Shortly after moving to Eastern Kentucky I did something I will never forget.
I went hiking.
It was a Saturday morning in September following a very long, difficult week of work. I wanted to spend some time outside, in nature, checking out two aspects of eastern Kentucky that struck me from the moment I came here. They are the region’s beautiful forests and the rolling mountains of Appalachia.
I headed out, roughly about 7 a.m., and made my way to the Sheltowee Trace trail in Rowan County. I knew right away I’d made the right decision. The drive through our rural, scenic region to the trail was beautiful. The last part of the journey was on a winding, narrow roadway meandering through breathtaking countryside. I observed a glorious view of mixed woodlands, hills, creeks and farms. I made my way to the trail point entry and a small parking lot along the side of the road. My pickup was the only vehicle in the parking lot. I made my way onto the trail. Again, within the first 40 or 50 yards down the trail I was struck by the realization this was definitely the right decision to do this. It was gorgeous out here.
The trail was very hilly early. It was incredibly definable, easy to follow and in great shape. The trail also has a very remote feel to it early. My heart was racing with excitement as I made my way through a beautiful mix of woods, hills and vegetation. The views were incredibly pleasant.
About two miles into the trail I sensed the pattern — up a steep incline to a beautiful view, then down for a ways, then back up the incline to a ridge. Repeat. For some reason my mind gravitates to romanticizing history in these types of settings. For example, I thought as I walked of those who traversed this trail before me. I romanticized in my mind the question ‘Did Daniel Boone walk here?’ Fun stuff.
I also thought a lot about what a magnificent resource this was. I remembered from the websites I’d read checking out the trail that this trail is a remarkable 319 miles long. It runs through the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee, according to a description found at www.sheltoweetrace.com.
'The name 'Sheltowee' honors the history of Daniel Boone, who was captured by Shawnee Indians while making salt in an area close to the present-day trail,” the website states. 'Chief Blackfish, his adopted Shawnee father, renamed him Sheltowee, which meant 'Big Turtle.'
More good stuff. Kind of fun to think about all this. Oh wait, here comes another incline.
I recognized very soon I had my hands full on this hike. My fitness level is good but this is big time hiking. I also was in unfamiliar territory with just some water and cell phone so my mindset was to make sure I was cautious on how far I was going to go down the trail. I could just see it now — 'local newspaper editor gets lost in the woods, needs rescuing.’ Seriously, though I was not equipped for any kind of adversity so this was definitely going to be a short hike and whatever I do make sure I get back to the truck type trip. The amount of fitness needed to hike this trail for an extended period of time is significant. Thus, I would have to say I walked about three to four miles in, turned around, and came back.
That’s what happened on this beautiful day. I realized at the time the trip offered value to me because I got to see some beautiful, God-given nature. In the weeks and months since then, though, I’ve realized this trip was far more valuable than I initially knew. The reason is because there are, many, many long days when, facing the daily demands of life, I take a few moments in my mind to remember the morning I walked on the Sheltowee Trail and was awestruck by its beauty.
These are the thoughts that offer me peace.
Glenn Puit can be reached at gpuit@dailyindependent. com or by telephone at 326-2648