These Hallowed Hills

An exploration of eastern Kentucky culture, folklore, and tradition

Take A Hike: The Pinnacles

Eastern Kentucky is home to numerous hiking locations, but one remains a local favorite. The Pinnacles in Berea offer several trails for all levels of climbing expertise. From winding paths to massive rocks beckoning to be scaled, The Pinnacles has something to offer all of its visitors.

East Pinnacle


The trek up East Pinnacle is .89 miles in length, and is located on the eastern side of the property. The view overlooks Big Hill and US-421. There are several rocks along the path, but required climbing and fancy footwork is kept to a minimum.

West Pinnacle


Though only .79 miles in length, West Pinnacle is perhaps one of the most difficult trails to pursue. With steep rock formations to overcome and minimal flat land for resting, the climb is somewhat intense. However, the view from atop the rock is well worth it.

Eagle’s Nest


Just past Devil’s Kitchen on the northern end of the property, reaching the Eagle’s Nest provides hikers with a long and winding climb. A total of 1.82 miles from the parking lot, this trail includes large gaps between boulders, requiring a leap from one rock to the next. The view overlooks the hills of Red Lick and beyond.

Indian Fort Lookout

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Approximately 1.2 miles northwest of the parking lot, Indian Fort Lookout provides trail goers with a short, brisk hike. The trail includes steep rocks to climb over, as well as large tree roots to step over. The view overlooks the city of Berea, as well as parts of Richmond.











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Hillbilly Tap Dancing

green_grassclog.jpgOne of the oldest forms of dance in Appalachia is known as “hillbilly tap dancing,” or clogging.

Dating back to the late 1800s, the dance took on its form as a social construct. A mashup of numerous different styles, clogging has roots in tap, Irish step, and African dance.

Story has it that late at night, when immigrants would come home from work, they would all gather in one central location. Everyone would share their native dance style, which eventually gave way to what we now call clogging.

445f22ef9aa731e9204e4de3fc26d35d.jpgCloggers wear shoes that have taps on both the toes and heels. These taps are attached using nails, but in such a way that still allows the tap to jingle when shaken. Besides the actual style of the dance, this is the most prominent way clogging differs from tap. The taps on tap shoes are attached so that there is no movement within it, thus giving it a higher pitched sound when struck against the ground.

As of 2006, clogging was named Kentucky’s State Dance. There are several clogging teams located across the state that perform in competitions, at festivals, and for private gatherings. Some of the most well-known cloggers in America have roots right here in Eastern Kentucky. With names like “Kentucky Drag,” even several of the dance’s steps have ties to the Bluegrass.

Clogging has evolved dramatically over the years.

NUP_151525_0612Solely dancing to bluegrass and country music has given way to pop culture. Clogging groups have dominated talent competitions such as “America’s Got Talent,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” These teams have shown the world that the style can be altered to suit any personal preference, and that  stereotypical perceptions of the dance are no longer accurate.

Though the times have changed, one thing remains true: Clogging is still Appalachia’s dance. Always has been. Always will be.



Favorite Festivals

Festivals are a way to spend time with family and friends while enjoying local cuisine, company, and crafts. Not only are the following festivals interesting, but they’ve also made a name for themselves across the Bluegrass.

Festival of the Bluegrass

Location: Lexington, KY

Date: June 8th-11th, 2017

Established in 1974, this traditional bluegrass festival blends local talent with well established musicians. A family-friendly environment, this festival offers kid’s BYOI (bring your own instrument) jam sessions, as well as camping options.


Berea Craft Festival

Location: Berea, KY

Date: July 7th-9th, 2017

Since 1982, the Berea Craft Festival has offered singing, dancing, crafts, food, and artisan demonstrations to its visitors. Located at the base of The Pinnacles, this festival has continued to grow every year, with no plans of stopping any time soon.


World Chicken Festival

Location: London, KY

Date: September 21st-24th, 2017

Laurel County is home to both one of the world’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants and Lee Cummings, co-founder of Lee’s Famous Recipe. So, where else would you host the World Chicken Festival? Rides, games, and deep fried taste-testing make this event a must-see.


Kentucky Wool Festival

Location: Falmouth, KY

Date: October 6th-8th, 2017

Promoting wool products, this festival is known for its unique exhibitions of sheep shearing and herding. The goal is to provide a unique experience, accompanied by tasty foods, interesting crafts, and old-fashioned, kid-friendly fun.


Court Days

Location: Mount Sterling, KY

Date: October 13th-16th, 2017

Always held during the third Monday in October, Court Days has proven to be a crowd favorite. The streets of Mount Sterling are flooded with buyers, sellers, traders, and onlookers alike. Bargains and fair food keep customers happy and returning year after year.





In the Shadows

5751846075_198920ba0f_bPhoto courtesy of Flikr. 

Everyone has a ghost story, and everyone believes it’s true. However, the things that this Kentucky resident claims to have seen in these hills is unsettling. From creatures that reek of rotten flesh to glimpses of ghostly anomalies, one man has seen a bit of everything the supernatural world has to offer.

Wayne Baker, a Hazard County native, described some of his encounters.

“One time I was driving down the road late at night, and I saw a man walking with a bag slung over his shoulder. He looked pretty banged up. I slowed down to ask if he needed a ride. He wouldn’t talk. He just smiled. Something was just off about him. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was kind of creeped out, so I left. When I looked back in my rearview, he was gone.”

Baker claims to have experienced several other incidences, as well. However, the one that is most prevalent in his mind is one that took a little coaxing to retrieve.

“I don’t like talking about it much,” Baker said. “I’ve only told a few people what happened that night.”

After much insisting on sharing, Baker finally opened up.

“I had just graduated high school, and I decided to go coon hunting with my buddies. We were all laughing and having a good time, until we smelled a really strong odor. Kind of like rotting meat. We were pretty close to a farm, so we thought maybe a cow had fallen into a sink hole and died. Sad, but it happened all the time where I grew up. But that wasn’t it at all.”

He tensed up.

“We heard rustling in the leaves. Our dogs started barking, acting crazy. Typical scary story stuff, but it happened. We figured it was a possum or a rabbit, until it moved closer. We could tell it had a longer gait. That’s what freaked us out so much. It sounded like a person.”

“We got our guns ready, waiting for some psychopath in the woods to come out and kill us. But nothing ever came. Moments went by, which seemed like hours, before anyone moved. We grabbed our things and got the heck out of Dodge.”

But that wasn’t the end.

“When we got back to the truck, we were able to breathe for a second. We laughed at how foolish we had acted, and we loaded up. But right as we were about to leave, that smell hit us. That stench. God, it was so bad. That’s when I realized what was happening.”

He looked up.

“We were being followed.”

Baker shook his head, as if he were still doubting what he actually saw that night.

“I looked at my buddies, and they were all petrified. I turned to look back at the tree line we had came from, and it was there. At first I thought it was a deer or a goat, but it was standing too tall. It easily towered over smaller bushes nearby. My friend shot up in the air, which must have scared it. As it moved, I caught a glimpse of the rest of its body. It stood upright like a man, and its knees were popped backwards. Then it was gone.”

Baker said the few he’s disclosed the close call to have suggested he saw a wendigo. Native Americans believed a person turns into this demonic creature after practicing cannibalism. Many sightings have been reported in Kentucky, yet no definitive proof has been presented.

“I don’t know what it was,” Baker said. “But I’ll never go into those woods again. I know that much.”



Blackberry Heaven

Summertime in Kentucky means a number of things. Flip-flop weather, cricket choirs, sweet tea, cookouts, and sunshine. However, for Betty Deatherage, a 73 year old Berea native, blackberries are the name of the game.


Beginning around July, any respectable fencepost can usually be spotted sporting a decent blackberry patch. However, the best thickets grow deep in the hollers of cow pastures and rolling farm land. Grab yourself a few 5 gallon buckets and a friend, and you’ve got all you need to make a day of picking.

“There’s no wrong way to eat a blackberry,” says Deatherage. “You can spin them into almost anything. Dumplings, tarts, cheesecake, ice cream, and muffins. Oh, and cobbler. Can’t forget that!”

Betty recalls many fond memories of picking berries with her mother and sisters.

“We would be out there all day,” she said. “It wasn’t like it was a chore, though. We wanted to be there, because we knew the more berries we picked, the more cobbler Mama would make!”

The recipe comes from a long line of women, passed down generation to generation (as any good recipe is). From kitchen to kitchen, this rendition has put a smile on many faces.

“I wish everyone could taste it,” Deatherage said. “To me, it’s like the taste of summertime… and memories.”

Graves’ Blackberry Cobbler


  • 1 stick margarine
  • 1 cup self rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 3 cup blackberries
  • 1 and 1/2 cup sugar

Melt margarine in 13x9x2 inch pan. Mix flour, milk, egg, vanilla, and the 1/4 cup sugar.

While the margarine is melting and you are mixing the batter, put the berries and the 1 and 1/2 cups sugar on the stove in a medium saucepan, getting it hot.

Pour the batter into the melted margarine. Add the berries into the batter. Spread the berries to all edges of the pan.

Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

(*Optional: top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.)

The Story of Burnt Ridge Road


Nestled in the hills of Rockcastle County is a place the locals have come to call “The Ridge.” It’s home to brambling briars, the occasional black bear, and around forty-five people. Oh, and it also served as a safe haven for Daniel Boone, as well as grounds for a lesser known Civil War battle.

Legend has it that while making his journey across Appalachia, Boone took refuge from the elements and native hostility near the Madison, Jackson, and Rockcastle County line . Though history books never mention exactly where he stayed, locals are convinced that Boone sought shelter in a cave on The Ridge. Not only that, but many claim there is a carving in a nearby rock of Boone’s footprint, with “D.B.” initialed underneath.

Nearly a hundred years later, The Ridge served as a battleground for a long-forgotten skirmish between the states. Stories say that the Union was holding territory on the upper end of the ridge top, and the Confederacy was advancing from the lower end. Once the two troops met in the middle, the battle began. There was a long, wooden bridge connecting one high point to another, and amidst the fighting, it was burned to the ground. The Confederacy prevailed, and began its march to Richmond. From that day forward, the area was dubbed “Burnt Bridge,” thus giving way to its current name, Burnt Ridge Road.


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