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Kentucky - Let's Explore

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Our 2nd destination on our Kentucky-Indiana itinerary was the Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, Kentucky where we spent two nights. You don’t have to suffer the deserts of the west to see beautiful sandstone formations. They can actually be found east of the Mississippi.


There are a few trails that will take you to the natural bridge and we took them all, and each was uniquely interesting.


Our first hike up the mountain was taken with a Nikon outfitted with a 600mm lens. Unfortunately that was not the lens for the trails as birds were scarce but the amazing landscapes and impressive rock formations were plentiful.


Upon return it was back to our hotel, swapping the lens for a wide-angle and a small light to take the photo above. The next day we re-hiked the trail with camera equipment better suited for the objective.


After our hike we opted for a late lunch at the “resort” where we could try some local cuisine. Every area has a regional dish. Kentucky has the “Hot Brown” (heart-attack on a plate); an open-faced sandwich with ham, turkey, a mélange of cheese, Mornay sauce (béchamel with more cheese), and tomato, topped with bacon, then toasted in the broiler and served hot.

Hot Brown on top and Veggie Burger with Onion Rings
Hot Brown on top and Veggie Burger with Onion Rings

Our next destination was Hopkinsville with a stop at the First Lincoln Memorial in Hodgenville along the way. Inside the memorial was a replica cabin from Lincoln's formative years.

After arriving in Hopkinsville, and checking into our hotel we headed towards Paducah, a once bustling, and newly rejuvenated port town on the Ohio River.


Following the great flood of 1937, a 12.5 mile flood wall was built to protect the city. The markings on this flood wall show how many feet the river rose during the floods of 1950, 1975, 1997 and 2011.

A quarter mile from the river there is a mark around 11 feet up on one of the buildings. Flood waters occasionally extended out ten miles. To say that the economy of Paducah is intimately tied to the river is somewhat of an understatement.


One of the more visually captivating images you will find along the highways and byways of Kentucky is the multitude of Eastern redbud trees. The sight of these trees in the spring is a reminder that the cities are really just a diversion from the beauty of the countryside.

On our first full day in Hopkinsville we went to the Land between the Lakes. This is a home where buffalo roam, or at least American bison and elk on the prairie grasses of the aptly named Elk and Bison Prairie.

Along with those larger four legged beasts, there were a variety of birds and an intriguing cloud formation. As it was the start of tornado season in this western part of the state, it seemed like a good idea to keep an eye on the sky now and then.

After a nondescript meal at a chain restaurant our first night in Hopkinsville, we decided to try an independently owned eatery in the downtown area. The establishment we chose, Mixer, was located in a converted warehouse with very high ceilings, great air circulation, and a nice open feel. The tables were spaced a distance apart, keeping with the times. The wait staff was professional and the food was perfectly prepared. Our waiter was decked out in a black and white checked shirt and matching mask. Nothing more fun than pandemic chic with a sense of humor. So glad we went there.


The Mixer,  a sleek, trendy restaurant in Hopkinsville.
The Mixer, a sleek, trendy restaurant in Hopkinsville.

Apologies for not getting a proper image of our dinner but the aroma stimulated my appetite and I could not resist eating the mouth-watering salmon and broccolini. As you can see my husband didn’t wait for a photo either.

Enjoying diner at the Mixer
Enjoying diner at the Mixer

The next day we went to Sloughs Wildlife Management Area, Henderson County, Kentucky to do some bird-watching. This is one of the hotspots on eBird which lists over 250 species for this area. Well, we didn’t see very many species, but we noticed flocks of Northern Cardinals everywhere. I guess that is why this redhead is Kentucky’s state bird.

The Sloughs are an expansive greenspace, almost 11,000 acres of wildlife preserve. Off the beaten path, it is a place for solitude and reflection. This wetland provides an escape from the overdeveloped concrete cities that many of us call home.

There are beautiful fields of purple in the Sloughs of Kentucky rivaling Provence, France.

Later the same day, we were off to Mahr Park Arboretum, Madisonville, Kentucky. This site is close to becoming a level 2 arboretum with approximately 75 species of woody plants, and prairie grasses along with ponds, and wildlife. While hilly, the paths are easily walkable and are handicap accessible. In case you’re curious, the levels just mean more species of trees. Unless you’re a botanist, you probably won’t notice but the significance is important to some.


We began our 9th day with a walk in the downtown area and the connected Little River Park where we saw...



After our walk in the park, and downtown we headed for Dawson Springs where we explored “The Waterfall Cave” and later “Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park”. Truth be told, we didn’t really explore the cave, as the walk down was too scary for me. So, from above, we watched a family with an infant and a four-year-old frolicking in the waterfall of the cave instead. In fairness, the four-year-old wasn’t carrying a camera.


At Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, we saw birds, bridges and trees and more...

The Eastern Redbud is my new favorite tree. I was really loving the splash of purple as I hiked through the woodlands in Kentucky. This tree is actually the State Tree of Oklahoma, which makes it sound like a pretty place to visit too.

The final day in the Hopkinsville area brought us to Henderson, the home of John Audubon, one of the world’s foremost ornithologists of all time. My husband did note that the birds he painted and classified did not always fare well after meeting Mr. Audubon.

Not only did we see the Ohio River and Sculpture in the park but some Street Art as well.


After a walk in the town, we went for a hike and self-guided bird walk at the John James Audubon State Park. This beautifully landscaped area had a variety of warblers flitting from tree to tree on the highest possible branches. We left with a severe case of Warbler neck. There were also a number of kinglets and towhees out and about. It's a pretty park with pretty little birds.




Next Destination - Indiana


Our next stay was in Corydon, Indiana


Unfortunately, Indiana lifted their mask mandate days before our arrival and with infection rates still soaring in April, half of our group was uncomfortable eating inside or shopping where social distancing and masks were not required. The other half said he was vaccinated for just this reason. He also pointed out that although Kentucky had a mandate, there was a mask shortage as the masks rarely reached the nose of the people wearing them. Nevertheless, we had take-out 3 of the 4 days before finding a restaurant with out-door dining. So, all was good. Happy trails.


Our first stop in Indiana was Hoosier National Forest and it rained. I had rain gear, waterproof hiking shoes and a plastic bag to protect my camera to a point. After struggling to keep my lens dry, I resorted to using my cell phone to capture the memories.

Walking in the Rain - photo by Stephan Skettini
Walking in the Rain - Buzzard's Roost - photo by Stephan Skettini

When at home, I would stay in but while traveling, a hike in the rain happens.


Oriole Trailhead - Hoosier National Forest
Oriole Trailhead - Hoosier National Forest

On our second day in Indiana we explored Corydon, Salem, Vallonia, Medora, and Delaney Creek Park. Corydon was the first state capital of Indiana.


The downtown area was really cute, and offered many eateries and boutique shops. Four days in Indiana and the Bistro was the only restaurant at which we ate out. Nice meal.

On to Salem, not where witches were burned at the stake, that’s in Massachusetts. The Indiana city of the same name also has a historic area and a downtown that circles the courthouse square. See what I did there? The story of the trials at this Salem didn’t make it to Broadway though.

When you are on a road trip, expect the unexpected. In that vein, it came as no surprise to find these guys running across the road in Brownstown, Indiana. The Guineafowl is common to Africa and is one of the oldest of the gallinaceous birds. They can now be found in the US on farms. They are great at eliminating pests such as mice, rats and the tick that causes Lyme disease. I think I want one as a guard bird.

As we continued our road-trip we came upon the small town of Vallonia, an 18th century French settlement and later a 19th century frontier town. Here we saw a café, a post office, a Little Free Library with Food, a bison statue, and a museum..

The Medora Covered bridge, built in 1875 by JJ Daniels, crosses the East Fork of the White River running parallel to State Road 235. Located in Carr township it is actually a mile from the town of Medora.

Arriving at Delaney Creek Park, we encountered trails with lush green grasses and more flowering Eastern redbud trees.

One of the locals noticed our cameras and suggested that we take a ride out to New Perkin, Indiana home to a pair of nesting eagles. The following day off we went to find them. The one I photo-captured mid-air had a lot to say.


New Perkin is home to a Guinness World Record: The largest Spoon Ensemble. In 2011, as evidenced by the sign in the photo below, there was a whole lotta spoonin’ goin ’on. It was a musical thing not, oh never mind.

After seeing the eagles and the spooning stadium, we headed to Deam Lake. Named after Charles Deam, Indiana’s first state forester, the lake has four hiking trails. We did all of them over the course of several hours and enjoyed most of our hike.

None of the trails were extremely difficult, but weather can make some areas challenging and it’s always wise to carry water. Yellow Horse Trail is the longest (about a 6-mile loop) and the only “multi-purpose” trail. This scenic hike is a complete circle around the lake and much of the property from which several other trails branch off.


Finally warm enough to be missing some layers
Finally warm enough to be missing some layers

Of course there is always that Monkey's wrench.....

Arghhhh ! Trail closed
Arghhhh ! Oh no…”you can’t get there from here.”

We hope this conveyed the idea that Kentucky is a great place for hiking, natural beauty, lively entertainment and definitely worth a visit. So to answer your question, “but why Kentucky?”, that’s why.


So, it was back to the New York area but I was still a tad apprehensive about air travel. My hope is that proof of vaccination and/or a negative Covid-19 test becomes a requirement for domestic travel. Covid-19 protocols on this flight were a little lax. As vaccination was not mandatory, and testing not required to get on the flight, a somewhat cavalier attitude towards masking was not unexpected. The plane was at capacity, a woman diagonally from me wore a gator that spent most of its time below her face, and the air vent above was not working. Nevertheless, I boarded prepared for anything.

Prepared
Prepared

Remember, just because you’re a little paranoid, doesn’t mean something’s not out to get you.


If you missed Part 1: Kentucky Here we Come


To see more photos of Kentucky


To see more photos of Indiana


What you might want to bring with you to Kentucky if you go in the spring

jeans

  • hiking pants

  • sweats

  • yoga pants

  • t-shirts

  • tank-tops

  • long-sleeve tops

  • a hoodie

  • a lightweight down vest

  • a fleece-lined raincoat

  • a light-weight rain-jacket

  • sneakers

  • waterproof hiking shoes

  • casual shoes

  • hiking socks

  • a first-aid kit


If you are a woman and have space in your luggage and want to blend a little, a pair of shoes with a heel


I hope you join us on our next adventure when we take a road trip to New England



Join us as we explore Mystic, Connecticut


In case you missed our previous Kentucky Blog: Kentucky Here we Come


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