Monday, April 26, 2010

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

Blue Heron Loop 6.6 miles
Yahoo Arch, Negro Creek, and Sheltowee Trace 10.9

Tornado, large hail, and server thunderstorm watch. Yep, that’s what they are calling for so its time to go hiking. We had already gotten tickets to ride the Big South Fork Scenic Railway and you can’t cancel them. We headed to Stearns, Kentucky for a train ride and hike. I took off an hour early from work to make the 11am train.

It’s an hour train ride to Blue Heron from Stearns. They slow down for some scenic areas and you go through a tunnel and through the historic town of Barthell. They had some short hikes and programs planned, but we decided to hike the Blue Heron Loop as a wild flower hike instead.

We ate at the snack bar and then hiked the loop. The Ranger wanted us to know that the hike was 6.6 miles and we had to catch the last train which left at 4:30. He made it sound like it might be hard to do. Anyway, we headed off. We hiked up through the Crack -in-The- Rock’s which is a rock formation that you actually hike through. Then we took the side trail to the Blue Haron Overlook. From there you hike to the Devils Jump Overlook. Somewhere in this area we got the thunder storm noise, but only a light rain for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Talk about a wildflower hike. We saw at least 15 different varieties including the lady’s slipper and all of them in abundance. We even had a turtle pose for a picture. When we got back we still had a half hour so we hiked over the coal tipple bridge and also caught the ranger talk which was pretty cool. She pulled out a guitar and went to singing an old folk lure about the Devils Jump. As it turns out, they were mining salt when they hit oil. Not knowing what is was, they decided to sell it for medical purposes because it tasted bad. They put it in a barrel and tried to raft it down the Cumberland River. At Devils Jump, which is a rapid, the raft crashed and the Cumberland got its first oil spill. This ordeal actually puts this as the first oil well in the America’s.

We enjoyed the train ride back in the rain. Our plans were to camp at Alum Ford. Because of the rain, we stopped at the restaurant in the train depot, Suzanne’s . Well, the owner took us for a tour of the dinner buffet and explained to us that everything was homemade by her. She was so proud of her food; we just had to eat there. It was well worth it as everything on the buffet was wonderful. We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the area.

Well as we were sitting at the table, we recognized a lady there that had led one of the hikes. We asked her about how her hike went and after talking a bit she introduced herself to me and I recognized the name. She was one of my contacts for hiking the Sheltowee Trace and I have been sending her the trail condition reports as we have been going along. You never know where you might meet folks.

After dinner we drove up to Alum Ford. The rain had stopped and we put up the tent. More rain was supposed to come in, so we just walked down to the river to enjoy the evening. We got a wonderful show as the sun went down with all the different clouds and colors. We also got to watch as an otter swam playfully down the river in front of us. After dark we went back to the tent where we got to listen to three different owls talk for a long time. Sometime in the middle of the night, they decided to talk again and we woke to hear them.

The next morning we got up and enjoyed breakfast. As we were taking camp down, two fishermen stopped to talk to us as they were hiking up the trail a little ways to do some fishing.

We got on the Sheltowee and headed south along the Cumberland. The woods were full of wildflowers. We had a wild turkey fly up in front of us. We hiked down to Negro Creek and took Negro Creek trail back up to Yahoo Arch. We took the .5 mile spur trail to Markers Arch which is worth it. From Yahoo Arch we hiked the upper trail at Yahoo Falls, then went to the bottom and ate lunch. It was a beautiful day and the Yahoo Falls area had a lot of people on the trail.

After lunch we hiked down to the Sheltowee and took it back to Alum Ford. We would highly recommend these trails to anyone that is interested in wildflowers.


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