North/South Trail - Land Between the Lakes, KY
The North/South Trail at Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky is a good week long challenge for any backpacker. Meg and I used the 31 mile northern section of the trail to help prepare us for our trip in May to the Grand Canyon. We did the hike over a weekend with a couple other avid hikers, Larry and Curt. The trail winds around hidden bays and inlets, which jut off Kentucky Lake, and goes back and forth between views of the water and the woods as you pass from one bay to the next. Along sections of the hike bright green and yellow Easter Lillies marked the spots where homes once stood and in some locations along the trail the foundation could still be seen through the undergrowth.
We started at the North Welcome Station and hiked south crossing a half dozen bays and rounding hills and dipping down into hollows and drainage systems for the lake. Our campsites were pristine and the second night we even pitched our tent on the edge of Sugar Bay which is about half way between the North Welcome Station and Golden Pond Visitors Center. The best section of trail was a few miles along the south side of Higgins Bay where the trail follows the shoreline and comes to an island before turning inland, toward the south. The island is connected by a sandbar and the water was not very deep and can be crossed on stepping stones. In fact, during summer and fall, when it is dryer, the island is probably connected to the mainland. We had worship services, on Sunday, at the tip of the island and explored a small cemetary where the newest resident died in 1922.
It's one of the few backpacking trips I've been on where the weather forecast actually improved as we got closer to the trip. In early March it can be hit or miss with good weather but the unseasonably warm winter continued to hold out for us. The temperatures were perfect for backpacking. After a crisp, chilly Saturday morning, the sun came out and brought the high to right around 60 degrees making it just warm enough you could hike with just a base layer but still cool enough that you weren't sweating a whole lot. Sunday was even warmer, with highs pushing close to 70 but overcast. I actually got a little burned on our trip.
It was a great trip and a real calf and thigh burner... excellent preparation for the steep descents and ascents of the Grand Canyon. One important point to note: The Forest Service trail maps provided on the LBL website are approximately four miles off with their mileage. Originally the hike was only supposed to be a 26.8 mile trek... but ended at mile 31 according to the GPS. Even the signs along the trail didn't add up with the map or the GPS.