Day 7 – Cumberland Ford

Hiking began at 8:00 a.m.

I want to say hello to Mrs. Howell’s 4th grade class from Livermore, KY.  I understand they are following along on this adventure.  They asked about the food I’m eating on the trail.  Breakfast is mostly oatmeal, dried berries and nuts.  For dinner I have prepared meals as close as I could come to what my Grandpa Joshua would have eaten.  I’ve named it Boone Hoosch and you can read about it by clicking here.  I also am treating myself to one Snicker bar every day for added calories.

The kids also asked how I have prepared for all the hiking.  I began last year walking an 11 mile circuit around my hometown carrying a 30 pound backpack.  And to answer Tristian’s question – I can guarantee I’ll be a fan of UK basketball once this hike is over!

Kelsey, Givan and I left our campsite this morning and headed on our way.  We were soon met by Pam Eddy and Marcus (park rangers and re-enactors), again wearing period attired.

Pam gave a very touching speech about the pioneers using a three sided period lamp.  Each side represented a different facet of the lives of the pioneers.  Their perceptions of their encounters, the suffering they endured and the future that was waiting for them.  She allowed me to light the lamp in honor of Grandpa Joshua.

The group at the saddle of Cumberland Gap and the sign there Photo Credit: Curtis Penix

The group at the saddle of Cumberland Gap and the sign there
Photo Credit: Curtis Penix

Photo Credit: Curtis Penix

Photo Credit: Curtis Penix

After the ceremony Kelsey Gearheart, of the Middlesboro Daily News, left our group and we gathereda new crew to hike with us for a bit today.

Right now, Givan and I are sharing the trail with Dr. John Fox (Givan’s father, my trail mentor and President of The Friends of Boone Trace), and Ernie Benko of ARC Tv.  Isaac Kremer of Discover Downtown Middlesboro has joined us again today, as well as a distant cousin I’ve met through this journey, Larry Penix, who can also trace his roots back to Joshua.

We are soon approaching Middlesboro.  Later today, Givan and I will be coming near the town of Pineville, Ky. We will spend the night south of town and tomorrow morning cross through the Cumberland Ford. This is the last of the 4 gaps that allowed pioneers to make it past the Appalachian Mountains.

As we are seeing this year, the water levels can change greatly with the spring snow melt coming down the mountains. In the age before cement bridges, pioneers would come to a river and have to make a decision. Ford the river with horses and wagons, build a raft to carry the goods and people or continue along the bank till a shallower spot is found. As I mentioned before, this particular area has a gauge the pioneers would use to know the depth of the water. In the flow and not far from the bank is a rock that, when visible, told the travelers the river was wade-able. If the boulder was submerged, it was too deep. In recent years with the man made control of drainage, rarely is the rock above the surface.

The town of Pineville is one of the oldest settlements in Kentucky having been established in 1781. It is built on a bend of the Cumberland River and on a flood plane. In April of 1977 that geographical predicament took its toll on the town. Heavy storms sent water levels beyond what the flood walls could handle and the streets disappeared in the deluge.

The Mayor at that time, Bob Madon, said “just before midnight, I heard the awfullest roar.” A five foot wall of water rushed through town knocking out electricity and all other utilities. “It was a dangerous situation,” he said.

After the clean up and rebuilding, the people of Pineville re-engineered the flood walls and have lived in peace with the Cumberland ever since.

Although I intended to avoid using bridges on this trek and ford the waters like grandpa Joshua, I have realized it may be wiser to live in peace with this river and not challenge Cumberland’s power.

Walk on,


One Reply to “Day 7 – Cumberland Ford”

  1. Maggie

    I am so in awe of your trek!!! Thank you for the history stories along the way, so fascinating and you are making them so real. I can’t wait to read of your adventure each day!! God speed!!!!


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