What To See On Hike Seven

Camp Wildcat Monument to 192 Trailhead

Researched by Stephen D. Bowling

Wilderness Road

The Wilderness Road was the major route used by early explorers and settlers who ventured over the crest of the Appalachian Mountains into the land known as “Kenta-kae.” In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail into what is now Kentucky by using the Warrior’s Path and several large animal trails that led from Cumberland Gap to the flat lands of the Bluegrass section. Despite numerous challenges and setbacks, the first settlements in the states were established in the years that followed.

A romanticized depiction by artist George Caleb Bingham (1734-1820) of “Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap” on the Wilderness Road.

In 1795, the Kentucky Legislature approved the creation of a wide wagon road that permitted the transportation of goods from Virginia to Crab Orchard using a portion of the old Boone Trace through Rockcastle and Laurel Counties. The roadway, when completed, it became known as the Wilderness Road. From Camp Wildcat Monument to the bridge over Hazel Patch Creek, the Sheltowee Trace follows the exact route of the Wilderness Road.

A portion of the Wilderness Road near Hazel Patch Creek

Hazel Patch, Kentucky 40729

Named for the abundant hazel nut trees that once grew in the area, Hazel Patch, Kentucky was once an important center of travel along the Wilderness Road. Animals, including squirrels and other small game as well as buffalo and elk, frequented the site to eat the nuts as they fell from the trees each year. As a result, the Warriors Path and subsequent trails into the state such as the Boone’s Trace and Skaggs Trace passed near this area as long hunters tracked and harvested game.

Hazelnuts can still be found in the area, but squirrels usually get the fruit before hikers get the opportunity.

The Hazel Patch Post Office was established in 1804 and was located 6 miles east of this location. It closed in 1836. A Post Office was established in 1867 and operated as Hazle Patch due to a clerical error. The Postal Service corrected the error in 1961. The Hazel Patch ceased operations and closed permanently in 1974.

New Half-Way Point

Since its establishment in 1979, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail has evolved numerous times. Changes to the trail include numerous reroutes, improvements to creek crossings, road walk changes, and several extensions. The current trail is 343.3 miles and has not changed for several years. Work is underway to move the Southern Terminus of the Sheltowee more than 10 miles south from Burnt Mill Bridge to Rugby, Tennessee.

Billy Sherlin made and installed the new sign Half-Way Point sign at the intersection of Highway 25 and Hazel Patch Road. The STA appreciates great friends and supporters like Bill and his wife, Angie, who donate their time and energy to make our trail better. Thank You!

The addition of miles to the southern end of the trail and the establishment of a new Southern Terminus changed the location of the Half-Way point. Long-time Sheltowee Trace supporter and professional shuttle man, Billy Sherlin made, donated, and installed a new halfway sign in July 2022. During Hike 6, Challengers passed the old Half-Way Point sign on Parker Branch. While the trail may not be completed to Rugby by November, the new sign has been installed and the 2022 Class will be the only class to hike past the official Half-Way Point twice in one year.

Highway 25

Stretching from Covington, Kentucky to Brunswick, Georgia, U.S. 25 is a north-south corridor that runs through Kentucky Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia for a total of 750 miles. The road, built primarily with state funds, was designated as “US 25” on November 11, 1926, with the implementation of the United States Numbered Highway System.

Walking along Highway 25 headed up the hill toward Highway 909 and Interstate 75.

The original route, constructed from 1915-1929 as the Dixie Highway was widened and improved to accommodate larger-sized vehicles. The roadway was eventually lengthened to create a route from Georgia to Michigan. In 1974, the sections of the roadway in Ohio and Michigan were eliminated and the northern terminus was established at the Clay Wade Bridge at Covington. Most of the traffic that once drove on US 25 was diverted with the construction of Interstate 75 in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Interstate 75

Interstate 75 is the major North-South roadway that traverses the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The modern four to six-lane roadway stretches more than 191.7 miles in Kentucky from Covington in the north to the Tennessee border.  The roadway is designated as “limited access” by the Interstate Highway System and has a speed limit (or suggested speed limit) of 70 miles an hour for most of its length.

A view looking south as the Sheltowee Trace crosses Interstate 75 near Livingston.

The Interstate was one of the major highways planned for the state of Kentucky during the 1950s as a part of the 41,000 Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways in the United States.  The Kentucky section of Interstate 75 was completed and opened in 1970.  (The state of Kentucky immediately started a widening project which is still ongoing.) The last section was officially opened in 1992 in Florida.  Millions of trucks and vehicles travel this vital thoroughfare each day and state construction crews work hard to keep some form of construction going year-round to help slow down the traffic in Kentucky, especially in Laurel and Rockcastle Counties.

49er Diner

After leaving Highway 25 and climbing up the hill and over the interstate on Highway 909, the lights and sounds of a truck stop will come into view. Idling eighteen-wheelers and vehicles coming and going keep the ramp off and onto I75 very busy. Located on the west side of Interstate 75 are a small gas station and cafe known as the 49er Diner.

Most thru-hikers stop to enjoy a cheeseburger and a few fries as they pass the 49er Diner at the Livingston exit on I-75.

The Diner offers a place to take a break, buy a cold drink and some snacks, or order a hamburger, or some of the best biscuits and gravy in the area. It is a great place to visit to discover some of the local customs and a perfect way to prepare for the hill climb and the rugged trail ahead.

An image of the 49er Diner from its Tripadvisor page was taken some time ago (note the prices).

Hawk Creek Log Bridge

Hawk Creek Suspension Bridge was a large bridge that spanned the knee-deep waters of Hawk Creek.  During record-setting rainfall in 2021, several large trees fell and destroyed a portion of the Hawk Creek Bridge. 

Crossing the new Hawk Creek log bridge in 2022.

The trail now requires a balanced walk across a log bridge made from the tree that destroyed the bridge. a handrail made from pieces of the old bridge will aid you in your crossing.  Efforts are underway to repair the span, but no timeline for replacement has been established.

A different view of the new Hawk Creek bridge.

Highway 80

Highway 80 is a limited access highway that crosses the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Columbus in Hickman County to Elkhorn City in Pike County. The road, which runs more than 483 miles, is one of the primary east-west connectors that crosses the state. Originally constructed beginning in the 1930s, Highway 80 once saw more coal hauled over its roadways than any other route in the state.

Sunrise in a view looking east along Highway 80.

The Sheltowee Trace crosses Highway 80 at one location. Hikers will emerge from the woods and walk about one-quarter of a mile along the roadway. Being certain to check for traffic, the Sheltowee crosses the roadway and reenters the woods. The road is usually busy and some patience and a great deal of care could be needed to get across.

Camp Barbour

Several years ago, Steve Barbour purchased a tract of land along Forest Service Road 4255.  He established a small camp as a place of rest and refuge for weary hikers who venture through this section of the Sheltowee Trace.  Referred to as “Camp 4255″ or simply “Camp Steve Barbour” by most, the roadside camp is made available by the STA Director for hikers due to the lack of suitable camping spots along this section of the hike.  All that is asked is that hikers maintain the site and respect the property by practicing all of the Leave No Trace principles. 

Many improvements have been made to Camp Steve Barbour including the installation of a bear-proof food storage box.

The construction of a moldering privy by Steve and the installation of a bear-proof food storage container as a gift from the Hiking Class of 2021 make Camp Steve Barbour a very nice stop on the way south or north. Bears are active in 4255 and the Pine Creek area and hikers are advised to follow all food storage rules to keep the camp an enjoyable stop for all. 

The new privy at Camp Barbour.

Pine Creek Church and Cemetery

The Pine Creek Church was established about 1850 by members of several prominent families from the area. The church, which has services each Monday evening, was originally on the circuit. There was no permanent minister, but a traveling minister visited the church on a set Sunday of the month. As the population of the area grew, the original church was torn down and replaced with the current concrete block structure.

The Pine Creek Church offers a picnic shelter for a quick break from the sun or a lunch stop. Outhouses are also on-site for a refreshing trip back in time.

The cemetery beside the church is known as the Pine Creek Church Cemetery and also as the Betty Barnes Cemetery. There are currently more than 264 burials in this cemetery from several primary families who lived in the area including the Adams, Barnes, Goforth, and Whitaker families. The oldest known, marked grave at this location was Elizabeth (Morgan) Hash who died in 1869 at the age of 35.

Sinking Fork Wade

A high suspension bridge served many years as the only dry crossing spanning the thigh-high waters Sinking Creek on the Sheltowee Trace. During a series of record-setting rainfalls in early 2021, a limb from a very large tree fell and destroyed a portion of the central section of the Sinking Creek Bridge.  The trail now requires a slippery wade through the water rather than a crossing on the bridge above the creek.  Efforts are underway to repair the span, but until then, be prepared to get your toes, legs, and maybe more wet.

Crossing the swift currents of Sinking Creek in 2021.

Bunch, Kentucky

The Sheltowee Trace passes near the small community of Bunch, Kentucky. The small, rural section of Laurel County was established in the late 1800s. The Bunch Post Office opened in the Fadden General Store on December 11, 1905, with John Y. W. Fadden as the first Postmaster. The community never had more than 100 residents and the store served as the retail, commercial, and community center.

A view of Bunch, Kentucky on the 1960 Topo maps of Kentucky. The blue line, the current path of the Sheltowee Trace, passes less than 100 yards from the site of the old Bunch Post Office.

Several postmasters, including its last Postmaster Ora Reynolds, operated the small post office but the Postal Service discontinued delivery of mail and closed the Bunch Post Office on November 27, 1959.

Johnny Mac Cemetery

As the Sheltowee drops over into Big and Little Dog Fork, the Trace passes the Johnny Mac Cemetery which is nearly hidden about 25 yards in the woods. The small cemetery has approximately 12 graves including two marked graves for John McFadden, the cemetery’s namesake. John M. McFadden was born in 1819 and was the son of Jesse and Sally Ruth (Chesnut) McFadden.

McFadden served as a Sergeant in Company H of the 24th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was married to Bartheny Young (1819-1917). He received a Federal Invalid Pension on February 6, 1893 for injuries he received while in service during the war. He died a little more than a year later on May 13, 1894.

John M. and Bartheny (Young) McFadden

A dispute between members of the family resulted in two different claims as to the exact location of his actual grave. In an effort to settle the dispute of which grave belonged to the family patriarch, a military stone was ordered and placed by members of the family. Certain that the location was still incorrect, other family members installed a metal sign at another grave insisting that “Here Lies John McFadden.”

Take a second to step off the trail to visit this small cemetery and see if you can determine which grave is that of John McFadden.

A Healing Forest

A storm driven by high winds tore through this section of the Daniel Boone Forest on the afternoon of July 8, 1991. The winds, which were determined to be straight-line rather than tornadic, blew down thousands of trees and damaged more than 1,000 acres of the forest. Forest Service personnel estimated that the winds toppled enough wood to build more than 250 homes.

A Forest Service sign placed in the wood reminds hikers of the strong winds that blew through the area on July 8, 1991.

Rather than allow the trees to “rot and be wasted,” Forest Service awarded permits to local loggers to harvest the felled trees and to clear the debris from the Sheltowee Trace and other trails and roadways. According to officials, the combination of several tree planting efforts and the natural processes of reforestation, estimates indicate that the forest here will return to its pre-storm growth in 40-50 years. Many hikers pass through this section of the Trace and never notice the effects the wind had on this section of forest and know only of the damage because a sign is placed along the Trace to commemorate the event.

Vanhook Falls

Vanhook Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in Kentucky.  At 37 feet tall and 16 feet wide, the waterfall is a popular destination for Sheltowee Trace Hikers and day hikers who complete the 5 miles round trip from the 192 Trailhead. 

The falls were created when the water of Vanhook Branch poured over the edge of a solid layer of sandstone and plunged into the valley below. Vanhook Branch merges with Pound Branch about a quarter mile below Vanhhok Falls to help create Cane Creek.

A view from the backside of Vanhook Falls.

Recent work near the falls has created several nice benches which make for a great lunch break and some steps to make climbing the hill beside the falls much easier.

Cane Creek Gorge

Cane Creek is formed by the union of Cane Creek, Pond Branch, Pounder Branch, Vanhook Branch, and Grassy Branch. Over the centuries, the flowing waters of Cane Creek carved a deep gorge into the sandstone of the area. The result was a very interesting valley known as the Cane Creek Gorge. The area includes numerous waterfalls and cascades.

The Gorge is located in the Cane Creek Wildlife Management Area which is operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in cooperation with the United States Forest Service. Cane Creek flows westward and empties into the Rockcastle River just below the Rockcastle Narrows and opposite the Bee Rock Recreation area operated by the Forest Service.

Taking a break at the bridge over Caney Gorge.

Pounder Cascades

A series of small waterfalls and cascades on Pounder Branch make the valley roar with the sounds of falling water.  After leaving the Cane Creek Gorge, the hiker or runner from Pounder Branch up to Highway 192 will take hikers by Pounder Gorge Falls, Pounder Falls, near Lava Falls, and by five other waterfalls.

A series of small waterfalls and pools of standing pools of water make for great places to stop and take a break on hot days. Several of the pools are deep enough to wade and swim in to cool off. Take advantage of every opportunity to cool down and take a break from the heat.

Pounder Arch

Located on the hillside 50 feet from the trail and about one mile beyond the Pounder Gorge is Pounder Arch. The small 8-foot arch is easily missed as hikers pass by this small natural wonder. The arch was created when a wind-created rock shelter in the Rockcastle Sandstone layer collapsed near the base of the rock section leaving a portion of the front of the shelter intact.

The arch is best seen during the afternoon when the rays of sunlight help define the opening in this layer of sandstone.

Highway 192 Trailhead

Hike 7 ends at Sheltowee Trace Trailhead located near the intersection of Highway 192 and Highway 1193 near Laurel River Lake in the Baldrock community. The trailhead is easily accessible but can accommodate about 15 vehicles. It is a very popular and busy trailhead and is possibly the most used along the Sheltowee due to its proximity to Vanhook Falls and access to Laurel Lake.

I hope you have a great hike and enjoy your time on the Sheltowee Trace.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Hiker Challenge, Hiking, Sheltowee National Recreation Trail and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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