Trails in The Filson’s Archives

Runner nearing finish line, documented by Courier- Journal photographer Al Blunk ca. 1960s. Photo in Blunk collection in the Filson Special Collections.

On October 6, in celebration of my 27th birthday I will be running a 50k (31 mile) trail race in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.  A few weeks ago, after I learned that it was not advisable for me to run the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon, I started looking for a new race in a new place. A few of my friends were running the Stump Jump 50k, and it seemed like the perfect fit. Never mind that I live in the Bluegrass, that my longest run to date is 15 miles, and that my trail experience is limited to hiking, one 4 mile trail race, and my long-ago tenure on Nelson County’s  varsity cross-country team.

You may be wondering if I’m crazy (the answer is yes, I’m crazy for running). I routinely get up and run at least 3 miles 3-4 days a week. You may also be wondering why on earth I’m telling you about this crazy running goal of mine and what it has to do with The Filson.

Since I’m fairly new to Louisville, having only lived here for a year, I needed to find some trails to run. I’ve always been interested in the outdoors and I enjoy hiking. So I turned to The Filson’s library to see if I could find information on Kentucky’s park system and the Smokey Mountains.

It turns out that The Filson has several resources on the history of the parks. A great book on trails is A Guide to the Backpacking and Day-Hiking Trails of Kentucky by Arthur B. Lander, Jr. At the writing of this book (1979), there were approximately 950 miles of backpacking and day hiking trails in Kentucky. I found some of my old favorites, namely the Martin’s Branch Trail in Morehead, which came out half a mile from my former apartment. The book gives the names of several trails all around the state with descriptions of each and how they are marked. This information is extremely helpful, especially if you get lost when every tree looks the same (kind of like me).

Among our resources, there are several pamphlets that are large and colorful. One of my favorites was Red River Gorge, Land of Arches, Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. With the bright colors, vivid photography, and the memory of hikes at Natural Bridge and driving through Nada Tunnel, it was wonderful to have this walk down memory lane while learning something new.

If you are interested in learning more about the parks and trails of Kentucky and Tennessee, I highly recommend a trip to The Filson. There are more books and pamphlets than I have mentioned here, all of which are fascinating to look at. These selections offer a peek into the area’s rich history and may just point you in the direction of your next day trip!

Jamie Evans

Jamie Evans is the Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator at The Filson Historical Society. When she isn't working on publications for The Filson, you can find her behind her sewing machine or out on the roads training for her next big race.

One comment for “Trails in The Filson’s Archives

  1. Pingback: The Filson Historical Society Blog » Blog Archive » We came, we saw, we did not conquer

Leave Comment