Troop 868 in Action
NATHAN McCLURE TRAIL
(March 18~20, 2011)

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The troop's major March outing was a weekend tent camping trip to the Daniel Boone National Forest and a hike of the 14.7 mile Nathan McClure Trail.  The drive from Shepherdsville to the Little Lick Campground in the forest takes about 5 hours, so we arrived around midnight.  It turned out to be the first really nice weekend of the spring and we found several other groups of campers already setup, but there was still plenty of room for our group.  Thankfully, virtually everyone was still up sitting around campfires in their respective sites and enjoying the nice night, so our pulling in and setting up so late didn't seen to disturb anyone.  In fact, several of the other campers came over to greet us and ask where we were from?

Despite not getting into bed until nearly 2 AM, we were up at 6 AM for a quick breakfast and on our way to the trailhead by a few minutes past 8 AM.  The Nathan McClure Trail is one of the most picturesque hikes our troop has ever taken.  The rock formations are nothing less than breathtaking.  And the trail is a relatively easy-walking trail given its location in the Appalachian Mountains.  A large part of the trail follows along the banks of the Cumberland River and is nearly flat.

The trail is not a complete loop, however, and the two ends of the trail are about 3 miles apart (as the crow flies) but nearly 8 miles apart by road.  Thus, we drove the bus to the beginning trailhead and parked it there.  The ending trailhead is on a forest access road about a mile from the campground, so we planned to end up back at our campsite.

Perhaps I should mention that the Nathan McClure Trail is also the only trail that our troop has ever gotten lost on.  And, truth be told, we've lost the trail three different times.  So it had become something of a challenge for us to prove that we could successfully finish the entire trail from trailhead to trailhead.  This time we were armed not only with trail maps, a topographical map, and a compass, but also with two different GPS units.  We felt we were well-prepared.

The first part of the trail was pretty well-marked with diamond blazes.  The blazes are spaced a bit farther apart on this trail than on most, but they are there if one keeps a watchful eye.  Unfortunately, we missed a turn in the trail as we navigated our way around a large puddle created by rain earlier in the week.  This resulted in us taking at least a mile "detour" following a fire road before we realized that we had missed a turn and decided to backtrack.  On our way back, one of leaders with a GPS was looking so closely at the electronic device that he walked past the turn a second time!  We all had a good laugh about that mistake!

Fortunately, the hikers following him saw the blazes and the rest of the hike proceeded pretty much without incident until we neared the final few miles.  At this point, the two GPS units were pointing us in different directions (not a comforting situation) and their respective owners were in near-constant debate over which way the trail actually went.  This final section of the trail was in the floodplain along the river and recent heavy rain and flooding had left behind a lot of debris as well as washed away many of the blazes.  We'd lose the trail, then find it ... then lose it again ... then find it.  We proceeded this way for about 4 miles.  Then, just when we reached what we were pretty certain was the final portion of the trail leading us from the floodplain up to the top of the ridgeline and the ending trailhead, the trail had been completely washed out by a mudslide!  Not trusting either GPS unit, our fearless Scoutmaster decided to lead us on a cross-country climb up the mountainside.  The scouts didn't have a big problem with this, but one of our adult leaders wasn't very happy about the chosen route.  Thankfully, the scoutmaster's instinct was correct and once we reached the ridgeline, it was a short and fairly level walk to the access road.  We emerged from the woods not too far from where we would have come out had the trail not been washed out.  From this point, we only had to hike a mile or so back to our campsite and passed the ending trailhead along the way.  We felt like we had finally conquered the Nathan McClure Trail.  Yeah!

(L to R, back row) Scoutmaster Bob Meek, Connor, Kraig, Spencer, ASM Stephen Guelda, and Thomas.
(L to R, front row)  Toby, Adam, Adam, Nicholas, Tyler, and Dylan.
One of many creeks that we crossed on the trail.  Most were shallow and some we simply stepped across. The trail passed numerous rock formations.  Many were quite large and nothing less than awesome.
We saw several large waterfalls.  Scouts were able to walk out to the edge of this one.  The scouts enjoyed pausing to play around on this natural rock bridge just a few feet off the trail.
The group stopped to eat lunch at the base of this large rock. One of the deeper creeks we had to cross.  Fortunately, everyone had come prepared with waterproof hiking boots.
Scouts climbed part of the way up this formation in order to have their picture taken. About half-way through the trail, we started picking up aluminum cans and other trash ... and were soon carrying two full bags.
Connor and Dylan crossing a wood bridge that spanned one of the deeper ravines with a creek at the bottom. The final leg of the trek across the ridgeline toward the access forest access road.
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