After watching the weather forecast for a week I finally tossed a coin and said, “Let’s go to Scuttle Hole Gap rain or shine.” What I determined was that a coin toss was just as reliable as the so-called experts’ forecast, which was everything from light rain to thundershowers to snow. As it turned out the hiking gods smiled on us and we had a sunny 70 degrees with a mild breeze. Folks, it don’t git no better ‘n’ that.
The interest in hiking is growing as we become more health conscious and as we learn that we have some of the best trails in the nation right here in our own backyard. Most of the hikers live locally but my sister, Nelda, came all the way from Mason, Ohio (near Cincinnati) to accompany my wife, Eileen, and me. Stuart Lewis and his two daughters came from Knoxville, Tenn. Our friend, Richard Brown of Whitesburg, was the ultimate tour guide. Not only did he provide an oral history of the area and the Stonega Run, he also provided a written narrative and a map depicting the Scuttle Hole Gap Road for each of us. Richard made the two-mile hike an easy event as he related interesting stories of real people who lived and survived the hardships during this very important chapter in the history of Letcher County.
Several members of the Lewis family were there to gain firsthand knowledge of the area to go along with the stories passed down from their ancestors, James and Martin ‘Mart’ Lewis, who made regular trips across the mountains to haul supplies for Lewis Wholesale Company in Whitesburg.
With a little imagination I could hear the crack of the bullwhips, the yell of the muleskinners, and the clang and screech of iron horseshoes and wagon wheels on the narrow wagon roads built by hand with native, field sandstone. I can hear the painting and groaning of strong mules responding to their masters and see shiny, black mules wet with sweat and lather around their harnesses.
Alexandria ‘Allie Cat’ Shepherd, a fourth grader at Cowan Elementary School, was accompanied by her grandmother, Bessie Shepherd of Whitesburg. Allie is an outdoorsy person and she enjoyed collecting rocks along the way.
Courtney Mullins, age 7, was accompanied by her grandparents, Greg and Lynn Bentley of Payne Gap. Courtney attends J.W. Adams Elementary School in Pound, Va.
The hike was relatively easy for the young and for old codgers like me, age 66. My buddy, Tommy Greer, age 106, was the oldest one on the hike. Just kiddin’, he’s only 70 and an avid hiker. He was accompanied by his wife, Peggy. Granville
Mountain Man’ Burke of Jenkins was right at home in the wild. Jimmy McIntosh provided some firsthand knowledge of the area and of the plans to build a horseback riding trail parallel to the Little Shepherd Trail Road.
Leigh Lewis Blankenbeckler also participated. She is a member of the Mountain Heritage Committee. She stated that this year’s theme is ‘Making Tracks in Letcher County’. The committee will be sponsoring several hikes throughout the area this summer to highlight some of the natural recreational venues we have and to promote tourism. Learn more about our natural wonders in Letcher County and enjoy the health benefits too. You’ll love it!