Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hike 2011.075 -- Model Trail "Loop," Land Between the Lakes NRA, TN

Hiked Monday, October 24.

I came across a sign for the "Model Loop Trail" on my Hike 2011.064, last month, along the section of the North-South Trail that linked the Road #205 crossing with the Trace crossing. Found no references to it on-line, other than an entry in a book that popped up on Google. Since you can't print those books out, I just roughly skimmed the entry, and figured I'd find out more details after walking it. I did see reference to the trail circling the South Bison Range, however.

As last time in the area, I took the Trace south from US68/KY80, headed south, and turned right (west) at Road #205. After about one mile, the road crosses the North-South Trail. From that point, the there's a short section of North-South Trail that heads south, to Road #211. That area was closed the last time I was in the area, so I was hoping to hike that section today. Unfortunately, it was still closed for a timber sale. So, instead, I headed north, recalling that the sign for the Model Loop Trail was just a bit to the north.

After about 1/10th of a mile of climbing, I reached the sign: North-South Trail, to the left, or Model Loop trail, to the right. On the Model Loop Trail, it said 0.8 miles to "Bison Hideaway." I headed right.

Turns out this trail basically heads west, back towards the Trace. After about 1/2 mile, I could see Road #205, down, to my right. Shortly thereafter, I ran into the South Bison Range, with the "Model Loop Trail" just crashing in to the fence that runs along the perimeter. There was no sign indicating whether the loop trail went right or left here.

I decided to head left, just to see if I could see the bison, again. This was part of the same trail I took on my Hike 2011.063, the South Bison Range.

Then, as now, the "trail" here is a mowed area that had not recently been mowed, so I had to push through some taller grass and woody herbs. I got plenty of scratches on my leg, and I didn't have much fun (same as last time).

The South Bison Range has two fields, separated by a fence, and each enclosed by a fence. Last time, they were on the far eastern end of the north field. This time, the bison were on the southern field, all bunched along the gate that separates the two fields. This made it impossible to get scenic shots, since there was no way to hide the fact that they were surrounded on three sides by fencing. The colorful foliage in the background was pretty, but overshadowed by the fencing.

This south field is smaller and narrower than the north field, although, either way, they're still fenced in. But seeing them being all bunched in that corner, it's kind of sad. Also, having them bunched like that, I didn't want to piss them off by spending too much time walking right by them. Some of the bison made woofing noises. Also, I knew from past experience that if I continued on the loop, the going would become all but impossible in another 1/2 mile or so, anyway. Hence, I returned the way I came.

I'm calling this one 3 miles. Hard to be sure, since I don't know officially where "Bison Hideaway" is located, but I'm assuming that's where the "Model Loop" hits the trail around the South Bison Range. If so, then it's about .9 miles from my Road #205 trailhead to there. If it was .6 mile from there to the end of that south field (which seems about right), that makes it 3 miles, roundtrip.

If this is all correct, then I still don't understand the "Model Loop" trail. Supposedly, it starts at the Homeplace, and does loop around the bison field. But then what? How does it relate to the spur that I followed from the North-South Loop? The only way that makes sense is if there's another spur somewhere further south on the North-South trail (in the area that's currently closed off for a timber sale). No way for me to verify that now, with the area closed. In any event, this whole idea seemed like a bust. "Model Loop" trail doesn't seem like a practical day hike. Probably easier on horseback, when you don't have to deal with the weeds and stickers.

There's another spur trail I remember seeing, that headed west off the North-South Trail, further north from the Model Loop spur. Not sure if I'll investigate that one later in the year. What I do plan on doing for my next hike (later today) is to hike the Nature Station Connector trail, which would link near where I hiked on Sunday with the Nature Station trailhead. From there, I could continue into the Nature Station trails, or just head back the way I came. It'll be just under ten miles, and a pretty long day.

Whether-wise, today is supposed to be near 80. Tomorrow is supposed to rain and cool about ten degrees. Then, it's back in the 50s forecast for Thursday and Friday. Also, this next weekend is when guns start shooting at deer in the LBL, so I may decide not to hike in there this weekend.

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