Monday, June 12, 2017

Rivers and Trails

I’ve reached a point in time where a few of my long-standing projects are starting to come together and morph from ideas into reality.  These are—for lack of a better phrase—dreams waking up.  The boat access at the Clay City Park is almost finished and then the contractors will move on to the take out.  It’s exciting to see this finally coming around.  Work is dragging on at a snail’s pace, but that’s the nature of the beast.
The Bald Rock mountain bike trails are slowly but surely coming along, too.  I led a trail day on Saturday and six of us managed to cut an important connection in the Bob Marely drainage of PMRP, and short of a short bridge we opened up another good chunk of trail.  After working for about five hours the whole group minus one (had to attend a wedding) rode the Bald Rock loop in its current and partially envisioned form.  We were all whooped, and it took an excessively long time to make the circuit.  But everyone seemed to enjoy it nonetheless.
The cool thing about the weekend and the trail work is that me and Bean and Ty along with Rob and his son Jack camped at Lago Linda on Friday night.  The kids had a blast and can’t wait to go back.  Rob and I did a little exploring on the existing trails.  They’re currently grown up with weeds and suffer a little deadfall and drainage problems here and there, but she advertises fifteen miles of old horse trails that patrons can hike (and now ride).  The trails just need some love.  Someone once told her that the old horse trails are too wide for mountain biking.  This is complete nonsense in an area with almost no existing mountain biking trails.  What Linda has is a strong beginning to what could turn into a mountain biking revolution on the Cumberland Plateau. 
Piney Woods

Tools supplied by Craig at Red River Outdoors

Bean enjoying camp
Too stoked

Riding what we built

Getting it done
photo by Bradley Derickson
The other exciting thing about Linda’s is that there is a connection from her campground into Beattyville that is 7/8ths dirt and 8 miles in distance.  It just needs to get it cleared enough to ride and give it a go.  Riding in the opposite direction it is 7 miles from her place to Bald Rock which is 6/7ths dirt. 

Green is the Lago Linda to White Ash via Contrary Creek connection.  The lower brown line is White Ash Road (8 miles)
The upper brown is the connection from Lago Linda to Big Sinking/Bald Rock (7 miles)
The purple line is the conceptual Crystal Creek Trail (5 miles)
The colorful spaghetti in the upper right is the Bald Rock trail system
One of my local partners in crime has suggested that it’s time for the gentrification of Beattyville to begin and that it’s rebirth as an outdoor town is imminent.  I agree.  Beattyville and Lee County have long gotten miserable press.  It’s time we changed that narrative (and by “we” I mean…who?)  Maybe “we” is Kentucky.  “We” being interested folks?  And hopefully “we” includes locals of the community and region.  I’m a firm believer that carpetbagging is never the answer.  And yet I set up myself as a carpetbagger from a neighboring county.  In my defense my mother grew up in Lee County and Papaw Lacy spent loads of years there extracting the oil that used to make the area around Beattyville a little more prosperous.  That dubious wealth no longer gets shared.
If I had the startup capital I think now would be the time to open up a comprehensive outdoor center there in downtown.  The Three Forks of the Kentucky River come together right in town.  The road cycling there is amazing.  Mountain biking is barreling down the hill toward the edge of town, and one of the best known and loved rock climbing areas in the WORLD is five miles up the road.  Someone needs to do something.  And you—hopefully by now—know how I feel about that sentence.  
There is no reason for that corner of Central Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky to be suffering financially.  The abundant natural and recreational resources centered around that little river town are a gold mine lying open to the naked sky waiting to be exploited…OR to be mined and refined in a way that is sustainable and beneficial to the community.
This is a compelling notion that begs to be explored and exposed.  I wish I had seen this fifteen years ago when we still had a viable outdoor business.  I try not to carry my regrets around in my shirt pocket.  And that takes me back to now is the time.  Or at any given point after now.
Today’s report barely scratches the surface of all the things I’d like to say and expound on regarding the potential in my neck of the woods.  There just never seems to be enough time to fully explore and capture in images and words the experience that is and could be living in Eastern Kentucky.  I’ll do my best to take the time as I go along, and daylight more of these dark hollers.

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