Location: Cumberland Falls/Daniel Boone National Forest - Corbin, KY
General Rules and Regulations: Backcountry camping is not permitted within the State Park boundary.
Trip Highlights: 3 days/2 nights; temps ranged from upper 30s to low 70s; high water
Menu: Oatmeal, chili, cheddar broccoli & chicken soup, chicken & stuffing with mac & cheese, snacks
Shelter: DIY gathered end hammock, Underground Quilts Top and Under Quilts (20 degree), Warbonnet Outdoors Mamajamba tarp and DIY door kit
Wildlife: Deer, turkeys, squirrels, bat and birds
Miscellaneous: www.sheltoweetrace.org | parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/cumberland-falls/default.aspx
Jack and I met up in Lexington where we rode down together to Cumberland Falls. Before we get any further into the trip there's something that should be known about Jack. Jack is a runner. And, by runner I don't mean he occasionally runs around the block; we're talking 50K runs and marathons. And, not just he's done one or two in his life...Think like one or more a month. The point is, I haven't ran in months (and when I did it might have been 5K) and Jack runs A LOT! Hopefully you get the point. So, back to the trip. We parked at Cumberland Falls and planned to do an out & back trip unless we could figure out a loop while out on the trail.
The Cumberland Falls is known as the Niagara of the South. I had been to Cumberland Falls more than once as a kid. But, I cannot recall the last time I visited. And, the past visits were only to view the falls. I had never hiked nor backpacked the area. With all the recent rain the river and the falls were raging. I have never seen the falls flowing like it was on this day.
After we had a look at the falls we hit the trail. Within the state park there are a few hiking trails that join the Sheltowee. Our plan was to stick with the Sheltowee going out and maybe use the park trails to form some sort of a a loop. Unfortunately, within a mile we hit our first high water issue where the Cumberland River had all but erased the trail. With the trail normally flanked by the river on one side and a rock face on the other there was no possible bushwhacking to get around. So, we back tracked to pick up a State Park trail and make a reroute. As luck would have it, this was good fortune that we turned back where did as the trail had previously been washed out from prior rains and was impassable. After connecting a few bits of trails we hiked up and around to dropped back onto the Sheltowee.
We took a break at Dog Slaughter Creek where we had lunch and checked out the falls. I don't know that I want to know where the name originated but, it was a great place for lunch. The Dog Slaughter Falls would be a good place to play around in warmer weather. There a couple spots near the creek that would be good to hang.
There was no good place to hang around the shelter. I wouldn't want to stay around there anyway. All the trash and food is sure to draw unwanted visitors. I was surprised to find a crapper at the shelter. No, I did not leave a deposit!
After checking out the shelter we filtered water from Star Creek, just north of the shelter, and continued on before setting up camp. We stopped to make camp just before losing daylight, around 5:00, when the rain moved in. With camp set we cooked dinner under the cover of our tarps. After dinner we hung out under cover chatting when the rain quit a little after 7:00. We were both tired and turned in early. Once in the hammock I read a little before my eyes got heavy and I called it a night.
A little coffee and oatmeal and we packed up and continued north toward Bark Camp Creek. We had about 4 miles to make it to the Bark Camp Shelter. With all the rain I was surprised that along the way we passed some southbound backpackers. It was a group of 3 young guys coming from Laurel Lake heading to the Cumberland Falls. They had a map that covered a larger area than ours so we took advantage of it. After studying their map we confirmed there was no good way to take Bark Camp Creek east to forest roads and make a loop back to the state park.
We thought we could make it close to Dog Slaughter Creek but, planned to just play it by ear. We were also hopeful that the river had receded enough to uncover the previously flooded trail sections. There was a pretty good place to camp near Devil Creek. But, we passed it too early to stop. We pushed on keeping an eye open for a good spot. Around 4:00 we really started looking for a good spot. After considering a few possible sites we came across a good spot that had a little level area to sit and Jack even spotted a small fresh water stream with easy access to filter from.
We set up camp and started gathering firewood. We were able to collect enough dry wood and not so dry wood to keep a fire going for a few hours. After dinner, snacks and some relaxing time around a fire we again retired to our hammocks for the night. As with the previous evening, the Cumberland River was flowing so high that it was no longer a relaxing sound but rather almost loud. But, it did drown out any other forest noises that may otherwise grab your attention. Night two was also much colder. I recalled the forecast a few days ago calling for a low of 37. I would guess that it was a bit cooler than that. My 20 degree Under Ground Quilts kept me toasty though.
The morning air was crisp and damp. I did not want to come out from under the downy goodness of my quilts. I heated some water and prepared coffee from the hammock before I begrudgingly got out of my bed for the night and made breakfast. The air and the sky felt and looked like rain and the sounds of thunder in the distance said the same. We started packing in hopes of beating the rain. As we were about packed up we felt some sprinkles. After filtering water in rain gear the sprinkles ended. We shed our rain gear and started our walk.
We were just a few minutes from Dog Slaughter Creek, putting us about 4 miles from the car. This is about where I had to turn the flashers on. Fortunately, I was no longer battling the leg cramps but, my legs were tired. I'm not sure Jack ever even got his heart rate up. Thankfully, he let me lead most of the time to set the pace and I didn't feel like I was chasing a gazelle!
While the river was still up, it had retreated enough that the all the trail was accessible. We were both glad because that meant no more bushwhacking and better time. We made it back to the car a bit before noon. We checked out the visitor center and then loaded up and headed out for lunch.
Another great time in the woods. Now, time to get back into a workout routine. April will be here soon and I'll be going from hiking with a 50K junkie to a Crossfit feen!
Honorable Mentions: I made a map holder out of an zip-loc package. I get tired of the folding, putting away, getting out, unfolding and repeating of maps.
I also packed a luxury item this trip, a camp chair. On a longer trip I wouldn't be willing to carry the 2 extra pounds but, for this trip it was nice for camp.
Dishonorably Discharged: Hopefully my conditioning, or lack thereof!