Monday, July 1, 2013

Sheltowee Trace FKT Attempt

My friend MJ put it best when he called it "corduroy" -
it's the climbs that don't show up at this scale that make this terrain so challenging.
"What does FKT stand for?" my cross country squad whispered to one another as they anxiously cracked open their training plans for the upcoming season.  (It stands for fastest known time, and no, it's not part of their training plans, just noted as to where I would be during our mandatory dead period).  That was just this May, and it was one of the first places that I actually put it out there in writing.  Months earlier, I began mentioning it, and for years I have been thinking about it.  I'm going to run across Kentucky on the Sheltowee Trace Trail.

Trips like this start out as boyish daydreams spurred by a fondness of rugged beauty.  Ideas are perhaps brought on by an envy of what the strongest adventurers accomplish.  Sure, a lot of it is ego and a desire to do something a little challenging, maybe even something that hasn't yet been done.  But, mostly it's those late morning pots of coffee while flipping through maps that fill you with a desire, a little flutter of excitement in your gut.  That voice begins to rise up - "you can do that.  heck, you can do it in seven days.  maybe six.  just run 40 a day then see how you feel.  maybe knock off 60 that last day.  yeah, six days is pretty fast.  no problem."

Recent recon day began at the Northern Terminus.
It was those fantasy trips over trail maps and the campfire chats that spurred my first Sheltowee through trip.  Beginning on New Year's Eve 1999, I started the first attempted through ride on a mountain bike. That trip provided me with an unequaled respect for this trail and for Kentucky's back country.  It was a wonderful experience riddled with unforeseen challenges.  You can read more about that trip and see the pics at the links below.

Matt J. and I ready to begin day 3, January 2000.

Looking south from the Northern Terminus.
So how's it going to work?  Well I'm going to list out my itinerary knowing full well that it is likely preposterous, but you've got to have goals and be willing to suffer a little to reach them.  So here goes:

Sunday, July 7 - Northern Terminus with John (38 or 47.5 miles)
- 10 miles, hwy 799 water stashed
- 26.5, hwy 32 Morehead, convenient stores
- 38, Cave Run Lake - meet Emmy for aid or to camp
- 47.5, Clear Creek campground - camp with Emmy

Monday, July 8 (32.3 or 41.2 miles)
- 66.2, US 460, country store
- 72, Gladie Creek, water perhaps meet Emmy for aid
- 79.2, Natural Bridge State Resort Lodge, stay with Emmy

Tuesday, July 9 (38 miles)
- 94.5 , hwy 52, meet Emmy at country store
- 100.3, hwy 399, meet Tom and Craig for aid
- 117. 6, Turkey Foot campground - camp with Tom and Craig

Wednesday, July 10 (42 miles)
- 127, hwy 421, meet Tom and Craig for aid
- 134.8, S-tree campground, meet Tom and Craig for aid
- 159.7, I-75 49er Truck Stop, solo camp somewhere in the vacinity

Thursday, July 11 (42.7 miles)
- 164.5, hwy 80, possibly meet Jack, Kathy and Frankie for aid
- 182, Laurel Lake, meet Jack and family aid
- 191.2, Mouth of Laurel boat ramp, meet Jack and family for aid
- 202.4, Cumberland Falls State Park, camp with Jack and family

Friday, July 12 (30.3 miles) (OR combine with Saturday for a 66 mile push to make it in 6 days)
- 215, hwy 700, meet Jack and family for aid
- 226, hwy 27, Flat Rock Church, meet Emmy for aid
- 232.7, Alum Ford Campground, meet Emmy to Camp

Saturday, July 13 (35.3)
- 241, country road 139, meet Emmy for aid
- 257, Hemlock Grove picnic area, meet Emmy for aid
- 270-280's?ish, Southern Terminus in Pickett State Park, TN

Sounds so simple!  Taking into account overgrown trails, navigational challenges, heat, injury, illness, and the plethora of things that can happen out there, I know that it won't be simple or easy.  All I can do is take it one ridge, one creek, one drink, one breath and one step at a time.

Check out these wonderful resources on the Sheltowee Trace Trail:


  1. Wow, good luck!! That elevation profile is... well, brutal! Sounds a bit like a trail version of the Vol State 500K, which Shannon Burke, Joshua Holmes, and a few other friends are starting on the 11th. Enjoy your journey!

  2. Hey! Why not make it an official end-to-end thru of the Sheltowee and finish at the Southern Terminus of the Sheltowee (the southern Terminus is no longer at Pickett State Park and hasn't been since December of 2012).
    Go to for more info on the location of the new Southern Terminus in Big South Fork. It's only about 30 miles further. You can do it!!

  3. Awesome Matt! I just stumbled across your blog tonight. Can't wait to hear how your adventure goes..

  4. Anyone know if he made it through Livingston, KY as scheduled? He was supposed to have been at the 49er yesterday, and I missed him! Would have loved to get a photo or two for our Trail Town page on Facebook! :) What a great adventure!