Playing in Pennyrile
When John Thompson brought his family to the edge of “the western jungles” in the fall of 1808, he found plentiful game, vast acres of timber, wild-growing herbs and edible plants, and a good home site. In short order, other families settled nearby. These early settlers called the area “Pennyrile,” after the abundant pennyroyal plant, which still grows throughout the region.
Today, that western jungle is the Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, where visitors can hike trails, wander along nature paths, see wildlife, fish, boat, swim, play tennis and golf, camp, and spend a night or a week in the lodge or cottages.
Vestiges of the area’s first families still remain. Thompson’s Hollow Trail, for instance, is named for the first pioneer family to settle here. Their original home place was located at the head of the hollow, adjacent to the present-day beach. Nowadays, that rock outcrop is festooned with ferns and plants, making for an exotic hanging garden.
For campers, there’s a 68-site campground with water and electricity at each site; a central service building with showers, restrooms, and laundry. No reservations are permitted, so it’s first-come, first-served.
For the less adventurous, there’s a 24-room recently restored stone and wood lodge, and 13 cottages. Eight lakeside cottages have private boat and fishing docks, fireplaces, or screened-in porches. The remaining five cottages are located in a wooded area. Cottages can be reserved up to a year in advance. Cottage #508, on the shore of Pennyrile Lake, is a visitor favorite. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as a shelter, it’s since been enclosed and refurbished, and now contains a loft bedroom and stone fireplace. For lodge guests and other visitors there’s a dining room where Kentucky specialties, like hot browns and burgoo, are part of the menu.
Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy 56-acre Pennyrile Lake, which contains ample populations of bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and crappie. Rental canoes, rowboats, trolling motors, and pedal boats are available. To protect the lake and its inhabitants, regular boat motors are not permitted.
Golfers will revel in the 9-hole regulation course with a pro shop that is open year-round. Clubs, pull-, and riding carts are available for rent. There’s also an 18-hole miniature golf course, which is lighted for after-dark play. And the tennis and shuffleboard courts are open year-round, weather permitting.
While the pool is only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day for lodge guests and campers, the sand beach is available for swimming to all park visitors.
The park also contains more than eight miles of hiking trails. Of special note is the Indian Bluffs Trail, a 1/4-mile path located within a section of native oak and hickory trees. Along the way you’ll see the Indian Window, the only natural arch within the park.
There is an ongoing slate of ranger-led recreational and interpretive programs, such as Frisbee games, nature walks, and fossil hunts that change weekly. Year-round special events begin in February with the annual Sweetheart Weekend; continue in April with a Spring Wildflower Weekend; rev up in August with the 5K Run Through the Forest; mellow out with a Fall Photography Weekend in October; get ready for the holidays with November’s Country Western Weekend; and celebrate the millennium with A New Year’s Eve bash.
While in the area, you’ll want to make a side trip to Brushy Fork Creek Studio and Gallery, 1550 Pleasant Green Hill Road, Crofton, KY 42217, (270) 424-5988, located about seven miles away. Proprietors Patricia and Paul Ferrell have established a compound that contains a certified organic farm, pottery and wood-turning studios, an artisans gallery, and a sweat lodge. “Our sweat lodge has been sanctified by a Cherokee medicine woman,” notes Paul.
“We hold periodic sweats throughout the summer and early fall.”
Flowers and herbs grown at the farm are sold in the shop, as are Patricia’s wood-fired stoneware, Paul’s handcrafted woodturnings, and pottery and handicrafts produced by Kentucky artisans. The Ferrells welcome visitors, especially if they’re at work in their respective studios.
“We’re open by appointment or chance,” Paul points out. “It’s best to call and make certain we’re here before you come by. We’d hate to miss you.”
For additional information on the park, contact: Pennyrile Forest
State Resort Park, 20781 Pennyrile Lodge Road, Dawson Springs, KY 42408, (270) 797-3421.
Day Trips & Short Stops
Gargoyles over Covington
The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption has been part of the fabric of Covington’s life since 1895. Like a miniature Notre Dame, it is complete with gargoyles peering down from lofty perches, flying buttresses, fanciful waterspouts, and garden.
With an exterior patterned after Notre Dame and an interior fashioned like the Abbey Church of St. Denis, both Parisian landmarks, the cathedral has developed a style all its own.
Most notable are the 82 stained-glass windows crafted by the Meyer Brothers of Munich, Germany. The north transept window at 67 feet high and 24 feet wide-the largest stained-glass church window in the world-is nothing short of magnificent, making the sanctuary light and airy. Carved woods surround the altar of unfinished Appalachian oak, and filigreed wood shrines, found throughout the sanctuary, echo the lightness created by the windows.
Among the art treasures within the cathedral are the Duveneck paintings. Frank Duveneck, a Covington native who achieved international renown as a religious artist, executed four works especially for his hometown church.
There are three pipe organs in the cathedral, the oldest of which was built in 1859, and they are as much a part of the artistic treasures as the windows and paintings.
The museum, located in an adjacent building, along with the gift shop, contains an impressive display of pictures, chalices, and other religious artifacts.
For additional details, contact: The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Madison Avenue at 12th Street, Covington, KY 41011, (606) 431-2060.
Fall fishing preview
Fall fishing really kicks off in September. Cool nights prevail, and daytime temps, while usually still high, are a far cry from the equatorial heat of August.
Indeed, the hardest fishing decision to make is where to go, and for what species. Just about everything is turning on now, in anticipation of the colder weather to come. Here are a few of our choices:
Musky: Musky are fast becoming the glamour fish of the Bluegrass State. Both full-blooded and hybrid water wolves abound in several of our rivers and lakes. But the best place remains Cave Run Lake where, by the way, a new state record was set last year.
Crash’s Landing, in Farmers, is musky headquarters for Cave Run.
There you’ll find all the necessary tackle and information about where the fish are hitting, and what they’re being taken on. Crash Mullins, owner of the shop, is also the pre-eminent musky guide in the South, and may have an opening if you call him at (606) 780-4260.
Trout: Kentucky’s trout program gets better each year. There are about 72 stocked streams, 14 tailrace fisheries, and several ponds.
For our money, you can’t beat Trammel Creek in Allen County. Trammel originates full blown from a single, giant spring. As a result, the fertile waters remain cool all year. This is very conducive to growing trout, and there are many holdover fish reaching the 18-inch mark.
We prefer flyfishing Trammel Creek, which in many respects resembles the limestone streams of Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley. But you can spin fish it too, with artificial or natural bait. Best access is from the Concord Church Bridge, just south of Scottsville.
Walleye: Mooneyes are a fish that’s been swimming in Kentucky waters for quite some time, but are suddenly finding popularity.
Most of the time they are down deep, and it takes specialized tackle and techniques to reach them. But you can troll for them, at night, on Paintsville Lake. Typically, you only take one or two, but they weigh in the 7- to 9-pound range.
Trick is to troll brightly colored crank baits through the flooded timber of the bays and coves, weaving a serpentine pattern. You’ll hang up often, and lose your crank bait. But it’s worthwhile to bag one of these huge goggle eyes.
Tackle and info are available from Wayne’s Tackle Box, on Rt. 23 just north of Paintsville, (606) 297-3474.
Crappie: Used to be, crappie fishing was a springtime affair. More and more anglers are discovering, however, that the fall months are at least as good. For the really big slabs, we head to Barkley Lake and fish the shorelines that have riprap leading into flooded brush. White or chartreuse twister tails on a lead-head jig work wonders for these crappie, or you can float a minnow at the appropriate depth.
Bluegill: Bluegill are ubiquitous in the Bluegrass. Find any puddle and chances are these feisty sunfish will take up residence there. But the uncontested number-one bluegill lake in the state is Wilgreen Lake, in Madison County.
Nobody knows why Wilgreen continues producing big numbers of hand-sized ‘gills. But the 169-acre lake has been doing it for years.
Whatever your favorite bluegill rig-from fly rod poppers to red worms and crickets-it works on Wilgreen. This time of year you’ll find the fish from the surface to about 10 feet down.
Wilgreen is hard to find for strangers, so it’s best to call the boat dock there, at (606) 624-0626.