5 Best Places to Visit in Kentucky

Logging, Like War, Is Not An Act Of Nature. It Doesn’T Just Happen, Like An Earthquake Or A Tornado; Someone Must Choose To Log. But In This Forest That Choice Was Never Made, And Instinct Tells Me It Was Because Of These Special Rock Formations. I Imagine It Was More Than Just The Difficulty Of Logging; I Want To Think It Also Had Something To Do With Aesthetics.

5 Best Places to Visit in Kentucky Photo Gallery

A Few Weeks Ago, I Visited The Museum Of Modern Art In New York City. Thousands Of People Were Paying Twenty Dollars Each To Get In The Doors. The Featured Exhibition, By Richard Serra, One Of The Preeminent Sculptors Of Our Era, Consisted Mostly Of Massive Steel Plates Curved To Enclose The Viewer. The Museum Describes His Work As “Emphasiz[Ing] Materiality And The Engagement Between The Viewer, The Site, And The Work.” At The Exhibit, People Oohed And Ahhed, Took Pictures, And Touched (Even When They Weren’T Supposed To). But Here In The Hills Of Kentucky, Where There Was No Charge And No Other People, I Was Moved In A Much Deeper Way. This Was Grand Sculpture, Indeed. Is It Still Art If Not Made By Human Hands?

The State Of Kentucky Began Protecting This Area In 1995 By Purchasing Slightly More Than A Thousand Acres And Has Added To The Preserve Almost Every Year Since Then. The State Is Serious About Protecting This Tract, The Largest Old-Growth Forest In Kentucky. In Addition To Saving The Old Growth, The Government And The Land Trusts Aim To Protect The Entire Ridgeline Where Blanton Forest Is Located. Many Agencies, From Federal To Private, Have Joined Efforts To Keep The Entire Mountain Range A Natural, Intact, Functioning Ecosystem. Although The Blanton Forest Preserve Now Includes More Than Three Thousand Acres, Even That Is Not Large Enough To Be Considered A Truly Intact And Functional Ecosystem With Enough Shelter And Food Sources For Top Predators, Such As Bears And Mountain Lions.

Clinging To The Steep, Shady Sides Of Some Of The Smooth Granite Rocks, Where It Seemed Nothing At All Should Be Able To Grow, Were What Looked Like Thin Strips Of Mocha-Brown Leather. At First, It Was Difficult To Believe These Were Living, Growing Organisms, But They Were, In Fact, Lichens Called Smooth Rocktripe. The Name Comes From The French Canadian Tripe De Roche, Which Translates Literally As “Rock Guts.” For Thousands Of Years, Native Americans Have Used Species Of This Lichen As Emergency Food, Usually Boiled In A Broth. It Was Even Eaten By George Washington’S Troops At Valley Forge, Who Were Probably Taught About This Lichen By Indians.

Dog And I Paused While I Photographed The Rocktripe And Then, After A Moment’S Hesitation, I Broke Off A Little Piece And Put It In My Mouth. Not Bad, But Not Good Either; It Was Somewhat Tasteless In This Dry Condition. I Wouldn’T Have Opposed Eating This Lichen To Survive, But It Grows So Slowly That I Would Only Consider Eating More If I Really Had To. One Study, In Which Individuals Were Measured Annually, Discovered That Rocktripe Grows Only A Few Millimeters About The Width Of A Caper Every Year. Knowing That The Lichen I Was Looking At Had Been Growing On That Rock, Undisturbed, For At Least Ten Years, And Probably More, Made Me Want To Leave It There A While


On The Shady Backside Of The Massive Summit Rock, Dog And I Stopped For A Drink Of Water And A Snack. I Ate Half A Banana Nut Muffin And Gave Him The Other Half. He Didn’T Seem To Mind Drinking From The Creek, So I Kept The Bottled Water For Myself. Farther Down The Trail, Someone Had Erected A Ladder To Facilitate Climbing Over A Particularly Tricky Spot. Even Though Dog Couldn’T Climb The Ladder, He Led Me To The Bottom Of It Before Running Around On A Longer, More Dog-Friendly Route. That Was When I Changed His Name To Angel Dog.

Back At My Truck, I Thanked Him For His Service. I Considered Inviting Him Onto The Passenger Seat And Making Him My Trail Companion Forever. But His Collar And Demeanor Told Me That He Was Already Well Loved And His Disappearance Would Cause Someone Sorrow. Sometimes, Even The Best Relationships Are Meant To Be Brief.

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