The battlefield where Confederate General Bragg completed his "Kentucky Invasion" is now quiet. On this site in October 8, 1862, 1,355 men were killed, and over 5,000 were injured fighting for control over this piece of land.
It's difficult to walk through this rolling countryside without sensing the battle that took place here. The thousands killed and injured, the artillary pounding the front line, the chaos, and the incredible noise.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, July 30, 2014
On our visit to Munfordville, I stopped to walk around a rustic barn on the Anthony Woodson Farm. Like hundreds of other barns I've seen in the countryside, this one is still structurally sound, but the weathered siding hints at its age.
The short time on this farm made me think of all the barns once utilized in this part of Kentucky - especially tobacco barns. I remember just 25 or 30 years ago, seeing field after field of tobacco on my drive to Mammoth Cave, each had a rustic tobacco barn on the property. Now, I struggle to find a single tobacco field in this area.
The barns in the midsection of the country are slowly fading away, and crumbling - no longer needed, or replaced by uninteresting steel-sided boxes.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Our interest in the American Civil War brings us to plenty of historic places, and one of the lesser known favorites of ours is Munfordville, Kentucky. A city of 1,600 people, Munfordville is the county seat of Hart County.
A stop along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and the site of railroad bridge crossing the Green River, Munfordville was an important route for Union supplies heading south. Confederate General Bragg's army arrived in Munfordville on September 14th, 1862, and demanded surrender of the Union forces dug in at Fort Craig, a small fort about 1000 yards from the railroad bridge.
A battle ensued for control of the bridge over the Green River. Union forces were well positioned, but did not anticipate their exposure on the opposite bank of the Green River, and the Confederates took advantage.
Even though it was a small battle, the battle flag of the 67th Indiana Infantry had 146 bullet holes in it following the fighting. After three days of fighting, the casualties totaled 4,862 - Union 4,148; Confederate 714. On September 17th, Col. John Wilder surrendered to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. This important transportation point was now under Confederate control, hampering the movement of Union supplies.
Trains still cross the Green River on the same bridge today, and the battlefield is an historic preserve open to the public. The site of Fort Craig can be seen next to the battlefield, now only the earthen mounds are present, as the wood from the fort was used as firewood after the war.
Adjacent to the fort is the Green River Church Cemetery, a small graveyard overlooking the rolling hills, Green River, and railroad bridge.
Just across the River in Munfordville proper, is the Green River Park and Arboretum. This quiet city park includes a small loop hiking trail, boat ramp, playground, canoe rental, and views of the Green River. It's also the site of the Big Buffalo Crossing, memorialized by a life size buffalo statue which children enjoy. It provides a green backdrop to a relaxing walk under the 31W bridge.
The trailhead for the 4.5 mile Jenny Wilson Byrd Memorial Trail is at the eastern end of the park.
This trail follows the bank of the Green River, and is the trail we'll explore next time we visit the area. Just a few feet from the trailhead is the old pump tower. Built in 1915, this tower elevated river water to town level, providing water for Munfordville. It stands today as a piece of local history.
Downtown Munfordville offers small town charm, including eating establishments, and shops along a strip of historic storefronts. Of particular interest is the old Coca Cola sign, painted on the side of a business. Most likely a repaint, but really makes you think of times gone by.
Posted by Tom Gill at Thursday, July 24, 2014
Set aside in 2006, this 1500 acre reserve in Bullitt County, Kentucky gives visitors a chance to see these wooded knobs from ground to ridge. Four interconnecting trails totalling a bit over 6.5 miles meander up and down the knobs, allowing visitors to view most of the forest. The trails seem to be former logging roads, about 8 feet wide and packed down where tires once rolled. They are, at times, covered in knee-high groundcover, but well defined for the most part, with the exception of a few places that had us guessing the correct route.
The difficulty was mostly moderate as the trails headed up and down the landscape, but strenuous at times depending upon the rise in elevation - especially reaching the top of the knobs at the end of the 2.5 mile long trail.
Our day began at 4 am, when Chris and I headed to the car while everyone else slept. We drove the easy 25 miles to the tiny gravel parking lot about 100 feet off of Crooked Creek Road. Unsure at first, I passed it up, but later found that we had to drive through Crooked Creek to get to the parking lot. On this day the creek was dry, allowing us easy access to the parking lot.
Ready for our battle with insects, we brought along plenty of deet, long sleeves and long pants, and a roll of black duct tape. Not wanting to deal with ticks, I taped the bottoms of our pants to our boots to prevent ticks from crawling up onto our legs. (a much better option than tucking the pants into socks as most hiking websites suggest) I also taped my pockets to prevent my car keys from slipping out during the hike. The tape worked very well in both cases, especially with the ticks, we each had only one tick on the outside of our jeans on the entire 6 mile hike. Spiders, however, were plentiful - very plentiful, and attached themselves to my shirt and head dozens of times during the hike, as I broke through their large webs.
As we set out, the sun had not risen, yet a bit of light was evident in the sky, allowing us to see the trails well enough in the thick woods. One only two occasions we questioned the route. Generally well marked with colored diamond labels on select trees, the trails intersected at times, making us stop and search for the correct trail. And what we thought was the end of the orange trail, was only a turn up to the top of the knob - a steep ascent with no apparent trail markings or flattened foliage. Our best guess turned out correct as we spotted a few orange diamonds on trees ahead of us.
Well worth the strenuous climb to the top of the knob (at 941 feet), we were rewarded with an interesting landscape as well as a few small spots offering excellent views of the rolling countryside. I can only imagine how the view is during the winter and early spring before the leaves fill the trees.
Disappointed we weren't able to stay longer, we soaked in the views, and the unusual silence of this place. What amazed me is the quiet we experienced with I-65 only a mile or two away; we heard absolutely nothing. Of particular interest was the narrow ridge of the knob. The trees seemed to lean away from the top, giving us the feeling we were walking on top of the forest.
For a few seconds, we lost the way down to the trail from the ridge. This portion of the trail had no matted down or worn down areas, so it blended in perfectly with the rest of the forest floor. We knew the only view we had was on our left as we climbed, so we proceeded to slide down the hillside with the view to our right. Sure enough, we spotted the orange diamond on a tree behind us, and a few minutes later, we connected back at the well defined portion of the trail. Our walk back was at a faster rate, but a bit strenuous in spots, probably due to the climb previous.
It was certainly worth waking up early to walk through this part of Kentucky, a part that most visitors don't see, and a part that I finally experienced after years of wonder. Back to the hotel to celebrate with an ice cold Ale 8 1, a soda manufactured in Kentucky since 1926.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, July 22, 2014
A Burlington Northern and Santa Fe freight train rolls over the Sanitary and Ship Canal on the Lemont Railroad Bridge. Constructed in 1898 by the Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, the steel swing bridge has a span of 375 feet, and is frequently used by the railroad. During our 30 minute walk, three trains passed over this bridge.
In Lemont for the weekly Lemont Ledgends cruise night, we often explore the area after viewing the custom and vintage cars parked up and down the downtown streets. This time, we decided to to hike over the Lemont Ave bridge to view the I and M Canal, Sanitary and Ship Canal and the DesPlains River - all within a block or so of each other, and the downtown area. Used heavily for industry, the Sanitary and Ship Canal is filled with tugboats and barges, but offers few places for viewing other than bridges.
As we approached the top of the bridge, over the canals, we noticed a small area on the bank of the canal with some sort of a stone memorial, and a few teenagers sitting near it. Figuring it must be a small acess point, we made our way back downtown to find it.
In short order, we discovered a narrow path that led from a side street to the bank of the canal. The memorial we saw from the bridge, honored mariners of the Illinois Marine Towing company, a local frieght company. Perhaps this small landing is a place for the deckhands to stop for a break, or a walk to town.
Either way, it offered a view of the canal traffic, as well as a safe place to watch traffic on the railroad bridge.
Posted by Tom Gill at Friday, July 11, 2014
On our journey down old Route 66, south of Bloomington Normal, we found ourselves wandering off the route after missing an unmarked turn. Instead of doubling back a mile or so, we took a detour down a small road that eventually connected to Route 66.
This stately farmhouse, seemingly unoccupied for many years, has seen better days, yet the grounds were manicured beautifully. The tall trees framed the home when viewed from the road, inviting us to take a closer look.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, July 08, 2014
On our drive down the old Route 66, we came across the tiny town of Funk's Grove, Illinois. We didn't see a downtown, a business district, or anything actually, yet as we followed a small road that intersected Route 66, we came across a very well manicured and maintained small church, cemetery and nature preserve. The Sugar Grove Nature Center is free, and open year-round from dawn to dusk. There are several well marked trails that wind through Illinois' largest intact prairie grove, a small nature center, barn, firepit, and friendly staff.
One trail leads hikers about a mile to the Funk's Grove Church and Cemetery, and the Chapel in the Trees, an outdoor church with huge logs acting as pews and lecterns.
Hiking through the dense, damp woods, we came upon several interesting snails making their way toward shade and food. This one wandered into a small dab of sunlight at the perfect moment.
Posted by Tom Gill at Sunday, July 06, 2014