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Weekend Wanderings

Romantic winter escape

Hand in hand,
we couldn’t help giggling like teenagers as we ran through the sudden rainstorm.
Soaking wet, we paused on the porch for a quick kiss before heading to our room
to change clothes.

Our kids, no
doubt, would be embarrassed to see us behave that way.

The fact is,
though, sometimes you have to get away. Just the two of you. Away from the hustle
and bustle of everyday life. Away from the kids. And the pressure of work. Time
for yourselves to rediscover each other in a romantic setting.

This time of
year that’s even more important. The frenzy of the holiday season can get to
anyone. Too many parties, too much shopping, and too much snapping at each other
during what should be a joyous season. You need to get away.

Fortunately,
you don’t have to go far. Kentucky is blessed with a myriad of romantic getaway
spots. Places where you get a smile instead of an "aw, Mom," when
you hold hands or kiss in public. Places where there’s no compunction to do
anything, except be with each other.

Feel like a
stroll in the woods? Then do it. Or not! Browse the antique shops. Or not! Visit
the museum, or window shop in a strange town, or sit by the fire, or merely
read a book under each other’s loving eyes. Or not!

The state resort
parks all offer such possibilities. With their lodges and restaurants, you don’t
even have to leave the main buildings to have everything you need for a romantic
weekend away. Or you can avail yourself of the amenities they offer. Nice thing
about the parks is that they are about equally spaced through the state, so
there are plenty of opportunities.

Our first choice
goes to Pine Mountain State Resort Park, the oldest park in the system, and
arguably the most beautiful. A network of hiking trails lets you fully experience
this beauty. Of them all, the short walk to Honeymoon Falls is most in keeping
with the idea of a romantic weekend.

If Pine Mountain
lacks anything, it’s water. But there are plenty of parks on the shores of lakes.
If you want big water, there are two state parks on Kentucky Lake, and one on
Barkley. But we like the intimacy of small waters. For that, we head to Greenbo
Lake State Resort Park, in the heart of Jesse Stuart country. There’s a collection
of the writer’s works and mementos there. Or we go to Greenbo Lake-the lake
that couldn’t be-which curls around the lodge. And a short distance away is
the Jesse Stuart State Nature Preserve, encompassing the author’s beloved W
Hollow.

Bed and breakfasts
and country inns abound throughout the Commonwealth, and are a natural adjunct
to a romantic getaway. You can find them in the towns and cities, and way out
in the country, whichever is your preference.

Picking a favorite
among the many B&Bs we’ve stayed at is difficult. But there are a couple
that stand out.

First and foremost
is the Raintree Inn in Bronston. The 1872 home is welcoming, comfortable, and
perfect for putting the spark back in your relationship. Accommodations include
bedrooms in the main house, a two-bedroom apartment in the carriage house, and
two bedrooms in the barn. Part of the movie Raintree County was filmed
right here, and the namesake raintree still grows on the back lawn.

Innkeeper Gwen
Ison specializes in sumptuous breakfasts featuring traditional Kentucky favorites,
such as biscuits with chocolate gravy and Ugly Duckling Cake.

Halfway across
the state is the Victorian House B&B in Smiths Grove. Bill and Velma Crist
converted this 1875 mansion back in 1994, giving the interior a Gone With
the Wind
theme. New owners Dave and Sharon Dahle are retaining the romance
of this theme, and you can still spend the night in the splendor of Miss Scarlett’s
room or any of three others named for Margaret Mitchell’s characters.

While they don’t
intend to change anything, they do plan additions. The first of these is the
day spa they’ve already put in on the main floor. A facial, manicure, or pedicure
might be just the thing for m’lady before you explore the antique shops, which
are Smiths Grove’s major attraction.

For information
about Kentucky resort parks, contact: Kentucky Department of Parks, (800) 255-PARK
or on the Web at www.kystateparks.com.
Raintree Inn is at 3314 Old Highway 90, Bronston, KY 42518, (606) 561-5225.
Victorian House B&B can be found at 110 N. Main Street, Smiths Grove, KY
42171, (270) 563-9403.

Day Trips & Short
Stops

Old time religion

Popular wisdom
has it that one of the first community buildings to go up on the frontier was
the village church. Actually, churches were often the very last structures to
be erected. Although early Kentuckians were God-fearing, only about 5% of them
held any formal religious affiliation.

Still, there
are many old churches scattered throughout the Commonwealth. Perhaps the oldest
is the Cane Ridge Meeting House near Paris. The largest single-room log structure
in the New World, the church was built in 1791 on a site recommended by Daniel
Boone. Built of blue ash, the original building had no windows, and the chinking
was left out so that worshippers could keep a wary eye out.

The Great Awakening
in the first decade of the 19th century sent a wave of religious fervor sweeping
across the frontier, and revivals and camp meetings were the order of the day.
The largest of these, with an estimated 30,000 in attendance, took place at
Cane Ridge Meeting House and lasted a full week.

Cane Ridge today
can easily be bypassed because in the mid-1950s a limestone superstructure was
built around the log structure to protect and preserve it. But much of the original
building remains, including the clapboard pulpit and several of the benches.

Another historically
important early church is Old Mulkey Meetinghouse in Tompkinsville. Tucked in
the woods, looking much as it did when it was built in 1804, it is now a state
historic site. Built in the form of a cross, with 12 corners commemorating either
the apostles or the tribes of Israel (depending on authority cited), and three
doors representing the Trinity, Mulkey is erroneously identified as being the
first church west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Although not
the first, its membership reads like a roll call of Kentucky’s first families,
and includes Gists, Ellises, Harlans, Stewarts, Moreheads, and Boones. Many
of these early leaders are buried in the nearby graveyard, including Squire
and Hanna Boone (Daniel’s brother and sister).

For information,
contact: Cane Ridge Meeting House, 1655 Cane Ridge Road, Paris, KY 40361, (859)
987-5350, or Old Mulkey Meetinghouse State Historic Site, 189 Old Mulkey Road,
Tompkinsville, KY 42167, (270) 487-8481.

Outdoor Log

Christmas quail

When our children
were growing up we had a holiday tradition. Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings,
Brook and the boys went bird hunting, while Barbara made dinner. It was a wonderful
tradition, while it lasted.

But boys become
men and go off to live their own lives. And the tradition died. But not completely.
From time to time, visits home coincide with the holidays, and off we go wingshooting.

So it was last
year at this time. Our youngest was visiting, and wanted to make a holiday hunt.
The question was, where to go?

The answer was
simple. For a quality wingshoot, one of the hunting preserves was called for.
That way, we knew there’d be birds, good dog work, and fields maintained specifically
for wingshooting.

There are a
baker’s dozen such clubs spread through the Commonwealth. Picking one wasn’t
difficult, not for a hunt that was to revive old memories and create new ones.
We headed out to Pleasureville to Eddie Shuck’s Happy Ridge Hunting Club.

We’ve talked
about Eddie here before, as a dog trainer. He is one of the best in the Bluegrass
State. Sure, he’ll take your dog and train it. But he’d just as soon train you
how to train your own dog. And that can make all the difference in the world.
He’s also a dog breeder, and if you’re in the market for a gundog you could
do a lot worse than talking to Eddie. Right now, for instance, he’s got a litter
coming that has Elhue bloodlines on all four sides. Unlike many breeders, however,
Eddie believes in reasonable prices.

But we weren’t
there for training, nor to buy a Christmas pup. We were there to hunt. Happy
Ridge spreads over 122 rolling acres, with natural plantings and food plots.
It had been more than a few years since Chad had seen this kind of hunting field,
and he was suitably impressed.

Even more impressive
were the birds. Hard-flying quail, the nearest thing to wild birds you’ll find.
And his shooting skills returned quickly. He wasn’t hogging shots by any means.
He’d been taught better than that. But he was getting his fair share of them.

And then it
happened. The dogs went on point. Chad went in to flush what he expected to
be a couple of birds. And the world exploded in feathers as 20-odd birds burst
out of the cover. He just stood there, with a shocked expression, not knowing
where to point his gun.

"Let’s
head for home," he said, once his heart slowed down. "It can’t get
any better than that."

For a holiday
hunt of your own, contact: Happy Ridge Hunting Preserve, 111 Shucks Road, Pleasureville,
KY 40057, (502) 878-4903.

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