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It Was Snowy & Cold, but What a Beautiful Hike at Big Bone

Silver, gray, brown and blue colors blanketed the gently rolling hills of Big Bone Lick State Park in deepest Boone County as nine intrepid Sierra Club hikers contemplated a two-mile winter trek Saturday morning. 

“This is one of the most enjoyable hikes of the year,” said the vocal leader, John F. Robbins, a solar consultant and teacher from Campbell County. 

A batch of ten hikers surveyed the scene. One noted the temperature was 18 degrees, predicted to go to 30; the sky was a mottled gray, and the ground was tabled with eight inches of older snow caked with a thin crust of ice. Each hiker was carefully prepared with wool socks, waterproof high boots, flannel-lined pants, insulated coat, a good head covering, and water necessary to replace sweat evaporation. 

“Be careful walking,”  Robbins understated.  “But think of this, you are probably the only hikers in this great park today.” 

Indeed, the group saw only three other hikers during the three-and-a-half hour adventure, and, though a major feature of Big Bone is the resident herd of Bison, the hikers only saw brown-black lumps camped near a stand of trees perhaps 300 yards away. 

Up, up, and up Gobblers Trace Trail the hikers stalked, trying to stride in the footsteps of the person ahead, and slip sliding over rocks and roots buried menacingly under the snow.  A park map described an elevation increase of 200 feet over about three-fourths of a mile to the top of Gobblers Trace from the park’s parking lot.  

Head coverings and clothes meant to absorb sweat had met their quotas by the time the hikers achieved the Cedar Run Trail junction.  The view to the southeast projected over two gentle farm ridges where the quiet, solitude of field and woods was overwhelming.  

The whiteness of the snow blending with the silver ice cover dissolving into the blue sky reminded several hikers of the way the beach and ocean look in summer. On a uphill leg of Cedar Run, hiker Jerry Messer, a certified hike leader, survival trainer, and retired Secret Service Agent,  said the elegant rolling hills with the woods as background reminded him of the famous Robert Frost poem, Stopping by A Woods on A Snowy Evening.

Other hikers within hearing of Messer nodded, one saying he wished he had a horse. While the hikers negotiated Cedar Run, a brisk southwest breeze whispered desperately through trees and underbrush. Around and over a downed Ash tree, up a soft rise and past several stout Shagbark Hickories, the hikers slogged. Assembling at the intersection of Cedar Run and Bison Trail, the hikers noticed the wind diminish because of the  protection of the upside of the ridge. 

“All downhill from here,”  encouraged Robbins. 

Crossing deer and coyote trails through young woods, the hikers learned that this rocky hillside park land had once been cleared for farming. A large, evenly divided Oak stood majestically, perhaps 200-feet on the upside of the trail. A lone large tree was perhaps a reminder of someone’s long ago attempt to leave a trace.  

Near the hike’s end, someone said, “A hike anytime is a good way to flush your brain,  but today was a complete re-plumbing.”

Written by Roger Auge for The River City News

Photo by Owen America (used with permission)