October marked the beginning of my Sheltowee Trace section hike completion! Now that the AT is 92% complete and out of reach until next July I have set my sights on something closer to home, more appealing for hiking companions and not such a big elephant to chew.

Trip #1 began at the southern terminus in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This was my stomping grounds during college and I have spent countless weekends wondering the trails it has to offer. It was nice to get back to some roots after many years of completing the AT. The drive is only 1.5 hours from my home at the southern terminus, 4 hours from the northern terminus. I cant tell you how happy I was to be "there" after 1.5 hours of driving!

There were a lot of first's for others on this trip. It was my sweet bird dog Lori's first hiking trip, both my comrades first time in BSF and on the ST as well as their first time for some wildlife we saw including a Timber Rattler and 2 bear.

The ST was a very nice change of pace since slogging up and down the AT in NH and ME lately. From my perspective the trail was flat! there are no climbs on the ST over about 500ft and they all take typically a mile or so at that. A nice stroll.

Blazing...The AT spoils us. I would confidently head out to the AT with no planning, no maps or GPS and could easily walk the trail. I found very quickly that not all trails are like this which boy scout GM had planned for. I had the 2020 map, nat geo maps for comrades and the GPX files uploaded to gaia. All of which came in handy at some point. There were several stretches of 1-2 miles with no blazing and if I had not done some research, it could have proven to be tedious finding the correct way. But overall, not too bad.

Friday night started with some snafu's on the car drop side of things. Folks should have gone here but they went there, others should have gone there and they went here! At the end of the night we got the cars setup and we hit the trail about midnight. Walking about a mile we stumbled upon a nice tent site next to the river and that was home. It gave me a chance to try my Stratospire 2 setup with tarp only no mesh and I immediately loved it. SO much room! I came to the conclusion that I will keep taking the mesh inner but in fair weather would just sleep on top of it, in bad weather I can clip it up top and have some extra protection or if the bugs are bad the mesh will be there as well.

Saturday was a slow start but we had gotten in late and the terrain I knew would be very mild so I wasn't concerned. The day was spent heading northbound toward Leatherwood ford with the trail leading us through the Burnt Mill and Honey Creek Loops. Suddenly up ahead of me I heard some hollerin' and 1 of my 2 hiking partners was holding Lori back. Rattlesnake in Late October? It was 33* the night before and this just blew me away. A nice 4 foot "jimmy" as Tipi Walter would say was sprawled out for some last minute sunbathing. We admired the snake for about 10 minutes and moved along down the trail. Later on we came across the O&W Bridge which for me, was a real highlight of the trip. We heard it before we saw it as dozens of horseback riders were making their way across the bridge suspended 100 ft above the canyon floor. It sounded like a train bridge until we saw it. Very cool experience. That evening we met up with the Leatherwood Ford trailhead and used their bathroom facilities and water spigot. Making our way along the little south fork river we made camp on top of Angel Falls Overlook, had a nice fire and I continued to embrace my stove less cold dinner approach which I have rather enjoyed all year.

Sunday we were up and headed for Bandy Creek Campground which proved to need some blaze love. I had to use my GPS tracks to follow the trail thru the campground and for a few miles thereafter. After Bandy Creek we ran into a couple that had camped near us the night before, they had hiked the CDT this year, the AT and PCT in years prior and were headed back to Massachusetts and thought they would stop along the way to hike the ST in October. To be so accomplished in hiking, their ST plan seems sporadic splitting it into a 3 way flip flop over 330 miles but HYOH! At around 2pm we hit the end point at Charit Creek Trailhead and after hitting the long gravel drive for about 1 minute we saw a bear and cub run across the road, and then pause for us to watch them. This was a first bear sighting for my hiking partners and was my first bear seen in BSF, great experience!

Overall this first of 11 trips on the ST were uneventful but a relaxing time. I am looking forward to Novembers section and the ones to come after. My 2 hiking partners got bit by the completion bug and are going to attempt to attend every trip, we had a good time talking about all 3 of us finishing the whole trail together.

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