Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hike 2011.076 -- Nature Station Connector Trail, Land Between the Lakes NRA, KY

Hiked Tuesday, October 25.

Yes, this is three days in a row. I'm both trying to make up for lost time (only one hike last week) and to take advantage of what may be the last near-80 degree day of the year. As noted in my last post, temperatures will be dropping into the 50s over the next few days.

Today's hike links up with my last North-South trail hike. Just before crossing a field, and probably less than 1/2 mile from the end of that day's hike, I passed the signpost for the Nature Station Connector Trail. Obviously, it's intended to connect with the North-South Trail. The sign at the junction says it was 4.8 miles to the "Nature Station Trailhead." It's not entirely clear to me if the trailhead is actually up near the Nature Station, or down, outside of the gates. You might think the former, but I don't remember seeing any signs for the North-South Trail up near the Station. In any event, my return time (fairly good clip, relatively few stops for water and pictures) was 1:50 minutes, meaning 4.8 miles is definitely in the ballpark of how far I walked.

To get to the trailhead, it was the usual US68/KY80, exit at "The Trace." Headed north about nine miles, and took the (second) road towards the Nature Station (Silver Trail Road, or LBL Road #133. When road #134 intersects from the right (it will be the first paved road intersecting your route), continue straight for about 100 feet, and turn on to the gravel road that is just before the picnic area. This will deposit you in a small parking lot. Flush toilets and running water are behind you. The trail is (assuming your car is headed into a space, facing north) forward and to your right.

A gated, "Authorized Personnel Only" gravel road drops briefly and heads north. That's your trail. After about 60 yards, you hit a T-intersection, with a sign telling you the N/S trail is towards the left, while the Nature Station Trails are to your right. This is the same trailhead I used for my first and third trips to Honker Lake.

As you make your way to the west, a semi-restored tallgrass prairie is on your right. It's all dried up, now, but I think it's sup;posed to bloom nicely in the spring.

The trail works its way around the prairie, turning to the north. The early part is on a nice, wide dirt road that's still used by maintenance personnel, but otherwise sees little traffic. Trees with pretty yellow leaves (probably sycamore) line the road.

After a short incline, I saw several large storage sheds on the left. More climbing, and I came to suspect (then, later, confirmed by looking at a map) that the Honker Lake Loop was just a smidgen to the east of where I was walking.

After what seemed on the return trip to be just 1/2 mile (but seemed longer as I was climbing), there's a locked gate that keeps cars out of this area. On the other side of this locked gate, immediately to the east, was another locked gate blocking a road that headed up a hill (don't know if it had a view, or if it just leads you to another cemetery). Meanwhile, LBL Road #315 (dirt, passable for passenger cars) is in front of you. Your trail heads west (left) on Road #315.

About 3/4 of a mile later, there's a dirt road that drops down and to the north. Ignore it, and continue on your road (which has now become Road #314). Some 1/4 mile later, your path leaves Road #314 and heads to the north. During most of this section (and most of the way to the Trace) you are walking along a ridge line, although your path does eventually drop somewhat, crossing a small drainage.

On the other side of the dry (today) creek bed, the trail ascends, again. Once more on a ridge line, you may suddenly feel as though you are in a dwarf forest. I suspected (and, again, later confirmed) that this area must have been subjected to a timber harvest, as there were very few trees taller than 30-40 feet. In some sections, there were no trees taller than 20 feet. There were also several pockets of young eastern cedar and short leaf pine, which you usually only get when there's open area. Turns out this area was clear cut in the mid-1980s.

The trail rather unceremon-iously dumps you on Silver Trail Road, with only an arrow to tell you which way to go. There's also a sign announcing what I just wrote above: the area was clearcut in the 1980s.

For the next 3/10ths of a mile, you walk on the surface or shoulder (un-mowed) of Silver Trail Road, heading west. Obviously, keep an eye out for traffic. When you reach the Trace, cross carefully, and the Connector trail can be picked up just a bit south of where Silver Trail met the Trace.

Once across the Trace, the Connector Trail drops down somewhat quickly, into what I assume to be Duncan Creek's drainage. And, today, I caught things just right. The yellow of sycamore, hickory and maple were wonderfully lit up. Pictures don't do it justice. But I've got several pictures of this area on this post, nonetheless. Most of the leaf pictures (except the first and last on this post) are from this area of trail, near the confluence of the Connector Trail and the North-South Trail.

As I made my way the 1.5 miles from the Trace to my turnaround sign for the day, I knew I was getting close when I saw the large field to my right. Tapped the sign with my hand, like a game of tag, then turned around.

Obviously, the scenery on the return was the same as the scenery on the way out, but with different lighting. For example, the last picture I have on this post is a very similar perspective to the one at the top of this post, but taken later. The leaves on the ground show up nicer. The color is pleasing at either time.

9.6 miles roundtrip, assuming the signs are correct.


  1. Man, I love fall in the east. Do you get snow where you are in the winter? Wow, 2 years in a row of 100 Hikes? Awesome!

  2. I am told it snows here, but not usually very much, and only late in winter (February or March). I don't think we've dropped below freezing, yet, though we've had several nights well into the 30s.

    Somewhat optimistic about making a second hundred, although it'll get tougher to fit in hikes after daylight savings time ends, and with me losing a few weeks along the way for a Thanksgiving trip home and the week-long drive back home at the end of the semester. Of course, I might try to fit a few hikes in on the way home, too. But it's trickier in the winter than it was in the summer.