Pedaling a Piece of Kentucky and Tennessee
|Map of the Land between the Lakes and vicinity|
Just south of Grand Rivers you'll pedal across a canal, and immediately be offered an attractive two-mile Lake Drive route along the water. You'll rejoin the Trace just before the North Welcome Station, where you can refill your water bottles, obtain a good (and free) road map (on the back of the LBL "General Information" fold-out brochure), and board a paved, windy up-and-down bike path through the woods. This path unfortunately lasts for only a few miles before it dumps you back onto the Trace, but it's a beauty.
Seven or eight miles later you'll come to Silver Trail Road, a smoothly paved two-lane that twists and turns its way to the Nature Station. Take it. And don't argue. The ride alone is worth your time, since you can loop back to the Trace on the equally lovely and thickly forested Mulberry Flat Road, or add the spur to Lake Barkley (the Cumberland River) or the wildlife-viewing hike around Hematite Lake. And if you have the time (and even if you don't), you can treat yourself to an up-close-and-personal experience with almost every kind of critter that runs, flaps, and slithers through LBL. My riding partner and I happened to meet the long and lanky Hank Yacek, resident naturalist, and received a personal tour from this kind fellow. What a treat. How that guy has managed to cram so much knowledge about his animals into his youthful brain is beyond me. I've forgotten most of the fascinating things he told us on our tour, but I'll never forget seeing, in every word and in his way of handling all the animals, how deeply this humanely environmental human cares.
If your wheels and nerves can handle occasional potholes and rough stretches of gravel, you might consider the far longer loop back to the Trace from he Nature Station on Road 134 past Energy Lake. You'll see lovely meadows and planted fields and graveyards on this backwoods route, and will come out a half mile north of the Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium. There's a second but very short bike path just south of Golden Pond, but two miles further south begins another lovely loop the smooth and pothole-free Road 165 to Wranglers Campground.
When you rejoin the Trace after this loop and cross into Tennessee, you'll need time in your schedule to see the buffalo herd and"The Homeplace 1850" (a "living farm" outdoor museum with sixteen log structures). This was a Revolutionary War land grant, so even you East Coasters might feel it goes back far enough to qualify as real history.
There's a very scenic route to ride out toward old Fort Henry, but since the site is underwater I suggest you save the time to ride around and read up on the Valentine's Day battle at Fort Donelson. The short movie and museum exhibits, the cannons and the entrenchments behind which the freezing soldiers huddled and fought and bled and died, should help this history come alive.
If this all seems too long ago for you to care, you might find at least the twists of fate to be of interest. Remember Grant's fellow soldier, Simon Bolivar Buckner, from whom Ulysses borrowed money before the Civil War? Well, it was Confederate General Buckner the very same from whom Grant received the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson in 1862. They remained friends for life, Buckner even serving as one of Grant's pallbearers after the president's death in 1885. When the faithful Buckner died, he left an enduring legacy of friendship, and also a son. That son too became an army general, and was killed fighting the Japanese on Okinawa in 1945.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication