Monday, October 20, 2008

The Great Kentucky Outdoors?

My favorite part of living in Colorado was feeling a sense of proportion to the world. The rugged, majestic, and inviting mountains provided a refuge for the adventurous spirit. Waking up each day, I faced a 14,000 foot mountain, Pike’s Peak. Talk about putting someone into their place, I was made keenly aware that I was connected to something much larger than myself. In Colorado Springs, everyone could tell you east from west. They have the Rocky Mountain front-range as their cue, and a daily reminder that the world doesn't revolve around them.

At first glance, Danville provides no sense of proportion to the world (from a terrain point of view), let alone any sense of outdoor recreation. There aren’t any local outfitters. REI, EMS, and other national outfitters have left Kentucky out of the equation.

Luckily, I stumbled upon J&H Lanmark Outdoors in Lexington. The 45 minute drive was worth the three hours I spent roaming around the store. I tried on the newest trail-runners, tinkered with backpacking stoves, poured over countless maps, zipped and unzipped tents, trail-talked with the staff, and swiped my plastic card for a healthy investment. I ended up purchasing the pair of trail-runners, mainly in attempt to encourage my discovery of the great Kentucky Outdoors.

I had known about the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge (CKWR), but didn’t realize its depth until I drove the 13 miles for a solo-hike one evening. I wiped the dust off my trekking poles, filled a day pack with the essentials, and headed out on the trail.

Since 1965, the CKWR has offered a diverse, 500-acre introduction to the Appalachian Mountains. Feilds, ponds, knobs, and rustic trails, traversing roughly 15 miles and offering various levels of difficulty, speckle the refuge. While hiking the well-traveled, 2.5-mile Circle Trail, I noticed the sign for the ominous Ridge Trail. At the junction, its path was consumed by various fauna, and I could understand why. Several years ago, I vividly remember hiking the Ridge Tail with a friend who was in great shape. As he raced up the mountain, I could feel my heart pulsating, sweet dripping down my face, and my calves demanding a long break. Not an easy hike. So, I finished the day on the Circle trail.

The CKWR offered seclusion, and an invitation to explore. As the sun’s last light broke through the canopy of oak and white pine, squirrels raced for the last acorn, deer disappeared in the foliage, and the chickadees sang the last song of the day. Not rugged, 14,000 foot mountains, but enough to ignite my sense of wonder.

Beside the CKWR, Danville is within a 1.5-hour drive of the Red River Gorge for day-trips. For overnight trips, Mammoth Cave National Park, Land Between the Lakes Nat’l Recreation Area, and the Great Smokey Mountain Nat’l Park are within a 4-hour drive - All great places for outdoor discovery and recreation.

1 comment:

Mark W. Mallman said...

You're gonna need those trail runners for the Great Ocean Walk.

Good writing. Makes me want to go outside right now.