Friday, June 24, 2011

2011-17 Pigeon Forge to Prestonburg Kentucky

London Kentucky

Cumberland Falls

Natural Bridge

Paintsville, Butcher Hollow

Campground:  Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park.  $18 ( 10%Senior discount) Standard site, Elect/Water.  Back in and Pull Thru sites available. Nice mini gulf course at front of campground.  Old Mill and museum on property.

Campground:  Jenny Wiley State Resort Campground.  3 nights @ $18.90, 1 night @ $20.70 w/senior discount.  Standard site, water/electric.  I got a pull thru, though the back-ins were easy enough to back into.  All paved pads and roads.  Lodge, cabins, boat ramp, fishing, gulfing, restaurant, theatre.  Tons of activities for the kids and not so small kids.

I don’t know why I did it, but I headed out of Pigeon Forge, knowing it was going to be a rainy day on the road.  Sometimes I can’t tell myself anything.  Of course I could have stayed an extra day, but whatever, I headed out and got caught in a real gully washer of a downpour.  Pulled off the highway and went to a McDonalds for breakfast and waited a while before continuing on.  Finally made it to my next destination along the way, The Levi Jackson St Park.
Cumberland Falls

The next day with all the rain we had, I knew going to Cumberland Falls would be spectacular.  It was of course, with about twice the water flowing over the falls than normal, but a bit brown from all the dirt being forced downriver.  Talk about erosion.  The drive alone heading over to the Falls was typical Kentucky hill country.  I also went to Natural Arch.  A spectacular stone arch over a deep wooded canyon.  Even though I had a great view from a higher elevation, I took the “scenic” one mile hike down into the canyon and walked right under the arch.  It has a great paved path leading down to the arch with stone steps and all.  Many, many steps I might add.  Great going down, but rough coming back up out the steep side of the canyon.  Not to mention the black flies and mosquitoes buzzing around me.  An improvised branch with lots of leaves helped swat them away.  The arch could easily compete with any in Utah’s Arches National Park.

The town of London Kentucky is a neat little town with a still active downtown area, county court house and all of course.  Lots of trees and flowers lining the main street.  Making for a very inviting town to stop in.

I’m heading east on the Hal Rogers Parkway tomorrow.  It was a toll road a number of years back when it was named the Daniel Boone Parkway.  The Governor changed the name to Hal Rogers when the congressman was able to get 17 million dollars from the U.S. Gov to do away with the toll fees.  Doesn’t say much about preserving the names of pioneering history of the area does it?  You see, two major routes were forged by Daniel Boone to bring easterners to the new frontier.  You might remember the Cumberland gap, one of the routes Daniel Boone discovered.  Two of those routes once went right through the park I’m staying in.

Back at the campground, I was sitting outside reading a book, when a small gray and black painted bird came flying up.  His eyes were circled in black almost like mascara, and the wings had both black and grey streaks.  This tiny little bird hopped from one perch to the next, landing on the steps next to my chair.  Undeterred by his surroundings, he hopped onto my foot, then up to my book looking around, before flying off around the corner of my camper.   I think he was pretty new at this flying thing, as he seemed a bit unsteady in some of his moves.  The cutest darn bird I’ve ever seen.  Felt like I’d made a friend, even if it was only for fleeting moment.

I took that Hal Rogers Parkway, formerly a toll road and it’s only a two lane limited access road by the way.  But I must admit is was a most beautiful drive, wide shoulders, well maintained and what I’d rate a primo route for Rv’ers.  Unbelievable views of Kentucky high country, the Daniel Boone National Forest, large rounded hills and mountains sinking into deep narrow hollows so thick with green trees, well you just have to see it to believe it.  If I get a chance of course I’ll take some pictures, but along the parkway and hwy 80, there just weren’t any pull-outs to get one of those spectacular shots.

After setting up at the Jenny Wiley State Park, which I might add Kentucky has the most bizarre pricing structure for campsites I’ve ever seen.  Early week, mid week, weekend and holiday pricing along with  standard sites, deluxe and economy sites.  And each state park seems to have a different range of prices as well.  I rambled on a bit there and never got to the after setting up part.  Well, after setting up,  I headed over to Paintsville for a quick bite to eat and then headed out to Butcher Holler, home of Loretta Lynn and birthplace of Crystal Gale.

Loretta Lynn's family home in Butcher Holler

What a fun drive through Van Lear, heading deeper and deeper into each hollow, homes lining the floor of each steep valley.  Streams flowing through each.  The homes progressively getting older the deeper I traveled into each Hollow.  I could tell a number of them were built by mining companies as they all were identical in nature along with rusted out single wide trailers.  Finally a turn up a hill, past a country store and few more miles down the narrowest one lane road I’ve been on in a long time, (it was just paved a few years back) leading almost to the end of Butcher Holler, and there sat the original homestead where Loretta Lynn grew up.

Loretta’s brother usually gives the tours, but today I got one of the neighbors because Loretta’s brother had to go in for a Dr’s appt.  The family consisted of 6 children and Mom and Pop.  The father really was a coal miner and if you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend renting it.  Two main rooms, a kitchen and upstairs their was a attic bedroom for the boys.  What a strange feeling to be standing on the porch overlooking the holler (probably called that because you could holler from one end of the hollow to the other end).

Just to experience such humble beginnings of a great country legend.  Glad I took the time to come to this part of Kentucky.

Oh and Kentucky has over 11,000 elk.  They were re-introduced into the area in 1997 after an absence of over 150 years.  Going to show that some major improvements have been made to how we manage wildlife.
A positive sign that we can make changes for the better.

Here at Jenny Wiley State Resort, I’ve found a ton of activities to keep me busy. They have lots of activities for the kids and even some of us more senior people.  Today I had lunch at the main lodge, a really good buffet with catfish, fried chicken, cornbread salad (have you ever had it?)  a brown bean soup (yummy) lots of veggies and desert.  After lunch, I headed over to the Jenny Wiley Theatre for a live performance of the play, “The Dixie Swim Club”.  Imagine, theatre in the woods, who would have expected it.  The set design was easily the best I’ve seen anywhere.  Great performance.  The show followed 5 friends from their high school swim team to old age.  Funny, thought provoking, more fun and a bit misty eyed at the end.

Tomorrow I’ll be going on a pontoon ride around 5:30, but today, back at the campground I joined a small group of kids and adults for tie dying T-shirts.  What a blast.  I got my hippie on and relived a bit of the 50’s all over again.  Cool man, really cool.

I just found out that Summerset Ky is the home to 6 of the 7 major house boat builders in the country.  Imagine here on the eastern edge of Kentucky.  At the marina here in the park are house boats of every size and age including about a dozen in the $500 to $800K range.  With a number of the owners living only a few miles away, they drive down to the marina on weekends to tool around in their 100ft homes floating on the water.  Now that’s living at it’s finest.

I went on the pontoon ride, our boat captain being a just graduated from college young gal who is also steeped in the areas music heritage.  Her dad is an Elvis impersonator and her and her mom used to perform as the Judd’s.  Even met Wynona once, as well as Dwight Yoakum, he’s one of my favorites in the country music world.

And as if that wasn’t enough for one day, I went to the group campfire last night to here the story of Jenny Wiley, roast marshmallows on the open fire and made smores.  I like my marshmallows completely black.  What a fun way to end the day.

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