The leaves are turning and the morning air is quite crisp. Yep, fall is in full swing here in the Bluegrass State. You know what that means? Well, for us adventure seekers it means now is the perfect season to get out there and experience what Kentucky has to offer. Let’s face it, Kentucky can get pretty humid during the summer months. So, in this humble mans opinion, fall and winter is the perfect time to explore! If you’re looking for a great place to assist with those experiences, one place that will definitely help in your fall plans is a little place called Life Adventure Center.
Just like the name implies, these folks take adventure seriously! Their mission is to “engage, educate and empower their community to build respect, responsibility, and self-esteem using hands-on learning in a natural setting”. They are located in the heart of the Bluegrass in Versailles, just down the road from Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve distilleries. Their 575 acre farm is home to Equestrian facilities, including an indoor and outdoor arena, a 40 foot tall Challenge Course with zip-line, Environmental Education programming, and an Outdoor Adventure Program. I think it’s safe to say your interest is officially “peeked”!
Their Outdoor Adventure program specializes in offering back-country adventures, backpacking, canoeing, and a ton of other activities that can cater to any variety of group! “Through environmentally sound practices such as Leave No Trace, participants take responsibility for their impacts of the surrounding environment.”
“All of the Outdoor Adventure programming options at Life Adventure Center can be customized to your groups needs. Whether the focus be team-building, communication, or just experiencing an adventure outside of your norm, LAC has the ability to create a memorable experience for you and your group. All of our activities can range from just a few hours to several days, in many locations.”
Not just for wilderness adventure seekers! The Challenge Course is pretty freakin’ cool too! Starting off with a 40 ft climbing wall, you have 8 high ropes elements that take you through the treetops and then down a dual zip-line across a small pond to the exit! Kids and adults alike love this thing!
Let’s face it, this IS Kentucky. What self-respecting farm in the middle of horse country wouldn’t have a horse or two of their own wondering around? Well, LAC is no exception! Most of the horses at LAC are used in their programming to build teamwork, leadership, and communication. If your interested in riding lessons, they do that too!
If you happen to be one of the 194,300 Kentuckians who own a horse, you will be interested to know that they have a huge network of horse trails open to the public! The only thing they ask for in return is a small donation of $10 for trailer parking! Not bad huh?!
So, if you happen to be like me and LOVE the state of Kentucky, get out there and explore it! Not sure where to start? Why not the Life Adventure Center? Give ‘em a call, I know they would be happy to hear from ya!
“He made the lesser light to rule the night.” Gen 1:16
Scientifically, put moonlight dancing at a certain angle over a certain sized waterfall at night, and one gets the ballyhooed moonbow Cumberland Falls is famous for. Ok, so “ballyhooed” rarely makes its way into an official law of science (or the King James Version).
But there it is, and Kentucky is one of a couple of places in the world to see it. I’d been to the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park eight times since 2009, but my ninth life moment there would be the first one totally in the dark. The gates stay open until midnight. When I left the lodge around 8pm, the sky was already black except for a cratered up moon in the sky. It was enough. I drove down the hill to the parking area for the falls, which only had a handful of cars left in it. All I could hear was the rushing of the wild river over the cliff. Five people stood at the falls up top. She, of course, was as usual. Non-stop. I squinted. A faint ray of gray light protruded from the midst heavenward and then with gingerly arc resumed back into the flow further down. A chill came over me. That was it (the freakin’ MOONBOW!!).
I rushed for a vantage point, as if it was going to disappear any second, or worse, sunrise might be hours early. The bow stood, though, and the falls continued their pour. I turned and asked an older couple with cameras hanging from their necks if this was the best spot to see The Ballyhooed. He pointed to a yellow guard post near the cliff line we were standing on. “I’ve asked folks that have been here for 30 years,” he said, “and they say this spot right here is the best to get a picture.” A younger couple up ahead with a tripod setup glanced back at the sacred post. We were all speaking in hushed tones, whispering as if we were going to wake sleeping nature. It was like church during the offering collection.
I pulled out my Iphone, but it would fail me on this, my greatest occasion at post. No signal, nor picture. Human memory the only proof for claiming the best spot at Cumberland Falls.
Walking back to my car in an empty parking lot, I was thankful technology had taken a break, and the lesser light had indeed ruled the night.
Southern Charm. That’s what you get off the old Dixie Highway in Berea. A charming little college where a charming little hostess decided to throw a charming little party in the early 1900s. It was all too much for her, so the hostess, who happened to be married to the college president, insisted a hotel be built in which to throw future parties.
Boone Tavern was born, and Kentucky gained a white-columned treasure.
The South drips everywhere on this block. Rocking chairs wait outside on the long front porch under slow twirling ceiling fans. Hanging plants tout their multicolored blooms. Inside, a lobby that could double as museum. Furniture you just want to gaze at rather than sit in. A staff in vests, “Sirs” and “Ma’ams” frequent from the tongues of college students paying for school supplies by working the Tavern. An honest to God bell hop! No swipe cards here. The keys are still real keys attached to an imprinted polished keychain, sold separately as souvenir if one is so desirous. I was.
The room, though modern, carries the old charm as well. I overlooked a view out my window that Rockwell could have captured. But it was the spirit of Ansel that would accompany this Outdoorsman the following morning.
Berea has a woods to its credit. Well, a mountain. Known locally as the Pinnacles, a series of trails that switchback up a hill reminding one of a walk in the Smokies. And up top, a view of Kentucky I won’t put into words. Just go and stay a minute. I did for the space of an hour. Looking out over the Commonwealth, I saw both developed and rugged areas existing together and enjoyed it all.
Craving Spoonbread the whole time.
Duncan Hines touted Boone Tavern for years a top spot to eat and stay while on the road. The restaurant is a show of chandelier and fancy coffee cups atop little platters. Two forks to plate’s left. I sat wearing a plaid flannel and two day beard, boots still muddy from the hike, savoring gravy smothering biscuits prepared by a pastry chef. Later that day, I was back for Spoonbread, which is simply cornbread dipped onto a plate with a, well, you know. Southern Charm.
I’ll be back for the block of arts and crafts shops that line the sidewalk beside the Tavern and also fill the city. I’ll be back for the pocket of southern graces still shining in Berea.
Online at http://www.boonetavernhotel.com/
Plop out any Kentucky map and you’ll notice several lakes adorn the otherwise river-chopped landscape. We have mountain lakes in the east, recreational lakes in the south, and land between some lakes in the west.
That’s a bunch of lakes!
Plop out another map of Kentucky at the turn of the century, however, and you’ll not see hardly any. In fact, just three.
Rivers have always been a staple of Kentucky, and the state’s history was written into every bend and set of falls the 90,000 miles of streams gave us. Cities sprung, cities faltered, cities flooded. It was the latter that led to a bunch of lakes.
Depression, 1937. Clouds moved into the Ohio River valley that grey January and started a downpour that lasted a month. Before all was dry and done, Louisville and Paducah along with several other cities sat underwater. Levees failed. Sandbags did little. The progress of the 20s was ruined and cleanup took epic proportions.
Enter FDR. In 1938, he signed into law the Flood Control Act. It authorized the building of dams along rivers to help prevent further flooding. Dams weren’t a new phenomenon, but this took the prevention to a new level. It was through this measure that many lakes were orchestrated in Kentucky; perhaps a better word: Engineered.
Between the Army Corps of Engineers and the TVA, the Kentucky map is now full of blue expanse that came with playground for the rest of us. State Parks and recreation areas began to dot the surrounding landscape, and countless pontoon boats found a resting place in new coves.
Once such lake was created along the Nolin River north of Mammoth Cave in 1963. In March of that year, the project begun by the Corps in 1959 came to completion. I wasn’t around at its birth, but I have arrived just in time for its 50th.
This Saturday (August 3rd), the official birthday party takes place for Nolin Lake. As a patron of its recreation and beauty the past several years, I can say that the ruggedness is unique to any other lake statewide. There is just something special about Nolin, and I’m glad to see it gets a party this weekend.
Happy 50th, and good to see you on the map.
Friend of Nolin Lake can be found on Facebook via facebook.com/friendsofnolinlake
Kentucky is known for Caves. With a capital C.
Simple arithmetic adds H+C and gets HC. Horse Cave.
And Kentucky is about to be known for Horse Cave. Right in the middle of downtown is a huge cave opening that is sarcastically called Hidden River Cave. You can’t miss it. And Hidden River Cave is no stranger to innovation. In the late 1800s, a dynamo took advantage of the river current and produced an electric current to make Horse Cave the only lit city in Kentucky outside of Ashland and Louisville. Now Hidden River Cave is ready to be a power player again in the realm of adventure tourism.For years the small cave on the block with the National Park down the road (and another in the same town) struggled to get the same sort of visitation that the others may have received. Their wild tour with helmet and knee pad was on par, but the general tour was missing the OMG element.
Until now. Horse Cave is going to have the world on a string.
Beginning this weekend (June 15), adventure seekers will be able to zip-line over the gigantic cave opening from the street level down. And if that’s not enough, you can rappel right down the same towering cliff wall, too.
It’s a challenge no other zip in Kentucky can provide. And it’s just the start of what is planned for the innovative city in Hart County. Believe me, what they’ve got in store is almost too much. Stay Tuned.
For More: www.hiddenrivercave.com
One with the woods. Surrounded by greenery.
Do a self study on the color itself, and you’ll see a whole host of psychological benefits ranging from an uptick in mood to feelings of adventure.
I’m not a doctor, but I play an Outdoorsman on TV. Little reason why so many are trading the cubicle for the canoe or woodland stroll so often. It’s good for us.
“Good for us” was the reason Kentucky’s first ever Trail Town of Dawson Springs got on the map in the first place. Folks there are trying to replicate the Appalachian Trail town feel of Damascus, Virginia in our own backyard. A town fit for trail relaxation and atmospheric depressuring. While there last week to take in the gaze of old buildings and older woodland, I stopped for a moment to watch the Tradewater River. It flows just south of town near the Governor Steve Beshear birthplace signage. The river was named that way for the location of fur trading between Indians and Whites in the early 1800s. Little else happened around the area until the railroad came through in the 1870s.As with railroads, development began to occur around the depot. A man named Washington Hamby was building a house and an eating establishment for travelers when he struck a well full of mineral water. The first of two found within the town around 1893. Dawson’s depot had “Springs” attached to it (though not really a spring at all, none the wiser), and the rest was boomtown history. Some forty hotels in the new resort town heralded as the premier of the south for folks to enjoy the…water. Crown jewel of it all was The New Century Hotel with 150 rooms completed in 1898. Medical conventions held in the city to promote the quality of the mineral water for ailments worthy of conventions. A town so cool the Pittsburg Pirates and Honus Wagner had spring training there. But then, as with most of the turn of the century towns that blossomed with railroad lore, the automobile came, passenger trains stopped coming, colleges became status quo routine, and generations drove away from birthplaces.
And modern medicine replaced bottled water. Sort of.
These days, Dawson Springs still has the Tradewater flowing out of town like always. Still runs through a woods and beside a trail that leads by a lake and a state park called Pennyrile like the forest and like the flower. And in the long shadow of old traders before wells and hotels, one can still take in the natural sights and sounds of western Kentucky from a canoe ride or hike through miles of woodland. Then hang out and take in history, trail town resort style.
After all, that’s what the doctor ordered.
The “Mountain Eagles” have returned to Pine Mountain State Resort Park. They’re Turkey Vultures, of course, and the park’s Mountain View Restaurant annually provides premiere, window-seat viewing of a large gathering of the great soaring birds from mid February through the end of March.
They muster in February annually and over the subsequent month and a half, park visitors enjoy spectacular views of their avian aerobatics. At Pine Mountain in late winter, a vortex of a couple hundred vultures is observed morning & evening during their period of communal roosting. Now that March has arrived, a menagerie of magnificent soaring birds dominate the skies. The birds roost in the crowns of giant, old growth trees nestled in the heart of the park’s celebrated Hemlock Garden.
In recent years, the event has been embraced as a natural tradition and the annual occurrence provides excellent opportunities to photograph these lesser celebrated birds of prey, in significant numbers, as they pinwheel and pirouette in casual soaring and aerial play.
Well known, a least to folks in Hart County, that a kangaroo can outrun a Derby-ready race horse if they all came down the stretch together. The Aussie anomaly can top out at 40mph while escaping a hungry dingo in the dark wilds of Australia (mate).
However, the pouched, long-footed mammal has had a hard time out-hopping clichés.
-Kangaroo Court: (c. 1853) Phrase coined during the California Gold Rush period of 1848 onward to describe the hastily carried out proceedings used to deal with claim jumping miners.
-Boxing Kangaroo: (c. 1891) After coinage becomes the national symbol of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is stenciled on fighter planes during WWII.
-Captain Kangaroo: (c. 1955) Bob Keeshan’s character headlining the popular children’s show that ran for 30 years on CBS.
And, of course, the kangaroo had a guest starring B-list role for much of the Winnie-The-Pooh saga. Poor Roos. Their down-under novelty just won’t let them be.
Two weeks ago I had a dream that I was on a familiar Kentucky road trip. I saw blue skies, a two lane road, and a creek running on my left that was lined with various brush and canebreaks. Between the road and the brush, there was a pasture hemmed in by barbed wire fence. Within the fence, a kangaroo farm (!). Ten or so kangaroos jostling about while I rubbernecked on the highway. Worse yet, such farms aren’t even legal in Kentucky. No more Copper River Grille for me.
I had to dust out my dream catcher, and in the process of analyzation make a trip to Horse Cave.
Kentucky Caverns has been touring guests for nearly 100 years, and when kangaroos were added to the attraction in 1990, Kentucky Down Under was born. Just this month, the park has brand new management, and it’s being renamed Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo. Ambitious future plans over the next few months include a ropes and bridges obstacle course (summer 2013), crocodile exhibits, and a building on tap that will pay tribute to Kentucky’s bourbon heritage. And still, all of the familiar birds, wool weaving, border collies, didgeridoos, boomerangs, and of course, the roos too.
I spent my preseason visit watching a mob of kangaroos hop around, oblivious to the fact they had just made my dreams come true. But then, Horse Cave has that dreamy way about it.
Here’s a town even Andy Griffith could whistle in. A historical district that runs just 2 blocks. Maybe 2.5 next to railroad tracks. Buildings still standing since their stagecoach days. A big honking cave opening right off main street.
If only the bricks in the facades could talk. Oh, but they can! Horse Cave has a walking tour of the city that uses QR codes for your smart phone to tell you in full voice-over what the building’s first purpose was. Maybe an Odd-Fellows Hall. Or a saloon. Or a bank. Or dry goods store. Every town in Kentucky is full of this type of heritage. Horse Cave simply puts a voice to it.
Consider it “Straight from the horse’s mouth.” And that’s hopefully one cliché even a kangaroo can outrun.
For more on Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, visit www.kdu.com.
For more on Hart County, visit www.kygetaway.com.
-Thanks to Candace Forsythe and Sandra Wilson while on site in Hart County.
We posed for a said Mobile Upload, then I noticed he wore a themed shirt to town. Toddlers in the 4T size are notorious for themed shirts that match the day’s activity, or hope thereof. His theme was not his beloved trains on this trip, but rather dinosaurs.
“He must needs go through Cave City.”
The gateway to Kentucky’s fabled national park has seen better decades, no doubt. Amongst the overwhelming mountainous scenery that trumps any on Kentucky’s portion of Interstate 65, historic attractions, storefronts, and property sit overgrown and vacant, waiting and begging for a developer’s dream to deliver itself. If you’re reading and have millions to help this city, please do.Maybe it was all taken over by the dinosaurs fronting the interstate exit. The thankful bright spot downhill from the Guntown Mountain signage. Every car from Chicago to Mobile has a one point rubbernecked at the oversized T-Rex that blesses Barren County.
Dinosaur World. A three year old’s Mecca.Pilgrimage in progress, we spent the next hour and a half looking, pointing, running, and posing for pictures at each new attraction. Walking the rope line to one of a hundred or so life-size dinosaur replicas. Digging for fossils in the sand. Shopping for keepsakes in the gift store. Taking home yet another memory as family. Earning Uncle Points.
Only three of these such “worlds” exist in the world, and Cave City is the headquarters for it all. Consider it a hiking trip to the Mesozoic Era. Your 3 year old will love it. And the three year old at heart will love it, too.
For more on Dinosaur World, click Here.
For more on the vision of Cave City, click Here.
-Special thanks to Nicole Randall while in Cave City.
Every true Kentuckian carries with them that narcissistic blugrassian belief that the entire universe revolves around blessaid Kentucky.
You better believe it absolutely does the first Saturday in May.
But what of the other 364/120? You bet it does. Where else but Kentucky can one launch off in 1750 at the Cumberland Gap leading to a Wilderness Road construction paved with pioneer hearts onward to early Fort Boonesborough and Fort Harrod, then prosperous Lexington spawned from early Transylvania colony with eventual turnpike to Limestone Landing to catch up with the steamboats down the Ohio to Louisville pitched camp at the Falls?
Rivertowns along the Ohio, Green, Barren, Cumberland, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi bursting asunder with progress too quick to reckon. Railroads expanding the reach like spokes on the wagon wheels that carried settlers west in the first dawn of a new Kentucky era.
Tobacco, horses, coal, whiskey. A worldwide economic leader still uncontested in categories 220 years later.
Sports prowess. Naismith invented basketball. Rupp and Diddle perfected it in Kentucky.
Cars invented northward near Detroit. Perfected in Bowling Green.
Soft drinks fashioned first further south. Sweetened, albeit Late, in Winchester.
Eastern seaboard no doubt has the early American history of the 1600s, but Kentucky has that second wind of fresh history like that extra dream one gets after pressing the snooze button. Call it the Bluegrass Bonus.
We got Lincoln.
And the biggest Cave.
It does kick. It kicks the dirt up on Black Mountain, it kicks the coal dust up in Harlan, it kicks the spurs in Lexington, it kicks the tires in Bowling Green, it kicks to country music in Pikeville, it kicks under skyline in Louisville, and it kicks back at days end under a quilt in Paducah.
Kentucky Bred? Why Leave?
Somewhere Else? Get Over Here.
I love Kentucky. And I’ll keep kicking till I hit the bucket with a final swing.
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601