Whitesburg KY

Hike through Lilley Cornett Woods scheduled for Oct. 27

If there was only one season and if I had my choice, I’d choose autumn. Typically from the middle of September through early November, each day presents a new array of dazzling fall foliage colors in our mountains. From our quaint little hollows and towns built in snug, narrow, valleys to the lofty mountains reaching more than 4,000-feet elevation on Black Mountain, a kaleidoscope of color reinforces our pride in our mountain heritage. We understand why our pioneer forefathers chose to remain in the mountains rather than pass on through to the Bluegrass Region.

When I went outside to get my newspaper this morning there was a cool breeze with a sweet October aroma wafting gently down the steep slopes of Pine Mountain. I did not want to waste one minute of this day. I hurriedly drank my usual quota of coffee (three mugs) while I scanned through the Herald-Leader newspaper. I jotted down my agenda for the day so I could spend most of the day out of doors until 3:30 when the UK football game came on TV (of course). The air temperature stayed between 50 degrees and the low 70’s. It was just perfect for jinwhackin’ around the house and yard. The chores flowed so gently I wouldn’t even consider it work. I cleaned leaves from the guttering, raked weeds and stalks from my tiny garden and changed the windshield wipers on my ol’ truck.

About noon I went indoors and prepared myself one of my favorite snacks, skillet-fried bologna (I still prefer to call it boloney) smothered with fried onions with a slice of cheese on toast with a couple swipes of mayonnaise and a cold brew. Ahhh! …. It don’t get no better than that. I finished my work then kicked back in my recliner and watched the first half of the ball game.

At half-time I put on my sneakers and went back outdoors to walk a mile while I enjoyed the autumn splendor. I marveled at the magnificent Pine Mountain and its endless array of color highlighted by the bright western setting sun.

Two young maples stood intertwined like a young couple in love. One had yellow leaves and the other one crimson. Like us mortals they were so much alike yet so different. A goldenleafed persimmon dropped its plump, golden fruit to the ground. A thick leafy bed cushioned its fall. Some lucky, nocturnal ‘possum will feast tonight. I gazed at the sky through the crimson tree windows and the cloudless sky took on an eerie purple glow.

Some of the trees on a rocky crag at a higher elevation had already turned brown and the yellow leaves on the poplars were thinning rapidly. Some of the mighty oaks still maintained their deep, dark green but a burnt orange twinge around the tips forecast the inevitable. I wanted to stay out of doors but I reluctantly returned to my TV to watch the second half. Tomorrow is another day to absorb more of the awesome beauty which abounds in my Appalachia.

Much of the forests in the Appalachian Mountains have been logged several times. Lilley Cornett Woods is one of the few areas that has been protected from logging. Of the 554 acres, 252 acres have never been logged. It remains much as it was when the early settlers migrated into the area more than 200 years ago. Lilley Cornett and his heirs resisted the temptation to sell the logging rights to the valuable timberland. In 1969 the family sold the property to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and it is now protected for future generations. The woods are now designated as a national natural landmark and state wildlife refuge. The purchase was made possible by state, federal and Nature Conservancy monies. The property is managed by Eastern Kentucky University and is used primarily for ecological research by institutions of higher learning.

The third annual Indian Summer Nature Hike is scheduled for Saturday, October 27, through Lilley Cornett Woods beginning at 11 a.m. The event is sponsored by the Cumberland Mountain Arts & Crafts Council in Jenkins. Robert Watts is the superintendent of the estate. He has worked there for 35 years and serves as host for 500 to 600 guests each year. Mr. Watts will be our tour guide through the short route which takes about two hours.

Folks in the Jenkins area who would like to participate in the nature hike through Lilley Cornett Woods can meet at the Little Shepherd Amphitheatre site at 9:30 a.m. and carpool to the site. Anyone else can meet us at the Lilley Cornett Woods office and museum at 91 Lilley Cornett Branch, Hallie, Kentucky at 11:00. There is no charge for the event and everyone is welcome. Just come along and enjoy another day in Paradise. If you need additional information, please call Ked Sanders at 832- 4122. In case of inclement weather the hike will be rescheduled to the following Friday.

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