Kentucky: Nature’s Playground

by Alan Monroe, Associate Director of Philanthropy

Alan exploring with his wife and dog. ©Alan Monroe
Alan exploring with his wife and dog. ©Alan Monroe

Ever since arriving in Kentucky in January, I’ve been wandering.  Each weekend, my wife and I load the dog into the Jeep and drive somewhere to explore. Some of our most memorable experiences in our short time in Kentucky include whitewater kayaking the Forks of the Elkhorn at high water, experiencing the peak of spring wildflower season at Sally Brown Nature Preserve, and watching the densest concentration of fireflies we’ve ever seen in a friend’s field in Sadieville.

A few weeks ago, my folks drove up from Florida and wanted to check out our new Kentucky home. Among other places, we took them to see The Nature Conservancy’s plantings at the Woodford Reserve Distillery (and stamped our Bourbon Trail passports of course!) I also talked them into canoeing the Rockcastle River following a good rain. On the day of the trip, the river was muddy, fast and I received questioning looks from the family.  “It’ll be fine,” I said, wondering how true that statement would turn out to be.

Alan's parents enjoy the Kentucky views. ©Alan Monroe
Alan’s parents enjoy the Kentucky views. ©Alan Monroe

Following a 90-minute harrowing four-wheel-drive shuttle from Bolthouse Ridge Road we hit the river.  The weather couldn’t have been better and we stopped at the Baylor O’ Hickman Nature Preserve for lunch. After several hours more of peaceful canoeing next to huge “rock castles” or massive boulders along the side and in the middle of the river, we began to hear loud whitewater.

I motioned to head to the next eddy so I could get out and inspect the rapid for our intended route.  As I got out of my canoe I noticed my folks were coming into the eddy a little too fast and at the wrong angle and ended up dumping in the relatively calm waters. Less than ideal with three back to back rapids in front of us.

I scouted the routes and returned to find a set of soaked parents. I again said, “it’ll be fine,” though no one believed me this time.  My wife and I struck out, agreeing to run the rapid first and illustrate, hopefully, a perfect run.  It was anything but that.

The first of three rapids was a cakewalk. As we entered the second, the current began rushing us into the rock castle on our right. After loudly calling for several hard strokes forward, we broke free. I hollered in exuberance that we’d made it and my wife extolled my skills as a canoeist by stating “we’re heading straight for another rock.”  Somehow, we made it through just in time to see my folks’ canoe rush past us…upside down. We dragged them and their boat to safety ahead of another set of smaller rapids and my dad asked if I was trying to kill them.

That night, after recounting the story over laughs and a glass of bourbon, they asked how it has been to transition to Kentucky.  I’ve received this question from many friends back home and the answer is always the same. “The people are wonderful and Kentucky is nature’s playground with an abundance of fun things to do outside.  My job is rewarding and fulfilling in that I get to help to protect Kentucky’s beauty for others to enjoy.”

Looking for a way to get outside to enjoy Kentucky?  View our event calendar to see opportunities to connect with nature!