By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
My first memory of Sugar Hollow Trail came when I thought there was an invasion. Motorcycles screamed up the trail, interrupting a family picnic and scaring this 10-year-old, burr-headed boy. The main feature of the trail at Baldrock Picnic Area was an old fire tower. The tower had not been used in years, but you were able to climb to the top for an epic view of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
The tower is long gone, but little else has changed at Bald Rock. It’s a good spot for a picnic and a nice trail if you don’t mind the steep quarter mile ascent on the final pull.
On this day my method of transportation would be two wheels instead of two legs. I recalled little about Sugar Hollow Trail, but should have realized that the steep ending meant there was a steep beginning as well. The first 3⁄4 mile resembles a ski jump with downed trees mixed in for variety. The larger logs had been sawed to open a gap in the trail, but it is unnerving for someone of no skill to blast through an opening that requires your feet to be lifted to avoid losing a toe. Then there are the stretches where the trail narrows to not much wider than the tread you are riding upon. So narrow that it became impossible to peddle. My right leg kicked off the side of the hill like a one-legged frog.
Once you reach the bottom, the trail settles into a nice stream-side tour. The mostly flat terrain parallels Cane Creek for much of the remaining 1.7 miles. A few small trout tried to hide from my shadow. These were all holdovers from trout stocking since no indigenous trout call this stream home.
You reach the end of the trail when the path crosses the creek. There is a bridge of well-placed rocks that allow you to walk across. I crossed with a bicycle on my shoulders, so it must not be too difficult. I was going to take the Forest Service Road on the other side back to my truck. That was an option offered by the person that suggested I try this trail. I had maybe gone a half mile when I realized I had been here before. This was Cold Hill where I failed so miserably at turkey hunting. To get to Bald Rock from here would require riding a mountain bike on Highway 192. I would rather take my chances with steep hills and fallen logs than speeding motorists, so I backpedaled. Again I crossed the river and followed the trail along the creek.
All went well until the final stretch where the trail points straight up hill. I took turns walking and riding, my breath sounded like a train and my legs screamed. I did take a quick break before I got to the top. I didn’t want to emerge from the woods with my legs bleeding from the briars and my hair soaked with sweat. Some kid might be having a picnic with his family and think there was an invasion.