Memorial Day Weekend is, first and foremost, a time to honor those that have served and sacrificed for the benefit of us all. The holiday weekend also marked the unofficial beginning of summer, and I found myself searching for something to do outside. As the mercury pushed above 90 and most headed for the nearest body of water, or watering hole, I waited on the sun to go down. I too went in search of water, but not the large lakes and rivers that attracted the masses. No, my destination was a small pond, much too small for a boat and lined with trees, making access difficult. There were no beaches around the bank of this water body, but rather a thick mud that that tried to hold onto you by your boots with each step. Luckily I was able to round up a partner, as this endeavor was best attempted with backup. The clock approached 11:00 pm as we neared the water’s edge. Once we saw the water, we stopped and listened. It wouldn’t take long to know what kind of night we were going to have. Thankfully, we were greeted by one of the sweetest sounds of summer…the unmistakable croak of the bullfrog (click link to listen).
That’s right, its time to go gigging. One of the sweetest delicacies known to the human palate is a plate full of freshly fried frog legs. The first step in eating frog legs happens far away from the kitchen. Bullfrogs can be found all throughout the commonwealth. Farm ponds like the one described above are obvious hot spots, but they can also be found along the banks of creeks, rivers and larger lakes. Night is the preferred time for chasing frogs, as a strong light will aid in both locating and capturing them.
Much like the variety of locations one can find bullfrogs, there are a number of ways to attempt to take them. The most basic, yet perhaps most challenging way is to grab them by hand. This technique requires either a hunting OR fishing license. If attempting to take them with a firearm, a hunting license is required. A .22 short-hollow point seems to be a particularly popular round among veteran frog hunters. A line and hook may also be used, in which case a fishing license is required. Small profiled worm baits are popular, as is apparently using a small piece of red fabric or cloth (though I can not personally vouch for this method). The last technique, and my personal favorite, is to take them with a gig. Gigging can also be done with either a hunting or fishing license. Gigs can be found in all shapes and sizes, with personal preference playing the largest part in final selection. My gig was loaned to me by my grandfather and is older than I am. The cane handle measures ten feet in length and has a three pronged gig on the top of it. On a recent trip to the local Wal-Mart I was somewhat surprised to find gigs for sale in the Sporting Goods section.
The partner mentioned earlier had never been gigging. When I approached him about the possibility of spending a few hours out in the middle of nowhere, stomping around a pond in the dark he seemed surprisingly eager to accompany me. We loaded up on caffeine & flashlights and headed out. Once arriving at the pond I found the first one in a matter of seconds. After shining him with my headlamp, creeping within inches of where he sat in the mud and stabbing mightily with the ancient gig, I pulled it back out of the mud to find absolutely nothing on the end. Figures. Things soon picked up though. We started on a hot streak, bagging 5 frogs in roughly 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the garbage bag I had supplied us to keep the frogs in started to tear (a rookie mistake on my part, having been taught better) and we regrouped back at the vehicle to find a new sack. We spent another hour or so sloshing around the edges of the pond that we could reach. There was one particularly loud croaker that sat across the pond, but seeing as how neither of us cared much to go for a swim he still resides there and not in my refrigerator. We each missed a few, and we scared a few more off not paying close enough attention. That’s OK though, it simply means there will be plenty more the next time we return to that particular pond.
All in all it was a great night and I was pleased to see that he enjoyed himself. When asked about going again he readily agreed. Frog Gigging is an easy, inexpensive way to spend some quality time outdoors even during the dog days of summer.
Get ready for some Adventure After Dark-
P.S. I had it in my mind to show a picture of the frog legs after they had been fried. The problem was that they did not last long enough for any photographic evidence. Maybe next time…
Some cities are just lucky enough to have a National Park in the backyard. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Estes Park, Colorado. Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And then, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Sometimes I don’t realize just how lucky I am to live near the longest cave system in the world. A cave system that’s been hosting guided tours for a couple hundred years.
Or how easy it is to fit such a guided tour into an afternoon.
I was at Walmart picking up a few things on a routine Saturday off the trail. In the parking lot back out to the car I decided I would make an unplanned trip north on 31W and stop in at Mammoth Cave National Park. Why not? A half hour later I was in Park City and turning left into the canopy and a slower speed limit. Two tours remained for the day. The New Entrance, and the Historic. I took the New Entrance, though it hadn’t been “new” since the 1920s.
A man by the name of Morrison was looking for oil prospects back then, and instead of finding Texas T, he found ol’ MC. Mammoth Cave, that is. Big Cave, Move Stars. Well, not quite, though you had to be wealthy at the time to see what was off in the deep. You arrived by stagecoach in those days and stayed in the cave some 18 hours. Women wore the long dresses and men donned their fancy tailed coats with dress shoes and ventured on hands and knees over boulders and through tight squeezes, without LED lighting or handrails. We must have been a tougher America back then. On this day, I would ride an air-conditioned bus to the glass door at the entrance and descend a million steps compete with handrails and the electric lighting.
I had been in the cave before, though I have yet to see all 392 miles. I’ll admit, in the past, I was a little let down by this dry cave, because most of it lacks the formations of a wet cave. Diamond Caverns was always a salve for that setback. But on this tour of the new entrance, I was impressed. The endless depths of the cave are on display in a couple of places here that would make a person scared if they didn’t like heights. And God help the person that drops an Iphone off the staircase.
The crown of this tour is the Frozen Niagara named after the New York original, since all of the early visitors to Mammoth Cave were the wealthy from up north. Morrison was able to sell this feature for $300,000 during the depression era, so another sight I shouldn’t take for granted.
Once back up top I settled in for a meal at the Travertine Restaurant on site next to the motel. Rainbow Trout and biscuits with black cherry preserves helped me to realize once again what a treat it is to have a National Park in the backyard.
Till next trip…
Casually consuming coffee and posting pictures to Facebook. That’s why I hike. To achieve that since of “been there, done that (what’s next!).” I sip my coffee from a WKU mug, usually in flannel pajamas and a two day beard. This is why I hike. So I can reflect from my breakfast table in Bowling Green. Tis’ good to have such a great outdoors city to return from the wild. But what if I had the chance to enjoy my coffee elsewhere in Kentucky? Where would those places be? I’ve pondered a possible top five as another cup is poured.
#5 Louisville. Biggest city, and I’m not really a big city guy. But man, that skyline is the best in the bluegrass! And biggest city equals biggest park system. Jefferson Forest has a 10 mile trail alone. Plus close drive to Otter Creek, Tioga Falls, Bernheim Forest, Tom Sawyer State Park, and Taylorsville Lake. It certainly doesn’t lack the opportunity for a nightlife once back from the trail, either. I’d love to drink coffee from a downtown studio apartment, plus, this is Kentucky’s answer to Denver (without the Rockies, of course).
#4 Ashland. A wild card here. There’s a skyline in Ashland, too, although it’s just one building. You’ve got to give them credit for ambition. You are at the far eastern edge of opportunity here. West Virginia at your doorstep. Greenbo Lake, Grayson Lake, Yatesville Lake, and Carter Caves all within minutes. Plus, US 23 and a slough of mountain driving if you have a hankering. I like the gritty working class feel of this area as well. Biggest city in that part of the state. Similar wild card would be Middlesboro.
#3 Murray. For years, touted as a prime place to retire. I worked in this city for a while as a DJ on Froggy 103. Gotta love the quaint town square district and typical college town feel. But the real outdoors draw are the two big honking lakes 20 minutes away. Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and all the Land In Between! Combine that with four nearby state parks, and I’d call Murray the jewel of the Jackson Purchase.
#2 Bowling Green. Mammoth Cave National Park in the backyard. Plus an underground boat tour and a bunch of other caves. Easy drive to Barren River Lake and Nolin Lake State Parks. Plus nearby Shanty Hollow Lake. There’s a waterfront park being built downtown on the Barren River that will soon feature bike trails and a (future) whitewater course. Zip Lines, canoe trips and horseback opportunity abound. Combine that with a ton of restaurants and a brand new performing arts hall, and you’ve got yourself a cool place to call home. Plus, they build the Corvette here, just sayin…
#1 Somerset. Oh baby. Pick your afternoon adventure here. You can see Lake Cumberland from US 27! Burnside Island, Lake Cumberland, and Dale Hollow Lake State Park all nearby. Cumberland Falls, Natural Arch, Big South Fork, and the Daniel Boone National Forest all within a quarter tank of gas. Lots of good eating here too, though a little dry if you get my draft, er, drift. It is Kentucky, after all. But if I could best my own city, it would probably be here.
Honorable Mentions: Lexington is kind of close to the Red River Gorge, and I’ll give the Palisades a shout. Pineville and Hazard are just cool. And for some reason, tiny Liberty in Casey County reminds me of towns out west. I need to sell everything but that coffee mug and try them all.
Still sippin’ and dreamin’ till next trip…
Have you ever wondered what it may have been like to follow in the footsteps of Daniel Boone as he made his way along the Wilderness Road into Kaintucke? Those hearty adventurers were ordinary, everyday folks that sought to build a better life in a new country; little did they know that they were really on their way to build a nation.
On May 12, 2012, you’ll have a rare opportunity to step back in time; to have your own experience of crossing through the Gap. Witness frontier hostilities and sense in first-person the nothing-for-certain feelings that were everyday fare for the pioneers in the 1770’s. This guided historical adventure tour offered by Pine Mountain State Resort Park will feature visits to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Wilderness Road State Park to trace the steps of Daniel Boone and those that came both before and after him along the path of the pioneers.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a 24,000 acre park located at the border between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The park abounds in rich history, spectacular overlooks, unique rock formations, and cascading waterfalls. The Cumberland Gap is a sizable natural break in the Applachian Mountains.
Wilderness Road State Park encompasses 310 acres that lie astride the Wilderness Road, a route carved by Daniel Boone in 1775. The route, which followed a buffalo trace, opened America’s first western frontier. The central feature of the site is Martin’s Station, a replica of a colonial frontier fort that was near this site in 1775.
Highlights include a visit to Martin’s Station, a colonial era fort, where you’ll witness spectacular frontier action as Indians attack the fort and settlement. You’ll embark on a moderate 1/2 mile hike to historic Cumberland Gap Pass, and delight to breathtaking views as you glimpse three states from the lofty Pinnacle Overlook (2,440 ft). Natural, historic, and colonial photographic opportunities abound on this adventure trek.
The registration fee is $15 per person and van transportation will be provided to the first 10 persons to register. Participants are encouraged to bring a day pack with water, snacks, and a lunch. The hike is moderate so wear appropriate footwear. Total field trip time is 9 hours. Advanced registration is required; departure time from the park is 8:00 AM.
To register for the historical adventure tour, contact Pine Mountain State Resort Park at (800) 325-1712.
How fitting that the track is called Churchill. Under a couple of twin steeples gathers both Hollywood and an infield crowd, millionaires and the hopefuls. All forming a mass of show and tell, hats and pinstripe suits. Bourbon and, well, everything else. All for the horses. For the tradition. For Kentucky.
What an honor to be born and bred from the Bluegrass during this short season every year. A sporting event that predates Indianapolis, and cars themselves. An event that began just shy of Mr. Lincoln’s days in the White House. Perhaps that’s why it beckons a fond remembrance of Stephen Foster‘s Greatest Hit. The Derby takes us back to our heritage. A time when horsepower meant one, if you were that lucky. A remembrance of Dr. Walker and Daniel Boone, who by horseback scaled the Gap and got us here in the first place. A heritage of flatboats discouraged by a series of falls on the Ohio river, forced to settle along the shoreline now become skyline. The weekend, like the track itself, brings us full circle as Kentuckians.
If you are at the Kentucky Derby this weekend, either in person or in spirit, toast a two-fingers for this fellow Colonel. Saturday, May 5th, we come together as only one Kentucky.
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601