A hiker paradise can be found in the remote stretches of southern Indiana—a little-known but long-established footpath known as the Knobstone Trail, or simply the “KT.”
The Knobstone Trail (KT) has been affectionately dubbed “The Little Appalachian Trail” and is Indiana’s longest continuous hiking trail. This backcountry footpath is located in southern Indiana near the town of Salem. The KT, according to the DNR, “…traverses land with extreme relief distinguished by narrow, relatively flat-topped ridges typical of the Knobstone Escarpment.”
The native jungle of the southern Indiana region is a mixed hardwood forest replete with stately dogwood, maple, oak, hickory, and beech. The escarpment is named after the ubiquitous “knobstone” shale found on and around the trail.
I commenced the thru-hike at the southern terminus at Deam Lake (near Borden, IN by the Ohio River) and hiked 50 miles northbound to Delaney Creek Park.
The KT was, as is typical in late July and August in Hoosier country, “muggy and buggy”; however, the reward in terms of rugged experience and visual delight outweighed the petty annoyances brought on by sweat-inducing humidity and the gang of gnats and mosquitoes that dance in your face. A fall hike, perhaps September or October, would be optimal since the air would be cooler and the leaf foliage would be turning. A summer hike, on the other hand, provides the hiker with the sensual hues of green from the thriving plant and tree life.
The KT crosses picturesque country lanes and penetrates right through Amish country. On one such crossing in the middle of nowhere, I had reached the road and as I did heard what sounded like a fast-approaching train coming toward me. The sound soon was identified as the hoofbeats of horses drawing a sturdy wooden carriage. Three Amish children—the boys donning their summer straw hats—gazed at me and my pack with curiosity as they passed. I was struck with wonder and, for that moment, time was suspended.
Hiking this backcountry trail was a departure from the congestion of crowds and traffic of the cities and a chance to leave the rush of the world behind; indeed, I only encountered one other hiker on the entire length of my KT thru-hike. This little-recognized trail snuggled in the slopes of the Land of the Indians deserves greater recognition for the experience it delivers for those who walk upon it. The slopes of southern Indiana are much more rugged than their humble appearance suggest from a distance. Switchbacks are seldom employed—to go up, you go straight up, Appalachian style!
Thru-hiking the Knobstone Escarpment was a unique opportunity to explore a written-off corner of the Midwest, take in all that it offered, and partake in the scenes of creation.