After the decision came from the USFS at Cave Run that the Sheltowee would be closed to bikes south of the dam the bastard reality of a 50+ mile paved detour around the southern Cave Run area, the Red River Gorge, and Natural Bridge State Park seemed to make the dream of a long mountain bike trail in Kentucky moot. A whopping 1/6 of the 300 mile trail was torn out in a huge chunk. And that doesn't even factor in the existing paved detours south of Natural Bridge, or of the push to have the trail go through downtown Morehead eliminating even more of the dirt surface trail (I think a spur into town would serve the same purpose while preserving the integrity of the TRAIL).
I had been lobbying KYMBA, KY Adventure Tourism, the Sheltowee Trace Association and anyone else who would listen on the benefits of having the Sheltowee come alive as a mountain biking destination. The idea had almost caught on in a few places. Some people gave me a sympathetic ear. No one was outright hostile to the notion. But after the Cave Run decision I just threw up my hands.
Tourism, and specifically adventure tourism, was a big theme at the SOAR Summit. We have this National Recreational Trail as a HUGE asset to the region. The Sheltowee Trace is underutilized. It's underutilized in general, but it's insanely underutilized as a connector between the communities that dot the Daniel Boone National Forest along its length.
On November 16 the Sheltowee Trace Association tweeted:
"Can someone mtn bike the entire 307 miles in two days? We shall see. Pro biker called and is planning an attempt in the spring."
In the last few days someone posted on KYMBA - Bluegrass's Facebook page:
"Has anyone ridden the entire Sheltowee, excluding of course the sections that aren't legal. From what I understand the only sections off limits are 12 to 15. I am very curious how much of the trail is actually ridable or rather how much portaging one would have to do. Any info appreciated. Thanks"
There were 19 comments that followed that post to date (admittedly six were mine). Maybe it isn't time to give up on the vision just yet...
I know of at least four different parties that have attempted the Trace since 2000. To date I don't think there has been a successful end to end totally self-supported single-effort attempt to ride the legal portions of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail. I've not been able to come across any claims to that effect.
I came across the following video yesterday and immediately I thought of how this applies to long trails. The car factor doesn't apply, but if you think of the amount of bicycle traffic that could be generated considering the increase in interest in bikepacking and the boom of bikepacking specific gear and bikes in the past few years it just stands to reason that if there was a push from the highest levels to open up the Trace along its entire length to bicycles that Kentucky could suddenly have an asset that few Eastern states can boast, and only a handful of Western states possess: a long bikeable mountain bike trail.
My dream is to see a Colorado Trail Race type event on the Sheltowee. I don't think I'm alone in this anymore.
How Bicycles Can Save Small Town America - PathLessPedaled.com from Russ Roca on Vimeo.
We should see more of this:
|Laurel Lake area|
And less of this:
|Red River Gorge|