Sheltowee Trace Shakedown Hike 12/28/2019

Start of the hike, both excited and scared!

The Shakedown

I awoke this morning to the lingering smell of Deep Blue essential oil on my pajamas. A Ziploc bag full of water was beside me, the bed around it damp from the condensation of melting ice cubes. I was stiff and my leg hurt. I grabbed my phone to self diagnose an inflamed IT Band (Iliotibial Band). It took several minutes to gather the courage to arise from the bed, and I walked stiff-legged to a bare wall to lean on while I gently stretched my tight muscles. The blue foam roller called to me. As I slowly lowered myself to my knees then onto the roller, I clasped my hands as if in prayer, my head bowed while I rolled back and forth over my thighs. It hurt so good. I tenuously maneuvered my aching body into Child’s pose, and lingered there, not wanting to get up.

Shakedown Hikers – L to R: Vicky, Julianne, Rush, Brent, Morgan, Andy and Roscoe the dog
Sheltowee Trace Sign at Corner Ridge Road Trailhead

Two days earlier (12/28/19) I met 5 strangers who were up for the adventure of a 17 mile ”shakedown“ hike on the Sheltowee Trace in preparation for the 2020 Sheltowee Trace Hiker Challenge with the Sheltowee Trace Association. A shakedown is meant to test your equipment, your pack and your ability. We arrived at the Corner Ridge Road Trailhead near Frenchburg, KY (our ending point), where David would shuttle us all to Whittleton Campground in Slade KY. I learned that Vicky Lantz (see Vicky’s great blog – Vicky’s Adventures), Morgan, Brent, Andy and Rush were all seasoned hikers and a bit of intimidation began to set it. Oh, but I mustn’t forget Roscoe! This gentle, part pit rescue dog also accompanied us, pulling along Morgan or Brent from his leash.

We went through the Nada Tunnel on the way to Whittleton Campground
Whittleton Campground
Early Morning Fog on the way to the trail
Fog shrouded roadway
Fog provided a lovely morning scene on Day 1
One of the hikers on the trail

The early morning fog had introduced a beautiful day for a hike, temperatures in the 50’s. I was immediately full of both awe and reverence as I always am when I enter a forest. As we hit the trail, it was apparent that this was a group of fast hikers. Rush was enthusiastic as he chatted about his adventures on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and others. Even as they pulled ahead I could hear his voice competing with the sounds of the forest that I longed to hear. I found myself thinking “utshay upyay Rush!” I quickly forgave him though. He was friendly. They all were, and I learned that I liked to experience both the sounds and the sights of the forest as well as the new friendships this hike would bring.

The group at Indian Arch – L-R: Julianne, Morgan, Brent, Andy, Vicky and Roscoe the dog
Resting at the Indian Arch

Periodically I would find the group waiting for me until I caught up. I hated to hold them up – actually enjoyed hiking alone, but was so grateful to have them watching out for me. This was especially true when I grabbed onto a decaying tree trunk to pull myself up over a steep outcrop. The added burden of my backpack made it more difficult. My hand came away with a handful of rotten wood and I slipped. Catching myself, I looked down. This could have been a deadly fall. I was comforted in knowing that at least there would be someone who could potentially locate my lifeless body.

Trail Scene — some places were narrow and tight
Wilderness Trail
Wild Mushrooms
Mushrooms on a tree

There are no words for the beauty around me, the wonder that I felt. There are also no words for the difficulty either. The effort was rewarding, satisfying, worth the sacrifice. I realized that I was more capable than I thought. We hiked over 11 miles the first day, the longest distance ever for me.

I’m certain that my slower pace delayed our arrival at camp until after dark. Headlamps adorned we quickly set up camp near Indian Arch. Brent had a fire in no time and I broke in my alcohol stove which boiled water within minutes for my freeze dried meal pouch of Chana Masala for two. I set up my Sheltowee Hammock and tent like tarp like a pro (although it was the first time), tying the knots that Alex Gash (the owner of Sheltowee Hammocks) had shown me. Alex made my hammock with custom colors of grey and Moroccan Blue. I loved it. I was feeling grateful for what I knew would be a warm, dry, comfortable night in solitude where I could ponder the spectacular day. I sat there in my hammock, gently swaying as I ate the entire meal for two and settled in to sleep. It was only 7:30 PM.

Sleep would not come however. Outside my enclosed sanctuary of the tent like tarp, the others sat around the campfire. Unseen, I felt like an intruder to their conversation, yet could not escape their words. This common experience had already created both a bond and freedom as they shared their most intimate stories. Much of it was difficult to hear. These were my new friends, but I realized it was another world they lived in, with experiences foreign and at times horrific to me. It was another reminder of how insulated my life is. With this new adventure I embraced the richness that comes with acceptance and diversity.

One of the Suspension Bridges along the Sheltowee Trace
Vicky hiking in the rain

The night was long with sleep evading me. Once the campfire conversations died down and others retreated to their tents, the quiet solitude was deafening. I was desperate for sleep. At about 1:30 AM I begin to hear sporadic raindrops on my tarp which was unexpected. I quickly unzipped my Hammock cocoon and grabbed the things I had left outside my tarp, pulling them in to be safe and dry. The hypnotizing rain became steady and yet sleep still eluded me. I began to meditate, concentrating on the cadence of the rain accompanied by the synchronized snores of my fellow campers. The symphony was punctuated by the occasional jingle from the chain on Roscoe’s collar as he shook the rain from his coat. Soon I would feel his nudge under my hammock as he found a dry space under my tarp. Added to the concert of falling rain and snoring was the smell of wet dog.

Early sunrise as seen from camp

We arose with the sun. I’m not sure I slept at all but was spurred into action when I realized others were packing up. I quickly heated the water I had filtered from the creek for my oatmeal which I had pre-assembled in a baggie with raisins, cinnamon, walnuts, and ground flax seeds. I knew it would be a hearty start to a challenging day and hoped it would sustain me until the hike was over. As it set in my camp pot, it tipped over spilling some of its contents. I would have a smaller portion, and Roscoe would get an unexpected treat which he eagerly lapped up.

Finishing the trail in the rain with Vicky
Trail Beauty

The second day of our hike would be 6 miles. I thought it would be easy, with such a short distance compared to the day before. But adding to the hike was a steady downpour of rain. I enjoyed this new experience in reality. It was new to me and refreshing. It wasn’t too cold, and the rain made the forest glisten, adding a new layer of beauty. I was prepared with a new raincoat which included pit zips, a feature using descriptive terminology I found hilarious. It provided great ventilation and I was comfortable despite the rain. The hiking though became more tenuous for me. My previous broken arm had occurred on a slippery rock face and I cautiously considered and gingerly placed each foot in front of the other, falling further and further behind. My right knee began to bother me, especially walking downhill, and despite the added exertion I looked forward to trudging up the hills, and dreading the downhill. The path had become less rocky, more steady, but there was evidence that horses had used the trail which created deep puddles of muddy water mixed with horse manure. Ahead of me now was a wide creek and there, sitting alone under a tree in the rain was Vicky, the wonderful trail guide who had volunteered to host my shakedown. The others thankfully had long before abandoned any effort to wait for me, and on this day I enjoyed a mostly solitaire hike. I was happy to see Vicky though. Surely we were almost done! The creek was deeper than any we had crossed and I scanned the banks for a place to rock-hop. It wasn’t to be. Vicky matter-of-factly announced that I would be getting my feet wet during the upcoming challenge and I may as well get used to it. She instructed me to just march through the water. I knew it would come over the boots which had thus far kept my feet dry, and it did! I hiked the remaining distance with wet feet!

You’re going to get wet feet, but not here if you’re careful!
Brent, Morgan and Roscoe finishing the hike
Sheltowee Trace logo found on trees on the trail

Once across the creek I saw ahead of me the familiar white turtle trail blaze on a tree trunk, yet Vicky was turning left. I questioned her to make sure we were on the right path and pointed out the blaze ahead of us. Vicky knew the trail and assured me that we were to go left, and I trusted her. Soon she was once again out of sight. Had Vicky not been there to guide me, it would’ve met another 11 miles on top of my 6 mile hike that day.

I methodically placed one foot in front of the other, weary and in pain hoping the next turn would reveal the trail head parking lot. Each log across the path became a dreaded barrier as I contemplated how I would navigate it without bending my knee. I began to become discouraged, questioning my ability to complete the Sheltowee trace challenge during the upcoming year. I realized that I was completing this 17 mile hike in two days, and that many of the hikes in front of me would be 17 miles in one day! How could I possibly do that as tired, as weary, as spent as I was?

Hiking with Vicky
I Made It!!

Once again, I saw ahead of me the familiar  patterned raincoat that Vicky wore. Missing was her backpack! As I approached she announced that we were close, and that David was waiting. She had come back to escort me the remaining distance. We talked as I hobbled onward. She asked about and addressed my concerns regarding the upcoming Sheltowee Trace Challenge. She reassured and encouraged me. Her confidence in my ability lifted me from despair and discouragement. I can do this! I will do this!

Julianne and Vicky at the finish of the hike

David took pictures as we approached — my own personal paparazzi! The sense of accomplishment surprised me, and the gratitude I felt elevated my spirits, overwhelming me. I will be forever thankful for this experience and the part that Vicky and the others played in making it a most memorable and rich introduction to more adventures ahead.


PRHBTN 2019: More Murals to Decorate Lexington

Once again, John and Jessica Winters and their PRHBTN organization has brought some amazing art into Lexington.  October and the first part of November saw four more unique artists into the city to colorize more walls in the city.

This year we got visits from Venezuelan artist Koz Dos,  New Yorker Elle, SNUB23 from Great Britain and Alexandrea Pangburn from the Denver area.  Each of them brought their own unique styles to add to the beauty of the city.

Detail of Koz Dos mural

The first one to get started was Koz Dos.  Born in 1986 in Caracas, Venezuela, he is a graffiti artist who made his first steps in the Caracas hood. Since then, he has become famous for his photorealistic and colorful portraits of people and frames, art, using geometric patterns.


Koz Dos was hard at it in his first couple of days, painting 5 stories up.

The Koz Dos mural was painted on the side of the large LexPark garage in downtown Lexington off of Short Street.  Originally, it was the home of a large HOW & NOSM mural (see my post about the 2014 PRHBTN murals to see the HOW & NOSM mural) that had lots of weather damage.  These artists come into this knowing that there is always the possibility that their art may disappear due to weather, new ownership of buildings, etc.  Such was this case.  But, it opened the wall for the massive and colorful work that Koz Dos laid upon it.  He used the nearly sixty foot wall to create a unique and crafty piece of art with a number of colorful characters on it.  Following are a few shots from beginning to complete.  Note, this is a difficult piece to get a complete photo of without wires getting in the way.    You can see more about Koz Doz on his Facebook Page at

First Day of work for Koz Dos
Detail of a polar bear on top of the Koz Dos mural

I am a big fan of herons, cranes and flamingos.  In this instance, I am not exactly sure what kind of bird he used, but it looks like some sort of heron.  I love his use of the birds.

Fish and herons on the Koz Dos mural
Detail of Fish on Koz Dos mural
This is the best shot I could get of the finished mural, the day it was completed. It is beautiful.
Alexandrea Pangburn

While Koz Dos was hard at work, a couple of miles away Alexandrea Pangburn was getting started on her piece near 8th Street and Jefferson.  Based in Golden, CO, Alexandrea specializes in animal portraits using acrylic paint, ink, watercolors and gouache on a variety of surfaces – from canvas to wood and bricks.

First day view of Alexandrea Pangburn mural
Detail of Day 1 of Pangburn mural

When I visited her work on her first day, I saw what looked like a paint by number painting and really couldn’t see what was going to come from it. After seeing the completed piece, I can see everything.  I did get to meet her and she is extremely friendly and personable.  Unfortunately, I never got by to see her actually working on it.  Visit and follow Alexandrea Pangburn on her Instagram page at

Detail of the Pangburn mural. Such a cute fox
This is the finished mural from Alexandrea Pangburn
This fox visited our neighborhood just a few days before the Pangburn mural was painted.
Another shot of the local fox

Just a few days later she had finished.  You can see the completed mural above. I was so delighted to see this foxy photo.  Ironically, just a few days earlier I was fortunate enough to capture some shots of a fox who had visited our neighborhood after being displaced from its nearby den due to home/apartment construction.  So, this mural had special meaning to me and I absolutely love it!

Street Artist in ELLE takes a moment to chat

Next to roll into Lexington is Brooklyn, New York artist ELLE.  (See her website at   Over the years I have met many street artists through PRHBTN and others.  Most of them are rough cut, though personable, souls.  They all have that gypsy-like nature about them.  But not ELLE.  For lack of a better way to describe her after meeting and talking with her is that she is an exotically beautiful bad-ass artist.  She actually looks more like she belongs on a TV commercial.   According to her Website BIO:

ELLE considers her paintings to be poetry. She creates stories by collaging disparate images: powerful females, flora and fauna, classical paintings juxtaposed with pop-culture and high fashion imagery, revealing purposefully designed messages to the world.

ELLE Working on her mural
Detail of ELLE mural

ELLE’s giant mural is located on the side of a building off of Church Street near Mill Street in downtown Lexington.  This work is just as exotic and colorful as she is.  I got there after she had already knocked out some of the first part of the work, which features three women’s faces collaged into each other.

An onlooker admires the work of ELLE as it sits in progress
Detail of ELLE painting

The element of surprise was the key to this beautiful mural.  And, this one was not without controversy as she added some “hidden” political commentary onto the mural, which, was painted over on the day after she completed it.  Though I do have a photo of the controversial content, I am choosing not to post it here.  But, I do want to note, that this is not unusual for graffiti artists.  In your face controversy follows them…  thus the name PRHBTN for Lexington’s now world famous art organization.  Following are more shots of her amazing work.

ELLE at Work
Detail of her nearly complete mural
This is a full-length shot of ELLE’s mural
Another view of ELLE’s mural

The final mural in Lexington was done by Brighton, UK artist SNUB23.  Like the others above, he has become a world-renown street artist and graphic artist for smaller projects.   His PRHBTN project is probably one of the more unique pieces and certainly very detailed on many levels. On his website BIO, the definition of his work style is as colorful as he is:

Coming into being in the 1990s, SNUB is the alter ego of a graphic designer, inspired by the fictional robot Hammerstein.

SNUB23 with his friend and helper

I got to speak to him a few times during his big project and he is as friendly as can be.  Many graffiti artists prefer to not be photographed, and I totally adhere to their requests.  Not so with SNUB, who was delighted to have his photo taken along with his female friend with her striking orange hair.

Though, as you can see on his Facebook page at, much of his work looks more like it comes from the comic book world. However, the work he did in Lexington is quite complex and was absolutely time consuming.  I watched as he used various size templates to create a visual illusion of 3D blocks of different sizes.  Quite the amazing work.

SNUB23 working on his wall.
SNUB23 used templates to make each block
SNUB’s friend works on a section
SNUB23 works on each cube separately.
Finished Corner view
Side view. When looked at in light it appears in 3D due to his detailed shadowing
More SNUB23

You can visit SNUB23 at his website at

Have you checked out my books?

John Winters, the founder and fearless leader of PRHBTN shows off his Less Beaten Paths books.

I write about back roads travel and quirky, unique sites along the way.  I have published three books so far, and am working on Book 4 now, which will be all about murals, graffiti art and wall art from all over the U.S. and Canada.  I have photos of nearly 2500 different works.  And, yes, I will have a unique chapter just on PRHBTN in Lexington!!!  You can see PRHBTN founder John Winters on the left with HIS copies of my books.


Happy Holidays from Sumofalm

As the 2019 Holidays are upon us, its a good time to think about that unique gift.  My books are great fun for travelers.  Every place in my books was personally visited by me and these are my unique stories of these places.  All photography is also mine.  You can grab your copies of any of my books at Amazon in print or Kindle versions at

My newest book is also available at the fun gift shops at Carhenge in Nebraska, Paradise Point Marketplace in Scottsville, Kentucky, Bowlin’s The Thing in Arizona and the famed Uranus Fudge Factory on Route 66 in Missouri.


Radio Interview on WRFL Trivial Thursdays with Mick Jeffries – November 7, 2019

This morning I had the privilege of being interviewed on local radio at WRFL-FM in Lexington during the Trivial Thursdays with Mick Jeffries to talk about my new book Less Beaten Paths of America: Beyond Description – More of the Strange and Unique.  As always, Mick does a good job of asking good questions.  I was able to include a few plugs for places like CarhengeUranus Fudge FactoryParadise Point, Bowlin’s The Thing, Wall Drug, Standin’ on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona, and Apple Valley Hillbilly Gardens, among others.

Mick Jeffries and me in the Studio

Following are a few shots from the studio and the complete audio of the interview (used with permission of WRFL).


Scenes from the studio:

You can purchase my book at fine establishments like Paradise Point Marketplace in Scottsville, KY;  Carhenge in Alliance, MO; Bowlin’s The Thing in Dragoon, AZ and Uranus Fudge Factory in Uranus, MO.  My new book is also available online at at

Now with three books available on Amazon!