JR Goodwin, our good friend from Louisville, Kentucky, recently helped host a Trail Day to maintain the trails in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve – Coal Bank Hollow. At the end of the day, he found himself in a rare state – out of words.
Sitting here to type out the events of the May 15th trail day extravaganza I find myself, for once, speechless. From the initial ideas and layout to the hard work and sweat of those in attendance as well as the lunch, beer, and party spot donated by those who couldn’t attend, a huge THANK YOU!! I have been left smiling about the wonderful community and family that we of the Red River Gorge are so lucky to have. A passion passed onto me by many of those before me was obviously shared by the many, many people that showed up that day and to say that much was accomplished would be an understatement of the sheer force that descended onto coal Bank Hollow that day.
During the week(s) prior, Mike Driskell was a huge help in the idea forming and planning that allowed a defined idea to be visualized. On top of that he secured much of the material that was used in the water bars and steps and Travis from Louisville was awesome enough to transport it down to the Gorge for us. Add to this that the Friday before the trail day Mike, Josephine Neff, and Ken Thompson were great enough to come out and help do some tree cutting and finish off the gate that had been installed earlier in the season. We walked the trails to discuss more ideas, spray the spots where work needed to be done, and move trees that stood in our way to help make the actual trail day run that much smoother.
Saturday morning rolled in and Mike, Ken, Travis, Matt Tackett, and Mark Jackson helped with getting everything we needed out to the trailhead. Well, everything but one of the wagon wheels and I must say, the way that story ended is priceless. As we all got into positions, folks started to trickle in at first and some of the first crews headed off to work on the Solar Collector main trail. As that crew got started I walked back to the parking lot where more folks had started to show up to help. Ken and Mike took crews back to Darkside to begin many of the big jobs that lay ahead. We had so many people show up that by 9 o’clock there was only a rake left in the parking lot. Unfazed, people gladly carried lumber and other materials down the long trail to where work was being done. Once there, everyone worked as one large team, switching out when tired, helping to move trees, and just providing the upbeat vibe that made the whole day a blast.
Walking the trails watching everyone busting their rump was so inspiring and humbling. To be part of this community is like none other. Heading up to Solar to see what was needed, the crews had already blocked off the bushwhack trail near the top as well as installed a few steps, water bars, and even widened the trail in a few spots. All down the trail, water bars were installed and one switchback was shored up and the corner cutter’s path was blocked off. More beautiful work has never been seen outside of an art museum.
Leaving there I made my way back to Darkside where more crews were encountered installing water bars and the most amazing drainage and mosaic bridge you will ever see where the Solar trail splits off of the main trail. Heading down the trail the sounds of chainsaws filled the air and one could only imagine what Ken and Mark were up to back there. Once there my jaw dropped at what this mass of dedicated folks had accomplished in such a short time. There, in the marsh that awaits one after crossing the log bridge was a step like trail of cut logs. No more muddy feet – yippee!! While one crew worked on that another crew had rerouted the two drainages that cause the marsh to flow behind a large boulder and into the creek. Time will hopefully dry up the marsh and make it even better than it was by the end of that day.
Moving up the trail, more water bars were added and crews shored up a few areas that had gotten trampled awhile back. The trail, now wider and better, should last for years to come. Continuing upwards to where the large tree had come down, the crews up there had built a few steps and shored up there as well, making that section much easier and nicer to navigate. Also, up top where the huge tree lays across the trail, both Ken and Mark took turns cutting through the behemoth to allow the trail to follow its original path and the trail that had sprouted up in its place was blocked off with brush and small woodland creatures. Also, the trail was widened a little near the very top to allow easier passage and better drainage. All in all the trails that were worked on should last quite a long time with minimal upkeep except the occasional trimming and TLC.
After all their hard work, everyone headed back to the parking lot for a lunch that was sponsored by Rick Bost and Steph Meadows and lovingly prepared by Ms. Meadows herself and delivered thanks to Phil Wilkes. A small raffle was held with prizes donated by Red River Outdoors, Miguel’s, C&S Carryout, and the Access Fund. That evening after everyone had climbed and eaten, the real fun began at Torrent Falls thanks to the awesome hospitality of Dr. Bob who opened his home and backyard to all who helped. With plenty of sore muscles and enough beer to make one forget about the aches, we all gathered round the kitchen first before making our way to the fire pit. As the stars shone down and the rain came down, one could only sit back and smile at the greatest group of people to share a fire with. THANK YOU all, see you next year.
Thank you to: Zach Romero, Tasha Kenrick, Michelle Ellington, Jordan Stein, Konrad Schlenkrich, Gitta Lubke, Brice Markley, Jonathan Stair, Sean Stewart, Yasmeen Fowler, Lindsey Gram, Brent Dupree, Mark Jackson, Norma Froelich, Chris Kunesh, Crystal Norgren, Philip Wilkes, Ryan O’Connor, Carrie Krikpatrick, Jimmy Farrell, Mike LaFontains, Melissa Kelley, Ken Thompson, Kathryn Gamble, Travis Peek, Terri King, Deanna L., Spenser Victory, Roger Bess, Blake Bowling, Alex Hain, Mike Palic, Anna Hayes, Richard Strange, Michael Lamb, Kathryn Gulley, Mike Driskell, Kenton Weir, Matt Tackett, Stephanie Meadows, Michael Cole, and of course JR Goodwin. If you do not see your name or it’s spelled incorrectly, please let us know. This information was gathered from signed waivers and is subject to mistakes.