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Weekend Wanderings

A western escape

  Summer is in high gear. Barbecues and pool parties abound. The kids are
already bored. And out-of-town relatives and friends have descended like a plague
of locusts.

  It’s time to escape to the quiet and solitude of Madisonville and Dawson
Springs. Located in the western part of the Commonwealth, Madisonville is a pretty
little community, and Dawson Springs was the health spa of the 19th century.

  After you’ve made your getaway, head straight for the Carriage House Bed
& Breakfast in Madisonville. Rebecca and David Dugger have created a simple
but luxurious hostelry on the outskirts of town. Comfortable rooms with elegant
appointments await you, along with a cheery sunroom and spacious deck for wildlife
watching. Spotting scopes and binoculars, as well as a variety of bird, wildlife,
and flower guides, are available. Early mornings and late evenings are especially
good for seeing and identifying birds and animals. And if you’re looking to perfect
your golf swing, the Duggers own a nearby driving range. Your hosts are also de
facto tourism gurus for the area. They have brochures, pamphlets, and guidebooks
to point you in the right direction. And their knowledge of the locale is unsurpassed.
You’ll arrive as a guest, and depart as a lifelong friend.

  After settling in, head north about six miles to the tiny community of
Hanson. Founded in 1869, Hanson became a bustling tobacco center, with "Hanson
Twist" shipped all over the United States. Flourishing for nearly four decades,
disastrous fires in 1891, 1894, and 1905-06 led to the community’s demise.

  The little town contains seven buildings, unchanged from their original
19th-century appearance. Said to be the largest unaltered 19th-century commercial
district in the Commonwealth, the buildings, most unoccupied, are in terrible
disrepair. But enough significant architectural details remain to make a look-see
worthwhile.

  You’ll want to visit the Ruby Laffoon log cabin, so return to Madisonville.
Built around 1865, the cabin-birthplace and boyhood home of former Kentucky Governor
Ruby Laffoon-was moved from its rural Hopkins County site to its present location
on Union Street. Despite its age, more than a third of the logs are original,
and you can see the hand-hewn marks clearly. Furnishings from the time Laffoon
grew up, including a marble-topped dresser and table, are original to the cabin.

  The Pennyroyal Herb Club maintains and interprets three gardens beside
the cabin. The medicinal garden was the drugstore of 19th-century rural America.
It contains a variety of plantings, such as coltsfoot, yarrow, pennyroyal, comfrey,
boneset, horehound, peppermint, anise, chamomile, and caraway seed, all used to
brew herbal teas, fashion poultices, and concoct salves and ointments. The cooking
garden was the supermarket. It sports licorice, lemon balm, dill, mint, borage,
sorrel, chives, and tarragon to help season and add flavor to the fruits and vegetables
a 19th-century farmwife would have raised. The fragrance garden was the hardware
store. It blooms with lavender, wormwood, tansy, sweet woodruff, rosemary, thyme,
and savory used to clean, repel insects and other vermin, and disinfect.

  The Hopkins County Museum, maintained by the local historical society,
sits beside the Laffoon Cabin. Filled with furnishings and artifacts, the museum
tells the story of past life and times in Madisonville and Hopkins County.

  The Hopkins County Historical Society, 107 Union Street, (270) 821-3986,
has a Historical Walking Tour Guide, which takes you to the site of a number of
homes-all private residences-on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s
also a guide to antiques and collectibles.

  When you’re finished exploring downtown Madisonville, drive south and west
to Dawson Springs. You’ll want to contact Claude Holeman, curator of the Dawson
Springs Museum, before you go. He’ll make certain the museum is open, and function
as your tour guide while you’re in town.

  For nearly 50 years, beginning in the mid-1880s, Dawson Springs was where
folks from all over came to "take the waters." The town’s prosperity
centered around the mineral waters and artesian wells that abounded here. More
than 40 boardinghouses and hotels catered to the needs of the annual influx of
visitors who flocked to heal themselves physically and psychologically. In 1900,
the Illinois Central Railway transported 51,000 visitors to the spas. And that
doesn’t count those who came by private carriage, wagon, or horseback.

  The Dawson Springs Museum chronicles the town’s heyday through historic
photos and artifacts. There is also available a limited supply of commemorative
bottles containing mineral water that can be purchased as a souvenir. Holeman
can point you to important sites and attractions around town, such as the Hamby
Well Site, the most famous artesian well in town; the 1886 Darby House, the last
remaining boardinghouse from the Water Boarder Era, which is currently undergoing
restoration; Riverside Park, also undergoing restoration, where water boarders
once enjoyed excursion boat rides on the Trade-water River; and cave tours at
Arcadia Cliffs.

  To arrange for your own escape to Madisonville, contact: Rebecca and David
Dugger, Carriage House Bed & Breakfast, 325 Carriage Lane, Madisonville, KY
42431, (270) 825-8666, e-mail: carriage@wko.com. For Dawson Springs, contact:
Claude Holeman, Dawson Springs Museum, P.O. Box 107, Dawson Springs, KY 42408,
(270) 797-3503 or -3891.

Day Trips & Short Stops

Lexington Cemetery tree walk

  Since its founding in 1849 area residents have always thought of The Lexington
Cemetery as a public park. So much so that the board of directors had to issue
formal prohibitions against weddings, picnics, and general frolicking on the grounds.

  Nevertheless, The Lexington Cemetery continues to attract visitors of all
stripes, thanks to the myriad of trees and plantings scattered among the tombstones.
The board has allowed the trees to grow naturally, without the use of insecticides,
fertilizers, pruning, trimming, or artificial shaping. Consequently, the 41 species
of trees are the best specimens of their type growing in the area and, in some
cases, the largest of their kind.

  The cemetery provides a Tree Walk Guide, detailing each specimen along
the way, all marked by metal tags, making them easy to identify. Trying to see
the trees in numerical order involves a tremendous amount of backtracking. Here’s
an easier way to get the most out of your visit:

  Begin at the Henry Clay site, in front of which is an American basswood
tree, the largest of its kind in the U.S. Soaring to more than 100 feet, with
a circumference of 18 feet, its crown spreads 83 feet, offering plenty of shade
on a hot summer day. Cross the Henry Clay plot to the right of the crypt, and
turn left at the road. At the intersection, take the road between sections B and
A, toward the office. You’ll be seeing identified species along the way. Consult
your guidebook for detailed explanations.

  Swing around section A to the next intersection, where you’ll see several
species in the sunken garden section, and a grouping in section K. Follow the
road between F and K, swinging left past C, E, and H, to I before coming to another
intersection. Across from I is a Kentucky cafeteria-the state tree. Early day
settlers ground the seeds for a coffee-like brew.

  From I proceed to P and halfway across, following the arc of the Precut
family plot. Formal floral gardens are across the road, and worth a detour. Follow
the road between P and the gardens to the lake, where you’ll find some bald cypress.
Turn right at the main road. Follow it between J and P, G and J, and F and C,
returning to where you started.

  For additional information, contact: The Lexington Cemetery, 833 W. Main
St., Lexington, KY 40508, and (606) 255-5522.

Outdoor Log

Kruger Classic Sporting Clays

  Among sporting clays shooters, the name Jon Kruger is magic. The first
inductee into the Sporting Clays Hall of Fame, Kruger’s list of awards and accomplishments
is as long as a 32-inch barrel-everything from being national champion several
times to captain of the All American team.

  Maybe that’s why nearly 500 shooters gathered at Elk Creek Hunt Club &
Sporting Clays, near Owenton, for the first-ever Kruger Cup back in May. Jon Kruger
had recently moved there, as resident pro, and they celebrated with what turned
into the third largest sporting clays event this year.

  Or maybe it was the entry fee. At only $99 (against a guaranteed purse
of $10,000 in cash and prizes), it was one of the most affordable major events
on the circuit.

  Or maybe it was just the chance to compete at Kentucky’s newest-and some
say best-full-service shooting resort. Elk Creek is just a year old, but already
has received rave reviews by hunters and shooters.

  Whatever the reason, it was a real gathering of the clans. There were Master
Class shooters like Jim Jamison and Gary Williams competing with All American
Pat Litzke. Top ranked women shooters like Mari McStay and Mai Manning were there
too. In fact, with 40 women registered, it had, proportionately, one of the highest
women’s field of any major event I know of. George Quigley was there too. George
is a former Olympic shooter.

  But it wasn’t an event strictly for the pros. Jerry Neal, a Class C shooter
from Washington, came up to shoot in his first-ever big event. Jerry was more
typical of the turnout. Bob Teal, another first-timer, came down from Michigan,
for instance, to shoot against the likes of Chic Chism, a Class E from Winchester.

  Virtually every shooter was satisfied with the target presentation. Kruger
had designed two courses that were hard enough to challenge the AA shooters, but
not so difficult that Class E shooters found them impossible. In fact, many of
the Class D and E shooters were matching or surpassing the A and B shooters.

  Kruger is a master at using terrain, targets, and trap placement to create
presentations that do a number on your head. Unless you analyze them carefully,
the clay birds may not be behaving the way you first think, or you have to shoot
them differently from your initial inclination. So it isn’t enough to shoot them
with your shotgun. You have to shoot them with your mind.

  The event proved so popular that Kruger and Elk Creek already are trying
to repeat it. The Kruger Classic will be held August 19-22. There will be the
same $99 entry fee, against the same $10,000 in cash and prizes, plus all the
side games expected at such events.

  For details, or an entry form, contact Elk Creek Hunt Club, 1860 Georgetown
Rd., Owenton, KY 40359, (502) 484-4569.

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