Saturday, November 28, 2015

Minding the Gap

"Stand at the Cumberland Gap
and watch the procession of civilization,
marching single file -
the buffalo following the trail
to the salt springs,
the Indian
the fur trader and hunter,
the cattle raiser
the pioneer farmer -
and the frontier has passed by."

-Frederick Jackson Turner

The final stop on our "All-Things-Boone" Summer Vacation 2015 was to the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.

The Cumberland Gap is a narrow pass through the long ridge of the Cumberland Mountains that are within the Appalachia Mountain Range. The gap is near the junction of the states of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.

In 1966, shatter cones were discovered in the Cumberland Gap area. Shatter cones naturally form only during impact events. The discovery of the Middlesboro impact structure has proposed new details in the formation of the Cumberland Gap. Less than 300 million years ago an approximately 4-mile in diameter meteorite struck the Earth, creating the Middlesboro Crater. The city of Middlesboro, Kentucky is built entirely inside the crater, hence the crater's name. The Colonel found what he believes is a piece of the meteorite when we walked along one of the paths in the park.

The Cumberland Gap was long used by buffalo and other animals as a gateway to the salt licks of Kentucky. Native Americans used the gap too as they followed and hunted the animals. The first Englishman known to have walked over the Cumberland Gap was backwoods trader Gabriel Arthur, a 1674 captive of the Shawnee Indians. Both Dr. Thomas Walker (1750) and Daniel Boone (1775) explored "Kaintuck" by following the already existing Warriors' Path north. 

For Centuries, the Cherokee and the Shawnee traveled through the Cumberland Gap along a game trail known by the Shawnee as Athiamiowee (Path of the Armed Ones or The Great Warrior's Path). Both tribes used the path in and out of Kentucky (their hunting grounds). Bitter enemies, the two tribes regularly attacked one another.

On March 10, 1775, Daniel Boone and around 30 other ax-wielding road cutters (including his brother and son-in-law) set out from present-day Tennessee to blaze what would become known as the Wilderness Road. They traveled north along a portion of the Great Warrior's Path. As many as 300,000 settlers traveled along the Wilderness Road from 1775 to 1810.

The Colonel and I passed by Indian Rock as we walked the Warrior's Path trail. It was exiting to know that thousands of people and Daniel Boone had walked this same trail.

Some parts of the Warrior's Path were still rough and narrow. The Colonel and I did not see another soul as we followed the path (I was remembering the sign at the visitor's center that mentioned Black Bears in the area. I did not trust my scatology skills...what exactly did fresh Black Bear scat look like?...thank God we did not run into any bears).

Before we walked the Warrior's Path we made a trip to the "saddle" of the Cumberland Gap (the exact place where the trail passes through the mountain pass). We knew we had arrived at the saddle because we could feel the trail stop going uphill and begin going downhill. 


We saw only one other person near the saddle. It was an elderly gentleman who was walking briskly towards us. He told us we were nearly there. He must have been part mountain goat...he was not even slightly winded nor did he have a glimmer of sweat on his aged brow as he passed by. He looked at home in the mountain pass. The Colonel and I on the other hand hail from flat Florida...we walked, not briskly and we breathed a bit harder than the old man...but we made it!

During the Civil War, both the Union Army and the Confederate Army used the Wilderness Road. The Cumberland Gap changed hands four times throughout the war. Fort Lyon (Confederate) overlooked Virginia and Tennessee while Fort McCook (Union) overlooked Kentucky.

General Grant was so taken by the Wilderness Road he said, "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold that pass against the army which Napoleon led to Moscow."

While at the park The Colonel and I also visited the Pinnacle Overlook (2,440 ft.). There we could see Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The vistas were beautiful.

What a gorgeous and very historical ending to our "All Things Boone" vacation.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Little Cabin in the Kentucky Woods

The Colonel and I had two more stops to make along our "All-Things-Boone" (well, nearly all things were Boone related) trip through Kentucky as we wound up our summer vacation 2015.

The second to the last stop was at the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site. It is located five miles southwest of Barbourville on KY 459, about 170 miles from Louisville. It is a 12-acre tract of land and on that land is a replica of the first house (cabin) built in Kentucky by a white man.

Dr. Thomas Walker (1715-1794) was from Virginia and he studied medicine at the College of William and Mary.

In July of 1749, the Loyal Land Company was founded with Walker as a leading member. After receiving a royal grant of 800,000 acres in what is now southeastern Kentucky, the company appointed Walker to lead an expedition and survey the region in 1750. Five other men would join Walker on the expedition.

The "Walker Line" is still the border between Kentucky and Tennessee from east to west, terminating at the Tennessee River.

With Indian guides, the expedition group passed through a place now called Cumberland Gap, where they discovered a fine spring. They still had some rum left and they drank to the health of the Duke of Cumberland (the son of King George the II and considered a hero of the time. Remember this was before the American Revolution). This gave rise to the naming of the Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Mountains and Cumberland River (just how much rum did they have left?).

Dr. Walker built his 12 x 8 cabin to legitimize the lands he was claiming.

He stayed in the area for a few days, left a couple of his men behind and then headed back to Virginia The men left behind were eventually chased out of the area by Native Americans. Walker never did return to Kentucky. He did write a journal that gives the account of his exploration. He is credited as the first American to discover and use the coal found in Kentucky.

Due to his broad knowledge of the area and their resources, Walker served as an advisory to Thomas Jefferson for three years (1780-1783). At the time of his death, Dr. Walker was noted as the 4th wealthiest citizen of Albemarle County Virginia. The most famous inhabitant of that county was Thomas Jefferson.

Not until Daniel Boone came through the gap in 1769, was there a renewed interest in Kentucky.

Less than 50 years after Dr. Thomas Walker's journey into Kentucky tens of thousands of pioneers would pass through Cumberland Gap to settle the rich lands of "Kaintuck".

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Colonel and The Colonel and The Colonel's Restaurant

The Colonel has a history with The Colonel...Colonel Sanders that is. He worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for two years while in high school. He was a fry-cook.

The Colonel used to wear a Caduceus pin on his uniform to inform everyone that he was a "Doctor of Fryology".

WNAP, a classic/album rock radio station in Indianapolis, Indiana held a raft race down the White River for nine years (1974-1983). In 1982, The Colonel and co-workers talked their boss into allowing them to build a raft and join the race. His boss not only said sure, but also funded the majority of the project.

The 8'x8' raft was constructed at The Colonel's house and my (future) Favorite-Father-In-Law helped (wild horses could not have dragged him away from the project). The raft was made in the image of a KFC meal box.

The Colonel, his father and a couple of co-workers paddled, or swam next to the raft for the entire four mile race.

At the height of the WNAP Raft Race it is reported that there were around 1,400 rafts floating down the White River and at least 100,000 people waiting at the race's egress point, Broad Ripple Park, listening to live music.

The Colonel says that he is surprised that he did not contract a disease while swimming in the White River back then.

So, now back to more recent times...The Colonel and I had just left Fort Boonesborough and it was near lunchtime. My pre-trip planning had us making a stop in North Corbin, Kentucky. There we pulled into the parking lot of Sanders Cafe, aka the original KFC.

Inside the cafe there was also a museum. The Colonel and I walked in, ordered our lunch at the counter and then found a table that overlooked the original kitchen where Colonel Sanders created and perfected his world famous, "finger-lickin-good" chicken.

This was Colonel Sanders' office.

There were glass cases filled with all kinds of KFC and Sanders memorabilia.

A display containing original furniture and dishes from the early days of the cafe were behind glass.

Colonel Harland Sanders not only ran a cafe but he also ran his own motor court next door. The diorama below shows what the cafe and motor court looked like in their day. The court is no longer there.

Inside the cafe/museum was a mock-up of what the rooms used to look like. Colonel Sanders always prided himself on the cleanliness of his rooms.

Colonel Sanders had a very interesting life before he became famous for his chicken at the age of 65.

He was a lawyer, midwife, tire salesman and more...visit these two links to learn more about Harland Sanders.

Colonel Sanders and I share the same birthday and we were both born in Indiana (he didn't like math either). I always knew there were other reasons why I liked him and his chicken.

Last summer The Colonel and I passed through Louisville, Kentucky and we stopped at Cave Hill Cemetery. It is a large and beautiful cemetery and it is where Colonel Harland Sanders is buried. We wanted to stop and pay our respects to the founder of KFC. 

Colonel Sanders died in 1980. He said, "I never had the desire to be the richest man in the cemetery". Before his death he gave millions of dollars to many charities, schools and hospitals.

The Colonel and I joke that we can never visit another KFC restaurant now, because we have been to the original...come to think of it, as of the writing of this post, we have not been to another KFC since June.