March 14, 2014

On The Rebound: Top of the hill, bottom of the valley

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The weather finally broke enough to get outside. I’m a fair-weather hiker that rarely takes a stroll if the wardrobe required is more than a light jacket. Last weekend the weather delivered.

Saturday an unexpected invitation to hike the Pinnacles in Berea turned out to be just what the doctor order. It was an almost perfect day with two minor issues.

The first issue passed quickly. Or actually we passed it. There was a small tribe of heathen hiking ahead of us. First they had a pit bull that seemed to be sizing up each hiker to determine which would be tastiest. Then one young heathen yelled, “We should have brought some Mountain Dew with us.”

Pretty sure he had already reached his limit.

They politely asked us to pass and we shifted into a higher gear and continued to ascend. That would be the second problem. When the most strenuous thing you have done in months is wrap a present, a steep hill can be taxing. My thighs burned, feet felt like they had been dipped in lead, and I dropped behind my fellow hiker  so they wouldn’t hear me breathing like I was on a ventilator. I heard birds singing, but turns out it was my lungs whistling with each deep breath.

The good news is once you reach the top of the mountain the views are stunning. We sat on the cliff’s edge and took in the landscape of central Kentucky. The trip downhill is much easier and Papaleno’s Pizza tastes great when you get back to Berea.

Sunday was an even better day for hiking with less wind and more sun. I packed a day pack with a few supplies and hit the road to Turkey Foot in Jackson County. It is an often overlooked area with the Sheltowee Trace Trail running alongside the War Fork River.

The trailhead I chose was just across the entrance from the camping area. I chose this path because the contour map in my trail guide showed the elevation change as a straight line. Level sounded good after Saturday’s climb. This hike was more about going slow and taking photos.

Most of the photos were flowing streams or waterfalls. There were a few interesting mushrooms, twisting vines, and piles of rocks that hinted an old home site once sat here. My destination was Resurgent Cave, which I had not seen in 20 years. Decades earlier some friends and I explored the cave until the water became too deep to continue. Sunday the water was flowing out of the entrance and investigation was not an option.

Instead I attempted to build a small fire to make a cup of coffee. I had tinder and a flint fire starter. Starting the fire wasn’t the issue. Getting anything to burn was an issue. Turns out with all the rain and snow I couldn’t find a dry stick standing or hidden in a cave or stump. I had to settle for cold water and granolas bars. Both taste good when you have been hiking a couple of hours.

Refueled and rested, a made it back to the car just before dark.

Although snow is falling outside as I write this, it won’t be very long until the boots are on the ground again.