Revised September 7, 2001
New Chapel Trailhead to
marker 14, doubled back, January 8, 2000
Liberty Knob Road to mile marker 21, doubled back, January 15, 2000
Chapel Trailhead is located off Indiana State Route 160, about 6 miles
west of Exit 19 of Interstate 65, or about 12 miles east of
If you come from the Salem direction, follow State Route 60 east from
south end of town, then turn left onto SR 160 in about a mile. SR
160 is a winding road with a warning sign telling trucks to avoid it if
traveling to I-65.
Coming from the I-65 direction, you will pass a wooded area about three or four miles. The KT crosses the road at this point, but continue driving about two more miles, past Pixley Knob Road on the left, to Liberty Knob Road on the right. Turn right on Liberty Knob Road and the trailhead parking area is a few tenths of a mile on the right. We used this trailhead on our first hike, but on our second hike, we continued on Liberty Knob Road about 1/2 mile down the hill to the point where the KT crosses the road. There's no parking area here, but you can pull off on the side of the road. Although it is not the official trailhead, it saves the 1/2 mile hike down from the official parking lot to the main trail. More importantly, it saves the 1/2 mile uphill to the parking lot at the end of the hike!
We actually came from the Salem direction for both hikes, and parked in the official trailhead lot on January 8, 2000. As mentioned, the access trail leads moderately downhill for about 1/2 mile to reach the KT at mile 16.7. Turning right, we began heading for mile 14 where we had stopped on our last hike of the previous fall.
The first big surprise was encountering a sizable stream (by south end of KT standards) just after turning onto the main trail. Unlike other stream beds we'd crossed on our previous hikes, it contained flowing water, and it was wide enough that we couldn't just step across it. The map identifies it as the South Branch of Little Ox Creek. After rising away from it a bit, we returned to follow the valley for much of the next mile or so.
Between mile 15.5 and mile 15, we rose out of the valley and eventually reached a ridgetop with flat hiking. Mike remembered that when we'd gotten to mile 14 from the other direction, the trail curved sharply into a brushy area. Even so, it seemed like we were just hiking along when suddenly mile marker 14 popped up along a curve. We hiked a few dozen feet beyond to a log where we could sit for a snack. Just as we were about to turn around, a pair of hikers with a dog passed us, and we talked to them for a minute or two. They were from the Louisville area.
As Dad recalls, Maria did not want to hike on her own this day, so he just carried her back after lunch. It didn't seem that difficult -- until we got back to the access trail and had to climb uphill for that last half mile. That's when Dad got the idea to park along Liberty Knob Road the next time.
The next weekend was another warm one for January, with a high in the low 50s predicted. Again, that turned out to be a bit optimistic as temperatures reached the low to mid 40s, but still relatively comfortable. We did park on the side of Liberty Knob Road, downhill from the official trailhead, and began following the trail across the road. Almost immediately, we crossed the South Branch of Little Ox Creek on a bridge constructed of a pair of logs flattened on top. Then the trail climbed out of the valley, passing mile marker 17, and continued uphill a few tenths of a mile before reaching the ridge line.
Along the ridge line, the trail followed an old woods road for about a mile before cutting off to the right into the woods, but still remaining relatively flat. In the vicinity of mile 19.5, it began a steep descent with some switchbacks, reaching the North Branch of Little Ox Creek just before mile 20. According to the trail guide, the remaining distance to mile 21 was flat hiking in the valley, and Dad wanted to get to the end before stopping for a snack. But when he let Maria out of the backpack at mile marker 20, she kept complaining that she was hungry, so they had to stop about a quarter mile later.
Then, to add injury to insult, she refused to hike on her own any further, and Dad had to start carrying her again right after lunch, not even halfway through the hike. Fortunately, it was a quick and easy segment the remaining mile to marker 21. The return trip began with a stop for about ten minutes to talk to a family hiking group who had actually been doing some winter camping overnight in the vicinity.
The ascent out of North Branch valley took a while, but once we reached the ridge, we knew there weren't any steep uphills remaining. We did still have over 2 1/2 miles to cover, and after hiking over 5 1/2 miles, Dad was getting pretty sore, and kept trying to shift Maria's weight around every so often. The flat ridgetop hiking went relatively quickly, especially along the woods road segment, and when we started to descend, we knew mile 17 and then the road were not far.
Just before getting to mile 17, we encountered some hikers with a dog coming uphill -- including one of the same hikers from Louisville we'd met the week before, and yes, it was his same dog, too. Evidently, they also were fans of winter hiking. Finishing our descent, we crossed the log bridge where Mom took a picture of Maria and Dad crossing and made it back to the car in just a minute or two more.
MARIA'S HIKING ON HER OWN TWO FEET:
January 8: She didn't
hiking that day.
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