I’ve decided to attempt a speed record on the Kentucky long trail known as the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. Coming in at 323 miles total it is somewhat smaller than what typically interests me, but I feel regardless of the length getting to it is what’s important. You don’t need months on end alone in the woods to have a transformative experience, in this case it will be just a little over a week away from work. That is partly after all why I’ve chosen this one. I have a job and right now can’t afford the time off to do something larger, which I think should resonate with a few out there.
So why the Sheltowee Trace Trail? I know, Kentucky may not be the first choice of many when they’re booking a vacation, but from what I’ve seen in photos and video it looks absolutely beautiful and exactly what I’m looking for. From an aesthetic standpoint it may not be the Sierra Nevada but neither is the Florida Trail and yet I found a greatly understated beauty that I wanted to share. I feel Kentucky will offer that same experience.
And let’s be real, I really love hiking alone. My least favorite aspects of the bigger trails has been the sheer amount of people. Does the wonder of the trail make up for it? Yes certainly, and I know most love the community and I do to, but from a short distance. The solitude is something I look forward to. Ever since starting this hiking journey on my home trails nobody wanted to hike with me, mostly because of the prospect they would have to walk through some form of swamp land. Which was true. But it led to my ever growing appreciation for being alone. It seems to bring out feelings that aren’t often found in modern hustle and bustle of living in a city, and dealing with people. To escape for a little while and to have that is something special. Given the Sheltowee is relatively unknown at this point I see it as a huge upside. To meet the locals, travel through their land, and come away to tell the rest of the world about their splendor.
The most popular of the trails are popular for a reason, they’re exceptionally beautiful, there is massive amounts of support surrounding them, and absolutely no shortage of media coverage or information on them. But this can come with its downsides. Before starting the Appalachian Trail I knew of every little nook and cranny already, every little town, and even the majority of the most scenic points I had already seen in both photo and video. While in turn hiking through Canada I knew nothing. I had a vague understanding of where I would get food each week, and that was it. This added so much whimsy and excitement, to know I was having this alternate experience. I was one of the few out there, and I was walking through places few had before. Even in the trail registers on one page you could often see all the way back to 2009. While on the AT multiple pages of check ins get filled in a single day. Probably the best part of this is the people. On bigger trails the locals know who you are essentially, they know what you’re doing and sometimes it can feel as though there is no such thing as having the ability to make a genuine first impression.
So really I hope my story in Kentucky inspires others to venture out and come see it for themselves. I hope my stories from Quebec and the International Appalachian Trail inspire others to go there too. Looking back my best experiences and most authentic moments come from those tracts that are out of the way.
So why do I want to set a record on it? For me it’s exciting. Not knowing whether I’ll be able to, pushing myself in ways that inspire growth instead of remaining in comfort all of the time. Beyond that I really have some high hopes for Kentucky and this trail, it seems like everything I want, and though maybe a record isn’t the most optimal way to experience that it is my way at least this time.
I’ve been preparing and soon I’ll put my best foot forward to walk across the state.
The current record stands at 9d 8h 24m
I’m going for 8 days or less
You can follow my progress here:
That link should go active Tuesday morning with live updates every 10 minutes for the duration of this hike.