Blazing trails has never been my thing. First of all, I am not good with a sickle, and secondly, I am not prepared to meet up with any snake I’ve never met. Beaten paths are my forte, but even then, hiking by myself can be intimidating not knowing the trail.
The first hiking group I joined, was when I lived in New York and then coming back to Chattanooga, I joined Tennessee Wild and the Lookout Hiking group.
Waiting to find a hiking group in Western Kentucky, or to meet someone who likes hiking seemed to be more of an excuse holding me back than a reason to wait.
I have lived in Murray for seven years now, and had not once hiked at LBL. For my Chattanooga friends, LBL is Land Between the Lakes.
LBL is between Lake Barkly and Kentucky Lake and is surrounded by several hiking/biking trails.
Fort Henry Trail is located in the south end of LBL and is a system of 10 connecting trails totaling 26 miles. The trail follows closely the route of General Grant's troop movements from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson during the Civil War with elevation change - 100 feet.
Canal Loop Trail is in the north end. This series of connecting trails provides walks ranging from 1.5 miles to 14 miles. One of their most popular trails which offers spectacular lake views and the opportunity for short easy to moderate walks with elevation change - 80 feet.
North South Trail spans the entire length of LBL and ranges from rugged, hilly terrain in the north to more smooth hiking in the south. It’s a moderate to strenuous hike and portions are accessible from The Trace, for those wishing to hike a section of the 65 mile trail, elevating change – 200 feet.
Sure, it’s ideal to plan group outings, but I’d rather do something alone than to never do it. Before I could talk myself out of reasons why I shouldn’t go, I decided to just do it!
Monday was the perfect day. Jason would be home from work, and since his sciatic nerve was acting up, he planned to just read all day. He could take care of the puppies for me. Dolly and Domino will not ‘go’ on a pad and must be taken outside to potty.
Living 30- 40 minutes away from the lake, it wouldn’t be worth it to drive, try to ‘hurry and hike’ and then drive back all in a few hours. So it was perfect that Hubby would be home to stay with them, and I took off in the Jeep.
Searching the Western Kentucky websites didn’t help me much in knowing where I would go, so I did what I normally do, and I just drove and took a leap of faith that wherever I ended up would be perfect.
I crossed the new Eggner’s Ferry Bridge and slowed down to look for the hiking icon on signs. I saw one that said English Hill, but I didn’t slow down enough to turn. I hoped that I’d see another sign soon. I saw “Meredith Trail” and turned in and came to an open gravel spot to park and got out. I found the hiking map post and tried to figure out what I was in store for. I had no clue if it were an easy or strenuous hike – I hoped for moderate.
After walking a bit, I came to a split. I looked at another map and read to the left was a scenic view, and to the right was to a cemetery. I chose the scenic route.
In my Army backpack that my son gave me, I had water, my camera, my binoculars, and energy snacks - I had planned to stay out most of the day or however long my feet would allow.
I walked through a spider line of webbing as it tried to cross from one side of the trail to the other, and then another’s web, and another. I picked up a stick and held it out in front of me, thinking that holding it as I walked would look less silly than my ninja dances.
Thinking I was alone, a cyclists came through shouting something I couldn’t make out, but he was letting me know he was coming through and he didn’t want to break his stride or crash into me. I quickly moved and gave a disclaimer of my stick, “...just trying to keep the spiders out of my face,” to which he shouted back as he passed, “I’m sure I will get them all for you!”
I walked maybe 15 steps before seeing a couple riding their mountain bikes passed me. Their speed was a little more leisurely. I thought how fun it would be to have my mountain bike out here, though I knew I was not in shape for that yet. Going downhill on the trails would be fun, but I knew the trail would be going uphill soon.
Occasionally, the buzzing of mosquitos zoomed around my head, but I was prepared. I had sprayed myself thoroughly with insect repellant, knowing I am every insect’s blood type! And it worked – not one bite!
The birds’ songs were echoing through the woods and I was hoping to get out my Cannon for a really good shot. It was as if they were beckoning me, “Here I am! Look at me!” But as loud as their singing and calls were, I could not see any of them. The leaves on the trees at full summer were too dense. I got out my binos but still could not find them. Then it seemed more likely, they were saying, “Nah nah, can’t find me!”
The trail was kept up nice! What I once thought was “all we had to offer” as if my small “Mayberry-ish” town wasn’t “on the map” so to speak... I found I had the wrong perception of LBL.
When I first moved to Murray, the old Eggner’s Ferry Bridge was an old, rickety, scary bridge. Jason had told me there was nothing out there unless you want to fish or hunt. So my perception was that maybe a few people got out on the lake to boat, but that if there were any trails, they would be unkempt matching the old bridge.
What I had learned in the time that I have been here, is that first of all, Hubby wasn’t an outdoors person, so of course he had no idea what all was out here if he had no interest in it. Secondly, LBL is not just for those who live close by and love boating and fishing. LBL hosts large fishing tournaments for people from all over, but also has several other things to do.
Wrangler’s Campground would be for horse people who love to trail ride, and there are camp grounds, and many trails for hiking and biking. There is The Nature Center and The Elk/Bison Prairie and more nature-lover things to do. After the new Eggner’s Ferry and Lake Barkly Bridges were built, the lake area looked a lot less scary. I just had to check things out for myself.
Jason and I had gone hiking together while visiting family (in Chattanooga) since we married, so he was learning to enjoy the outdoors more. He also got a road bike for cycling, and began swimming for health purposes. During the pandemic, we also started kayaking at LBL. So he is finding there is more to life than television, and now I believe we will be doing more hiking together. I am so glad I got out to explore the trails this week.
Knowing they are kept up and that several people are out and about, it is less intimidating and feeling as if I were alone in the big world. LBL trails are great! I hope to explore more of them.
As it got hotter, I had wished I didn’t have my backpack realizing I wasn’t going to see any birds through all the leaves this time of year, and would not need my Cannon camera. Unless I could find an opening. Each bend I came to, promised more up ahead... I just knew I would find an opening or come close to the water. But each time I went over a hill and back up the next, I only found the trail to be stretching further.
I kept hiking, hoping to find that ‘scenic part’ of the trail even though all of what I had hiked was beautiful and peaceful. I stopped by a bench to rest and hydrate, and I saw a blackberry bush. It reminded me of one when my friend Chasity and I went exploring around where I live and we ate a few fresh blackberries. They were so good. So I pulled one off and ate it in honor or her. Chas had passed away a year ago and I was thinking of her, knowing she would have loved this trail.
I kept going and people on bikes kept passing. I counted at least 15, but then the guy who talked to me the first time was passing back. He said something once again that I couldn’t make out but it sounded as if he were excusing himself for disturbing my walk. It wasn’t disturbing me, I love seeing people out enjoying nature.
When I finally walked to what I guessed may have been three miles, I decided I better turn back. Three miles in meant three miles back, so for my first hike of the year, six miles was probably all I had in me.
I was walking a lot slower going back. I could tell my shoe had rubbed a blister on my ankle.
That same cyclist passed me again just as I was about to turn off the trail toward my Jeep. He said, “Last time I promise.” He was in it for the exercise because his speed was faster than the other cyclists and it seemed he had a route planned that he rode often.
Less bikes came through the closer to noon it got. I guess bikers ride early in the coolness of the morning. I’d been hiking for three hours with only two five-minute breaks. Next time, I will wear my Garmin watch to know for sure how far I hike.
I looked at the map again as I neared my Jeep and read it a little clearer – I saw that if I had gone just a little further, I would have been at an open area by the water! But the blister on my ankle told me I stopped when I should have. I will hike that trail again and make it to the water next time!
The more I hike that trail and explore a few others, who knows, I may form my own hiking group.