Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
The day started out blustery and cold, unusually cold for April.
The first few days of the month had been filled with freeze warnings and wind advisories and this particular early morning was no different. Fueled up on a sausage biscuit and diet soda, I rolled onto US127 from Owenton towards Frankfort, heading further on to Harrodsburg, Kentucky for an annual gathering and competition among traditional bowhunters.
Highway 127 is ruggedly beautiful along this stretch. Winding turns, steep cliffs left behind from blasting the roadway through, rolling creeks and rivers.
It’s a road made for lazy, Sunday drives and taking in the scenery. The dogwoods have already leaved out, but the redbuds were in full bloom and the woods along the way were filled with their lavender flowers dotting the hillsides. The drive was a lonely one this morning, the highway nearly empty at this early hour, but it made for a leisurely trip.
The drive drops down a steep hill and into a gorge the Kentucky River cut and the state capital of Frankfort is in my sights. Small by state capital standards, I always enjoy my trip through this beautiful little river city surrounded by deep woods and steep embankments and outcroppings along the river. Once on the other side, the landscape opens up to classic bluegrass country and nearly every farm and home you pass has a UK flag flying proudly in the stiff wind.
It’s 45 minutes later and I find myself turning into the old fish and game club in Mercer County.
The gravel lane creeps over a hill and there they are – dozens of bowhunters, tents and campers sprawled out over a few acres. The wind whipping the tents and battering everything in its path, folks scurrying around trying to keep everything battened down. I step out of the truck and greet a group of my comrades. Fellas from all over southern Indiana, Kentucky and southwest Ohio were hardy enough to camp in the frigid conditions.
One of my pals says it wasn’t too bad as he stands there shivering by a roaring campfire trying to thaw his feet! I shake my head and question my friend’s sanity as we laugh and exchange hunting stories.
The rest of the morning is spent cruising through a handful of vendors’ booths, swapping tales and doing a bit of horse trading. A group of us finally hit the archery range and once inside the tree line, we’re sheltered from the gale force wind and arrows start to fly.
We each take our turn, line up and send the missiles down range. We’re shooting for fun, none in my group keeping score, but we still have friendly competition among ourselves.
By early afternoon, shoulder sore from shooting, a handful of trades made and a little extra cash in my pocket from hocking a few items, it’s time to head back home and across the big river.
On my drive north, I think about how many trips I’ve made down 127 and how many folks I’ve met over the years through our shared interest in traditional bowhunting and archery. Not just casual acquaintances, but real friends. Friends that I don’t see often enough, but the kind that ask about your family, your job. Ask how things are going, if you need anything – the types of folks that would drop what they’re doing to help you in a heartbeat. All because we have a common passion for the outdoors.
As I drive on, the sunshine warming me through the windshield, I think to myself that there is something deep in the human spirit of folks like these that pull us to the outdoors, to wild places and to each other. We’re drawn to simple, basic activities like hunting, fishing, hiking and camping, even in 25 degree temperatures and 40 mph winds. No matter where we’re from, it’s part of what makes us human and in today’s modern world, it’s far too easy to forget that and I am grateful for friends that haven’t forgot.
– David Hewitt