With the laying of several interstates across Kentucky in the last half century or so, an interesting thing happened. What was before a well traversed road suddenly became a backroad and has the historic districts to prove it. Such is the case with fabled 31W, which runs from north to south plumb parallel with I-65. I decided to take this route on my way to a weekend hike in Munfordville.
I had heard about the Green River Park and Arboretum and how it featured a 4.5 mile trail along the river. As I had not hiked it before, it was a burr in my saddle until I could cross it off my list. So north on 31W I went. From Bowling Green, I drove past Park City and the old cave area hotels once popular with tourists in the 50s and 60s. Old neon signage that made you think of Route 66. Slow cars and tractors and double yellow lines you’d never see on the superhighway a mile or so west of me made the drive a little slower than I wanted. I thought I’d never arrive, but made it into Cave City, slightly past Horse Cave, and finally, Hart County. I reached the park and couldn’t find the trailhead! It’s actually to the left of the 31W bridge, as opposed to most of the park which is on the right. I found this out only after driving back into Horse Cave and stopping at the American Cave Museum. They had a brochure on the park in Munfordville. That burr was getting bigger in the saddle, but I needed a lunch break and did so in Horse Cave, which has an adorable downtown next to a busy railroad track. The Gallery Bakery was the decision for lunch. Pictures of Hidden River Cave adorn the walls here, and the food is fit for hikers and cavers alike. I even got to taste a truffle flavored with bacon and maple. Yeah, you read it right the first time. It had a kick alright.
Back to Munfordville and the Jenny Wilson Byrd trail, which runs 4.5 miles along the Green River to Johnson Springs, where you can either hike back the 4.5 miles or rent a canoe or kayak from Big Buffalo Crossing located in town. This trail was one I’ll return to in all seasons, as I’m interested to see what it looks like with leaves on the trees. Steep slopes make it more of a challenge if you’ve not hiked in a while, and be sure your ankles are ready to get a work out. Several supports are along the way to help you up and down slopes, but there are no trailblazes, so pay attention to your surroundings to avoid becoming lost.
I did see a raccoon on the trail, who paused for a photo. At 1.75 miles in you come out of the woods into a field and see a sign that reads “Johnson Springs, 2.75 miles.” I turned back at this point because in February I was still battling daylight and it was late due to me hanging out in Horse Cave earlier. So back to the truck and a DQ Cookie Dough Blizzard that didn’t have the bacon taste I was now longing for. Then I pulled onto the “real” road of I-65 and pinballed myself back down to Bowling Green.
For a look at a bunch of hiking pics and stuff, you can always friend me on Facebook. Till next trip…
Most local folks of the Bell County, Kentucky area know all about Chained Rock and the majority of them have paid a visit to the legendary icon at one time or another. If you’re among the few who know little or nothing about it, well, let’s just say that you’re missing out on a genuine piece of mountain folklore. The trail is one-half mile in length and traverses steep terrain from the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle, down to the site, located at the bottom of a 300-foot descent in elevation. Along the way hikers are surrounded by the mixed deciduous forest and encounter dense stands of rhododendron and mountain laurel thickets. They also discover natural sandstone rock shelters, and terrain typical of the south-facing slope of Pine Mountain. Of course, the prime objective is Chained Rock itself with its massive chain fastened at both ends. Hikers are also rewarded with an inspiring view of the Cumberland Plateau and the cozy little mountain town of Pineville about 1,000 feet below.
Legend says the rock was chained because the town’s children feared that the great boulder hanging ominously above might give way and crash down on them as they slept. Eventually, steps were taken to alleviate their fears, and the children have slept peacefully ever since.
The rock was officially fastened on June 24, 1933, and was soon celebrated as a first-rate tourist attraction. The plausibility of securing such a gargantuan chunk of sandstone as a reliable safety measure is widely debated to this very day. More importantly, the legend of Chained Rock continues to hold a prominent place in local folklore and continues to capture the imagination of countless visitors every year. If you haven’t been there, you owe it to yourself to see it firsthand. It’s a historic treasure of the southeastern mountains.
We’re now one month into a new year. You’ve got eleven months left to get outside and have some fun before 2011 is a thing of the past. If you’re looking for something new to try, let me suggest the Kentucky State Parks Family Adventure Quest. What’s an adventure quest? Excellent question, the State Parks Family Adventure Quest can best be described as a photo& trivia scavenger hunt. It will lead you through various parks and historic sites as you seek the answer to trivia questions and search for the perfect photo op.
The adventure quest is a team quest, but it isn’t a race. You and your team can take from now until December 1, 2011 to complete as many challenges as you can and get your pictures sent into the Department of Parks. Some challenges may seem easy and straight-forward, but some will require teamwork, cleverness and, most importantly,
a sense of adventure. The Family Adventure Quest is a great way for families to enjoy our State Parks and spend some time outdoors, but it’s also perfect for couples, friendly competitions, scout groups, so on and so forth. So, what is a quest without a holy grail?
The quest is made up of 25 total challenges. For completing 20 of them you will earn a $50.00 State Parks gift certificate. For those that are committed, and complete all 25 challenges, you will earn an $85.00 State Parks gift certificate! To get your teams registered and learn more go to www.parks.ky.gov/adventure or call 1-800-255-PARK.
For those of you who are like me, I’m sure you’re feeling a bit of cabin fever settling in for the winter. The first couple months of the New Year generally find me a little stir crazy and frustrated from glaring through my windows. My usual outdoor activities chasing furry animals or hooking scaly fish have come to a complete halt and my house’s walls begin their slow approach inward.
It wasn’t until a couple of short weeks ago, as I was just settling in for the cold weather’s duration, I was invited to an “EAGLE WATCH” on Kentucky Lake. Now, I’m not much for cold on the water, unless I’m competing for a title in a fishing tournament, so you can imagine my hesitation before committing. However, knowing the opportunity for me to breathe nature’s fresh lake air might be further than right around the corner, I agreed.
I was to meet my group at Ken Lake Marina in Aurora, KY. From there, we would float the banks of Kentucky Lake in search of America’s magnificent bird of prey, the bald eagle. I packed a bag of NorthFace fleece, waterproof thinsulate and Gortex, binoculars and seal skin gloves, ready for my day on the frigid waters and low temperatures. I arrived early and wandered around momentarily looking for what I thought would be my watercraft for the day; a pontoon, an aluminum boat….
I turned the corner behind the marina store and stopped for a quick laugh at myself as I read the sign leading me toward my vessel, the ‘CQ Princess’. Docked and idling was the 96’ dual level, heated yacht awaiting my arrival to depart for our voyage. All aboard, I quickly found a place to store my bag of cold weather gear. J
I took a moment to tour the quarters and find my warm, cozy corner to settle in for my three hour tour. Yes, a three hour tour….. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife supplied the crew with an array of binoculars and staff to guide us along our trip. I began to question why Kentucky Lake? Why an ‘eagle watch’ here? Before my questions could be answered and our ship had even set sail, I saw groups of people pointing and looking to left. A mature eagle had lit on a tree outside the marina banks. This majestic bird was the first of many we would see. I instantly became excited with anticipation of seeing more!
The water was beautiful. The cold was untouched by me as I sat inside, glassing through trees in hopes to be first to spot another bird. An amplified state park naturalist with a microphone was giving an exciting play-by-play report of the wildlife. Her keen eye was quick to find them first and direct our view to the birds’ location. Within only minutes of our journey I saw many mature eagles sitting atop trees, waiting for their chance at a quick, freshwater meal. I watched juvenile birds frolicking in the air as if they knew we were impressed. I spotted a pair of mature eagles perched aside one another, leading me to believe they were mates working together to endure the winter months. The warmth of the cabin teased me at times, and many moments I’d wished I was fishing the shoreline with them….
Our expedition concluded with the viewing of 11 Bald Eagles, one very special Golden Eagle, one Peregrine Falcon, two Juvenile Eagles, an Osprey and many other migratory ducks and birds. Oh, yes…and chance sighting of a lone coyote in search of a tasty treat on the lake shore! Amazed by the amount of Eagles I’d seen, I questioned once again, their presence in Western Kentucky and why? The answer was simply, “The Great Lakes area freezes up and these birds migrate south looking for open water and a source of food. There are a lot of both in the ‘Land Between The Lakes’ area.” Essentially, we are a temporary residence for this bird of prey to fatten up for the winter before returning home…. I believe if I were an eagle, my visit to Kentucky Lake would be that of a more permanent one.
Amused by the show put on for me by my feathered friends, I couldn’t help but feel urged to encourage you all to experience what I did! There is still one more weekend left to book your trip aboard the CQ Princess! If you’re an avid bird watcher, an outdoor enthusiast like myself, or just need to break away from the winter walls that have been closing in on you also, check out the link listed here, http://www.parks.ky.gov/eagle-watch-weekends.htm and book your reservation today! Be certain to bring your camera and feel free to share your pictures with me!
On a recent cold morning at 5:00, a friend called from my driveway to ask if I wanted to go goose hunting, to which I readily replied “Yep, I’ll be right out!” I was going to experience goose hunting, and I was so excited you’d think I was going to Disney World. We traveled from Daviess County to Henderson County where we encountered three inches of freshly fallen snow in the small community of Geneva which borders the Ohio River. At the country store we turned right onto Hwy 268 and entered the Slough Wildlife Management Area. This Area contains 11,000 acres and is overseen by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. After traveling three miles we entered “Sauerhebar” (I still can’t pronounce it), which is a 2,000-acre refuge for the protection of thousands of ducks, geese, Tundra Swans and Bald Eagles. I was amazed! Our first stop was at one of the many observation towers, and as I viewed the vast expanse, I couldn’t help but feel that the birds were mocking us – it was as if they knew that at such close encounter, they couldn’t be touched. Being an avid bird watcher, I soon became preoccupied with duck identification, but was soon reminded by my friend that today I was a goose hunter and my goal was to bring home supper!
So on to our destination of a place called Alzey Bottoms, which is privately owned land bordering the Slough Wildlife Management Area. Getting out of the truck I walked straight over the pit never noticing it was underground. The pit was constructed so that hunters can pop up and shoot geese, but it also contained a fully operational kitchen with electricity and running water. Not only did I hunt geese while in a heated pit, I ate freshly prepared sausage, eggs biscuits and gravy while waiting for them.
If hunting water fowl is your idea of a relaxing pastime, then Henderson is the ideal site for your hobby. Because of Henderson’s position of being in the Mississippi fly-way, being located on the Ohio River, its agriculture crops, bottom land slews, and the last state in the freeze line, every goose and duck migrating south will make a Henderson a stop-over on its winter journey. With that said, I would imagine that the saying “It’s like shooting ducks in a barrel” must have originated from Henderson. This year the hunting was extremely plentiful due to the severe weather in our northern states.
If you haven’t gone goose and duck hunting, here are a couple of observations. Dress warmly, have a shot gun, get all the required licenses and expect to laugh at the reasoning when someone misses a shot. You’ll hear such comments as: “New geese, old geese, stupid geese, smart geese and my favorite . . .one goose is dumb, but a bunch of geese are geniuses.” I believe that after having seen the geese and ducks sit and mock me at Sauerhebar.
Kentucky is known for its hunting and skillful hunters, and on this day I was fortunate to be in the same company as local legends such as Pascal, Rick, and Mike. These men had 150 years experience between them and could call geese with the clarity of an orchestra imitating Mozart. As I observed geese miles out, I was amazed that they could be voluntarily rerouted by calls and plastic decoys. I watched in wonder as they persuaded gun-shy geese, traveling thousands of miles and having a natural instinct to stay with the flock, to break off and land within a few yards of our pit. This place in Henderson is incredible, and not only do I now have a goose in my refrigerator, I gained a deep respect for the goose hunters of Henderson.
Water fowl season in Kentucky can change each year. This year duck season opened Thanksgiving Day and ended November 28th, reopened on December 6th and ran until January 30th. Canadian geese season opened November 22nd and closed January 31st. Snow geese season is the same as Canadian geese, except Kentucky has a conservation order season because of their growing numbers. The extended season reopens February 7th and closes March 31st.
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601