Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pennyrile State Forest - Dawson Springs

 Pennyrile State Forest

I'm a member of a Facebook group called Hike Kentucky and through this group I received my inspiration to return to Pennyrile State Forest in Dawson Springs, KY.
Once research had been done and with a freshly printed map of the park I hit the road with my husband and Jackshund, Kennedy. Unfortunately my Garmin can not take the shortest route and still avoid gravel roads, not my preferred driving surface in my Malibu. I followed the GPS route off Highway 109 and onto a State Forest road which had occasional patches of pavement but was also pocked marked with potholes. Only bonus to this route was the wildlife, a wild turkey and deer which I would have enjoyed more if we had taken the truck and not my car. Once I dodged the potholes and navigated a small bridge, we were back to the main paved park road.
We made our way back toward the ball fields and Pennyrile Lake to find the Clifty Creek Trailhead. We started near the dam of the lake, which was overflowing from snow melt and recent rains. The Sun was shinning, leaf buds hung on the tree branches, a chill hung in the early Spring morning, and the sound of the water flowing over the dam provided a very relaxing feel to the day.
We made our way up the trail next to Cliffy Creek, past rock out croppings with green moss and ferns beginning to gain their luster again. The sound of the overflowing water growing louder with each step and Kennedy leading the way, we came to an open area skirted by rock walls and concrete at the base of the dam. 
I began taking pictures and video while my husband walked Kennedy around. My husband called to me to look at our dog and when I did I saw the little 18lb. Jack Russell - Daschuand mix had jumped up onto the retaining wall that forms the beginning of Cliffy Creek. Kennedy pranced along the top of the wall then decided he wanted off, but on the creek side. The water here wasn't deep but I didn't want him to risk injury jumping off onto slick p, water covered concrete nor did I wish to ride home with a wet, smelly pup so I called out to stop his jump down from the wall. 
Done exploring the foot of the dam we found a way to cross the upper portion of the creek via rocks protruding up out of the water, only thing was I had to carry Kennedy. Despite his last escapade of almost jumping down into the creek just moments before, he doesn't like to get wet and this water was deeper and faster than he will normally brave. So with Kennedy tucked under one arm, he behaves better for me than my husband, I began following my husband across the creek who thankfully gave me his walking stick to better balance myself with. The rocks were slick and unsteady with the extra weight on one side I struggled to keep my balance without the stick but with it I was able to steady myself and pick way across. 
Once across the creek I put Kennedy down and we headed downstream toward a small foot bridge that provides an easier crossing for less adventurous hikers. We passed the bridge, losing the trail in a still brown bamboo stand, but it wasn't thick and easy to find our way back to the trail which skirted along the creek and the bottom of a large hill that had exposed rock along its base. On the opposite side of the creek more exposed rock at the base of another hill, hung over the edges of Cliffy Creek creating stunning scenery. 
We continued on the trail which now followed beside the creek and entered another stand of brown bamboo still dormant from the long, hard Winter. The trail was more pronounced through this bamboo stand and easy to trek along. The hills on either side of us began to shrink and we soon found ourselves at the end of Clifty Creek Trail and back to the park road with the ball fields sitting across it. 
Hiking along the road side we made our way back to to the car and piled in to drive back toward the next trail we had decided to hike that day. I parked the Malibu in a gravel area near a utility box for the park facilities and headed across the road to the Indian Bluff Trailhead.  
The trail was obvious as it picked its way through the trees, over gently rolling hills, and made its way back to the base of yet another large hill with exposed rock at the base. Following the trail along the exposed rock there were all kinds of knooks, crannies, and crevices in it. Green moss had also began to gain its been luster back in this spot and the day had warmed enough we shed our light jackets, tying them around our waists. Large boulders sat opposite of the hill along the trail and soon the hill gave way and it seemed there was nothing but stone next to us. 
Keeping along the trail we soon came to a large overhang of rock that created quite a large cave, the floor bone dry with sporadic smooth stones and covered in fine dust. An odd sound was heard from a large crevice in the back of the cave, by getting close my husband was able to discern to be bats from the sound and smell of guano.  
We continued on the trail making our way by tall bluffs on one side and large boulders scattered about that other side, obviously the boulders had broken off the bluff and hillside at some time eons before. Now they stood in groups or by themselves leaving one to wonder when the next one would come away from the hill and tumble down toward the park road. 
The view was amazing, close by the aforementioned scene of hill, bluff, stone, and caves but also off in the distance with the trees only baring the buds of leaves one could see the high forested hills of the Pennyrile meeting the horizon. The rolling peaks crested against the sky,  the tops of the trees breaking the clean blue line of the sky merging the brown, greens and blues all in one place.
Continuing on the trail the hill and exposed rock to our right began to blend back into level ground and the park road became more prominent on our left as we reached the end of the trail. We either had to exit the trail and continue back along the road again or return the way we had come, so we decided to return the way we had come, besides we knew the view was good.
The Pennyrile is a beautiful place and well worth exploring and it has all the amenities of a State Park. Next we explore the Trade water River also in Dawson Springs, Ky and take the Old Town Canoe to a new location as well as our first river trip!

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