More S-Tree Delight

Dave and I made another return to S-Tree, a trip that originally included an invitation to a several KY-based bicycle adventurers, but one at which the usual Dynamic Duo showed, for good or ill. Life gets in the way.  The previous trip involved a track that we cut short due to the strenuous nature of the terrain and of the unexpected hike-a-bikes, so I call that the S-Tree South route now. We set out to explore the S-Tree North route, smartly limiting the mileage and also smartly preparing for winter water crossings with Crocs and towels.  As ever, the trip did not turn out as anticipated.

We headed down "S-Tree Lookout Tower Rd.", which is also known as as "Tussey Hill Rd." on googlemaps- Oh!- and as "Bear Gap Rd" on the KY .pdf maps. I'm sure it's got 3 or 4 more names as well. Our departure was met with chilly temps but with a nice infusion of sun to motivate us.

Shortly on we made what is our typical early mistake, overrunning a turn and having to circle back. Our descent from the ridgtop was to be on "Gibson Rd." (I'm intentionally using quotation marks as the names of these things are entirely random and circumspect), but there was no Gibson Rd., not really. We saw a roadbed populated with saplings and assorted stuff. Having a zest for tomfoolery, we decided to trudge the "road"; the track followed it, the gps showed it, and we followed along following the indentation that might have been road-like at some point. What met us was a multiple-mile plunge down the valley on a road that hadn't been passable in years and years. Every so often we had to clamber over treefall and thick rhododendron thicket and generally bushwhack along.

It wasn't too bad, but mid-way we encountered a big gully washout which I surmise is/was the justification fo the road closing. No vehicle of any sort was going to negotiate the spot, an they didn't want to spend the $ to fix out, so "Not Road" began. But what do I know?

Careful eyes here will find a posted sign of some kind of property boundry. You can feel completely lost in a wilderness, but none of this is true wilderness. There is also a beer can to be found. 

We eventually met back up with some type of trail which sees more regular use. That led us to the intersection with actual roads and continuation of the journey. 

Dave hopping the last log. 

 Maybe the Most Bizarre Award of the day, a gravesite along said trail, sort of close to roads and such, sort of not.

We were deposited into a clearing that had seen obvious use with its large fire pits and tire tracks. It seemed like quite the place to set up shop, drink some beer, and get rowdy. Fortunately, no one was around, so we got the chance to have a bite after our bushwhack and get our bearings for more "riding".

 Said party spot. Pretty.

We found the remnants of Raccoon Creek Rd. and HLCRd. and set up for our first creek crossing, using the Croc method to keep our shoes and socks dry. Worked like a charm. Dave walked across while I rode, but we were equally dampish. Our method worked well on crossing #1. It helped that we had a concrete crossing base and that the water was only ankle to mid-calf deep.

 Somebody seemed inspired to post a variety of signage for Horse Lick Creek mussels. There were 4 more in the area.

Barely discernible rope swing in this deep, green pool. A bit chilly for such activities. 

Occasional remnants of times past. The history major in me is intrigued at the passage of time in this kind of area, with historical maps showing schools, churches, and town names. Not so much now. 

Our next batch of fun involved turning onto the road/not-road of Loam Hill Rd. Google has it quite short farther north, the county map a bit longer south, MapSource as a through road. Ultimately I knew it to be something because Strava has it as a segment which several folks have ridden. Complicated, but boondocking requires research. What we found was a challenging, muddy, rocky climb which we did slowly. Towards the top we found another rhododendron copse with a rock overhang to visit. We didn't stay long at all there, but I mentioned that it would be interesting to stealth camp in such a place. It's probably illegal, though.

Facing topography, overhangs, and rock houses. 

Somewhere towards the top of the Loam Hill climb we encountered for a second time some nice gentlemen exploring the countryside in their Honda 4x4. I asked for a pull. We had previously seen them while drying off our feet from the first creek crossing, and again at a distance at a turn. I think it was they who were taking some target practice.  Loam Hill eventually became a bit more rideable, but still challenging with a mix of sand, sandstone, gravel, and mud. It was the kind of road that shoes as pretty flat and easy, but really given the surface and small rollers proved to be interesting due to small challenges along the way.

We last ran across our fellow adventurers here at Carpenter Family cemetery. We talked a bit and then one of them launched into a description of some routes we could take, none of which made much sense. The combination of thick accent, quick-paced delivery, and random road names made for a fun-but-bizarre moment. The cemetery can be barely discerned at coordinates- 37.382684, -84.125502-
deep in the middle of a batch of forest. 

I posit that these are Turkey prints. We saw several along this ride. They're big enough that they have to be from a big bird like a Turkey or Heron, but no way a Heron is wandering up along this ridge. 

 Watch the right turn.

The only remaining snow we found on a road bed. There were small splashes in the nooks and crannies of logs and such, but his patch lasted perhaps 50yds. Can you say "north facing"? 

After the sandy ridge run along Loam Hill Rd., things got even more interesting with our right turn (here the fork to the left) down Loam Hill, who knows if it's a road? Google/KY doesn't have it as one and shouldn't. It was a rocky, rutted careen down the hillside, and my favorite cycling of the day. I used the Mukluk as a downhill bike and rode sections I would usually walk. Big Grin.

Big rocky steps. I took the less nutty line to the left. 

 Dave at the top.

 No theories on these tow flannel shirts.

At the bottom we found the intersection that on some maps calls the placename of Loam. The second pic shows a stone fireplace and to the right an old wooden building of some sort. To think that at some point this was a "town" or something is just beyond me. It's deep, way deep. There were numerous 4-wheeler trails which could be explored, but we after a snack we took a left onto Bethel Rd. and made more foward progress. At some point in here, while having enormous fun, I decided that the best thing would be our usual, which was to cut things shorter from the original route. We had done significant hike-a-bike sections, and faced at least one more monster climb.  The flattish roll along the creek, while rocky, provided some easy terrain in comparison to the whack Loam downhill we had just cleared.

4-wheeler/ATV playground 

We spent a bit of time at the confluence of Horse Lick Creek and Clover Bottom Creek (USGS Topo). The water crossing was very doable here, and we analyzed the various route options to maximize our trip, deciding as best we could on following our planned track and then making for the car instead of turning north as planned. We had done S-Tree South, but yet again S-Tree North was for another trip. We took a good while at this intersection with the creek, crossing, and old cabin which we did *not* enter. What faced us above the cabin, on "Tark Hill Rd." was a half-mile dirt climb whose numbers don't look as impressive as the experience. We both had to push the lower section, during which I got my bird on with an active group of Juncos, a Downy, and an unidentified bird I wish I had had the binocs to view. It was a good distraction from the slog.

Clover Bottom Creek straight, with Horse Lick Creek to running to the right. 

Fatty at the confluence. 

 Looking up Horse Lick Creek. There were a couple of faint trails running up this valley too. The crossing of Bethel Rd. can barely be seen on the right bank. Another day.

 I'm a fan of the blue Crocs. I think they did the trick. I rode with in my original boots and got some water down my right foot. With wool and the temps I didn't get particularly cold feet. If done again I would have changed like Dave.

One of the more bizarre finds of the day. Many of the dwellings in the area are long gone, down to foundation or a random fireplace. This one is in bad shape, but not *bad* shape. How long as it been abandoned? 

The lower steep grind up Tuck Hill. 

Where's Waldo, er, DaveC? On the upper slopes of Tuck Hill.

I like the line of upper Tuck Hill. This climb, while missing from numerous maps, was a much better surface than some of the "roads" we've traveled in the area.  

Atop Tuck Hill Rd. we surprisingly ran across several signs of human habitation. The fence closed a trail that runs to the end of the ridge. Cabin, maybe? We saw 2 or 3 other livable cabins as well, one with propane tank and water features and the other at a distance with a window AC unit. Further map inspection show power lines running from the valley floor. The road surface, though, was at best "unimproved".

At the intersection of Tuck Hill and the "main road" we found a smooth gravel track and the general direction back to the car. This felt like pavement compared to much of what we encountered the rest of the day. Aside a quick foray onto the 4-wheeler/horse/bike/hike Sheltowee we rode the gravel directly back to the car.

The day closed with a changing of clothes into something dry and clean-ish and a pizza stop in Richmond at the same joint we used back in November. How you could pack so much into 18.5miles I'm not sure, but Now that we've done S-Tree South and S-Tree Mid-Central, now we have to make plans for North and Central-Central. So much to explore, and the Fatty is the best bike to do that with. Amazing day.


DerrickP said…
Holy cow! I can't wait to jump in on this route.

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