9th to 20th October 2010

(The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Travelogue can be found by clicking here)

Jenny Wiley State Park, Prestonburg (9th to 11th October 2010)


It's a lovely day as we leave West Virginia and take the scenic route in to Kentucky. It takes us along the banks of a river and also past a lot of evidence of the huge coal mining industry in West Virginia. We go past London and Glasgow before getting to the border at Huntington. We join the Country Music Highway southbound through the east side of Kentucky. We're running close to the Appalachian Mountains again and it is covered in multi-coloured trees.

After a few wrong turns we get on the road to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. They have a lodge here with cabins and a big marina on the lake. About 5 miles around the edge of the lake we get to the campground. After the primitive camping at Army Camp we now have the luxury of hot showers, a laundry and a pitch with electricity and water. We're careful to pitch where we'll get the early sun to clear any dew off. It's 85'f this afternoon and low humidity. The campsite only has a few campers but these clear out over the weekend until we are virtually alone.

Around 6:30pm on the Saturday night they start line dancing lessons at the camp entrance. I have to pretend I don't want to join in as it is mostly a lot of kids with bored parents.


Elk Viewing Tour at the Mine


One of the reasons we chose to camp at Jenny Wiley is because they run an early morning elk viewing tour. The alarm goes off at 4:45am on Sunday and we throw some clothes on in the dark and jump in the car. I drive the lakeside road for the 5 miles to the lodge, narrowly missing a few large deer on the way. There's coffee and Danish pastries waiting for us in the lobby. Ty, the tour leader explains that we are going to an active surface coal mine to see the elk. The public are not allowed in there. They have hunters in there now and then. Seems ironic that one group is trying to view elk whilst the other is trying to shoot them! There are about 13 people on the tour and we head off in two minibuses. It's about 40 miles to the mine and we have to sign a safety certificate to get in. The sun is just about coming up as we pull in to the mine and drive around. The road is really bumpy and dusty.

We have about 3 hours in there being thrown all over the place and getting covered in coal dust. I'm surprised they still have an exhaust system on the van. We do see some lovely elk though, including a couple of really big bulls, and a cow with a calf. We also spot a group of wild turkeys and some sort of small coyote. A large owl flies past as dawn breaks. We have a coffee and Danish stop again at an old picnic area before we head back to the lodge. We get chatting to a friendly couple from Pennsylvania about our travels. We're both feeling grubby and tired but it was a worthwhile trip and nice to see wild animals again, particularly as we hadn't expected to see elk in this part of the country.


Jenny Wiley Trail


After a relaxing breakfast in the sunshine we attempt part of the Jenny Wiley trail. It takes us from a trailhead in the campsite up a very steep path through the forest. We climb for about half a mile, slipping and sliding on fallen leaves and acorns. It's pretty warm and we're both puffing and panting. On top of the ridge we take a turn and climb again to the Dewey Lake overlook. It's about a half mile climb. The midges are annoying but they're not biting. At the top we get rewarded with a wonderful view over Dewey Lake, which is a dammed lake with lots of forks coming off. It's covered in multicoloured trees. There are signs that there used to be a chair lift or something coming up to this overlook, but only the top pylon is still here. It's all quite rusty. We don't see a single person on the trail. On the way back I almost lose my footing a number of times, but no bruised bum today. The trail has a couple of piles of bear type poo and the trees have been scratched up by something strong. It looks like a bear has been following us, but the ladies at the camp store say they have never seen one here. In the evening as we are cooking we hear something heavy tramping through the forest behind the tent. Whatever it is stops as it gets near us and we don't see what it is.


Daniel Boone National Forest & Boyle County (12th October 2010)

As we leave Jenny Wiley, we get on the highway across the centre of Kentucky and drive west through the Daniel Boone National Forest. There is a tiny little turn off that says “scenic drive” so we go and explore. The lane takes us to a number of view points for the red River Gorge which is surrounded by the most amazing colour foliage. The trees are vivid reds and oranges and glow when the sun hits them. We try and get some photos that capture the colours, but it's tricky. We press on and move in to the clearly wealthy horse farms around Lexington. This is the home of the Kentucky Derby and the famous racetrack at Keeneland. There are some beautiful horses running around and they have acres of cut grass and picket fences.

Later on we cross the Boyle County line and into Danville where we have booked an hotel for the night. Danville is the county seat but doesn't have a lot to offer in the way of nightlife. The buildings are nice though and some of it looks Victorian. We drive to a roadhouse on the outskirts of town and have a very tasty but unhealthy dinner of ribs, burgers, a baked sweet potato stuffed full of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and coleslaw. Rich has a double burger, which is about a pound of beef. We're both stuffed and head back to our nice big suite early to crash in front of the television.


Bourbon Trail (13th & 14th October 2010)

Please click here for the separate travelogue on the Bourbon Trail.

Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Burkesville (14th to 17th October 2010)

As we leave the Bardstown bourbon area the drive is scenic through the countryside and forests. The road starts to climb as we near the park. The campground is huge and deserted. We get a whole loop to ourselves, right near the showers and laundry. The pitch has power and water. It's so peaceful. The campsite is open and green, and surrounded by golden forest. The park also has a lodge, marina and about 15 miles of hiking and horse trails. It's set round a lake of over 25,000 acres of water.
It's boiling here in the day and we spend a good amount of time reading and sunbathing. It reaches around 85'f. At night it is a different matter as the clear October skies force the temperature down close to freezing. It's not damp though so we just have to wrap up warm as the sun sets and light a big fire. The sun hits the tent around 9am (which we later discover is actually 8am as we have crossed in to the Central Time Zone.) and the day starts to cook up again. I love having to wear sunglasses to make my breakfast!
After an unfruitful journey to the nearest town, Burkesville, to buy some beer we begin to suspect that we may be in a "dry" county here - an alien concept to us and one that makes us want to drink a lot!


Eagles Point Trail


We decide we need some exercise so set off behind the campsite in to the forest to join the Eagles Point Trail. The trails are poorly marked and the map is next to useless. We reach a picnic area where a large Kentucky family are having a reunion. We set off down a hill looking for the Eagles Ridge overlook. The guys tell us we're going in the wrong direction. We turn back and set off down another trail but this doesn't feel right either. We get back on the road and find a marked trail that bring us to the parking area for the hike up to the overlook. Finally we get there and it is a stunning point at 500 feet above the lake. The water is blue and there are beautiful islands covered in multicoloured trees. A few boats are cruising around. Trooper Island has some sort of camp on it. We get chatting to Nick Sr, Nick Jr, Janine and Amanda, a nice Kentucky family, about our travels and photography.


Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area (18th-20th October 2010)

It takes about 4 hours on small back roads to go west to Land Between The Lakes NRA. This swathe of land is set between two huge manmade lakes; Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky. The park has hiking and biking trails, fishing, boating, an elk prairie, nature centre and planetarium.

We drive to the north end of the park and find the Hillman Ferry campground. Rich sweet talks the lady on the gate and we get a beautiful spot right on the lakeside. It has a nice flat gravel pitch and is near the new shower block. As we pitch up the sun is setting, turning the trees golden. There aren't many people camping and it is a lot milder overnight than Dale Hollow. We can sit in the tent with the big window unzipped and watch sunset over the lake with a drink in our hands. Very nice.

At night we keep hearing these huge crashes and realise it is acorns dropping out the trees and bouncing on the car and RV roofs! I also have a very close encounter with a skunk, though fortunately not a smelly encounter. During the day you can hear woodpeckers knocking and squirrels chattering in the trees.

Woodlands Nature Station


On our first day we drive over to the Woodlands Nature Station about 10 miles south. They have a small reserve out the back with local wildlife. The information they have is really well presented. We get up close to coyotes, red wolves, a bald eagle, vultures, a red tailed hawk, barred owl, great horned owl, barn owl, screech owl, bob cat, fallow deer, white tailed deer, a groundhog, flying squirrels and various snakes. All the animals were either injured or orphaned so could not survive in the wild. The red wolves are particularly endangered with only 100 pairs in the wild.


Canal Loop Trail


On our second day we drive north to visit the Welcome Centre and get a hiking trail map. We do about 6 miles of the 11 mile Canal Loop Trail. The map isn't very good so we take a few wrong turns but it's a nice hike. We get to overlooks on Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky. The trail is up and down through the autumnal forest and gives our legs a good workout.