Thursday, August 26, 2010

Semi-Staycation, Part Six

Walk Around Lake Hematite

Lois and Eric and I have traveled all over the world together for the past twenty-five years or so, and have always been able to walk wherever we wanted to go. Despite the insane tour guide force-marching us for miles every day in India, we were able to keep up with the younger members of the tour just last year.

So when we decided to take a day at the beautiful Land Between the Lakes, we thought a mile and a third path would be an easy stroll. The Land Between the Lakes is a national recreation area in western Kentucky and Tennessee, created when TVA dammed the Kentucky River in the 1960's, creating Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The area has something for everyone, lodges with all the comforts of home, cabins, and camping areas where you can camp out in a tent. Walking trails wander all through the park, which is at its most glorious in autumn, when the leaves turn.

Hunting is allowed but carefully governed in the wildest areas of the Land Between the Lakes. In other areas there are herds of bison and elk, a nature station, and even a planetarium. One fascinating exhibit is The Homeplace 1850, a working farm run exactly like a farm in this area in the middle of the 19th century.

You can fish, canoe, sail, bike, picnic, or just wander around this beautiful preserve and take pictures. Even an indoor girl like me gets out to the LBL from time to time to enjoy a little touch of nature.

This time, though, Kentucky was in the middle of the longest heat wave in history, so we chose a cloudy day, and welcomed the few raindrops that did fall on us.

We are experienced hikers. We were slathered in sunscreen and insect repellant, all wearing hats, and Lois and I had our walking sticks. We each had a bottle of water. We should have had a pleasant, easy walk.

What we didn't count on were the humidity and the recession.

Although it was cloudy and we were in the shade for most of the walk, it was breathlessly still that day--no breeze, just heat and humidity. Most of the trail around the lake, named for the hematite gems that are rather easy to find in the area, is clearly marked, and there are wooden slat causeways over some boggy areas.

What we discovered was that with the recession causing layoffs of park personnel, some of the broken and rotting slats on the causeways have not been repaired, and in one place a very important sign was missing.

We set off along the length of the lake, following a typical hiking trail of packed earth with some climbing up and down--the sort of trail we have hiked dozens of times all over the world. But with the heat and humidity, all three of us found it unexpectedly hard going. Still, only one and a third miles....

We swung around the far end of the lake, negotiated a rickety causeway, and came to a Y. We figured that the newer-looking causeway that stayed closer to the lakeshore was the short way to go, and as we were all tired by then, we chose that route. That Y is where the important sign is missing: there ought to be one pointing the direction we took, saying "Dead End."

By this time we were half-way around the lake, so we decided to continue our plan to circle the lake. Unfortunately, although the packed-earth trail remained similar to what we had traversed on the other side, each causeway we encountered was in worse repair than the last. By the time we reached the turn to the "short" end, numerous missing and rotted slats made the causeways more dangerous than the bare earth of the trail.

Fortunately, a few raindrops fell as we came out from under the shade of the trees and worked our way across the boggy approach to the steps up to the trail entrance. I guess we were the only people dumb enough to try walking any trail that day, for we saw no other hikers, just a man in a boat on the lake and two women fishing from the shore near the entrance to the trail.

As you can see from the photos, Hematite Lake is a lovely place--just try not to go hiking there in the middle of the longest heat wave ever recorded!

Next week: Superman's Home Town

Travel Diary Software click here.

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

My essays on travel with pets begin here.

My posts on Travel and Cancer Survival begin here.

The series of posts on my trip to Japan begins here.

The journal of my trip to India and Nepal begins here.

The series of posts on my trip to Italy begins here.

Geezer-Chick's guest blog on York, England is here.

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