I woke up to find dry socks, cloths and clearing skies. Knowing that there was good water and a place to relax three miles up the trail I packed up and hiked up the Sheltowee Trace, which followed Grassy Creek and then Gladie creek, until I reached one of my favorite places to camp. It was the same spot that I tried to get to the previous night so I thought it would be a good place to eat breakfast. Throughout this trip I was using a very different way of heating water than conventionally known. I was using what was called the “Pepsi Can Alcohol Stove”. It burned denatured/distilled alcohol and was literally weightless. I was skeptical when Jay Buckner, Communication Officer for Berea College Public Relation’s Office, first introduced me to it, however, it has proven to be almost essential as part of my gear.
After eating and reorganizing my pack, I made my way up a very long hill, out of the deep cool woods of Clifty Wilderness, and onto Corner Ridge Road where a trail head was situated. I noticed a horse farm of sorts just across the trail head. Knowing that I had a whole lot of road walking ahead of me I repacked my pack to reposition the weight. I also changed socks and applied a liberal amount of powder to my feet and socks. This helped greatly in preventing blisters from forming and added dry lubrication to by feet. It also kept the smell down so I didn’t kill all of the wildlife I was passing.
I soon came to Highway 77 and passed by many houses with barking dogs. A few came out to greet me. One in particular tried to take a snap at me and can now attest to the taste of the carbon tip on the end of my trekking pole.
It was getting petty hot and there were no streams in site so I found a water spigot in a cemetery and rehydrated there. There were some ancient grave stones in the area; some dating back to the Civil War era.
The road seemed to drag on and on and I was beginning to feel like a hitchhiker instead of a backpacker. At that moment car with a man and his kids pulled up beside me and informed me that the police would pick me up if I did not get off the road. I explained to him that I was backpacking the Sheltowee Trace, a national recreation trail, but he just kept telling me that the police would pick me up. With a puzzled look on his face he left, probably thinking that I was lost hiker from the Red River Gorge.
A little confused, and wondering if I was somehow breaking some local law, I kept going, hoping the police would indeed show up so that I could get a ride to the next trail head!
I finally came to a Y in the road. To my left was Highway 460, and to the right was the way to Clifton Road; as the Trail marker indicated. The beginning of Clifton road was actually a gravel road that turned into a wide ATV trail and was not passable by car. In one place a creek bed was part of the road/trail. Having been through here before, I was familiar with the quirkiness of the whole situation and was not thown off course.
I realized that I was getting close to a acquaintance of mine, Paul hays. I meet Paul a couple of years ago when last I backpacked through this area. The last time we had met he was sitting on a chair in his driveway and offered me a soda as I passed by. Paul was a retired factory worker from Detroit who had been born and raised just down the road and had come back to live out the rest of his days. We had talked at length about the area I was in.
This time was no different. A little amazed to see me again, he waved at me in recognition from his chair and offered me a cold drink. I dropped my pack and talked to him for a while. He told me about a mountain lion that his neighbor had shot and about the bears that were becoming more frequent in the area. He declined my offer to photograph him but was ok with me shooting his house. We said our farewells and I hiked the short distance to the intersection of highway 1274 and turned left.
After a couple miles I came to a red barn that marked the trail head that would take me North into Bath County and to Clear Creek Lake. It was great to be on trail again and wondered if the Appalachian Trail was like this or if it was all (or mostly) trail. The day was already coming to an end and the light was fading when I came across an abandoned house just off the trail on Raney-Ratliff Branch Road. I knew it would be a while before I came back into the area so I had to check it out.
The house had built well with solid wooden frame and I was given a clue to how old it was when I found newspaper on the wall that was used as a layer of wallpaper. The newspaper dated back to the 30’s. Not wanting to temp fate any longer, I left and climbed the next big hill and set up camp for the night on a nice breezy point overlooking the valley below, where the house set.