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The Most Remote

This article first appeared in issue 38, and was written by John Cox.

Sitting on the living room floor of my apartment in Louisville, I stared dreamily at the maps I had gathered around: USGS quadrangles, a Kentucky atlas, and a fishing map I felt obligated to buy after having smeared mustard on it while getting a sandwich in a country store.

I've always loved maps and the places they can take me without ever leaving home. I get lost in the shaded contour lines of a good topo, and the bends of a stream come alive in my mind as I trace squiggly blue lines across a page. The place I was looking for this time doesn't have a name. At least I hoped it wouldn't. That would have defeated the purpose of my search.

I was seeking remoteness. I was inspired by a series of articles in the August 2001 issue of Outside Magazine about the most remote places on earth, Sebastian Junger wandering the Moroccan Sahara and Ronald Kral trekking in Nepal sent my mind racing. My first thoughts were how to apply this idea to a regionalized expedition in my favorite place on earth, so I decided to find the spot in Adair County least accessible by car, boat or any other mechanized mode of transport. My search for the most remote spot in Adair County began with places I had been before but never really thought about in terms of how inaccessible they actually were. Tucker's Woods and Pike Ridge came to mind immediately. I've ridden a mountain bike there numerous times, and always felt far-removed from civilization.

Unfortunately, while the bluffs overlooking Corbin's Bottoms offer one of the best views of any part of Adair County, Pike Ridge itself is actually in Taylor County And even though Tucker's Woods Road is a great double-track ride that dead-ends at three different spots on Green River, it is very accessible, by boat or car. I've sat on the rocks looking across the lake to Plum Point thinking how far away from the real world I am, only to have a car load of inebriated "campers" pull up behind me looking for a road to Campbellsville.

Years ago I would have thought that there had to be a spot on or near Green River that would shine as the holy grail of solitude. But as any fat guy from Ohio with a bass boat and a cooler will tell you, Green River has become a veritable freeway, completely taking that area out of the running.

My dad recently took me on a drive out Greenbrier Ridge Road into Cumberland County. One of the roads we took went up the steepest paved hill I've ever seen. I had never driven the roads on a good part of the route and was amazed at the beauty and solitude of this part of the county. But you can drive right to it, even in a crappy old Nissan with two hundred and twenty thousand miles on it, so it isn't at all remote by my current definition.

The more I perused the maps the more frustrated I became. After painstaking research, I have determined that there is no spot in Adair County that is further than two miles from a road. A person could be dropped from a helicopter in what looks like an area untouched by humans, and within an hour's walk could be on at least a county road. It might be a long lonely trek till someone drove by, but civilization would never be too far away.

I was quite disappointed when the reality of my discovery finally sunk in. When I last visited Adair County, I walked to one of my favorite spots overlooking Russell Creek and sat on an outcropping of rock. The drone from the Cumberland Parkway, two hundred yards away, washed over me. Rumblings from the sawmill a mile up East 80 pierced the autumn breeze. A hawk shrieked overhead, riding the thermals above the KU powerlines. I noticed that some industrious beavers had been cutting trees in the bend behind my parent's house. A great horned owl flew down the creek. I watched a blue heron stand silent and motionless as I scanned the creek for other signs of life. As it turns out, that may be the most remote spot in Adair County. And if anyone would like to see it, they can drive right to it.

This story was posted on 2001-12-15 12:01:01
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