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Day Trip: bounce along Jones Ridge to Beech Branch to 704
Jones Ridge Road is an incredible, short journey that feels very long. Don't go in your Sunday car. Do take the camera and a snack. Never ever go during or right after heavy rains. If they're home, you may meet and get directions from patient, friendly area guides Darrell and Tiffany Anderson who get an alert that strangers are coming from their dog Kiki. You'll laugh with them when they describe seeing every type vehicle come through, they even recently had a Lowe's truck driver stop after being directed that way by his GPS.
By Linda Marcum Waggener
One of the things I first loved about my first husband Ed is his habit of taking shortcuts when he's at the wheel. No matter that these usually turn out to be longer, they often have a story, and if it's in this region, there's always new light changing the beautiful landscape for photographing and sharing.
Jones Ridge Road off Highway 61 in Cumberland County Kentucky between Burkesville and Columbia is just such a shortcut.
Before you can read the white letters on the green sign designating Jones Ridge Road you see the little family cemetery halfway up the side of a hill.
Even though big beautiful hills are numerous in Cumberland County, there are no mountains and the cemetery remindes us of Eastern Kentucky where there is little flat land and mountainside cemeteries are necessities.
We begin winding up Jones Ridge Road, passing an abandoned house with yellow wild flowers around it, on the roadside and along a little creek.
Big Stone boulders are visible along the creek as we continue up and up, approximately 1,000 feet in elevation. More wildflowers line the roadside in blue, pink, yellow, lavender, white.
We pass a turn option labeled Pine Branch Road and keep climbing and winding, surely way over 1,000 feet elevation now. We pass by a goat herd resting in the shade on the left, the scene is so peaceful we slow for a photo. Lavender Paulownia trees brighten the opposite side of the road.
Winding on toward the sky, we have to stop at the crest of the hill to photograph a pasture completely covered with Narcissus blossoms.
Just past the flowers the road heads down hill. We stop to photograph the Fire Pinks and question why Fire pinks are so named when they are such a bold red? And Why are Redbuds so named when their flowers are pink?
Heading down the hill now, five mph feels way too fast. The smooth blacktop from the trip up is no longer, the road is solid stones, and bigger rock now.
What we didn't expect was that Jones Ridge Road was about to completely disappear.
The car levels out at the bottom of the hill, no longer pointing nose down. The road has just morphed into a creek bed.
We are at the base of the long winding road down the hill. Backing up is not an option. Thankfully there have been no recent rains! Mesmerized, laughing, nervous, we begin inching forward into the little stream, about a fourth the depth of the small car tires.
Wild flowers wave in the breeze at eye level on the creek banks to the right, rocky bluff blocks us on the left. Dogwoods, Locusts and Paulownias bloom along both sides.
Trying to take photos from inside the bouncing car doesn't work well, focusing is nearly impossible.
The creek rounds a bend and a farmhouse appears on the high banks above it, dogs are barking like crazy as we wind toward the yard. The creek goes on around a barn but the road is visible again so we veer left, taking the road.
Two residents come across the long yard, Darrell and Tiffany Anderson, to stand in front of what we learn is her parents home where Beech Branch meets up with Beech Branch Road. We ask, "where are we?" They laugh and we begin an enjoyable visit.
He explained, "The minute you drive into that creek where Jones Ridge Road meets it, you're immediately on Beech Branch Road."
She said in answer to our questions about the house, "It was a Voting house in early days, called a Box House, and her family converted it into their home.
Turned out that my first husband had been given a hint about the route because his friend Junior Stotts had sent him a photo of a mystery barn. His friend had probably driven through that creek bed with ease and confidence in a big pickup truck. We were driving a tiny Mazda, with very little confidence. We will be on the lookout for a nice big pickup truck before another adventure of this sort.
Darrell and Tiffany say they do same thing as often as they can, exploring and photographing the beauty of this region. Two weeks ago they visited Rockhouse Bottom and climbed up to the top of the arch for pictures. She is professional and freelance photographer.
Their dogs stand by, quiet at the end of our visit, but still observing the strangers. Kiki keeps watch with partner Timber.
We bid farewell and travel on the narrow blacktop road -- Beech Branch Road -- all the way to the T with Highway 704 near Amandaville.
The story of Highway 704/Amandaville is one for another day trip.
Links to other day trips follow.
- THE CUT with photo collection under the story
- ROCKHOUSE BOTTOM at Creelsboro, KY with photos
This story was posted on 2016-04-29 14:24:34
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