Friday, July 31, 2015

Strolling Around Danville and Corbin KY…

A short distance away from where we are staying at Levi Jackson State Park is a neat little town called Corbin, KY. So what is Corbin’s claim to fame? Corbin is home to the location of the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. The Colonel Harlan Sanders himself started frying up his crispy chicken right here! We had to check out the Harland Sanders CafĂ©.  It actually started as a service station across the street from its present location.  The current location is really just another Kentucky Fried Chicken store but it has a museum attached to it depicting the Colonel's life and how he came to be famous. We chose not to eat there since we are no  really big fans of their chicken and also because we think their chicken is overpriced!


The downtown area of Corbin is a sleepy and laid back community fairly well revitalized. Although Corbin is located in the dry counties of Knox and Whitley the city held a local option election in 2012 which was successful.  So luckily we were able to find a recently opened tavern featuring many craft beers. We thought it was a brewery at first since it was named The Wrigley Taproom and Brewery. However, they make no beer on premises and usage of the word brewery in their name is for reasons unknown to us. It was however a lively spot and a good way to end our day in Corbin.

Cumberland Falls KY and  Corbin KY 039Cumberland Falls KY and  Corbin KY 040

We also made the short drive over to Danville, KY for a visit. Danville is a decent sized town. We found it funny that their claim to fame is that they are the city of firsts. First to do this, first to do that… but we soon realized it was all dependent upon the fact that they were the first to do this or that west of the Alleghenies!  The city was founded in 1792 and it also claims to be the birthplace of bluegrass… although we have seen others claim that as well.

Cumberland Falls KY and  Corbin KY 045

The quaint little downtown area is close to nearby Centre College. Centre College was founded in 1819 and is considered one of the few prestigious small liberal arts colleges in America. To keep in the theme of Danville they are ranked first in the nation for study abroad. The campus was larger than it at first appeared. It made for a nice stroll for us as we walked around town and all around the campus.

On the way back to our park we stopped at a roadside farm market and scored some fresh tomatoes and fruit. Tomorrow it’s off to another spot on the Daniel Boone’s Trace… Cumberland Gap National Historic Park…

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Levi Jackson State Park and Cumberland Falls…

After spending a few days in the Renfro Valley we moved a little further south to Levi Jackson State Park. We spent a few days at this state park since it was close to Cumberland Falls and. Cumberland Falls was on my list of top attractions in the state of Kentucky for us to see.

We pulled into Levi Jackson State Park and found our site for the weekend in what was to be a very crowded park. It is not an overly big rig friendly park but does have some sites in its “B” loop that are perfect for big rigs. Our pull through site  further down was on an arch and had a moderate slope from back to front. The result was that the front of our RV was completely off the ground. I am not a big fan of putting any of my tires airborne but here we had no choice. At least it  was only for a few days so I wasn’t too concerned.

The park itself has some trails along what is known as Boone's Trace where  Daniel Boone, an American pioneer, marked a trail for other pioneers to follow west into America’s heartland during the spring of 1775. To have the opportunity to walk on such a historic trail was also on our to do list. The trails themselves were not overly exciting but the historical significance of them  did not go unforgotten. It was fun walking along the trails thinking back to all the pioneers that must have made this trek and endured many a hardship as a result. The trail also led to a Mountain Life Museum within the park which we did hike to but found it to be closed on that Sunday.

Another day we drove over to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. I would be remiss not to point out that all of Kentucky’s State Parks are free to enter. Having no fee for entrance ensures that the state’s people will all be able to visit their wonders. Quite a novel thought which we feel many other states should consider.

There are 17 miles of hiking trails that wind through this park to scenic areas but the main attraction here is Cumberland Falls. Often referred to as the Niagara of the South these falls flow over a sandstone substrate that is slowly giving way to the erosive forces of the nature. Cumberland Falls are 68 feet high and 125 feet wide and were blowing full force due to all the rains this area has received over the past 20 days.

As we walked down below the falls we could see the effect of power of the water as the base of the stairway at the bottom of the trail was in shambles as high water and powerful forces completely destroyed  its lower portion. Huge logs (once trees) were strewn about the lower reaches of the waterfall. We could really feel the force of mother nature’s fury…

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Visit to Barea, KY and a Hike to Anglin Falls…

Passport America, Save 50% on CampsitesWe left Lexington, KY and drove only a short distance south to Renfro Valley RV Park. This is a Passport America Park and allows stays from Sunday to Wednesday for $17.50 per night. They put the Passport America members in their more remote Creekside Park but for the price it can't be beat. We have 50 amp,full hookups and cable. Staying here for three nights easily paid for our Passport America membership. Because of the value we feel every full timer should consider membership to this organization.

Renfro Valley RV Park is part of the larger Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in Renfro Valley, KY. It is the self proclaimed "Kentucky Country Music Capital!" The shows are Thursdays thru Saturdays so we Passport America folks can enjoy some inexpensive camping during the off days.

Lexington KY 008Lexington KY 013

Just down the road from Renfro Valley is the small town of Barea, KY. We drove over to Barea to enjoy a stroll around the town. There are some nice historic buildings and a small but very interesting college called Barea College. We parked near the visitor’s center and first explored Berea’s art district. The friendly ladies at the visitors center told us the town hosts a large number artisans and musicians. While we were there a small class had gathered where citizens were learning how to play the dulcimer.

After a bit we headed over to the Berea College which interestingly is the only college I  have ever heard of offering free tuition! It is home to a student crafts program that preserves traditional  Appalachian arts. Founded in 1855 as  the first interracial and coeducational college in the South they offer each student the equivalent of a full-tuition scholarship worth $20,900, or $83,600 for four years! In exchange students are required to work at least 10 hours per week at campus and service jobs. Wow, 10 hours per week of work for free tuition! I sure wish I knew about this place when I was in college.

We also wanted to do a short hike in the John B.Stephenson Memorial Forest State Nature Preserve to find the elusive Anglin Falls.  Since the area recently had a good rain we hoped to catch this waterfall in its full glory. The directions to it are tricky so we were fortunate that the Barea visitors center had a detailed map for us to take along. Even with the map it was tricky and in fact when we turned on the last dirt road (nearly a jeep trail) it appeared as if we were driving to someone's property.  We were relieved to see a trailhead sign a short way down the road along with a small gravel parking lot.

The hike was only a mile in and a mile out with some elevation gain going in. The vegetation in this wooded gorge was lush and thick. The mostly uneven trail meandered along the creek fed by the waterfall. Rated as moderate to strenuous we found nothing strenuous on this hike. Once near the falls we were in for a treat! This 75 foot waterfall (especially after a rain) showers water from high above as the trail ends directly at its base. We really enjoyed this short but very scenic hike…

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hiking in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, TN…

A short drive away from where we are staying is an area called the Red River Gorge in Kentucky with a unique feature found more commonly in the western states, a Natural Bridge.  It is located in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. which is one of the seventeen state parks in Kentucky called a resort park because it has a lodge, Hemlock Lodge, within the park. This is one of the top state parks in the Bluegrass State and there were lots of folks visiting on the day we were there..


Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest ,the Red River Gorge, at 29,000-acres, is a geologic playground with cliffs, rock shelters, caves, waterfalls, mountain pools and nearly 100 natural arches (the largest concentration east of the Rocky Mountains). However, the best known one and the one that most everyone comes to see is Natural Bridge. The bridge is 65 feet high and 78 feet long and is the largest of the all the park's arches. It is estimated that it took 65 million years for nature to carve this magnificent wonder.


This cool sandstone formation can be reached a myriad of ways. There are several different trails that take visitors to the bridge and there is even a pricey sky lift that can be taken to the top. We chose to park at the lodge and hike the trail called “The Original Trail” up to the top. Although it is a short 3/4 mile of trail it does cover some elevation so it isn’t as easy as it seems. The trail was built in the 1880’s and after about 2/3’s of a mile near the top of the limestone stair steps the trail levels off some. After more than 400 feet of climbing upstairs and following the trail through a dense forest of hemlock, tulip popular, white pine, lots of blueberry bushes and rhododendron we found ourselves beneath the wide span of the Natural Bridge.

From below the bridge there is a trail through a tight “crack” in the sandstone that we took and it took us on top of the natural bridge. We were actually walking on top of the bridge before we even realized it. This is the Laurel Ridge Trail which is an fairly level trail along the rim of the sandstone cliffs. After a bit we walked past the sky lift drop off point which explained where all the people suddenly came from. We kept following the trail until we came to an exposed sandstone cliff we previously could see from the natural bridge. This spot is called the Look Out Point which offered us a panoramic view of the rolling Cumberland Mountains and a unique perspective of the Natural Bridge!

After sitting at Lookout Point and soaking in the vistas we started to head back but decided to take a different return route  We did re-track some of the Laurel Ridge Trail until it connected with the Battleship Rock trail. There were a series of stairways built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 taking us down the hills eventually leading us back down to the parking lot. The vegetation along this section of the trail was quite lush and had this trail pretty much to ourselves. We really enjoyed this hike despite the somewhat crowded part on the top of the Natural Bridge near the skyway but it is after all still summer and many people are on vacation…


Before leaving we just had to go see the Nada Tunnel which is known as the gateway to the Red River Gorge. This 900 foot long tunnel on KY 77 was originally built for use by a logging railroad during the early 1900s. A National Register of Historic Place this one-way tunnel is only 12-foot-wide by 13 feet high. This is still a very primitive tunnel where rock and dirt were removed using dynamite, steam drills and hand tools. It is lore that one man was killed in an explosion when he set frozen dynamite near a fire to thaw (not a very smart fellow).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Touring Lexington, Kentucky…


We love to walk around historic cities in America and Lexington was a great city to explore. Called "the city in the park" because of all the lush and green horse farms in the area it is also home to much of Americas early history. As is typical for us we visit the inner cities on Sundays to take advantage of smaller crowds, less traffic as well as free and plentiful parking.Lexington is extra kind to visitors because Saturdays are also free as we discovered after reading the meters!


We stopped at the visitor’s center and picked up a self guided walking tour brochure for our planned stroll in the downtown area. The tallest building in town is a 30-story glass office building on Main Street and is known as “Big Blue" to the locals. The brochure took us on a great walking tour of downtown past many interesting historic buildings and the early architecture was fun to gawk at.

We also entered the Lexington Public Library because we wanted to see its five-story atrium with the world's largest ceiling clock. This was an interesting sight but we also learned something we didn’t know about public libraries. Since we arrived right before it opened at 1pm we noticed a lot of people milling around outside waiting for it to open. After scrutinizing the people waiting it became quite apparent that most of them were homeless people. . After thinking about it the library offers free use of restroom facilities, free use of computers, books and comfortable seating.  Best of all there free air conditioning on these hot, muggy summer days. . I am sure many of them found a secluded spot to catch up on their sleep.

Lexington and Barea KY 012

Some other interesting places we encountered were The Mary Todd Lincoln House (the girlhood home of the First Lady) and The Hunt-Morgan House. The Hunt-Morgan House was built in 1814 by Kentucky's first millionaire, John Wesley Hunt. We also saw Mrs. Lincoln's parents' later home where we read Abe Lincoln loved to visit because of Mary's father's extensive library. 

As we learned from our brochure, the Gratz Park neighborhood is also a great spot to see many early to mid 1800’s homes. One of Lexington's poshest neighborhoods of the early 1800, it is also near the oldest college west of the Alleghenies, Transylvania University. This Christian liberal arts school had some interesting historical alumni including Jefferson Davis, Cassius Clay and Stephen Austin. I thought it was fairly interesting that the “T” logo in front of the main building at Transylvania U. was blood red due to the flowers…


The Old Fayette County Courthouse is  located near Cheapside Park. This was the site of slave auctions and abolitionists' speeches in antebellum Lexington. Later it became a place for horse sales and other trading. The ornate Lexington Opera House on Broadway was built in 1886 and was where  the likes of Al Jolsen, Will Rogers and Fanny Brice were said to have graced its stage. It is still used for cultural performances today.


Also downtown is Rupp Arena which is the home court to one of the nation’s top college basketball programs, the University of Kentucky Wildcats. A short drive away is the University of Kentucky itself and we drove through the campus. We wanted to walk around it but so much of it was under construction and renovation it wasn’t as pleasant a place to walk as we had hoped.


Next we drove over to the nearby town of Georgetown. We were lucky and found a farmer’s market on the very trendy Main Street. This little town has some beautiful historic houses and is home to Georgetown College. It was the first Baptist college west of the Alleghenies. Although it was chartered in 1829 its heritage goes back to 1787.Georgetown is also home to a Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility. We had hope to also tour this but ran out of time.

Driving to and from town was also very enjoyable as there are very large, scenic horse farms. With all the rain this summer, the rolling hills are especially lush and green.  Lexington also has a few breweries.  We visited two of them during our 4 day stay, Country Boy Brewing and   West Sixth Brewing.

imageLexington KY 002

Both were very friendly and inviting places with good crowds but of the two we preferred the beverages at Country Boy Brewing.  A funny thing happened when we went into Country Boy. As we were standing in line to order a fellow walks up and says, “I know you.” I immediately recognized my friend Vinnie who once lived in College Station, Texas. He moved 7 years ago and got a job at the University of Kentucky.  What a treat it was to run into him!  He graciously invited us over for a delicious dinner the following evening. We had a great time catching up, so much so that we forgot to take pictures.  Happily our travels brought us to Lexington and it really was a great stop!