Coal mining was king of Kentucky for a good while. The first coal mines opened in 1820 and dominated through the 1970’s. In the 1960’s they started more mountaintop removal to extract the coal at faster rates. Today, much of the area is unusable and eroded and only one percent of the state’s population is employed by coal.
The coal companies promised to reclaim the area after the coal was extracted to provide some economic opportunities for the communities. Very little of the land has been reclaimed and most of the work has been done by concerned Kentuckians and not the coal companies. One of the popular ways to reclaim a decimated area is to make ATV trails.
There are many ATV clubs, like the Holler Crawlers. The clubs have regular rides. For our meetup, we met early in the morning and a large breakfast was made for everyone. Once everyone had their gear all ready to go, we hit the trails. I am not too much of a dare devil, so my Kentucky friend had paired me with Bubba. She explained that Bubba hated washing his 4 Wheeler so he would steer clear of most of the danger.
The bigger group made its way into smaller groups to explore different areas. We saw magical landscapes, old coal buildings, beaver dams, and wild donkeys over the four or five hours.
Most of the time I was loose and could easily make photographs out the side of the buggy, but Bubba had a wild streak that his flat affect hid. Near the end we were in a group of 4 and we came to a fork in the road. One path was labeled red (difficult) and one was labeled green (easy). Half took the green and got back to the meet spot pretty quickly. Bubba (and me by default) and the other ATV chose red. The last bit was straight up hill over giant trees. I white knuckled it holding on to the side of the 4 Wheeler. Without sounding alarmed, he gave me a quick tip not to hang on to any of the outside of the frame. He was riding his uncle around a couple months ago and they tipped and he broke his arm. I quickly snacked my arm within the frame and found other parts of the ATV to hold on to while I shook quietly.
I am happy to report that I survived.