November 26, 2012

On The Rebound:Testing the state’s No. 1 trail

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — You know it’s going to be a good hike when your youngest daughter peaks in the pack you are carrying and says, “Hey, I found a pop tart!”

What she had found was actually an emergency blanket. Not really something you need on the Eagle Falls trail, but something I keep in the bag so I look like I know what I’m doing. There are matches, a compass, and a few other survival necessities. We were not going into the wilderness, but on a trail so manicured you could have walked it with your eyes closed.

As you begin the Eagle Falls hike, you pass under a banner that claims this stroll earned No. 1 ranking in Kentucky. It’s a little too pedestrian for my taste, but for a short hike you will not find one with more scenery. If it is not No. 1, it at least deserves to be in the conversation.

There are plenty of steep slopes on the Eagle Falls Trail. If you want to make the return hike a little more challenging, fill your pockets full of rocks. Let me explain. My children are so inspired by the excellent teaching of Joey McKnight and Mike Bowling at North Middle that they wanted to take samples of different rocks for class. We are not talking pebbles here. Maggie handed me a hunk of conglomerate and asked how much it weighed. I guessed eight pounds. She guessed I better carry that one. When I told her no, she didn’t hesitate as she packed the rock up the mountain like a Sherpa summiting Everest.  Eventually I felt obliged to take some of the load. She didn’t let me hold it for long.

They shanghaied my camera and took photos of the falls, trees, and trail. Then they took pictures of each other’s eyeballs. When that became boring the subject became my ever-graying facial hair, which they decided at close range looked like an upside down porcupine.

We did a few things you shouldn’t do, but the kind of things you do when dad is in charge. Cassidy tried freehanded rock climbing. If she had fallen, she was low enough I could catch her. We jumped from rocks to get to the beach along Cumberland River. We actually got our feet a little wet in the cool November water.

Winter might be the best time to take this hike. The fallen leaves open the views of Cumberland Falls from the side most people don’t see. There is plenty of water flowing over both Cumberland Falls and Eagle Falls.

Again, Eagle Falls might not be the best hike in Kentucky. It was for three people on Sunday.