By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It is a shame and poor parenting that in all the rambling I do I have never taken my children to Dog Slaughter Falls.
That changed this week with an unplanned trip, which can sometimes be the best. It was unplanned in the sense that we just decided to hike the trail because they already were at Cumberland Falls and I surprised them. It wasn’t random either. It’s a trail I have taken many times. When you keep a pack with hiking supplies, food, and water in your truck it’s not reckless either.
I had all of the top 10 items needed for hiking as recommended by Mike’s Hike and Bike. Most I would not need. We did not all fall over the steep cliffs surrounding the falls, so we also did not need first aid or a way to identify the body. The 3-mile hike concluded just as dusk rolled out from the valley, making fire and shelter optional. We probably could have used the headlamp as our final steps approached darkness. If I had mentioned the light to my daughters, we would have needed the first aid kit. There was only one light and it would have been a fight to see who got it.
You really shouldn’t even walk around your house without a good 20 feet of No. 550 paracord. It is the most useful stuff ever. I had it, but didn’t need it. Still all of these things are essential and you should take them with you. You don’t need them until you really need them.
What we did need were food and water. The water was in a Camel Bak hydration pack that I wore. It has a handy hose and keeps you from carrying bottles. The food was a granola bar, a pack of peanut butter crackers, and a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie. They were all eaten by one person.
The other things packed that were useful included bug spray, camera, and toilet paper. We applied the bug spray at the truck. The nozzle was so rusted you had to dribble a few drops in your hands and wipe it on like Old Spice. Not efficient but effective. The toilet paper was almost used. Although a bear does go in the woods, some people find it challenging.
Dog Slaughter is a small, picturesque water fall and an easy hike with a few short, steep sections. My youngest hiked in flip flops, but I wouldn’t recommend that. This is where I saw the biggest crawdad ever. It would have fed two people if you add a salad. Skinny dipping might not be a good option at the pool below the falls for this reason.
Everyone asks how Dog Slaughter Falls got its name. I have asked and researched with no success. There is one theory that unwanted pets were once drowned in the creek. Not the kind of thing you put on tourism brochures.
There is another story that hunters lost a lot of dogs to an animal that dwelled in the valley. Possibly a bear or wildcat. I like that story better, but still not the most romantic.
We didn’t see another person and very little sign of them. We weren’t ready to leave when we did.
Now that I think of it, it’s a shame and bad parenting that my children haven’t seen Vanhook Falls.