I’ve told you about a couple of the days of events during my recent trip to Kentucky, but there was one more day…the “other” day.
I didn’t go to Kentucky with many expectations. I knew I was visiting the area where my ancestors lived just before they moved to Indiana. I didn’t expect to find a long-lost cousin or an old homeplace or log cabin. I just wanted to see the land, walk the paths, get a feel for the places in my history.
I got that and more. As I stood in the Collings Cemetery near the home of Brian B., I looked out over pastures and fields and woods. I could feel feeling the peace my ancestors must have felt when they chose this place to lay their loved ones to rest.
Walking along the banks of the Salt River, I imagined it as a roadway to a place that held a promise of home. Long, long ago it must have seemed to be all my ancestors needed to end their journey in this place…the rich mineral content of the earth, the bountiful hunting, the unoccupied land claimed only as hunting grounds for the natives.
But it was the “other” day in Kentucky that really painted the picture of this place for me.
On that day, we drove to Bernheim Forest, a vast privately-owned natural property that was purchased, developed, and donated into a trust for the people of Kentucky by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim.
This is not virgin forest. It is not the forest my ancestors knew, but it is a forest that can bring back to us images of how this part of the state must have looked at some time in the past.
Officially branded as Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, it is still fondly called the Bernheim Forest by locals. Bernheim Forest is dedicated to research and has close ties to the University of Louisville, as well as other institutions of higher learning. The Forest hosts public events featuring photography, fishing, plant identification, bird watching.
There are hiking trails for casual strollers and a 13+ mile trail for more serious hikers.
The visitor center opened in 2005 featuring construction from recycled materials and a “green” roof. I read that the parking lot was carefully located so that native mushrooms would absorb the exhaust contaminants of visiting automobiles.
We walked a more accessible trail that was clearly laid out for hikers but still gave the impression of being part of the forest.
The most memorable part of the visit for me was the overlook or canopy walk. This was a long wooden walkway that felt like a pier reaching out into the sky with a nearly 360° vista of tree-covered hills.
I was instantly reminded of the story of Henry Crist. With his severely injured foot, he struggled to crawl to the top of a hill, hoping to catch sight of the settlement of Brashear’s Station. When he reached the top, he saw only more trees and more hills as far as his eye could see.
It was that “other” day in Kentucky that helped me see the area as my ancestors saw it and to wonder as I always do: “why?” Why did they move on?