After leaving Rose Hill I was joined by Isaac Kremer of Discover Downtown Middlesboro. We chatted as he walked with me to Martin Station. He took some great photos along the way and Kimberly will try to share them on my facebook page tonight.
Seven miles later I arrived at Martin Station. Billy Heck greeted me dressed in period appropriate clothing and in the character of Colonel Martin, who founded the Station in the 1775. It was a stopping point in the wilderness for pioneers and he would provide them with lodging and needed supplies.
While in character he gave me a tour of the station and took me to the forge where he fashioned a nail as they would have in the 1770’s. (I’m proudly carrying that nail in my backpack for the reminder of the hike. Tonight it was used to hang an official 1777 U.S. flag over our campsite; the first official flag of the new world. Each evening I will use it to do the same.)
Also waiting for me was Givan Fox (read about him by clicking here), my hiking partner for the remainder of the trip, and his father, Dr. John Fox. John is the man that has been studying this route for the past six years and has more knowledge about Boone Trace than anyone alive today.
Kelsey Gerheart , a reporter from Middlesboro Daily News and her friend Deidre joined us as we left the station and headed out for another 7 miles.
We completed our day by arriving at Cumberland Gap National Park. The woman I introduced you to last night, Pam Eddy, and another park ranger by the name of Marcus were already there. They were preparing a pioneer style meal for us, over a campfire, while wearing period attire.
John Fox had driven around to be with us again, along with Hannah Duncan. Hannah happened to be hiking part of Boone Trace last October when she came upon John, who had suffered a cardiac episode, and was on the ground. John now refers to her as his trail angel.
The weather was more enjoyable today. Blue skies and sun. I was able to use my solar charger to refresh some batteries.
Kelsey is camping out with Givan and me tonight on the east side of the gap. We will be crossing over in the morning.
Today’s piece of history…
Gabriel Arthur was an indentured servant in 1673. He was sent from what is now Petersburg, Va., along with others, to find new lands to colonize in the west. Many of those men didn’t make it back but Arthur was lucky. He was adopted by Cherokee Indians and traveled as one of them for the next year.
Traveling through much of the north part of Kentucky, his adoptive family knew he was not safe. They took him south and showed him the great gap in the mountains. Sending him on his way back to the east, Arthur became the first white man to cross through Cumberland gap.
Cumberland Gap has been through many transformations since then. First it was passage for just a few Longhunters, like Boone, to access the rich game land of “cantukee”. Then in 1775 it became the funnel that poured ambitious pioneers into the fertile farmland of the Bluegrass. In the civil war years, troops from north and south rolled their canons and hauled their supplies up one side and down the other to fuel their cause.
When pavement ushered in smoother transportation, the Cumberland Gap and Hwy. 25E was one of the first in the nation to be covered with crushed, compacted and rolled limestone. From that first road surface in 1908, until 1996, the gap hosted countless truckers and travelers, vacationers and vagabonds. With the newly built tunnel which rerouted Hwy. 25E deep through the mountain, Cumberland Gap began it’s slow transformation back to it’s original form.
The National Park service has removed any signs of civil engineering. Trees were planted and the straight lines of a fast pace now give way to the meandering of a slow stroll. As the mountain and the flora and the fauna are allowed to return, 340 years are erased and the great gap is becoming a path that would be recognized by Gabriel Arthur.