Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Ghost Train to Blue Heron

We hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend and was able to get out and enjoy the wonderful weather. Where did you go? What did you do? We'd love to hear all about it. Did you get out for a hike, go camping, or just hang out doing yard work? Luckily for us, most of all the home buying work has been done so we had a free (for the most part) weekend to do what we wanted.

In Memory of Tom, KK4TA
As you know from our post last week, we had the Ten-Tec hamfest to attend on Saturday morning to sell gear for our friend who lost her husband to cancer earlier this year. We really couldn't have asked for better weather. The turn out was a lot bigger than in previous years thanks to the gorgeous weather. Robin and I arrived just before 7:00am and were swarmed by "old men" (don't worry, that's what they're called in Ham Radio) wanting a chance at the sweet gear we brought to sell. By 11:30am we had sold all we were going to sell (nearly everything!) and it was time to pack it up and head home to prepare for our next event of the day.

After arriving at home, we unloaded the car, had a spot of lunch and caught a short nap before it was time to leave again. This time we were heading to Sterns, KY to ride the "Ghost Train" to the Blue Heron Mining Community in the Big South Fork NRRA. We got to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway depot a little after 5:00pm and had until 6:45 before we had to board the train. So we walked around the depot area as there are shops, restaurants, and the like. Maybe sometime later we can head up that way again for a regular train ride and take our time to soak in the sites. They are now offering all day service on Saturdays from the depot which sounds awesome to us. You pay one price, take the train to Blue Heron and then later that evening you can board the train back to the depot. Blue Heron offers several hiking possibilities and taking the train in would save a bit on fuel. Probably not enough to warrant the cost of the train, but it would be fun nonetheless.

Anyway, we got something to eat while we waited and then headed back to the depot to board the train. By 7:00pm, we were underway and headed to the mining community where rangers and storytellers alike awaited our arrival. The train ride, for the most part, was quite nice. Except for some loud undisciplined kids, we were very pleased with the train ride. There are some beautiful views of Paunch Creek and the Cumberland River. The train cars, save two, are opened so that you feel the breeze and air in your faces and through your hair. There are several rock bluffs that pass very close to the train and even a tunnel to go through. Before arriving at the Blue Heron Mining Community, you pass through Barthell, another mining community now open for tours and cabin rentals.

Upon arriving at Blue Heron, we were greeted by the rangers (our guides) and assigned one for the night. Robin thought our guide had an uncanny resemblance to Stephen Colbert, so that's what she dubbed him for the evening (Robin is terrible at remembering names).  We were given the opportunity to purchase snacks and beverages. Momma treated all of us to a cup of hot cocoa which was a thoroughly satisfying considering the nip in the air. It wasn't long after that we got back in our groups and proceeded to the first stop on the Ghost Story Tour. This first tale was of a lady rumored to have lived in the town and had murdered her husband. They were wed by the families as was custom back in those days, just so they could combine lands. They never really loved each other and after 15 years of marriage she'd had enough. It was later in life that she had no choice but to open the room in the family house that the deed was done. She had vowed to never enter the room again until her dying days. It wasn't long after she opened the room that her husband came to take her away. Mwah-ah-ha-ha.

There were 5 story stops along the way, and we were treated to toned down versions of "The Black Dog". "Fiddler's Rock" (one of my favorites), "The Ghost Bride of Blue Heron," and two other stories that I couldn't hear all that well. It was hard to pay attention to those two as the other groups were starting to make their way back to the station and the noise was quite a distraction.

Shortly after the last of the groups arrived back at the station, we all boarded back on the train and were on our way back to the depot. The train ride at night was quite pleasant. Other than kids randomly flashing their flashlights in our eyes, we couldn't have asked for a better trip back. The stars in the sky were quite impressive, and the cool night air was delightful.

We arrived back at the depot right around 10pm and were on our way back home in no time. The night was fun, and we can't wait to see what improvements they make for next year's event. Being the first time holding the Ghost Train, there were a couple of snags, but mainly it was the timing of the stories at each stop. At one point we walked to the next stop and had to wait a couple minutes as the group in front of us was still being entertained. This only happened one other time and that was at the last stop of the evening. Other than that, the occasional outburst from those never taught manners, and an overzealous "photographer" with a flash as bright as lighting, it was totally worth the $12 per person for the evening.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin