Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Kentucky Two Fer

   I decided to title this blog The Kentucky Two Fer for the simple fact we hiked in two different parks in West Central Kentucky in one day.
     The Fall temps keep spurring me on to explore more, go new places and spend lots of time in the forests. Another weekend coming up and I was hitting the internet researching places to hike and explore. I stumbled upon Panther Creek Park, near Owensboro and learned that their walking/hiking trail had a suspension bridge. Well that would be a new experience for us, so when we started discussing plans I mentioned Panther Creek and to my delight, Donald was up for a little trip to check it out.
     We made reservations at a chain hotel, not willing to risk the uncertainty of an off brand motel again as we did at Reelfoot Lake. Early on Saturday morning we loaded up my car and headed East towards the rising sun before turning North at Madisonville and making our way towards Owensboro. The morning temps hovered in the low 50's, making for a chilly start to the day but it felt good after a long Kentucky Summer with sweltering temps and humidity. 
   Panther Creek Park, we found, sits back behind an upper middle class neighborhood. Estate style homes with carefully manicured lawns lining the freshly blacktopped street. We made our way inside the park, Donald noting bridge sightings through the woods as we went. After a quick trip to the bathrooms we set out from the Nature Shelter trail head with hiking the Marksberry Special Trail in mind. 
    A large portion of the trail system is a long raised boardwalk through bottom lands that leads to a gazebo. The gazebo had been noted on the map with a symbol that was white with pillars, a typical representation of a park gazebo. The gazebo we found was more rustic, full of graffiti and the sign for our trail head placed at a angle where there was no trail or boardwalk. 
  We ambled down the boardwalk trail to the left only to come to a road with no indication which way the trail continued. Turning back we returned to the gazebo and decided to make our way along the covered bridge portion of the boardwalk.
 Not long after passing under the covered bridge the boardwalk came to an end and we were back on solid ground, but not for long. Hiking along the packed dirt path we were able to spy homes and manicured lawns along with a large breed dog barking at us as we made our way along.  Several yards later we came to the suspension bridge noted on the park map and I rather nervously made my way across with Kennedy leading the way. The bridge swayed very little until you reach the middle portion. All the swaying left me trying to get my "sea legs" once back on solid ground.
  Once across "The Swinger" we were met with more blacktop and another suspension bridge laying in wait for us on the next portion of the trail. Debbie's Dream Catcher as it's named was bigger and longer than The Swinger. The park map indicated we should be turning at this point to stay on the Marksberry Special Trail but again no trail markers to help us discern the direction of our selected trail. We made our way across Debbie's Dream Catcher only to find a sign pointing us straight on for the Marksberry Special Trail and so we followed.
  Hiking along on solid ground again we found ourselves at the edge of the disc golf course.....??? What? Wait a minute. We pulled our map out again to find that the trail sign had routed us onto different trails. I wasn't up for this game of trail hide and seek. I was honestly sick of playing it over the past few weeks.
  Two young trail runners made their way past us, all of about 9 and 11 years of age. I was glad to see some youth hitting the trails, doing so quietly and with respect. After the boys passed, we turned ourselves around and headed back to the trail sign at the end of Debbie's Dream Catcher.
  Once there we noted the direction of the sign again and checked our map. It appeared from the map we were to hike along the blacktop road between the two suspension bridges. Donald nudged me and made me take note of the fact the two boys from earlier near the disc golf course, were now on Debbie's Dream Catcher. How the hell did they do that so fast? I could only shake my head and comment on how it sucked getting old and fat. Clearly they knew the trails and weren't having to rely on the material we were. Before we knew it the two boys darted off in the opposite direction and were gone. We decided to do the same, tired of trying to figure out the trail system between signage and the map.

  Panther Creek Park while beautiful, with novel suspension bridges and boardwalks but it had left a lot to be desired for a person more accustomed to hiking National Forest and Recreations Areas. Turns out Donald had done a little research of his own on the way up and chimed in with a new destination, Lake Malone State Park in Dunmor, KY.
  It was located over an hour south of our current location so we decided to make our way there with a stop for lunch along the way. We made our way through the countryside just outside of Owensboro before skirting the city limits and turning South towards Central City.  We took aim at the Sonic in Central City and after wolfing down a fare of fast food we headed South again toward Dunmor.
  There was some debate between my Garmin GPS and Donald's Google Maps application on his phone. My Garmin seems delusional at times so I opted to follow the directions Google Maps was providing only to find myself on some little one and half lane road meandering around a Kentucky hillside. No big deal, no schedules, no curfews and no time limits. We are just going to enjoy the drive through the countryside and....oh hello! Is that huge massive farm equipment coming at me head on? Yes, yes it is. Buckle up, Buttercup, time to get skinny!! As the tractors approached I edged my car as far over onto the shoulder of the road as I could, coming to a stop to keep from plowing down mailboxes or hurtling down into the little ditch next to the field. We sat and waited as the tractors edged their way up and finally past us, giving a friendly little wave to the farmers inside the cabins as they went by.
  Clear of the farm equipment but still on this little road that we both wanted off of, we followed it  a few more miles before we finally made our way onto a typical two lane highway where we soon turned into the entrance of Lake Malone State Park. There was some confusion between where the downloaded map showed the trail heads and where they actually were in the park. Finally after circling what I assume was the lodge area, then heading into the campground and turning around, we drove down toward the picnic area. It was marked as such in the park with signage but listed on the map as back country camping area, we pulled in and parked.
 We spied both trail heads from the picnic area and opted for the longer Laurel Trail that skirted along the shore of Lake Malone. A cool Fall breeze was blowing from up off the water and rustling the dry leaves in the wind as we set out down the trail. The trail was described as easy to moderate but we soon found ourselves hiking along a steep rocky hillside. The trail was uneven and at one point the roots of a tree were used as a set of natural stairs in the trail.
  Pressing on we came to area that overlooked a small bay of the lake. I took this opportunity to head back into the woods to take care of some business, leaving my husband and dog to wait for me. Apparently greasy food wasn't a good idea for me to eat before hitting the trails again. Since having my gallbladder removed it can be a guessing game. It happens, we all have to deal with it some time or other if we are out in the woods enough and I was going to have to do just that, there was no other option.
  Now it had been a couple years since I've been forced to handle such a task in the back country. Things typically work out were it's not needed other than maybe a quick pee but I find taking care of the other business requires more balance for a longer period. Here lies a problem for someone whose knees hates them and they have a well, crappy sense of balance. My Kelty hiking pole couldn't help me here. I chose my spot wisely, next to a tall sturdy tree with a thick base. I dug my little hole, removed my pack, and using the tree as support, I got things done. I was proud of myself, I used what I learned through other blogs and some really funny videos, to get done what HAD to be done.
  Feeling better I rejoined my pack at the base of the hill in the overlook area and found a large tree down in across the trail. I stayed back with Kennedy while Donald went ahead and scouted the trail. He shook his head, it didn't look like the trail beyond the tree. There had been a little side trail up the hill so we figured that must be the main trail and turned around. Up we went, through a small pine grove, seeing more rocky bluffs and hillside ahead as the trail turned left, leveling off along the hillside.
  On occasion we could feel the breeze blowing through the trees and others it was completely devoid of any air movement. The trees were mostly green still although dead and dried leaves crunched under our feet and lined the forest floor. Late Summer had been dry and it's going to make for some disappointing  Fall colors, I believe although I still hold some hope for a vibrant Fall.
  We followed along the mostly packed dirt trail marveling at the steep hillside as we made our way across a small wooden bridge over a dry creek bed. The trail turned, following the curve of the bay back out to the main lake. The amazingly tall hillside began to jut out with huge limestone boulders, the trail became rugged again, requiring us to navigate around and down large rocks.

  Pressing on we found many places to explore, overhangs and small caves abounded in the rocky bluff. I would like to tell you that we hiked to the end of the trail before turning ourselves around but our legs and ankles were sore from the terrain. We still had to make our way back and navigate the steep hillside close to the shore. As beautiful as the day was and as much as we both wanted to stay in the forest it was clear everyone was getting tired and the afternoon was getting late.
  By the time we reached the parking lot I was glad to have called it, easy to moderate was not an accurate description in my experience. Moderate to difficult or rugged, even somewhat rugged would suit Laurel Trail better. If that's even the trail we were on since once again in Kentucky, my own home state that I love, there was inadequate trail markings. They were actually non-existent along this trail in particular.
 Despite the lack of trail markings I would definitely like to return to Lake Malone.  Maybe we can camp in the "picnic area" and even bring our canoe! While there I can try to hike all of the Laurel Trail again hopefully without need to test my back country bathroom skills.

As always......

Adventure Awaits!!!


No comments:

Post a Comment