The Year in Travel – 2021 (Long post – may take a minute to load)

What an interesting year 2021 turned out to be for me.  I started out the year with dreams of a road trip down the Florida panhandle to the southernmost point, but it didn’t pan out. With COVID on the rampage, there were limitations and I didn’t want to risk getting out too much.  But, I was also very heavily engaged in doing support driving for the Sheltowee Trace Association and my wife and daughter who participated in the 2021 STA Hiking Challenge, hiking sections of the 343 mile trail each month.  This took up a great deal of my time and ended up becoming the theme of my fifth Less Beaten Paths book, which was published on November 30 (see the bottom of this post for more details).  I drove many miles on gravel and forest service roads.

Happy New Honda Day – we really needed a new vehicle!

The Year in Travel 2021

The year also saw the demise of our trusty 2005 Honda Odyssey van and introduced our much newer 2015 Honda Odyssey van, which we purchased in late January (1/20/21) in Nashville.  It was really nice to have a much newer vehicle to haul equipment and travel all over the place in.

Despite all of that, I did manage to get out for a bit of travel into Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  According to Google Maps, which I have tracking all of my travel, I drove over 17,000 miles in 2021, much of which, I am sure, was related to Sheltowee Trace travel.

Over 17,000 Miles in 2021

Hikers all beginning at the Burnt Mill Bridge in Big South Fork. Marissa and Julianne in the middle front.

Big South Fork NRRA near Oneida, TN

My first travel of the year was down to the Burnt Mill Bridge in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in North Central Tennessee, where Julianne and Marissa would begin their Sheltowee Trace adventure.  We would make a few trips down there during the course of the year.  On January 15 it was a nice, but cold day.  But on January 16 it snowed quite a bit as they hiked.  I enjoyed the warmth of my car, but really was able to capture some beautiful scenes from the road.  We returned back down to Big South Fork on January 23 for a second section of the hike.  It provided me a good opportunity to explore some of the surrounding area including the lovely Pickett State Park near Oneida, Tennessee.

Snowy roads in Big South Fork

Leatherwood Crossing in Big South Fork, January 2021

O & W Road

Part of this first hike had the hikers crossing over the old O & W Railroad Bridge in the middle of the Big South Fork Park. From the Burnt Mill Bridge to the O & W Bridge is 45 minute drive along over 22 miles of winding roads through the main part of the Big South Fork, then through Helenwood, and then on ten miles of gravel road. And in the winter  with snow it takes even longer.  I really wasn’t sure I would make it all the way to bridge.  It was quite an adventure and the narrow road went through some interesting chasms and along a creek and then to the river.  But, I wanted to be there to meet the hikers and see the scenery.  I did make it and it was fun scene as they crossed the bridge in the snow.  And the river from the bridge was beautiful. This is a great place to visit even if you are not hiking!

A tight squeeze on O & W Road

A narrow gravel road — O & W Road

O & W Bridge over the Big South Fork River

Big South Fork River as seen from O & W Bridge

Hikers make their way across the snowy O & W Bridge

Hidden Passage Loop

We traveled south again in mid-February only to be barraged by a major snowstorm, which ultimately canceled the STA hike.  But, we down in Tennessee, so we took advantage.  We stayed in Jamestown, Tennessee and Julianne, Marissa and their friend Sharon took a nice winter hike in Pickett State Park on the Hidden Passage Loop.  While they trudged through the snow, I took to the road to enjoy the magical beauty of the snow.  I made my way to Pall Mall, Tennessee and on to Static, Kentucky via US 127 from Pickett.

Road to Static, Kentucky

Only store in Static, Kentucky…so probably is the coldest beer!

Pall Mall, Tennessee

Forbus General Store

It was in Pall Mall that I came across the Forbus General Store, one of a few really old general stores.  They made breakfast, so I took full advantage.  Forbus General Store was built in 1892 by W.M. Johnson, who operated it until his death in 1941. These old general stores have all sorts of fun items, unique old-timey candies, homemade fudge and that good ole’ breakfast.

After breakfast, I took a little time to meander around the store as it was really cold outside.  The wooden floors, the big wood burning stove and all of the other stuff really added to the ambiance of this place.

Forbus General Store in Pall Mall, TN

Breakfast at Forbus. Gotta have the biscuits and gravy

The Big Wood Burning Stove at Forbus

After Static and Forbus, I made my way back down US 127 past the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park and then on to Pickett State Park on TN 154. The sky was clear and blue and the trees and landscape were a crystal white.  It was a splendid drive!

Waterfalls at the Sgt. York State Park

A snowy scene on US 127 in Tennessee

TN 154 was a black stripe walled by ice-laden trees

Jordan Motel, Jamestown, TN

We once again headed to Big South Fork on March 5 as Julianne had more hiking.  For this trip we stayed in Jamestown at the Jordan Motel.  There aren’t many motels in the area, but I was very happy with this locally owned and operated motel.  Clean rooms, friendly owners and decent prices. During the course of the year I stayed there four times.

While they were out hiking, I took a trip over to the R.M. Brooks General Store, had breakfast and enjoyed yet another old General Store.

R.M. Brooks General Store

A look inside the R.M. Brooks General Store

Like the Forbus, the R.M. Brooks General Store is an oldie but a goody. It too has the old wooden floors, a big wood burning stove and a place to serve food. In Fact, they are famous throughout Tennessee for their grilled baloney sandwich, which I had on this visit.  Really yummy!

Famous Grilled Baloney Sandwich

Welcome to Rugby

After my visit I zipped over to the nearby historic town of Rugby. This is a fun little place set up as an old Victorian-style village.  Nowadays it has gift shops, a museum and a few places to eat and lodge.

The village was founded in 1880 by British author Thomas Hughes. In 1966 Historic Rugby, Inc. was established to preserve, protect and interpret the man-made and natural historic resources and heritage of the British Isles and of Appalachia.

Today visitors can see unique shops and the nice Victoria-era architecture throughout the Village.

Rugby Visitor Center

Rugby Church

I love this sign in Rugby!

Their hike ultimately took them into Kentucky so I visited more of the Big South Fork on the Kentucky side including the beautiful crossing at Yamacraw.

Charit Creek Lodge (photo by Marissa Noe)

Charit Creek Lodge (photo by Marissa Noe)

Gregg White from Charit Creek Lodge

A week later we were once again heading to Big South Fork as Julianne’s sisters visited.  They hiked down to the Charit Creek Lodge and spent the night.  I again stayed at the Jordan Motel in Jamestown while they enjoyed their visit to the rustic lodge that has no road access.  For hikers, Charit Creek Lodge provides a unique way to experience the beauty and serenity of Big South Fork.  To get there, we had to drive from Lexington and then they had a 1.1 mile hike down. The Lodge provided the meals and beds.   No cell service or electricity in the buildings that may be some of the oldest in the National Park Service. After they had hiked out, I got to meet the proprietor Gregg White (since I was not able to hike down there.)

Julianne and Marissa at Double Arch in Big South Fork

Sunrise as seen from my motel room in Jamestown, Tennessee

 

After a splendid sunrise south of Jamestown on March 14, I was back on the road to meet the gang.  A few other family members came down to join them on their hike to the impressive Double Arches in the park.  For me it was just another drive down Divide Road…a long well-maintained gravel road.

Driving into sunrise on the road to Rugby (TN 296)

I’ve been Thunderstruck!

The very next weekend we were off on another hiking adventure as Julianne and Marissa hiked through the woods and eventually would make their way to Cumberland Falls State Park with about a dozen other challenge hikers.  I liked this portion because I got a great shot at Thunderstruck Road.

The waters were high with all of the snow melt.  I was able to grab some nice shots of the Edward M. Gatliff Memorial Bridge, also just known as the Cumberland Falls Bridge.  The bridge has a sandstone facing and spans about 500 feet over the lovely Cumberland River, just a few hundred yards from the falls.

Remember Wink Soda? Saw this on KY Hwy 1363

Another fun sight on KY Hwy 1363

Following the hikers on KY 700 south of Thunderstruck Road.

Scenic Gatliff Memorial Bridge at Cumberland Falls on KY 90

Visiting grandson Rockwell in Liberty Township, OH

At the end of March we ventured north, instead of south, and made our way up to Liberty Township, Ohio, just a few miles northwest of Cincinnati.  This was for a visit to watch our grandsons play ball and visit our son Seth and his family. It was a quick on-day turnaround trip and, sadly, there was not much time to get out and get any fun photos.

On April 15 we were again off to the Sheltowee Trace and Big South Fork to make up the hike that was canceled due to heavy snow.  Much of my time was on the back roads and dirt roads.  By this time flowers were beginning to blossom on the trees and the wildflowers were beginning to show. Spring colors are always wonderful this time of year, especially in Kentucky and Tennessee. I had the opportunity to stay overnight in the old railroad town of Stearns, Kentucky on this particular trip. They camped at the Blue Heron Campground and I stayed overnight in Stearns.

Welcome to Stearns KY

Marissa and Julianne setting up camp at Blue Heron

Wagon Arch can be seen off of Hwy 742 just before entrance to the Blue Heron Campground

Blue Heron Mining Camp

On April 17 I made a visit to the old Blue Heron Mining Camp on the Big South Fork.  This historical setting features a very scenic bridge. The Blue Heron Bridge was used to carry coal mine cars across the river.  The Blue Heron Mining Camp was opened by Stearns Coal & Lumber Company in 1937 and was in operation until the end of 1982. This huge Baltimore Deck Truss bridge spans a total of 676 feel with a 244 foot span across the river.  It is now used as a walking bridge for tourists and hikers.  The adjacent mining camp was recreated by the National Park Service in 1989 for visitors to get a glimpse of what it was like there.

Blue Heron Bridge

Flowering trees add color on Hwy 742

Trillium were in bloom everywhere the day of our visit

Hammock Web

Driving on the forest service roads always seems to provide me ample opportunity to see new and unique things. Such was the case on one of the roads near Stearns.  I saw fields of web-covered plants.  Unlike the large round spider webs typically seen, these appeared to be more like hammocks. Sometimes called “Hammock Webs,”, the actual name is “Sheet Web.” These webs act like a deadly hammock, crafted as a dense mass of threads with a maze of crisscrossing trip threads strung above the sheet. When an insect flies into one of these threads, it’s knocked off course into the net below where the spider lies in wait.  It was fascinating to see these unique webs on hundreds of plants along the road.

Hammock Webs

May once again took us south to continue the Sheltowee.  Now in Kentucky, Julianne and Marissa were beginning the very scenic and somewhat rugged sections through the heart of Kentucky. While they hiked from Cumberland Falls, I  used my time to explore the Mount Vernon area and its lovely small Lake Linville. Flowers were everywhere.  My adventure also took me into Livingston, Kentucky on the Wilderness Road that was blazed by Daniel Boone.  This small Kentucky Trail Town is home to the Sheltowee Trace Association Headquarters.  The town features a huge turtle mural and some of those fun mileage signs, including a sign pointing to Livingston, Montana near my old stomping grounds of Bozeman.

Welcome to Mount Vernon

The big Livingston, KY Mural

Morning at Lake Linville near Mt Vernon, KY

A fun warning sign on a gate near Lake Linville

Lovely spring pastoral scene from KY Hwy 1326 near Brodhead KY

On the morning of May 15, I was blessed with a sensational sunrise over Laurel Lake near London, Kentucky.  Nature ALWAYS provides the best art and it always changes. After enjoying the sunrise, I was back on the road to meet the hikers and grab gear.  Wildflowers were everywhere, many of which I had never seen before. The three-day, two-night weekend was one of the more perfect weekends of 2021 in my opinion.

Sunrise May 15, 2021 at Laurel Lake

Lovely Little Red Wildflowers

Lyreleaf Sage was in abundance

Another unique flower seen on a back road

The next weekend we ventured south near Laurel Lake for Julianne and Marissa to make up a few miles on the hike.  This was my first time to ever see the famed Mountain Laurel (also called Calico-bush and Spoonwood).  What an amazing flowering plant! The flowers are hexagonal, sometimes appearing to be pentagonal, ranging from light pink to white, and occur in clusters. There are several named cultivars that have darker shades of pink, red and maroon. It blooms in May and June. All parts of the plant are poisonous. The roots are fibrous and matted. Interestingly, even the pollen and the honey produced by bees are all toxic to many mammals, including humans.  But the flowers themselves are really decorative.

Mountain Laurel

The last weekend of May provided another Sheltowee trip.  By now the hikers were in the southern region of central Kentucky.  This was my first visit to the historic Camp Wildcat Battlefield, way up on a hill in Laurel County.  The Battle of Camp Wildcat was one of the early engagements of the American Civil War. It occurred October 21, 1861 during the campaign known as the Kentucky Confederate Offensive or Operations in Eastern Kentucky.  The site now has a nice history display under a covered roof and features numerous panels that lay out the history of the battle.  It is managed by the Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation. One can really spend almost all of their travel time visiting Civil War monuments in the southeast, many of which are in Kentucky.

The Road to Camp Wildcat

Camp Wildcat Display

One of many Camp Wildcat history placards

A scene from Camp Wildcat

On June 4, Julianne made her first trail construction trip to help work on clearing and working on a new southern section of the Sheltowee Trace.  We drove down to Rugby, Tennessee for this and once again got to visit the R.M. Brooks General Store.  I once again got to get some good food. This time I tried their grilled cheese sandwiches made with their homemade Wheel Cheese. I spent a bit more time in Rugby as more things were open.

Julianne in her Trail Crew Shirt at R.M. Brooks

R.M. Brooks Grilled Cheese

R.M. Brooks Wheel Cheese. It is so good

TN Hwy 52 near Alpine, TN

A unique storefront in Alpine TN

British Union Jack in Rugby, TN

Old Man in Rugby, TN

Standing at the Sheltowee crossing at Pond Ridge Road

We didn’t travel for a couple of weeks, but, on June 18 were again on the trail, this time near London, Kentucky, where they joined many other hikers.  I spent most of the day on gravel Forest Service Roads to meet the hikers.  It was actually a great opportunity because I got to see two arches right on the side of the road. They were hiking through the Cane Creek Wildlife Area a good part of the day. It is a 6,691-acre area dedicated to provide sustainable populations of wildlife.  I even saw a young Cooper’s Hawk in the trees, which is always a treat.

Heading to Cane Creek Wildlife Management area near London, KY

Pond Ridge Road in Cane Creek Wildlife Management Area

One of two arches that can be seen near the road

The Second Arch, just about 50 feet from the first one

Cooper’s Hawk encounter in the forest

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly seen in the forest

On July 9 we took a break from hiking and, instead, rented a boat and spent a day at Lake Laurel and Holly Bay Marina.  This was a fun adventure for family.  And it was fun to drive a boat instead of the van. Holly Bay rents various sizes of boats and we got one that could hold ten people.  We basically spent all day on the lake…a first for us in many years.  Being on the lake was a wonderful escape from all of the road travel.  It was so enjoyable to spend time with family, enjoy the warm weather and take in the lovely lakescapes on this “daycation.”

Acting like the captain…at least for the moment

Family enjoying a swim on a small island in Laurel Lake.

Well…by this time I was wishing No Wake for me. A nap would have been nice.

A typical scene on Laurel Lake

Enjoying the ride on the lake

Big Turtle Trailhead in McKee, KY

The next weekend the hikers were at it again, trudging through the Daniel Boone National Forest from Camp Wildcat to McKee, Kentucky.  I was happy to be on many back roads to enjoy the luscious pastoral scenery along the Rockcastle River. Julianne and Marissa rode their bikes on many of these back roads to speed up the hike.

Much of this trip was actually on narrow paved backroads as they came down off of Wildcat Mountain and headed northeast.  For me, it was a fun and kind of unique roundabout way to get places since there weren’t as many through roads.  Once they were done hiking, I was able to pick them up and move on to the biking roads.  They rode on KY Hwy 490, crossed the Rockcastle River and then headed on KY 89, which is a rough paved road that meanders its way along the river where they would eventually cut off to the S-Tree Campground.

A selfie with the Sheltowee Hikers at Camp Wildcat

Wildcat Trail Road in Laurel County, KY

Julianne pedaling away on KY Hwy 89

Bridge over the Rockcastle River where KY Hwy 490 meets KY Hwy 89

The Rockcastle River as seen from the 490 Bridge

An old wooden bridge along the way

Keeping the “Daycation” theme alive for 2021, on July 24 I took a short day trip to Paris, Kentucky.  There is a lovely farm, Stepping Stone Farm in Cynthiana, that grows sunflowers…fields of them…and welcomes visitors to take pictures.  I try to make a trip out there each year. After a visit to the sunflowers, I went into Paris to see the new Eiffel Tower replica in town.  This was really new, so I wanted to make sure to get photos to pass on to my friends at Roadside America.

 

Sunflowers at Stepping Stone Farm in Cynthiana, KY

A bee does his work on a sunflower

Downtown Paris, KY

The new Paris, KY Eiffel Tower

One of many murals in Paris

Welcome to Paris Mural

The Bourbon County Courthouse is a beauty

Sign at Wood Creek Lake

The next weekend it was back on the trail. This time it was near Swiss Colony, Kentucky near London to do some makeup hiking and biking.  While they hiked, I made my first visit to another small lake called Wood Creek Lake.  There is a road that follows the lake and it was fun to see what folks have done with their lakeside properties on this road.

Swiss Colony, Kentucky

Wood Creek Lake near London, KY

Another shot of scenic Wood Creek Lake

Be careful -seen on a property by Wood Creek Lake

Some people have a long walk down to the lake

Fishing is the big thing at Wood Creek Lake, even for old folks

Dirt road KY 909 near I-75 Exit 49

Saw this lovely butterfly on the road while following the bikers

Julianne and Marissa biking on KY 909

Bobber Malone – A Big Twig in Muhlenberg County

In August, I was invited to visit Muhlenberg County by their tourism department.  I wrote a number of posts about the visit, but I was really excited to visit their “Big Twigs,” as well as the Music Museum and even a visit to Paradise.  You can see my posts starting with this one: https://lessbeatenpaths.com/2021/08/apple-house-mercantile/

On August 27 I took Marissa and Julianne back down to McKee, Kentucky.  They would hike near Turkey Foot Campground and then ride their bikes to Heidelberg, Kentucky, a small former railroad community along the Kentucky River.  I got one of my best scenery photos ever while down there.  We returned to Lexington for the night and went back down on the 28th.  I dropped them off at the trail and then went down one of the forest service roads.  The sun beamed through the trees making for some wonderful morning scenes.  And, due to fog, there were hundreds of big spider webs everywhere.  It was lovely.

Sunbeams on Turkey Foot Road near McKee, KY

Turkey Foot Road

A mural seen near Big Sturgeon Creek in central Kentucky

Saw this house on KY 399 near Yellow Rock, KY

A Welcome Bike on the friendly Hwy 399

Verdant scene near Cressmont, KY

Welcome to Heidelberg, KY

Waterfall at Kentucky River Lock and Dam 14 in Heidelberg

Scenic shot of Heidelberg Bridge that crosses over the Kentucky River. This is on KY 399

 

Prestonsburg Passage

On September 11, Julianne and I took a small daycation down to Prestonsburg, Kentucky.  She would ride the Prestonsburg Passage bike trail while I drive around.  I had never been to this nice town in southeast Kentucky.  And, joy of all joys to me, I even visited the small community of David, Kentucky, which I didn’t know was a place until this day!! This day offered up many other touristy places for me, including a small replica statue of the Lincoln Memorial and a newly built bridge on the bike trail that was built from a school bus. And, of course, there were murals too.

Welcome to David, KY

A creek bridge built out of a school bus on the Prestonsburg Trail near David, KY

Welcome to Prestonsburg, KY

A young buck in the forest near McKee, KY

September 24 weekend was another Sheltowee adventure. The backwoods from McKee to Natural Bridge offered up views of a young buck and unusual fungi, among other things. Julianne and Marissa biked on some pretty rough dirt roads on the trip for the first couple of days. Lots of hikers were out, so I was also busy providing support. By the end of the weekend they were getting close to Natural Bridge State Park in the heart of Kentucky and on the fringes of the world famous Red River Gorge.  After their hike finished at Pinch ‘Em Tight trailhead near the Red River Gorge, we went back into Slade and joined my son Solomon at the famed Miguel’s Pizza.  It was my first time to eat there. Nearly 100 different options were available!!  How fun it was.

 

A lovely sunrise happened on KY 52 near Ravenna on our first morning.

A monarch landed on some bright red leaves in the forest near McKee. The contrast was striking

A strange fungus/mushroom thingy on a tree

Julianne officially completed the entire trail at this point, from after a knee injury in 2020.

Julianne and Marissa on a dirt road on Day 2

And look who they ran into!! Hikers and bikers together

Hikers all met up on a suspension bridge in Natural Bridge State Park

Hanging with Solomon at Miguel’s Pizza in Slade, KY

Pizza anyone?

The next weekend, October 1, was the big drop at Red River Gorge. While all the hikers made their through this beautiful arch and waterfall-filled area, I took my time revisiting the Nada Tunnel, and a few other places. I have frequented the Red River Gorge and really love the natural scenes.

On the way out of town we had an amazing sunrise in Lexington.

All of the hikers ready for their two days in Red River Gorge. This was at Pinch ‘Em Tight

Nada Tunnel Road (KY 77) near Slade, KY

A drive through the single lane Nada Tunnel

Morning in Red River Gorge

Fall Colors along Tunnel Ridge Road in Red River Gorge

The Bridge over the Red River in the heart of Red River Gorge on KY 77

Menifee County Courthouse in Frenchburg, KY at sunrise

I drove back down from Lexington on October 2 and drove east into a beautiful sunrise. By the time I reached Frenchburg, Kentucky I was able to capture a wonderful shot with the small county courthouse. I soon met the hikers at the Corner Ridge Trailhead, which exits the gorge on the eastern end.  While they hiked and biked, I visited Korea, Kentucky and saw a few other unique places along the way.  Seems like there is always something to see on the back roads!

 

Old Barn in Suddith, KY

Red Barn on KY 613

Sunrise near Mt. Sterling on KY 686

Sunrise on KY 77 near Corner Ridge Trailhead on the northern exit from Red River Gorge

The only sign that lets you know you are Korea, KY on KY 1693

Swamp Valley Antiques looked like a funky place to visit in Denniston, KY

Clear Creek Market in Salt Lick, KY

Day three of the weekend saw the hikers making their way to the end of the month’s hike, finishing at Clear Creek Campground.  I drove from Lexington again for this.  After stopping at the Clear Creek Market for a wonderful breakfast, I made my way to the campground to wait for the hikers. The lake had fall foliage around it, for a lovely scene. And then I visited the historic Clear Creek Iron Furnace, just near the parking lot.

 

 

Clear Creek Market makes a killer breakfast!

The old Clear Creek Furnace was at the end of the weekend hike

Sumoflam at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

After returning home on the evening of October 3 and a good night’s rest, Julianne were on a real road trip heading to Canonsburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to visit her sister and family.  October 4, our travel day, was my 65th birthday.  This made for a very fun birthday trip as we visited some very unique and quirky places in Pittsburgh, including the beautiful Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens near the University of Pittsburgh. I plan to do a more detailed blog post about this place in the future.

The lovely Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Some very colorful flowers in Phipps

There were little and big trolls in the gardens all over Phipps

Julianne and her brother and sister and one other

Big guy in the big chair

Some of artist Dale Chihuly’s amazing glass art

The Cathedral of Learning at University of Pittsburgh. Its 42 stories and the tallest Educational Building in the Western Hemisphere! This is seen from the Conservatory Parking Lot

Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh

We also made the trip up Mount Washington for the views of the city.  But the fun really started when we got to Bicycle Heaven, a funky museum chock full of all sorts of bikes and other kitschy and whimsical things.  Bicycle Heaven was started and branded in 1996. Starting with one discarded bike that founder Craig Morrow found in the junk. Doing repairs and selling used bikes and collecting vintage Antique and collectible bikes with over 3000 bikes and now has over 3000 of them scattered in garages through out the Bellevue area of Pittsburgh. The museum was founded in 2011 and they claim to be the world’s largest bicycle museum.

Canton Ave. – The Steepest Road in the U.S. – on Mount Washington

Monongahela Incline going up to Mount Washington in Pittsburgh.

Downtown Pittsburgh

Crossing one of Pittsburgh’s Bridges

One of the many tunnels in Pittsburgh

Inside Bicycle Heaven — more around the corner and even more upstairs!

Bicycle Heaven mural

Bicycle Heaven Restroom

A Mural outside of Johnny Angel’s Music Experience near Bicycle Heaven

Randyland in Pittsburgh

We next ventured a couple of miles to the nearby Randyland.  What a fun and quirky attraction. Randyland is yet another “museum,” but it is more of a collection of whimsical and strange “outsider” art work gathered together and often created by owner Randy Gilson.  According to a Wikipedia article, it is widely regarded as one of America’s most colorful public art landmarks. The museum is dedicated to Randy’s therapy which involves painting and taking care of the grounds at Randyland. Gilson likes dumpster diving and upcycling to fill his home with colorful oddities that include pink flamingos, mannequins, and plastic dinosaurs. The houses and fences are adorned with murals depicting neighbors dancing and smiling. The colors are truly eye-candy!

Randyland Building

Hanging out in the backyard of Randyland

Outside Art – painted heads

Randy of Randyland

Pigs and Flamingos at Randyland

 

Montour Trail – Coraopolis, PA

The next day, while Julianne and her sister rode 15 miles on the Montour Trail (a famed Rails to Trail bike trail), I meandered over to Presto, Pennsylvania.  Though nothing fancy, the name itself was magical to me.

The Montour Trail is over 47 miles long, but actually connects to another trail that one can ride their bike all the way to Washington D.C. Eventually, there are plans to extend the trail westward and connect to trails such that one can actually ride their bike across the entire United States on Rail Trails.  That will be amazing once it is completed.

Muse, Pennsylvania Fire Department Sign

Presto, Pennsylvania Fire Department

Fort Pitt Ale Mural in Presto, PA

Road to Zilpo

October 23 started a new weekend of hiking for the gang.  They started a Clear Creek, which was now in full fall color mode.  They would hike all the way to Morehead, Kentucky on this weekend. While they did this, I drive up the scenic Zilpo Road which offered splendid views of Cave Run Lake.  I also visited the Minor E. Clark fish hatchery for some bird watching.  After they completed this section, they only had 25 miles remaining on the 343 mile Sheltowee Trace.

All the hikers were mainly away from roads, so I took most of my two days meandering on some of the narrow back roads to look at the burgeoning fall colors.  Clear Creek Lake, Cave Run Lake and some high ridge roads provided plenty of scenic views of the colors. This part of Kentucky is very hilly and has some amazing views and scenery.  I really enjoyed my drives this particular weekend.

Fall colors at Clear Creek Lake near Salt Lick, KY

Lockegee Road, a narrow forest road near Morehead

Pretty Ridge Road, KY 1874 near Morehead

Meeting hikers on the trail in this section

Cave Run Lake as seen from the road over the dam, which is also part of the Sheltowee Trace

Sunrise at Cave Run Lake on Oct. 24

Daniel Boone National Forest on KY 519 south of Morehead

A juvenile bald eagle overhead as seen at Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery

In early November Julianne went to San Diego for a sister retreat.  I took advantage of the nice weekend and took a long day trip down to southeastern Kentucky and parts of Virginia to go look at the fall colors.  This took me down to Harlan, Pineville and Lynch, Kentucky as well as Appalachia and Big Stone Gap, Virginia, with a stop at Black Mountain, Kentucky’s highest point.

The fall colors down in southeast Kentucky and northeast Virginia were wonderful.  I also a splendid weather day on the entire trip. One of the highlights of the trip was the drive through the Kentenia State Forest.  It is the oldest state-owned forest, having been acquired in 1919.  The forest runs along the south side of Pine Mountain, one of the highest areas in the state. I took the Little Shepherd Trail which was way way up on the ridge looking down into the valleys.  I also enjoyed the drive along the Dragon Slayer Highway, KY 160, from Lynch, KY to Black Mountain, KY.  It is a 20 mile drive with about 226 curves.

Fall colors on KY Hwy 221 near Bledsoe, KY

Welcome to Cumberland, KY

A scene from Fourmile, Kentucky on KY 2015 north of Pineville

Lynch, KY is the gateway to the Dragon Slayer Highway, another winding highway that draws motorcyclists from all over.

KY 2010, Little Shepard Road, near Pineville

A view from high up on the Little Shepard Trail, KY 1679

KY 1679 is really a narrow little road

Got to Black Mountain, Kentucky’s Highest Point and bordering Virginia

Welcome to Virginia as seen from Black Mountain

Colors in Dryden, VA

Welcome to Big Stone Gap, VA

I got a kick out of this name.

And then there is the Looney Creek Baptist Church in Grundy, VA. When they sing the hymns are they Looney Tunes?

On the way back home, US 421 near Baxter, KY

Railroad Bridge in Louisville, KY

On November 12 Julianne was to return via Louisville, so I made an early trip and got nice pics in Louisville as well as a visit across the Ohio River into Clarksville, Indiana.  I was there for a lovely sunset that shone through the numerous bridges over the Ohio.  It was a nice daycation.

The sky was wonderful and, while there, a few interesting clouds were blowing in and provided some interesting views over the Ohio River Bridges.  As the skies darken, some of the Louisville to Indiana bridges are lit up, making for some colorful scenes over the river.  And finally, the visit to Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana really offer some splendid views of the Louisville Skyline across the river.

Monster over the bridge

Louisville skyline with a pink sky

Lewis and Clark Statue in Falls of the Ohio State Park

Colorful Bridges of Louisville

Sunset over the Ohio River

Louisville Skyline

The weekend of November 20 would be the finishing weekend for Julianne and Marissa and the others to finish the Sheltowee Trace.  They finished the hike just before a heavy rainstorm north of Morehead, Kentucky.  What an adventure it was for all of us, in our own ways.

As with other areas of Kentucky, the fall colors were out in abundance and there were some splendid views. This weekend there were over 30 hikers that finished up the hike, and even a couple of dog hikers. Of course, I am always on the lookout for fun signs.

Happy Hiker on the Sheltowee

Fall colors on KY 377 north of I-64

Dang…wished I had a Potato for a perfect Potato Lick selfie. Oh well.

DONE!! Julianne and Marissa competed their 343 mile hike on November 21. So proud of them

Sandhill Cranes

I had one more road trip left in me for 2021.  On December 12 I was joined by three other photographer friends for yet another trip to Seymour, Indiana to witness the Sandhill Crane migration.  It was a great day trip with some good people and with thousands of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes.

I have made four trips up to Seymour to view the annual Sandhill Migration.  We were blessed with nice, but really cold, weather.  There were thousands of these lovely birds grazing on corn in the fields or flying above.  Their unique  and eerie sounds emanate from the sky and can be heard from almost a mile away.  Truly, my viewing trips are always one of my highlights of the year, and this trip was no exception.  Here are a couple more photos of these amazing birds.

Sandhill Cranes in flight

Sandhill Cranes over the moon

A great flock of Sandhill Cranes

Did you find this post interesting?  I have visited many interesting places like this one that dot  the United States. My books detail dozens of these kinds of places. You can find my Less Beaten Paths books on Amazon.com!  Currently there are five in print (and in Kindle version too!!)  You can see all of my books on my author page at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B0784XVGSW

TWO NEW 2021 BOOKS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON! (CLICK ON COVER FOR MORE DETAILS)

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Year in Travel – 2021 (Long post – may take a minute to load)

  1. Margo Bisset

    I enjoyed this family journey so much. You are my favorite local photographer. The monster over Louisville sticks in my head. I had no idea Mountain Laurel was poisonous. Glad to know you have books for sale. You seem like such a kind, educated man.