Hiking to Nightrider Shelter at LBL

North Welcome Station on the North/South Trail at Land Between the Lakes

North Welcome Station on the North/South Trail at Land Between the Lakes

Carrie and I spent the night in Land Between the Lakes. We’ve had plans for a few months to hike on the North/South trail. We had our date set to coincide with National Park Week. we took many practice hikes to get our bodies conditioned and had the grandparents come up to watch Levi and we were ready to go.

The whole week we had been watching the weather report. When we were within five days I stayed glued to the weather report. The whole week it was calling for slight showers on Friday but thunderstorms on Saturday. We came close twice that week to calling it off. Thursday came around and the weather report stated that no rain was forecasted for Friday and 30% rain was for Saturday. It was on. We told the Grandparents to come on up and we got our packs ready that night.

Friday morning we had breakfast with Carrie’s parents and then we were off to Dover, TN to start our hike at the North Welcome Station. I continued checking the weather report and by the time we reached the trailhead, rain was back in the forecast slightly for Friday and 80% thunderstorms on Saturday. I still wanted to go but only for myself. I didn’t want Carrie to go out but we were already there. I thought it would be a good experience for when I write my next book but not at my wife’s expense of fun. However, we were off.

We stepped into the welcome station to use the bathroom one more time, buy a couple of candy bars and let the old lady behind the counter tell us how crazy we were. We knew that! As soon as we walked out and put our packs on our back, I started feeling drips. Here it come.

We checked the map, started into the woods and for the next five hours is was a small drizzle of steady rain. We stopped about 45 minutes into our hike because we were hungry and it was lunch time. We found an old campsite that had a fire pit so I took my tarp out and strung it between some trees for shelter and we sat under it as we ate my trail concoction of Ramen Noodles and beef jerky and looked through the trees at Kentucky Lake. I ate my Twix (which is my trail manna with sugar) took down the tarp and we were on our way with full bellies.

The trail wound through the woods for a mile till we reached the shore. We thought to ourselves, had we known that was there, we would’ve stopped there and had lunch with a nice view. We stopped only for a second to take in the view of the lake then we continued around a cove and back into the woods. We came to another cove where we found it odd there was a lot of dead fish. By this time the rain had picked up a little so we were on a steady march back into the woods.

Rain can make for a long hike and we thought we were making good mileage only to realize what felt like forever was only three miles. We still had three more miles to go before shelter. Carrie made the same remark I made when I hiked the trail before in that they ought to have mile markers to make us feel a little better about the time we were making.

Through more trees and woods, we finally came to another sign that told us the shelter was on a side trial just a half mile away. I think that was the longest half mile I’ve ever walked because by then our feet and legs were pretty tired. We walked what seemed like almost another mile till we came to an access road. The N/S sign pointed to the left. We walked up the road for about 200 yards then directed us into the woods to the right. We entered again the trail into the woods to find the Nightrider shelter just a couple of hundred yards away on the left.

It was still raining fairly decent so we crawled into the shelter and laid down with a breath of exhaustion. We continued to watch it rain as I set the tent up in the shelter for added protection from the elements at night. I also walked to the spring to fill our water bottles so we could eat supper in a few hours.

After an hour of arriving at the shelter, the rain tapered off and we started a fire. Wet wood doesn’t burn to well but I was able to find a lot of wood that burned fairly decent; mostly small stuff that could dry quickly when added to the flame. I sat back after the fire got going and smoked my pipe as we watched the trees grow. The birds popped out singing their songs and everything was perfect in the world.

For dinner we had lasagna, chicken and rice and for dessert we had raspberry “cake” with Oreo toppings. Our bellies were full and Carrie was happy that she didn’t have to build the fire, make dinner, or wash the dishes. 🙂

While we slept, it rained again. Hard!

When we woke the rain had stopped. Carrie was a little cold but I was rather warm and good to go. It was 6:30 and we decided that we could either stay there like planned and have breakfast and head out about 10:00 or we could have some cocoa and head out rather quickly to get out of the woods. Needless to say we were tired of being wet. So we decided to take the latter choice.

Upon gathering our stuff, we were greeted by a couple of turkey hunters that walked right by us. They said they came by just before the sun came up and saw us in the shelter. They didn’t see anything so they were heading out too. Carrie and I came very close to asking them for a ride back to the North Welcome Station. However, in my truest of hiker blood, I knew that would defeat the purpose. So we waved that idea.

We got our packs on our back and our feet, knees, and back screamed at us but we knew we had 6 miles to cover so we need to be moving. The first three miles were nice. It didn’t rain and it was a nice brisk walk trying to miss all the new puddles and small ponds that popped up on the trail overnight. By the time we made it to the sign telling us we had three more miles, we were feeling pretty good like we were making good time.

Then the rain came.

It picked up a little and when we made it to the first opening to see the lake, I noticed on the other side of the lake it looked like the rain was coming down awful hard. I mentioned to Carrie I think we were about to get dumped on. Within an hour and a half of reaching the Station, it came down. Hard! We still had a mile and half to go and the rain poured out on us. I just kept my head down and moved quick like knowing we needed to get out of there. I would out walk Carrie numerous times and had to wait up on her.

We came across four different people in trucks and we were very tempted to ask for a ride. However, I just couldn’t bring it to myself to not finish the right way. Call it true blood. Call it crazy. Call it what you will. I just can’t bring myself to cheating myself from finishing properly even in the driving rain. There was even a time that a slight path had been made though some weeds and we could see the station just away. I asked Carrie if she wanted to take it and we decided to fully finish the trail the same way we came in.

We both had rain gear on only to realize by the time we made it to station, they were doing us no good. We both wound up very soaked. Carrie more so than me because although I had a decent pair of rain gear, I had bought  her some that didn’t hold up very well against limbs brushing by. It had numerous rips and thankfully we brought along a poncho to put over her too. Still though, not so much did it work.

We finally made it to the North Welcome Station. The rain was slacking up while we put our gear in the car and we were off. We stopped by Wendy’s for some lunch and we both smelled like wet dogs and probably looked like one too. We were definitely hungry as a wet dog. We scarfed down some food and home for a quick shower.

One could quickly dismiss our trip as a disaster. I didn’t and won’t. I was able to spend valuable time with my wife which was first and foremost reason to go. The reason I’m glad we went even though it still rained was because, now I can empathize with those who I’m researching for my next book as well as it gave us plenty of opportunities to find parallels hiking with my wife to our marriage. Carrie had a great idea that one chapter be about marriage. I’ve got some great material now.

Now if the weather forecast mentions rain next time, I think I’ll be rescheduling. I’ve had enough fun in wet weather!

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About Kevin Riner

child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged
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