Sheltowee Trace


KY1274 to Forest Service Road 906 (Taken Southbound - or from FS906)


Monday, April 27, 2009



You knew it had to happen eventually.  It just had to! 


It wasn’t until I was almost to my destination that I realized that this brainless fool had forgotten his camera!  I’m not always so harsh on myself, but those were exactly the words I had in my head.  It was pretty upsetting, and I just couldn’t come to any other conclusion.  As a result, I intended to come right back out to this very same section the next time and get the pictures that I missed today. 


The situation was not all bad – this is a very nice and seemingly underutilized section of the trace, and it fully deserves to have as many pictures as the other sections.  Among other things, Carrington Rock is out here and there are some great vistas.  Interestingly though, this is one area of the path that meanders on and off both forest property and old logging roadbeds.  As a result it can be quite confusing.  In fact, I’d reach an area today which would be the most perplexing one I’d visited yet.  Maybe it was good that I’d have to hike this part twice in a row.  I’d be able to get a better feel for it in order to document it better.


The ticks are out now though, and I found one around my waistline when I got back along with the telltale little trickle of blood that gave me that queasy and uneasy feeling.  I’d been vamped!  I simply felt something on me and instinctively reached down and plucked the darn thing off.  These get on you and you won’t even notice them!  I apparently drove all the way back with this bleeping thing on me!  Well, I immediately ran to the sink and washed it down with some hot water. 


I think kayaking time has arrived, but I do have a plan for next time.  It’s very remote out here, so I’m going to bring a separate set of clothes for the ride home and put the hiking duds straight into a plastic bag after I’m done.  In this way I’ll hopefully notice any ticks on me when I change.


There’s something else too:  believe it or not, I recently read that garlic is supposed to help (Yep, just like those crazy vampire novels!), and while I don’t plan to wear cloves of it around my neck, I certainly do plan to pop a couple capsules right before I go out hiking the next time to see if it works.  It’s supposedly effective on “must-quit-o’s” as well.  They’re supposedly repelled by the smell of it in your perspiration (and possibly on your breath as well!).  Actually, garlic has many great benefits as a general supplement.  I try to take a capsule a day.


At any rate, the drive out here is really nice.  I took one of the Owingsville, Kentucky exits off I64, and the area all around here is one awesome looking valley.  In fact, I took a drive through Owingsville once to see what it was like.  I was driving east to west on KY60...  When I crossed through downtown and went past the last of the old houses on the main drag, I was dazzled in much the same way that I would have been had I seen a pretty girl walking down the street – I nearly wrecked the car!  This fantastic scene, as the land falls away from you into this incredible valley of rolling farmland, is absolutely breathtaking!  It happens all of a sudden too!  You’ve gotta see it sometime!


That’s a side-trip though...  You’ll have enough beauty to see just continuing on the drive out here.  You’ll go through the heart of Salt Lick, Kentucky once you get on KY211.  Ignore the tailgater behind you, and dig the scenes that greet you to your left!  The beautiful farms in here have awesome looking mountains for their backdrops (please check the directions below though so as not to miss the turnoff or, thus absorbed in the scenery, you might miss it).


Anyway, passing Clear Creek Lake on Clear Creek Road, I then went past Clear Creek Campground and eventually went over Clear Creek itself on Forest Service Road 909!!  After crossing the creek, this road becomes a very narrow dirt and gravel one.  In fact, the only thing scary about these hikes is the narrow roads you’ll take getting to them!  I’m always nervous that a car will be coming the other way and I won’t be able to get out of its’ way easily enough.


I parked at the end of FS906 where it splits off in 2 directions (both of which are blocked off by gates), and headed south on the trace up the first ridge.  Immediately I cursed myself again for not bringing my camera.  There were some wildflowers I can’t remember seeing before – purple with spots of white – I think they were Blue Eyed Mary’s.


Continuing up the ridgeline I came to an incline along a sandstone rock outcrop.  It was a very interesting formation, and one through which I had to squeeze.  Oddly enough, I saw evidence of horses on this section of the path, and I wondered how they were able to get through this.  Turns out, this is one path on which horses can be ridden and it extends for about a mile between FS906 and FS908.


Something which also stood out to me on this hike today was the fact that you’ll do a few 180 degree curves around ridges, and that these curves will seldom stray any further below the mid-level point of each ridge from a height perspective.  Thus, you’re apt to get quite a bit of sun at this time of year.  My nose, in particular, was beet red when I returned!  This irritates me because no matter how much 10,000 SPF (OK, 30) sunscreen I put on, it STILL gets red!  Anyhow…


Once you cross over FS908 you’ll be nearing the overlook from which Carrington Rock can be seen, and it’s a nice forest stroll until this final little climb up.  Be careful as you ascend here, however, because it was a little slippery with all the leaves on the trail.  It looks like there are 2 ways to go up here, but I went right.


From your sandstone perch atop this mountain you’ll be able to get a great view of Carrington Rock across this valley as well as a huge rock shelter over there.  All of this is supposedly on private property now, but it’s pretty historic as the Rock was once used by the Indians as a lookout point. 


Continue along this rock bluff for more great views as another vista will soon open up just ahead on the opposite (left) side.  In getting here, you’ll push your way through a little forest of pine saplings with their wonderful scent – this is, indeed, a pretty endearing spot!


When you’re finally able to tear yourself away from all this awesome scenery to continue on, you’ll soon reach a Sheltowee sign which indicates that the KY1274 junction is 3 miles away.  I am nearly certain that this sign is about 1 mile too early.  I base this on the time at which I arrived (I hike at a rate of almost exactly 2 miles per hour) as well as the time it took me to get near KY1274.


At any rate, this sign will usher in a very steep decline in the trace between here and the dirt road you’ll soon join up with (Johnson Branch) at the bottom.  About midway down though, you will have a place to stop and rest under a rock shelter.  I was able to do so until the gnats were alerted to my presence – about 30 seconds in! 


Once at the bottom I join the aforementioned road which appeared to be a very seldom used dirt path.  In fact, it looked to be part of someone’s property – and it is!  You left national forest land at the last sign, and there are signs of a different kind in here which indicate that there’s no trespassing allowed.  Since I was on the Sheltowee Trace though, a public path, I was relatively certain that I was safe unless I ventured off the path.  Lemme tell ya… I didn’t stray an inch!


You’ll be on this road for maybe ¼ mile or so, at which time you’ll be directed left onto what looks like a tiny little dirt road by a trace sign.  This is probably an old logging road which is now being used as an ATV path, although there are parts of it that would seem to be a bit precarious even for this type of vehicle.  In one spot, one tire rut is about 2 to 3 feet above the other!  There will be another awesome vista in this section atop a rocky crag to the right of the path.


After this, you’ll soon emerge at the top of this ridgeline, and this is where things get EXTREMELY confusing.  Adding to this is a relative lack of trail signs.  They just aren’t conspicuous enough at critical points – they don’t become so until after the fact.  Part of the problem is that you’re no longer on forest service land here, so the maintenance may be necessarily sporadic.  Vandalism may also be to blame.


Anyway, you’ll first meet up with a dirt road which looks to be quite a bit more utilized than the one you’ve been following.  Go right on this and continue on along the ridge top.  On your right there will be a somewhat “indented” area which, according to my guide, is a little pond when it’s been raining.  It looked dry today though.  There’s a path leading down to it, but I continued up.


You’ll hit another dirt road intersection at the next level area.  This one is even more confounding.  A road comes in from the right to meet up with yours, and both of them will end at a little gate to your left as you round the corner.  Walk toward this gate and proceed as if you were going right through it (keeping straight at the first hint of a path to the left), and reach yet another dirt road intersection.  Keep left.


I went downwards and right here thinking that the road I’d seen while I was walking along the previous ridgeline was my ultimate destination.  But it just kept winding… and winding… with no Sheltowee Trace sign.  So I went back up and was ready to call it a day before it occurred to me to try going the way I just mentioned (upwards and left at the last intersection).  It’s not until you get a further down this path that you’ll finally see a white diamond marker on a tree for the trace.


You’ll be back in the forest now (though not yet on national forest property), and you’ll make another of those 180 degree curves I mentioned around the next ridge.  It’s along the latter part of this arc that you’ll begin to notice another set of “No Trespassing” signs on your left along with a barbed wire fence.  There’s one point too, in particular, which is confusing again because it looks like the trail goes right through this fence (there is, in fact, a hole in it big enough to drive an ATV through), and while the Sheltowee markers don’t tell you which way it goes, there will be a “No Trespassing” sign here that will certainly tell you where the trace won’t go!


This point was followed by the sight of a few dwellings down along the left as well as a hunting stand with a few shotgun shells on the path…  Then I saw something white up ahead which moved and, going a little further down the hill which must have surely led to KY1274, I saw that it was one of a few cows.  That about did it because here’s the thought process:


No Tresspassing signs +

Barbed wire fence +

Shotgun pellets lying around +

Peaceful cows being stressed out by the sudden appearance of:

A single dude out in the middle of nowhere hiking =


“I’m heading back now”


I could only imagine one of the landowners out here watching me:  “OK.  He’s honoring my signs and not trespassing on my property.  I’ll let him go… Following the path, still OK…  Oh, no...  He’s stressing out Bessie now.  She was so happy and content out there grazing on the trace!  That’s it!  Blam!  Blam!


Seriously, I just simply don’t want to offend, so I headed out.  I was disappointed that I wouldn’t quite be able to fully reach my destination, but I knew that the next several miles of the trace were supposedly along roadbeds anyway and that they’re probably better suited to a scenic drive than to a hike.  I could always do that some other time...  Back I went.


I thought I might run into someone maybe at Carrington Rock on the way back, but I was still the only person out here.  The toughest part of the return trip is climbing back up the hill after you veer off Johnson Creek Road, but after that it’s relatively smooth sailing, and I made it back to the car about 6.  Next time I’ll bring the dog-boned camera!  [Pictures to come tho…]




Take I64 to exit 123 (US60) near Owingsville, Kentucky.  Then take US60 east toward Salt Lick and after crossing a little bridge, take a right on KY211.  This will at first weave you around the town and then the road will eventually straighten out to present you with the great farm views mentioned above.  You’ll take this about 3 miles to a road which will come in on your left (this road does not introduce itself, but I know it to be FS129, or Clear Creek Road).  Anyway, there’s a sign on the right side of KY211 here which says “Zilpo” and points left.  The sign also has several points of interest marked on it.  Take the left as indicated, pass the lake, and continue on about 3 miles until you come to the junction with FS909 on your right.  This quickly becomes a very narrow dirt and gravel road, and the first junction is for FS906 on the right.  Take this until you reach a dead end at the fences.