Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rodeo Roundup at Land Between the Lakes

July 18, 2010

Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is a fascinating story of human experience interwoven within the fabric of a distinctive ecoregion. LBL is administered by the US Forest Service, and is a hugely popular recreation destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. By natural circumstance, the land itself is distinctive. The Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers converge around a 60 mile-long peninsula on the border of western Kentucky and Tennessee. The history of the area is deeply etched into the landscape, and the story stretches from the Native Americans to modern times. What was once known as the “land between the rivers” became the “Land Between the Lakes” with the completion of Kentucky Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1944.

We spent our first night at LBL camped out at Wranglers Campground, a 200-site campground set up exclusively for horseback riders. Who would have guessed that we would leave Colorado and drive all the way to Kentucky to attend a rodeo? Wranglers Rodeo, set up in an arena under lights, featured calf-roping, barrel racing and bull-riding. The horsemanship was mighty fine, particularly that of the cowgirls in the barrel racing. Especially memorable were the powerful bulls that effortlessly shed one after another of the hapless riders. We fell asleep in our camper on Friday night to the bark of the late-night PA system commentary on the calf-roping competition.

On Saturday we awoke to discover that throughout the campground, more folks were riding than walking: bare back and bare footed, 2 and 3 kids per horse or mule, wagons and carts… whinnies and neighs mingled with jangling stirrups and spurs. The campground was packed for the two nights of rodeo competition and daytime activities, including our 3-hour Leave No Trace program on Saturday morning in the campground pavilion.

Over the next couple of days we explored other parts of the park, from the north end at Hillman Ferry Campground, then 50 miles south to Piney Campground in Tennessee. On Sunday we visited LBL’s only surviving historic structure, a tiny, restored church, St. Stephens, set way, way back in the woods and dating from the late 1800’s. Each day of our visit we did programs for campers and for staff members of LBL, along with lots of informal interactions with fellow RVers. We were impressed with the serenity of the place, even when busy with campers, and it’s clear that the forests and shorelines of LBL offer truly outstanding exploration and recreation opportunities, whether by horse, bicycle, kayak, or bass boat.

Many thanks are due to Jared, Alex, Jamey, Rick, AK, Will, and James for being great hosts during our visit.

Happy Trails Until We Meet Again…

Barrett and Peggy

(No doubt about it… the “e-word” addition for our LBL visit is definitely “equestrian.”)

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