Sunday, September 4, 2016

2016-27 Corbin Kentucky (continued) Duck houses, Trains and River Boat rides


young fawn in Grove Campground

Corbin Kentucky (Part II)

Campground:  Grove campground.  See previous report.

It’s nice to be able to stay in an area for more than a couple of days or week.  I’m in southern Kentucky for a second week giving me time to enjoy the local flavor as well as a super nice campground.  With extra time, I’m not trying to see and do everything all packed into one week.

Hawk over my campsite

So my second week in the area, I’m able to explore a bit more and my first stop would be in Hazard Kentucky.  Don’t you wonder how some of these places get there name.  Well Hazard is named in honor of  Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.  You see, a group of Long riflemen from this area jointed Perry in his victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.  The county is named Perry county.

construction, many stops along the way today

Now fortunately I had all day to take this trip.  I say that because I ended up being stopped or detoured by the Hal Rogers Parkway being closed in both directions.  Which gave me the chance to see the back country up close along those narrow roads often lined with a stream or brook gurgling alongside the road.  Old mobile homes with folks sitting on the front steps, shacks and a few nice homes well kept lining those narrow valleys along the way.  On the return trip I encountered two line painting crews which really slowed traffic, a tree cutting crew along those back roads and finally prisoners cutting grass along the country roads.  

In search of the unusual, the Mother Goose House

You can find Hazard along the Hal Rogers Parkway and though it’s a good hour and forty minutes drive to get there from where I’m staying, I had to go see the famous “Mother Goose House”.   The Goose House was started in 1935 and completed five years later in 1940.  The main goose building was where George Stacy and his wife lived.  Just below the goose were four rooms (now garage doors cover the area) that were part of the Bed and Breakfast operation along with a gas station.  It’s way off the beaten path so I recommend you use your GPS for directions.  I would never have found it without Ms. GPS telling me which road to turn onto.

I met the current 3rd generation family member running the place as a boutique filled with lots of local crafts for sale.  The gas station and B&B are closed now, but the goose stands proud above it all.

historic photos of the Goose house

A bit of local flavor:  Many of the men in this area chew tobacco.  Not a particularly appealing sport.  As they stick a lump of tobacco, chew on it while talking and regularly spit out the juice onto the ground where every they are standing.

gas station (pink door)  B&B originally where the garage doors are now

I have a few favorites when traveling around that never disappoint.  Boat rides and train rides.  Today I drove over to Stearns Kentucky to go on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway.  It has a number of elements that I think make it a top notch train ride.  Although it doesn’t have tons of spectacular scenic views along the 14 miles, there are enough to make it enjoyable.  From rough rock walls that had to be blasted out to make for a rail bed to lots of forests and deep ravines with a river below that follows the train route .  A cool dark tunnel, a small rail road town along the way with accommodations for overnight stays and a final stop at a historical National Park mining town called Blue Heron.

original town of Stearn's Kentucky

train storage bldg

simple rail passenger cars

views along the way

The sound of the steel wheels squealing and grinding against the rails as we descend 600 feet in elevation through lumber and coal country.  A gentle swaying movement of the rail cars, our windows and the back end of our car are open to the fresh air on this sunny fall day.  Today started out at 72 degrees and would eventually go up to 80.  Creating a perfect atmosphere for the days adventure.

Note:  If one of my readers (Tim Ramsdell?) knows what type of locomotive this is, let me know.  

views along the way

side tracks currently not in use

I was in the last car with the back wide open, great views

The final destination, Blue Heron coal mining settlement.  After the last of the mines closed in 1987 the vast land holdings became a part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Not much remains except the coal chutes that filled the train cars, the train tracks leading to the ghost town and the numerous foundations of the miners homes and buildings.  Still, the National Park system has done a good job to give a sense of what it was like to live and work in this remote mining town.  We were given an hour and a half to enjoy our box lunches and wander around the various sites, walk a short distance into the entrance of a coal mine, including being able to walk on the old rail bridge over the river below.  Awesome views of the rugged forested mountains that surround this park of Kentucky all provided the right elements to make it a great train ride.

first views of the coal mining town of Blue Heron

train engine, type??

skeletal recreations of the towns buildings/homes  

outlined on the foundations of the original homes

one of the coal mining entrances

the coal seam was only 57" and went down to 38", less than
was optimal for mining

the old rail bridge, now a walkway

coal separator and chutes

old rail bridge, now a great walk way over the river

displays of people who once lived here

Some history:  In 1902 Justus S. Stearns of Ludington Michigan purchased 30,000 acres of virgin forest here in Kentucky.  Soon after, coal was discovered in the area and he established the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company.  Stearns built the town of Stearns, a railroad, the first all electric sawmill and employed over 2,200 people to work the 18 coal and lumber camps he developed including Blue Heron which of course was the highlight of my train ride today.

Kind of interesting to have grown up in Michigan to find a connection right here in Kentucky.  A note to my niece Kelly, Stearns is home to the second oldest golf course in Kentucky.

My last adventure over the Labor Day weekend is a cruise on the Cumberland Star River Boat.  The cruise is along the Cumberland River.  Lunch included on the two and half hour cruise.

As if the weather was able to sense September had arrived, the temperatures dropped from the high 90’s down to 65-80.  Saturday brought clear blue sunny skies and I could hardly wait until our 12:30 departure aboard the Cumberland Star.  The trip up river would take us along a sometimes narrow channel with boulders dotting the sides of the river and rugged forests on both sides.  The three hulled boat flowed smoothly as we navigated the winding route.   I met a nice couple and one of the boat staff who shared some great stories along the way.  Our destination 10 miles upriver was the end of a rocky rapids run that would spill out a half a dozen large rafts that we would meet up with and take them back down river.  As we approached out destination, the captain had the boat tethered as he turned off the engines.  A still silence filled the air as the boat drifted in the slow current.  What a treat to be able to experience the river without the sound of engines running.  We sat and enjoyed the shade of the first floor seating area, looking out at the scenery and just enjoying the moment.

our buffet lunch would be served from the canoe table

top side seating, lots of sun

my favorite shot of the week

our stop waiting for the rafters to arrive

After the rafters all arrived and boarded the two levels of the boat, we took off back downriver and the serve yourself lunch was provided.  An orderly procession up to the canoe buffet line was accomplished by calling out each boat group and our passenger list in succession.  Very orderly and everyone got to help themselves to as much food and fixings as they wanted.  A great lunch time meal with lots of fresh deli meats, veggies and a fruit salad.

A totally pleasant way to spend a Labor Day weekend.  A Simple pleasure, well worth the short drive from the campground and back again.  Sometimes the simplest of adventures become the most memorable and rewarding.  This one was for me.


The Mother Goose House

The Big South Fork Scenic Railroad

Cumberland Star River Boat

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