Day two of the 2012 Unbridled Adventure Tour and already logging several out of the way miles between parks. On map, the route from Cumberland Falls to Pine Mountain is supposed to be a quick jaunt from near Corbin to US 25E on down to Pineville and then up the mountain. On this day though, I would trek north at Corbin on Interstate 75, hitting one of my favorite drives in the Commonwealth. Chicago has the Dan Ryan. Louisville the Gene Snyder. Eastern Kentucky has the Hal Rogers Parkway. I was introduced to this drive on last year’s tour when I visited Hazard and Buckhorn Lake. I love the way it zigs and zags though a portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest that looks like it’s on loan from West Virginia. Honestly, worth the money in gas and the time off the clock to take that drive to Justified country.
Once back near London, mom and I headed down US 25 for a quick stop at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park. Located right in the middle of town, it’s hard to believe at one time this was some of the wildest land in all of the United States. The settled country was smaller then. The park includes a trail blazed by Daniel Boone himself, and the great Wilderness Road used by Dr. Walker and the early surveyors of Kentucky. That road would eventually lead us down to the Cumberland Gap, but first a stop to see a fellow Kentucky Colonel.A short trip to Corbin took us to Sander’s Café. Harlan Sanders pioneered some spices of his own near the Wilderness Road, and all these years later 98 percent of Americans still recognize his face. So only proper that while in Corbin, we’d have some KFC. At the attached museum, we could see early memorabilia of what has made Kentucky Fried Chicken the world’s best. And then of course the bacon sundae a few miles later… After the breakfast/dessert it was time to top the Gap. At the junction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia in Middlesboro sits the Cumberland Gap National Park. It was the discovery of this route through the mountains in 1750 that led the groundwork for all of what we see in the state and westward today. Think of Kentucky as the original Alaska. In 1750, it was the Wild Bluegrass Yonder. And they came by the thousands for freedom and opportunity. Today, we would top the Gap by motorcar and look down upon the three states below, more cars tinkering along at a brisk pace, taking for granted of how hard it was to cross the same route just a few centuries before. We would take such wilderness route, under a tunnel and back, towards Pineville and the Pine Mountain State Resort Park, the first such in the Parks system, founded in 1924 and among the prettiest in all seasons. I wanted to see if the rock atop Pine Mountain had managed to fall on Pineville yet. Seems in the 1930s a promoter got the bright idea to “chain” a rock outcropping to the mountain to keep it from falling on the city 2200 feet below. Luckily for us all, it was still taut and serving purpose for the good of the entire city.
An Adventure Representative could spend a lifetime at Pine Mountain amongst the waterfalls, bears, and hemlock trees. One does just that. Dean Henson is my fellow rep for the eastern end of the state, and is the naturalist for the Pine Mountain State Park. His writings are some of my favorites, and each month he’ll tell you more about what’s going on here than I could in just one short blog. I will say that if you’ve never had a weekend at Pine Mountain, you’ve missed a Kentucky treasure. Summit views. Charming towns. History abounding. Paradise found.
And Bacon. On the road to Breaks Interstate Park near Elkhorn City. More soon. Road Trip in progress…
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601