Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Cumberland Gap

Total lunar eclipse

I was awake at 4:30, so I went out in the lodge parking lot in the pre-dawn and saw the full moon starting to eclipse. I went in and got Mary so she could watch the eclipse as well. We were pleased that the morning wasn’t cold at all even though we were a week into November. We decided the best place to watch the eclipse was from the back porch of the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park lodge. We enjoyed chatting with a lady from Michigan who was there early watching the eclipse as well. We stayed outside until after 5:30 and saw the moon become totally eclipsed and turned dark red. It was quite a sight. We were happy to see it since there will not be another total lunar eclipse until 2025.

Back at the room we had the breakfast we packed from home. The lodge’s restaurant was closed and there was no other place to eat nearby, so we were happy to have brought last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast with us. We had cold cereal with Greek yogurt along with fresh fruit.

Chained Rock

We checked out of the Cumberland Falls State Park lodge and drove toward Pine Mountain State Park where we planned to hike up to “Chained Rock” on the mountain over Pineville. Pine Mountain was Kentucky’s first state park, established in 1924. Early in the history of Pineville, parents told children that the rock perched on the hillside above the town was chained to prevent it from smashing into the town while they slept. The story grew over the years, so in 1933 a group in Pineville decided to actually put a large chain on the boulder. They used a 3,000-pound chain from a steam shovel that they hauled up the trail by mules in two trips. This was more of a publicity stunt than anything, attempting to attract visitors to the area. The stunt was a success, being reported in over 6,000 newspapers across the country and bringing visitors to the area nearly 90 years later. The trail to Chained Rock is a about .7 miles round trip and has some steep and narrow locations.

Chained Rock

From Pine Mountain State Park, we drove southeast to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. This pass through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky was used by Native Americans for centuries then carried pioneers and settlers westward across the mountains. Famously, Daniel Boone led groups of frontiersmen through this gap in the mountains.

After a brief stop at the ranger station entrance to the park, we drove up the mountain to the trailhead for the Pinnacle Overlook. The road leading to the trailhead was steep and curved, being nearly a continuous set of switchbacks up the mountain. We parked at the trailhead and walked on the handicapped accessible trail up to the Pinnacle with an elevation of 2440 feet. Upon reaching the Pinnacle Overlook, we were treated to a beautiful view.

Standing in three states

We returned to the car and drove to the trailhead for the Tri-State Marker, a 2.2-mile round trip trail to the point where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia come together. The trail starts easily on a wide gravel trail called the Object Lesson Road. Built in the 1920s, this section was designed to show the public as well as political figures that roads through the mountains were necessary and attainable.

As the trail to the Pinnacle Overlook continued, the path became narrower and steeper. However, the day was beautiful for early November, and we were happy for the walk. We passed several markers for the Wilderness Road, a trail blazed by Daniel Boone in 1775 from Ft. Chiswell, Virginia to the Cumberland Gap. The Wilderness Road was later extended from Cumberland Gap to the Falls of the Ohio River near present day Louisville. We also passed a large pyramid shaped marker honoring Daniel Boone that was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

We only saw a few other hikers on the trail, but we suspect that the area would be very busy during peak tourist seasons. There were two groups resting at the top once we arrived. We posed for a photo with our feet on the marker where the three states joined then started by down toward the car. The walk back down to the parking area was easier but just as nice. We ran into several visitors from Michigan as we walked but overall, very few were on the two-mile (up and back) trail.
1819 Iron Furnace

After returning to the car, we decided to make a brief stop to the 1819 iron smelting blast furnace nearby. We passed through the nearly one mile tunnel on Rt. 25E and quickly arrived at the over two-hundred-year-old sandstone iron furnace. We took a few pictures but were ready to be on our way since we wanted to be through Lexington before rush hour traffic.

A lunch stop at the Arby’s in Corbin for a very spicy Diablo chicken sandwich was just the thing. Back on I-75 north, we made a quick pit stop at Buc-ee’s at the Richmond exit then drove home by 5:30.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Cumberland Falls

We left home at 8:30 am and drove to Sam’s Club in Lexington to get a few things on our shopping list that we needed. Nothing was perishable or needed short term, but we thought that since we were passing through the area we may as well pick up things that are on the current sale.

It didn’t take long to get through Sam’s especially with the self-checkout app, and we took the short drive south on I-75 to Berea. We parked at the Kentucky Artisan Center first and walked around looking at the locally made furniture, clothing and crafts. We enjoyed walking through the exhibits and sales areas. It always reminds us of West Virginia’s Tamarack Center near Beckley. We drove into Berea’s Old Town since tourist season is over and the shuttle wasn’t running. We parked at the Berea Welcome Center in Old Town and walked around the college and shops in Berea’s historic section. We enjoy the abolitionist history of Berea College and the town. Berea continues to be a very diverse learning community, serving first generation college students across Appalachia. Although many of the artisan shops have changed since we last visited Berea, there were still many craftspeople in the small shops near the college.

Col. Steve with Col. Sanders

We continued south on I-75 to Corbin, Kentucky where we ate at the KFC that is near the location of Col. Harland Sanders’ original restaurant from 1937. This new site contains not only the restaurant but the Sanders CafĂ© and Museum, a collection of artifacts and memorabilia detailing the life of Col. Sanders and the history of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. We enjoyed our “Finger Lickin’ Good” meals and chatted with the friendly docents in the museum. The original restaurant from 1937 was in a service station across the street from the present building. That restaurant was destroyed by fire in 1939. Several buildings have housed the restaurant, all within a few yards of each other, but the current restaurant and museum was constructed in 1990. Harland Sanders was in the military but was given the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel by Governor Ruby Laffoon in 1935. He was later recommissioned by his friend, Governor Lawrence Weatherby in 1950.

We took a few snapshots then left the restaurant for Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. We stopped at a Walmart in Corbin to buy a turkey sub from the deli that we would have for dinner and items for our breakfast tomorrow. The restaurant at the resort is closed on Mondays so we planned ahead to bring food. Although it was only 1:30 when we arrived at the lodge, we were able to check into our room. Much of the lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s with the sandstone block construction so common in CCC buildings. We appeared to be in one of the original areas of the building.

Our room was small but comfortable and, to our surprise, had an adequate number of electrical outlets for charging our devices, electric toothbrushes and other electronics. After changing clothes, we decided to hike down to the falls from the lodge rather than driving to the falls parking area. Although the trail was only ½ mile, it was steep and narrow, so we made the walk slowly to get to the visitor center.

Double rainbow at Cumberland Falls

The recent dry weather throughout the area caused the volume of water in the Cumberland River to be lower than usual, but the falls were still pretty great. We thought that the self-described title of “Niagara of the South” to be something of an overstatement. The bright fall sun struck the mist rising from the waterfall causing a double rainbow over the river. We had hopes of seeing the moonbow during tonight’s full moon.

Eagle Falls

We walked across the river on the Rt. 90 bridge to the Eagle Falls Trailhead parking where we took the 1.5-mile trail to Eagle Falls. Unlike Cumberland Falls, Eagle Falls is a high narrow waterfall from a small stream down toward the Cumberland River. We met several other hikers along the way, took a few snapshots at the falls, then made the hike back up to the lodge where we showered and cleaned up before dinner.

Moonbow over Cumberland Falls

We enjoyed the sub sandwich from Walmart while we sat in our room in the lodge. Mary had packed some fruit and snacks as well. Around 7:30, not wanting to walk the steep path from the lodge to the falls in the dark, we drove to the parking area at Cumberland Falls. The full moon had risen, and we were pleased to see the moonbow clearly. The moonbow didn’t show a color spectrum like the rainbow earlier in the day, and it was not as bright. However, we could clearly see the arc over the falls. Many people were lining the railing to see the moonbow, but we still had a decent view. A couple standing in front of us needed to walk to the restrooms and asked us to hold their prime viewing place which we were happy to do. By the time they returned, we were ready to drive back up the hill to our room. We planned to get up early on Tuesday morning to see the full lunar eclipse, so we wanted to get to bed early. When I looked at my Fitbit, I wasn’t surprised to see that I had walked over 12 miles today.