When Helen Kielkopf bought a farm in the Floyd’s Fork area of Louisville in the mid-1980s as a place for her horse to roam, she found an old, neglected orchard on the site that inspired her.
“I just couldn’t let it go because it seemed like if somebody had started it, I should take care of it, so I replanted it,” she says.
Now known as Hidden Hollow Orchard and Wildlife Sanctuary, 50 types of apple trees grow on four of its 50 acres.
Kielkopf says she wasn’t interested in run-of-the-cider-mill apple varieties found in grocery stores, but rather in historic and unusually good apples. Some have decidedly non-apple names, including Winter Banana, Cox Orange Pippin, and Chenango Strawberry.
The orchard is labor-intensive, with only a two-month winter break amidst pruning, spraying, and harvesting the fruit. But the personal fulfillment makes it worthwhile, Kielkopf says.
“Apple pickers are the nicest people in the world,” she says.
At the Bramble Ridge Orchard in Mt. Sterling, apples feature prominently in apple butter, jam, jelly, mustard, dried apples, apple yeast rolls, fried apple pies, cider slushies, and caramel apples. At its annual Copper Kettle Apple Butter Festival, October 7, a 75-gallon kettle will bubble up with sweet and spicy apple butter.
“You can just smell it cooking, and we will jar it right there,” says co-owner Cindy Peake. “You can taste it and take home as much as you want.”
The 13 apple varieties can be pre-bagged or U-pick. Some visitors spend an afternoon meandering along the nearly three miles of apple tree rows in the fresh air and sunshine.
Peake says her favorite apple is called Pink Lady, the last of the season and worth the wait. She uses it to make a special batch of cider.
“It is a very crisp and sweet-tart apple,” she explains. “The flavor improves the longer you keep it.”
On the 175-acre farm in her family for four generations, Jenny Evans, manager of Evans Orchard and Cider Mill in Georgetown, helps make each apple harvest a fun fall tradition for her family and others with caramel apples, jams and jellies, gifts, fall decorations, u-pick apples, and pumpkins.
Different apples peak at different times, Evans says, so people often make return visits.
“You come back and there’s always something new to go pick,” she says.
Apple-picking is amplified at Lovell’s Lacy Orchard in Hopkinsville, with corn and hay bale mazes, tractor-pulled hay rides, a petting zoo, and a western town where children can pretend to mine for gold. There are 14 apple varieties, as well as corn, peaches, U-pick pumpkins, and blueberries in season.
Everyone enjoys the fall foliage in the countryside while making their way up to the orchard, says co-owner Julie Lovell.
“We’re way up on a huge hill so it’s a gorgeous drive,” she says. “A lot of people even compare it to going to the mountains…the trees are really beautiful and the air is crisp and cool.”
The Bramble Ridge Orchard, 2726 Osborne Road, Mt. Sterling, is open April to December, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Sells 13 apple varieties, cider, cider slushies, cider donuts, caramel apples, fried pies, apple yeast rolls, gourmet foods, and gifts. Has apple slingshot, petting zoo, wagon rides, observation beehive, and rope maze. The Green Apple Tea Room serves lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays by reservation. Copper Kettle Apple Butter Festival, October 7. (859) 498-9123 or online www.brambleridgeorchard.com.
Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, 180 Stone Road, Georgetown, open May through December. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.– 5:30 p.m., Sunday 12:30-5:30 p.m. Sells apples, pumpkins, mums, gourds, fodder shocks, honey, cider, fried pies, caramel apples, gifts, and more. Corn maze. Harvest Festival every Saturday and Sunday in October with crafts, music, pony rides, and more. School and group tours by appointment. (502) 863-2255 or online www.evansorchard.com.
Hidden Hollow Orchard and Wildlife Sanctuary, 3200 Apple Hill Road, Louisville, opens for the season September 1, daylight hours while apples last. A 10-pound bag is $7; 50 varieties of apples sold, apple recipes available. (502) 897-0719 or go online to www.hiddenholloworchard.com.
Lovell’s Lacy Orchard, 22850 Coal Creek Road, Hopkinsville, open June 15-November 30, Monday–Saturday 8 a.m.–7 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m. Apple festival first weekend in October starting 10 a.m. Saturday, noon on Sunday (Central Time). In season, sells 14 apple varieties, blueberries, peaches, pumpkins, corn, melons, and more. Has hay bale and corn mazes, gift shop, snacks, hay rides, petting zoo, and horse-drawn wagon rides. (270) 269-2242.
Visit Kentucky Department of Agriculture online at www.kyagr.com to find more orchards statewide. Click on “Buy KY Products,” click on the “Advanced Search” link and search for apples in the “one product” category.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
There is a colossal break in Pine Mountain in eastern Kentucky, a precipitous gorge 5 miles long and 1,600 feet deep, sliced by the Russell Fork River. Because of its size, it is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of the South, for it is the largest canyon east of the Mississippi. This fantastic chasm lies on the border of Kentucky and Virginia, and the states joined forces to create and preserve one of the finest parks in the East.
Hiking is the best way to take in and appreciate the park, and a very enjoyable 3.3-mile loop can be made incorporating the best highlights and vistas. I’ve come with my two children to explore this beautiful and hidden gem. As the canyon is often shrouded in early morning fog, we kept to the trails in the deep woods at first and left the sweeping views for later.
The Prospector’s Trail follows the base of the sandstone cliffs about 350 feet beneath the major overlooks. Wandering through a convoluted maze of rhododendron and mountain laurel, it feels as primitive as when Daniel Boone trod this very path back in 1767 in search of John Swift’s vast silver mine, a local legend. Emerald moss covers the rocks and the interesting “walking fern” takes its tip and plants it into the earth, attempting to “walk” back into the ground.
At Stateline Overlook, we gaze down to Potter’s Flats, where years ago a very lucrative moonshine business was run with the trains that lumbered through the canyon. A wire spanned the river and a bucket hanging from it carried notes for moonshine orders. By the time the train turned around in Elkhorn and returned, the young delivery boy would have the stash ready. These were desperate times and money was hard to come by, so this extra side income was very helpful for the locals.
The Prospector’s Trail leads to the short Geological Loop, which takes you through the fascinating rock formations called The Notches that the kid in you will long to climb.
By this time, the returning Overlook Trail will provide you with exceptional clear views into the Russell Fork River below. The numerous viewpoints make it easy to linger, soaking in the loveliness, so bring a picnic lunch to prolong your stay. Ponder over the fact that this scene before you was created 400 million years ago.
If walking is not your sport, you can still take in much of the panoramic beauty of the park by cruising Nature Drive and stopping along the half dozen overlooks accessible from your vehicle or via a very short walk. One of the best views is of The Towers—a rocky spire that the river makes a tight horseshoe curve around. It is so steep and abrupt that in the mist-cloaked morning it looks exotic and gloriously wild, like something out of Peru and the Inca Trail. Here is an extreme example of the forces of nature, for the river completely changed its course around this prominent point. At one time it passed behind The Towers; the water later eroded the land to create its present course.
All this river gazing tends to draw your interest to spending a warm afternoon inner-tubing, sunbathing, or just cooling off in Russell Fork to round out your day. A new swimming and paddling access has been constructed on the Kentucky side on Route 80, four miles from the entrance to the park. If you’re fortunate to be visiting Breaks Interstate Park on an October weekend, the John W. Flannagan Reservoir provides whitewater releases, creating some of the best whitewater rafting in the eastern United States. Whether you choose high adventure or soft adventure, discovering Breaks Interstate Park will make you return year after year.
Breaks Interstate Park is located on the Kentucky/Virginia border in Breaks, Virginia, seven miles east of Elkhorn City, Kentucky, and 8 miles north of Haysi, Virginia, on Route 80; P.O. Box 100, Breaks, VA 24607; (276) 865-4413 or (800) 982-5122, or online at www.breakspark.com.
Rhododendron Lodge provides 82 rooms along with fully equipped two-bedroom family cottages available throughout the year. The Rhododendron Restaurant features homemade entrées and desserts, while providing a stellar view of the canyon for your dining pleasure. Camping is also an option for the more rugged individuals.
There are a total of 13 miles of trails in the park to explore. Horseback riding is available Memorial Day through Labor Day. There’s also 12-acre Laurel Lake, which is stocked yearly with bass and bluegill. Pedal boat rentals add to the fun.
Whitewater rafting adventures are available from the following outfitters:
Russell Fork Whitewater Adventurers (276) 530-7044
Laurel Highlands River Tours (800) 472-3846
Whitewater Adventurers (724) 329-8850
Wahoo Adventures (828) 262-5774
Sheltowee Trace Outfitters (800) 541-7238 or online at www.ky-rafting.com
Check out the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, a museum dedicated to the life of the three-time Grammy award winner. Ralph’s songs were featured in the popular film O Brother, Where Art Thou?; www.ralphstanley.net or call (276) 926-8550.
The new Birch Knob Observation Tower, four miles outside of Clintwood (approximately 20 miles from Breaks) on Route 634, offers spectacular views of five states. Visitors drive right up to the tower, but there are 180 steps to climb to the top.
Mountain Art Works in Haysi, Virginia, four miles from Breaks, is a restaurant featuring home cooking and regional food as well as a museum where you can observe craftsmen making Kentucky crafts such as mandolins and brooms. (276) 865-5595 or online at www.mountainartworks.net.
John W. Flannagan Dam is a great place to go swimming, fishing, and boating. (276) 835-9544 or online at www.lrh.usace.army.mil/ projects/lakes/jwf.
Cindy Ross is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.