly reconstructed bridges on this trail, things that look to be less than a season old. It's been a pretty good season of hiking.

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