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Letcher Co. roads are included in a new map promoting Appalachia

Two routes through Letcher County are included in a new driving-tour map of the Appalachian region developed by National Geographic and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The map features 28 suggested routes, all reflecting the diversity of the 13-state region that stretches from southern New York to northeast Mississippi.

The routes through Letcher County call for visits to scenic areas such as Bad Branch Falls, near Oven Fork on the headwaters of the Cumberland River, and the Lilley Cornett Woods at Linefork. More nationallyknown staples such as the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina and Virginia are also included.

The routes through Letcher County include all of U.S. 23 and portions of U.S. 119. One is labeled the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trail. The other is the Country Music Highway.

National Geographic was paid $80,000 by the commission to develop the new map, which will be distributed to 865,000 subscribers in the April issue of National Geographic Traveler. It also is available through the commission and state tourism offices.

“Appalachia in a lot of ways is one of our most important re- gions,” said Keith Bellows, the magazine’s editor. “This is kind of travel ground zero. The idea that you can drive it and see those nooks and crannies of our past, they’re all there.”

The commission estimates tourism as a more than $29 billion industry in the region, employing more than 600,000 people.

Economic woes have led more people to travel within the U.S. than abroad, sticking with getaways closer to home. And despite rising gas prices, Bellows said traveling, even by car, will not slow.

“The truth is we’re all going to travel,” Bellows said. “We love it. We can’t help ourselves. It’s something that we absolutely love to do and I suspect that no matter how expensive it gets, we’re going to want to explore our own backyard.”

In Virginia, drivers can take a trip on the Crooked Road, the state’s heritage music trail along the western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coalfields region. The three-day, 253-mile trail features stops in historic towns like Abingdon and Clintwood, and takes visitors to the Floyd Country Store and the Rex Theater.

One of western New York’s trails, called “Native Sons and Daughters,” features sites from the million-year-old stones at Rock City Park in Knapp Creek and the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, where comic Lucille Ball grew up.

A drive through northern Alabama takes visitors on a half-day, 22-mile birding trail of 50 roadside stops to spot eastern woodland birds and waterfowl.

Pennsylvania travelers can take a tour along the “Art Thrives on Route 45” trail through the central part of the state and the “By-Way of the Arts” along Route 15. Motorists can make a pit stop at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport and browse antique shops and farmers’ markets along the rest of the trail.

A trek through central and southeast Ohio takes gives visitors the option of two trails, one exploring wildlife and history, the other along a tour of barns painted with quilt patterns.

On the Net:

Visit Appalachia: http:// www.visitappalachia.com

ARC: www.arc.gov

National Geographic: http:// www.nationalgeographic.com

This report was compiled from Associated Press and Mountain Eagle reports.

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