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This is the next post in the Elkhorn City Trail Town series today I want to talk about the Pine Mountain Traill. If you want to read the first post in the series on the Blue Line Trail and Riverwalk click HERE.
The Pine Mountain Trail is open with contiguous trail from the Breaks Interstate Park to US 119 at Jenkins, Kentucky. It is designated in two sections for a total of 42 miles. When traveling from North to South you begin in Elkhorn City and travel the ridge to Jenkins.
The Birch Knob Section of the Pine Mountain Trail begins at the Russell Fork trailhead in the Breaks Park at Elkhorn City, Kentucky and follows the Pine Mountain ridge line 13 miles to Birch Knob, the highest point on this section of trail. Water and primitive camping is available here with an overnight camp shelter. Continuing southwest for 13 miles is the trailhead at US 23 at Pound Gap at Jenkins, Kentucky.
Elkhorn City sets at the northern most end of the Pine Mountain Trail, the Pine Mountain Trail head is at Carson Island near the Blue Hole pay lake near the border to the Breaks Interstate Park. Numerous people have been enjoying using the trail head for the past four years. I myself have seen hikers from all over the United States near the trail head and in downtown Elkhorn City.
The trail from the trail head into Elkhorn city is Carson Island Road to Patty Loveless drive and into downtown Elkhorn City. It’s at this point that the Pine Mountain Trail also intersects with the Trans-America Bike Trail and that the new Pike Energy Trail which is going to be the connector trail for the Great Eastern Trail leaving Elkhorn city on its way across Pike County to Matewan West Virginia.
Here is a link to the Birch Knob Section of the Pine Mountain Trail. PMT Birch Knob Section Map
Next in the Series will be the new Pike Energy Trail
Adventure Racing makes its debut in the area by testing racers over a grueling 15 hour course.
Elkhorn City, KY. April 13, 2013: Racers from across the U.S. compete in a challenging event beginning at Breaks Interstate Park. Over the 15 hour course, racers will run, bike and paddle all while using a map and compass to find their way through some of the toughest terrain the area has to offer. To complete the event, athletes will push themselves over 65 very challenging miles.
The Breakdown Adventure Race is bringing a collection of extreme athletes to the area imposingly dubbed, “The Grand Canyon of the South”. Starting in the immense and spectacular gorge area of Breaks Interstate Park, along the Kentucky/Virginia border, racers will begin an adventure with miles of mountain-high biking, scenic backcountry, and clear, gorgeous waters. For some, the goal will be just to reach the finish line, while others will be competing to qualify for a spot at the USARA National Adventure Racing Championships.
As a never-before raced venue, the inaugural Breakdown will hopefully introduce racers to what the area has to offer, and will grow each year with some really exciting prospects on the horizon.
Shawn Lemaster, one of the Race Directors for 361°Adventures, is excited about bringing a race of this caliber to an area that’s actively embracing and searching for eco-tourism type of activities. “Growing up in Kentucky, I kind of took for granted how beautiful and rugged my home turf was, but revisiting Breaks Park was incredible. It’s one of those places that’s so scenic it seems misplaced – like you should have to travel somewhere on vacation just to see.”
Lemaster also commented on the unbelievable amount of cooperation from all the local agencies involved in making this a reality, “Across the board, we’ve received nothing but warm welcome and support. Breaks, Elkhorn City, Haysi, the folks at Pine Mountain Trail, the Army Corps of Engineers, the East Kentucky Trackers… you name it, they’ve all been on board and invaluable to making this a success.”
The action begins the weekend of April 13, 2013.
This is a guest post by James “Fred” Stapleton about the Great Eastern Trail thru Hikers that made it to Elkhorn City yesterday. The Great Eastern Trail is going to be a great thing for Elkhorn … heres Fred!
Another historic day has come and gone in Elkhorn City, KY. The world renowned “Hillbilly Bart and Someday Jo Show” arrived safe and sound at the northern terminus of the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail section of the Great Eastern Trail on March 11, 2013. I must say this show was spectacular! Definitely the best show in town, any town!
In case you are wondering what the “Hillbilly Bart and Someday Jo Show” is all about. It’s all about the Great Eastern Trail (GET) and its first two thru-hikers, Joanna Swanson a.k.a. “Someday” from Minnesota and Bart Houck a.k.a. “Hillbilly Bart” from West Virginia.
Like truck drivers, long- distance hikers have a “trail handle”. Unlike truck drivers, long-distance hikers are on a much slower pace and they carry their cargo (25-45 lbs) on their backs. Bart and Jo began their epic journey in January on the southern end of the trail in Alabama and expect to be in New York’s Finger Lakes region sometime in May or June at the northern end.
The Great Eastern Trail (GET) is America’s newest long-distance hiking trail which is 1800 miles long and crosses nine states. Originally called the Western Appalachian Alternative, it was conceived by Earl Shaffer, the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. The Great Eastern Trail (GET) provides a premier hiking experience on a series of existing trails that are being linked to each other into a long-distance footpath in the Appalachian Mountains stretching from Alabama to the Finger Lakes Trail in New York.
Kentucky’s newest state park, the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail is now officially part of the GET system and this is good news for Pike County. The Pine Mountain/Russell Fork River Corridor of Pike County Kentucky is quickly becoming an international destination for high-end eco-tourism activities. Undoubtedly, areas of Pike County such as Elkhorn City are poised to reap the benefits of this potential adventure recreation industry.
For example, in 1972 the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) established an outdoor recreation company located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Nantahala River in rural Swain County, North Carolina, that has proven to be a shining success story. Originally a roadside inn, the company has evolved into one of the largest recreation companies in the nation and one of western Carolina’s largest employers. In 2010, NOC contributed $85,386,489 to the local economy while providing a total of 1,061 jobs. Another successful eco-tourism example is nearby Damascus, Virginia where 20,000 people hike into town for the annual “Trail Days” celebration.
I certainly think good things are on the horizon for communities that invest in eco-tourism but not all the benefits will be from financial gain, as I was privileged to witness Monday evening when I met “Hillbilly Bart” and “Someday” at the Pine Mountain Trailhead in Elkhorn City. This marked the beginning of “The Hillbilly Bart and Someday Jo Show” and I was fortunate enough to have the honor of rendezvousing with them at the Pine Mountain Trailhead and even more fortunate when they agreed to use my garage apartment, for a night of well deserved rest off the trail. “Someday” and “Hillbilly” were glad to get a solid roof over their heads (instead of nylon) and a hot shower. As for me, I was proud as a peacock to share my humble home with these celebrities. It was great to share their experiences over dinner at the Rusty Fork Café and again over my own, world famous oatmeal the following morning.
I’m not sure who receives the most enjoyment on this type of journey… the backpackers or local folks like myself, whom they meet along the way. When I met “Sometime” and “Hillbilly Bart” Monday evening I essentially became part of their journey. I became a team member and began to feel their excitement, their anticipation of what lies ahead, the dread of an approaching storm and the joy of finding out they have reached a safe campsite for the night.
This experience has made me think of the true advantages of living in a “trail town” or a “river town”. Throughout the ages humans have followed trails and rivers to advance trade… and trade advances prosperity and culture. So, just living near a river or a trail exposes us to new people, with new ideas that will enhance our knowledge and quality of life through diversity.
This exchange of humanity is equally experienced by our visitors hiking the trail as well. This is described by Debra Smith in her book, ”Great Stories of Hiking the Appalachian Trail”. She says “It might even be called a journey in human relationships and fantastic hospitality, with walking secondary. Folks we met along the way boosted our morale. Their faith in us, that we would achieve our goal and their help in making it possible could not have been greater. In this day of hate and violence it is refreshing to meet human beings who exemplify love for their fellowman.”
As Jo and Bart are approaching mile 700 on their 1,800 mile (4-5 month) trek from Alabama to New York on the newly developed Great Eastern Trail, I have no doubt they will arrive in New York with smiling faces, a few blisters and a pocket-full of Smarties. I’ve learned that Smarties and Moon Pies are like some-kind-of redneck Power Bar for thru-hikers. I would have never known!
If these folks stop in your town don’t miss the show. It’s certainly worth the price of admission…just for the nutritional info alone. Seriously, if you are fortunate enough to encounter these adventurers on their journey, offer your assistance and what you will receive in return will stick with you forever.
In conclusion, I am happy to report that I returned “Hillbilly Bart” and “Someday” to the trailhead where I found them this morning and they are now on their merry way to Matewan, West Virginia with great enthusiasm and spirit, along with “Hillbilly’s” bum ankle and “Someday’s” blistered foot. My advice…don’t bet against these guys. Personally, I’m betting the bank that the famous “Hillbilly Bart and Someday Jo Show” will be playing at a campsite somewhere in New York soon!!!
To join in the fun and follow the adventures of “Hillbilly Bart” and “Someday” on their way to New York visit their website at http://www.gethiking.net. Go, Go, Go Bart and Jo.
Submitted by James Stapleton
The author is a member of the Board of Directors of the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail and currently living the dream in Elkhorn City, Kentucky.
You can find out more about the Great Eastern Trail Here
Follow Bart and Jo progress at www.gethiking.net
Two Years ago today I wrote a post entitled 10 things Elkhorn City Must do to Thrive! Now we are going to take a look at each one of the 10 things individually and point out the specific steps that can be taken to accomplish each point. (The good news is we have already accomplished items 3a 3b and 3c and the mayor is doing a great job with item 4.)
Number 1 on the list was “Establish a Local Tourism and Convention
Commission.” The Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association has written an excellent document entitled “Tourism 101 Manual “ on how to establish a local tourism commission. The first question is…
What is a Tourist Commission? Let’s take a look at what the manual has to say.
“A tourist commission is a nonprofit organization formed to promote tourism in a community and is typically funded by a transient room tax also known as a “bed tax.” The funds collected for a tourist commission can be used only for the promotion of tourism. The tourist commission is governed by a board, which gets the community involved as well as the local government, because representatives from both must participate. A paid staff at the tourist commission promotes and develops tourism in the community. This staff typically produces brochures, attends travel shows, and promotes the community outside the region by following an organized marketing and advertising plan. As a result of this type of promotion, tourism properties in the area can expand, benefiting the local economy.”
The second question we should ask is, Why do we need one? We need one for alot of reasons. First and foremost, is having a local body as a Tourism Commission enables a community to chart its own course in marketing itself and it tourism development. Elkhorn City would not be dependent on Pikeville and Pike County’s Tourism Commission. All the other reasons will be apparent as I go through the process of how Elkhorn City can establish a local tourism commission.
The Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), specifically, KRS 91A.350(2) enables Elkhorn City can establish its’ own local tourist and convention commission for the purpose of promoting and developing convention and tourist activities and facilities.
Who is on the Tourist Commission?
In Kentucky KRS 91A.360 governs membership of Tourist and Convention Commissions.
In Elkhorn City, a Tourist and Convention Commission members would be appointed by the mayor with at least 2 citizens form the local city hotel and motel association. Elkhorn City does not have a hotel and motel association. In this instance KRS 91A.360 states, “If no formal local city or county hotel and motel association is in existence upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then up to three (3) commissioners shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing local hotels or motels”
1 commissioner form the local restaurant association
“If no formal local restaurant association or associations exist upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then one (1) commissioner shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing a local restaurant”
1 form the local chamber of commerce
If no local chamber of commerce is in existence upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then one (1) commissioner shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing local businesses”
(D) 2 commissioners by the mayor
KRS 91A.390 provides that the City can enact a Room Tax 3% and that “(2) All moneys collected pursuant to this section and KRS 91A.400 shall be maintained in an account separate and unique from all other funds and revenues collected, and shall be considered tax revenue for the purposes of KRS 68.100 and KRS 92.330”
Elkhorn City can also enact a Restaurant tax through KRS 91A.400 Restaurant tax in cities of the fourth and fifth class.
In addition to 3% room tax a 3% sales tax on … All moneys collected must be turned over to the Tourist and convention commission in the city as provided by KRS 91A.350 to 91A.390.
It would not hurt any of our current business by the imposing of the additional taxes. Believe me we all pay them when we go to Pikeville to eat out or most any other town in Kentucky. It does not make sense for the businesses to complain about the extra taxes since all the money goes back into market and promoting Elkhorn City which then brings in more business.
Here are some helpful links for planning and help in this area:
Elkhorn City Economic Development and Tourism Planning Resources
This is a guest post by Cheryl Ramey-Barker. Cheryl left Elkhorn City, Kentucky when she was 16 and recently came back to visit for a few days. I asked Cheryl to write down her thoughts on Elkhorn now vs what she remember and give us some ideas on what we could do to improve Elkhorn City and its growing tourist industry. Her thoughts are very relevant to our current Trial Town Project and what little things we can do to be more tourist “Ready” Here is what she came up with!
I was raised in small town in Eastern Kentucky. As a child I couldn’t wait to leave it. I was convinced that there was something bigger and better out there, just waiting for me. I left Elkhorn City in 1984, I was 16. I moved to Lexington, graduated high school and upon realizing that there was no money for college, I joined the Navy.
I traveled the world and saw the sights that most people still long to see. I lived in several places. I once lived in 5 different states within a six-year period. But that is the “Military Life.” In all of my travels and in all of the places I lived, there was always something missing. I realized that I missed the small town, the mountains that surrounded it and the people who made it “home.”
I recently traveled back to Elkhorn City. I was so happy to be home. It felt like it always had. A warm, friendly place with a slower pace that what I have become accustomed to. The scenery has changed somewhat. Businesses and homes that I expected to see were no longer there. There were a few new businesses but not nearly enough to replace the revenue and jobs that have been lost. This was once a quite busy little town. There were several restaurants and full service gas stations and even a motel. The gas stations are long gone, replaced by a convenient store with gas pumps. The motel is closed up with vines taking over the exterior of the building. And the restaurant that I remember has been replaced with The Rusty Fork Cafe. It’s the social gathering place for the town. It’s where the men come for their morning coffee and conversation to discuss current events and local politics. I remember as a little girl referring to this as the “coffee club.” The food was even better than I remember and it was a warm feeling to see that the coffee club still holds its regular meetings.
Several new businesses have popped up in town. I saw a new pizza place. Thank Heavens-who could live without pizza! There is also a new theater with plays and musicals. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the current play, “Greater Tuna,” but the reviews I have read state anything on stage there is a great show. There is also a new gift store in town, The Pine Mountain Outlet. It’s definitely more of a boutique than a gift store. At least it’s not what I expected, it was a great shop, but I was hoping to see some Appalachian Crafts for sale in there. I know the local women are extremely talented with their sewing and quilting projects and their canning of jams and jellies.
I guess what disappointed me the most was that there wasn’t a single item to be found that referenced Elkhorn City in any way. I know bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and t-shirts may sound cheesy to some, but I want people to ask me about my home town. I want them see my t-shirt and say “Elkhorn City, where on Earth is that?” I want to tell them that it’s where the mountains meet the sky and the most beautiful place on Earth. It’s where the people are warm and treat strangers like family. I want to tell them about the River Walk, the Blue Line Trail, the ACT Theater, and the delicious food at The Rusty Fork. But there was nothing that I could find to elicit such a question. So for now, I will take my opportunities as they come and break out the pictures on my cell phone or my laptop whenever I can squeeze it into the conversation. But a bumper sticker or a t-shirt sure would have made it a lot easier!
I have often hoped for Elkhorn City to have new businesses to support the local economy. I honestly believe that tourism is the way to grow and sustain the town, especially with the renewed interest in the Hatfield and McCoy Feud. I am pleased to hear that the white water rafting expeditions have taken off so well. I would like to see a sporting goods store of some sort there, selling kayaks and paddles, camping supplies and the like and possibly renting equipment for those who weren’t prepared or forgot their gear. Even a new motel so folks don’t have to stay in Breaks (unless they want to). I think about a soda fountain designed like they were in the old days complete with a soda jerk serving up ice cream floats and sundaes. There are several open store fronts that would make a nice place for an Appalachian Crafts store. Maybe the local ladies could offer their crafts on consignment. A store similar to the old “What’s it Shop” would be a great souvenir shop. It could offer t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc bearing the Elkhorn City logo or city seal. Hopefully someone will open a souvenir store and be ready for business before the town celebrates in centennial in the fall.
I can imagine that having the capital to open a new business is one major problem. I work in property preservation and know that vacant properties deteriorate more quickly than occupied properties. I would hope that some of the property owners would be willing to donate business space rent free for one year; they could require the tenant to be responsible for utilities and minor repairs. It would be a win-win situation. It stands to reason that the property owners are paying up keep and taxes on the vacant buildings so why not give someone the opportunity to use that space to contribute to the economy while maintaining and preserving it? Providing a rent free space for a year would allow the business owner the opportunity to get the business off the ground and possibly create additional employment in the area while allowing the property owner some credit on their taxes. There are also places where the city purchases business space and gives a grant of free rent for a year. After the first year, the tenant signs a new lease agreeing to the amount of rent and paying it directly to the city….just some thoughts.