In the autumn of 2012, the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was alive with burnt orange hues, festive yellows and magnificent reds. Fall was in the air and I wanted to experience it in the midst of lush Bluegrass meadows. As the largest restored Shaker community in the United States, it boasts 34 restored structures on 2,900 acres, including serene pastures and hardwood forests.
The short hike to Buzzardroost Rock at the Edge of Appalachia in Adams County, Ohio is generally uneventful. It consists of a brisk walk along the base of a hill, the crossing of Easter Run, a brief scramble up and some meandering along the ridge tops to a breathtaking view of the Ohio Brush Creek valley. On a good afternoon, a round-trip hike would take three hours or less to complete. In the dead of winter, after a heavy snowfall with more than one-foot of fresh powder on the ground – that same walk could be easily exaggerated.
And that’s what happened. The one-foot of snow at the base turned into two- to three-foot drifts at the peak, leading to some very tiresome dredging but the quiet and serene views at Buzzardroost Rock was worth it.
Needing a destination for the first warm weekend in spring? Check out the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a 75-mile rail-to-trail that connects Newtown to Springfield, Ohio. The longest single trail in the Miami Valley and the fourth longest paved rail trail in the United States, the Little Miami connects to two state parks, John Bryan and Caesar Creek, the Glen Halen Nature Preserve, Fort Ancient State Historic Site, and countless put-in sites for kayaks and canoes for the adjoining Little Miami River, a National Wild and Scenic River. The trail is open to hikers, bicyclists and by horseback.
Along the way, the Little Miami Scenic Trail winds through the small town of Loveland, home to bustling bicycle and running shops, family-run bakeries and wood-fired pizza eateries, ice cream parlors in Morrow and at Young’s Jersey Dairy north of Xenia, and the eccentric Yellow Springs, best known for its hippies and unique boutiques. The trail provides connections to the four trails at Xenia Station in Xenia: the Creekside Trail, Xenia-Jamestown Connector, Ohio-to-Erie Trail and the Simon Kenton Trail.
Cass Scenic Railroad is a West Virginia state park that offers excursion rides on steam-driven Shay locomotives to the top of mountains, tours of the restored company town of Cass and lodging at unique vacation cottages in the former residences. Other attractions include a diorama of the town of Cass at its peak, the local Last Run Restaurant, historical museum and behind-the-scene locomotive shop tours. Read More
The Knobs stretches for nearly 80 miles along the fringe of the Appalachian Mountains and represent some of the most diverse landscapes in Kentucky. Unbroken and unmolested, the Knobs consist of rounded, forested hills, conical in shape, many with overlooks of the surrounding valleys and farmlands.
One of the best places to take in the Knobs is at Berea College’s own forest. Read More
Southern Kentucky has more waterfalls than any other region of the commonwealth, and the region near Cumberland Falls State Resort Park near Corbin contains quite a few of them. The centerpiece, referred to as the “Niagara Falls” of the south, is the 60-foot high Cumberland Falls, where the Cumberland River crashes over amongst smooth boulders. The waterfalls is one of two places in the world where a moonbow, or a rainbow that occurs at night due to the reflection of the mist with a full moon, is known to exist. Visit Kentucky State Park’s website for Cumberland Falls for moonbow dates.
The Falls of Hills Creek scenic area in the Monongahela National Forest deep within West Virginia is one of the state’s crown jewels. And it’s one of the hardest to photograph due to the water flow that can wane or gush seemingly on the hour. Three magnificent waterfalls are fed by Hills Creek and are accessible via a steep descent down via a 1.5-mile trail.
For much of the length, the trail down is nestled within thickets of rhododendron and mountain laurel. In addition, wildflowers carpet the ground in the spring. The first part of the trail is 1,700-feet long and is handicap accessible to the Upper Falls overlook. Just 25-feet high, it is best viewed from some creek walking further downstream.
Several years ago, I visited one of Kentucky’s best kept secrets. The State Nature Preserves Commission maintains quite a few nature preserves, many of which are open to the public. Most are not visited all that frequently due to their remoteness, lack of roadway signage and advertisement. Which isn’t a bad consequence. Most preserves feature small gravel lots for parking and all are undeveloped with no facilities. They are not for the family picnics, but those who seek out solitude. They preserve the natural heritage of the state and represent some of the best natural features of the Commonwealth.
Bad Branch Falls is one of those spectacular hideaways, located deep within Letcher County. It includes Bad Branch Gorge, a 60-foot waterfall that tumbles down over a sandstone cliff on the south face of Pine Mountain, Bad Branch, a Kentucky Wild and Scenic River, and an overlook along the mountain crest at around 3,000 feet in elevation. What began as a small 435-acre preserve has grown to over 2,600 acres, and protects numerous rare flora.
Bee Rock Recreation Area sprawls along the banks of the Rockcastle River, a Kentucky Wild and Scenic River. Located a short distance from Cumberland Falls and Big South Fork National Recreation Area, Bee Rock is known for being located along The Narrows – a narrow and fast-moving section of the Rockcastle that features towering limestone cliffs, mammoth boulders and challenging rapids.
Nuttallburg, West Virginia is a ghost town along the New River in the New River Gorge National River, and was once owned by Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company. Developed by John Nuttall in 1870, Nuttallburg was built upon pure speculation, as Nuttall had eyed the promised coal seams in the valley for several years. When the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway was completed through the region in 1873, Nuttall’s town became the second mining camp in the deep river valley to ship “smokeless” coal.
Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company acquired the mines in 1920 with the belief that by owning the mines, railroads and steel mills that serviced his plants, costs could be contained. The investments by Ford paid off with dramatically higher coal production. But Ford’s plan began to fall apart when he could not contain all of the costs of shipping the coal to his Michigan mills and factories from West Virginia, and in 1928, he sold off the mines.
Coal production ceased in 1958, and only a few years ago – after 50 years of abandonment, the tipple, conveyor and headhouse were stabilized and partially restored. It is today maintained by the New River Gorge National River, a national park.