I spent Halloween running 50 miles through southeastern Indiana on the Knobstone Trail. With an Indianapolis business trip in store this week, we arrived a day early in order to traverse what Backpacker magazine has dubbed the Hoosier state's best hiking trail. From what I'd read about this trail, I realized the need to rethink any misconceptions I had about Indiana and flat cornfields. This trail is gnarly, with somewhere between 10,000 to 11,000 feet of climb! But here's the thing: the highest ridges top out at just over 1000 feet, so you are constantly roller coastering 100 to 400 feet over and over and over again. Take a look at the profile:
Looks like fun, eh? IT WAS!! :)
With temps hovering around 40 degrees, we started at the southerly Deam Lake Trailhead at 5 a.m. The first 3 hours were done by headlamp; sunrise comes very late to the area this time of year. Chris again selflessly crewed--thanks Honey!--and was able to meet me a bunch, at roughly miles 5, 9, 11, 17, 24, 31, 37, 39, and 47. Plus, he ran back to intercept me on the trail a few times, getting in about 17 miles himself. The day was bright and sunny, but since the temps struggled to reach 60 degrees, I was able to go light with just one water bottle. Perfect running weather!
Impeding progress a bit was the leafy trail surface--would've made better time a few weeks ago before the leaves fell! However, the footing was pretty good, with few rocks to maneuver, and almost totally singletrack. Woohoo! I met about a dozen other hikers this day, including a few backpackers. The Indiana DNR puts out a nice map for a whopping $4 and does a superb job with trail signage, blazing, and marking; in fact, there are mile markers for every mile. To say, there were absolutely no confusing, "oh sh*t" moments as I've found on some other, less well marked trails.
Throughout the day the Knobstone Trail triggered memories of other trails:
-- Ouachita Trail (Oklahoma & Arkansas) probably the most because of the overall feel, the views, and the lack of water. In fact, thru-hikers are advised to cache water along the way.
-- Wild Oak Trail (Virginia) because of the solitude, quiet, and gnarly steep climbs--admittedly not nearly as long but a lot more of 'em.
-- Appalachian Trail because of the many so-called PUDs (pointless ups & downs)
-- Laurel Highlands Trail (Pennsylvania) because of the mile markers.
-- Massanutten (Virginia) because the pre-sunrise views of twinkling lights in the valleys reminded me of the Edinburg-to-Woodstock Tower section of MMT.
-- Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway (southern New Hampshire) because of the 3 lakes the trail skirts.
-- Barkley (Tennessee) because there were oodles of sawbriars on the sides of the trail (thankfully, unlike the Barkley course, none of which required maneuvering through).
Nearing the northerly terminus of the KT around mile 40.5, you can elect to go directly to Spurgeon Lake for a total of ~43.5 miles or Delaney Lake for 45.5; you can take the Spurgeon Hollow Loop for a couple miles more; OR you can take the Delaney Park Loop to Delaney Lake, then Spurgeon Lake for a full 50. I chose the latter and got in at 7 p.m. 50 miles in 14 hours?? See, told ya it was gnarly! (And, okay, maybe I still felt last week's 115 miles...)
This Knobstone Trail surpassed my expectations: I loved it and highly recommend the KT if ever you get the opportunity.