The people and places of north-central Kentucky, from the eyes of a travel writer experiencing it for the first time
To me Kentucky is long, narrow winding roads that lead through hardwood forests and endless acres of horse farms. It is long periods of solitude broken up with good ‘ole honest fun. My notebook lists key words that describe Kentucky. Words such as horses, Buffalo Trace bourbon, and pickup trucks describe this state, as do deer, eagles, and farms. Words to describe the people of Kentucky are gracious, friendly, funny, and friend.
There is Kristopher Kelley, the manager of Woodland Farm in Goshen, who graciously shows me around his farm. According to Kelley, “Our goal is to produce food of the highest quality while working in harmony with nature.” Kelley even produces the bio-diesel fuel that powers the equipment that is used on the farm.
Then there are the people at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg. People here are willing to share their knowledge with anyone interested in what they have to say. A simpler way of life doesn’t necessarily mean going without. According to a farm staff member, “The Shakers were open to anything that would make their lives easier while at the same time not compromising their values.”
Bryan Jenkins, a self-proclaimed cross between a redneck and a hillbilly, is an interesting character, and a person I am glad I met. Jenkins is a guide for TNT Guide Service, a fishing guide service that specializes in muskie fishing at Cave Run Lake in Morehead and operates out of Crash’s Landing Inc. tackle store in Morehead. Despite our best efforts, after six hours on the water, we never catch a muskie, but that is fishing. We laugh and tell fishing lies, I mean stories, like we have known each other forever.
In Georgetown, I stop at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. Here I meet Michael Blowen, a former Boston Globe entertainment writer who fell in love with horses, Thoroughbreds in particular, and opened the farm in 2003. “I have always been interested in horse racing and I started this farm because I saw a need to help these former race horses after they retired from the track,” Michael tells me. There are over 100 horses currently on the farm and Michael knows them all by name. This is strictly a labor of love, as Old Friends operates entirely on donations.
Next stop is Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. According to our guide Freddie Johnson, “What makes Kentucky bourbon special is the water.” His personal connection to Buffalo Trace only adds to his colorful narration. The fact that there is bourbon tasting at the end of the tour doesn’t hurt either.
You can’t really appreciate Kentucky unless you get away from the hotels, highways, and tourist attractions. Doing so will put you in touch with its “wild” side. Deer can be found around any corner. Raccoons are common visitors in the evening, and bald eagles nest along the banks of Cave Run Lake. Kentucky is, of course, horse country, and no matter where you travel through north-central Kentucky you are likely to see horses behind miles and miles of fencing.Where to stay
There are many great places to stay throughout north-central Kentucky. Listed below is where writer Dana Benner laid his head.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrdosburg
The Inn at Shaker Village boasts 72 guest rooms, suites, and cottages all located in 13 restored Shaker buildings. All of the rooms are furnished with reproduction Shaker furniture. Very peaceful place to stay.
Kentucky State Parks
Strategically located throughout the area there are numerous beautiful state parks. Besides camping opportunities, some offer resort-like accommodations.
Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, Carlisle
Located at the site of the famous American Revolution battlefield, one of the only preserved Revolutionary War sites in Kentucky, the Worthington Lodge at Blue Licks offers 32 nicely furnished rooms. Walk out your door and you will soon be walking in the footsteps of Daniel Boone. Watch for deer and other wildlife.
General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton
Overlooking the Ohio River Valley (and the Ohio River from the observation deck), General Butler State Park is a true gem in the woods. Each of the 53 rooms of the General Butler Lodge overlooks either the pool or the wooded hillside.
The Blue Licks Battlefield Monument just inside the northern entrance at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park commemorates the men who died in one of the worst military defeats of the American Revolution. Photo: Kentucky Department of ParksDana Benner