BY GABRIELA CIPOLLA – ARTS AND LEISURE EDITOR
With fall approaching quickly, it is hard not to feel the excitement that the season brings on Centre’s campus. The trees in front of Old Centre are starting to shed their leaves, and stepping outside and feeling a cool breeze instead of a blanket of humidity is greatly welcomed. Whether you are a first-year or a senior, the beauty of Centre in the fall is incomparable.
Centre students enjoy a great diversity of activities in the fall, but a favorite among many is hiking. The Appalachian Mountains and surrounding forests are perfect locations to get a breath of fresh air from the conveniently timed midterm stress. Students go in groups of friends, on dates, with their classes, and with clubs. There are several clubs on campus that cater to the outdoorsy Colonel, including Centre Environmentalist Association (CEA) and the Centre Outdoors Club.
Patrick Leahey, a sophomore on campus and a Boyle County native, recognized the desire many students had to explore the outdoors with like minded friends. His love of outdoor adventure combined with the demand from the student body led him to found the Centre Outdoors Club. The club goes on monthly outings to hike in surrounding areas and go on day trips that include activities such as rock climbing and kayaking.
“I grew up in the area, so I’ve had a good head start on most students in finding the local trails. When I want to go for a hike, but don’t want to spend my whole weekend off campus, I opt for one of the following: Central KY wildlife refuge, Shakertown, the Palisades in Garrard County, or the Pinnacles in Berea.”
Leahey recommends Red River Gorge, or “The Gorge,” as the best place to go on an overnight trip.
“It’s a 2 hour drive from campus, so I typically try to spend at least one night there. Pick up a 1, 3, or 5-day pass at any gas station in the area and you’re free to park and camp anywhere.”
Olivia Schadler, a founding member of the club, originally got involved with the Centre Outdoors because of her friendship with Patrick. “It brings people with a common interest together,” reported Schadler.
Although it started from humble beginnings, the club is rapidly expanding and has already led its first outing of the year. The trip, keenly dubbed “Hangover Hike,” was to the Kentucky Wildlife Refuge and included fresh Burke’s donuts.
Among the plethora of locations available to active Kentuckians, one of Schadler’s favorites is Red River Gorge.
“It’s kind of a drive, but well worth it,” she promised. “It is especially beautiful in the fall because you can just look out for a mile and see an abyss of color. ”
Some favorites of Leahey, Schadler, and the student body at large include:
Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge
Ranging from 0.38 miles to 2.2 miles, the trails in the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge are both easy to navigate and walk. The trails themselves are only 20 minutes from campus and perfect for a Friday afternoon before the bustle of the weekend begins. Many organizations on campus volunteer here to help the groundskeepers maintain the trails with tree pruning and weed picking. It is a great place to earn some service hours while also enjoying beautiful scenery. Plus, with Slo’s Dairy Dip only 10 miles away, a post-hike ice cream is the perfect end to a cool autumn day.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
America’s largest restored Shaker community, Pleasant Hill is a beautiful place to visit in the fall. The location is only 20 minutes from campus, making it an easy afternoon trip. Its trails range from 0.5-6 miles and are challenging, but worth it. When your hike is complete, the restored village has many activities to offer. Traditional craft demonstrations are a favorite, as is the Dixie Belle Riverboat, which will take you along the Kentucky River to see the Palisades. If you enjoy faster paced outdoors activities, Shaker Village also hosts a series of trail races during April, appropriately dubbed, “(un)Pleasant Hill Trail Runs.”
Perryville Battlefield Trail System
A quick trip by car, Perryville is a mere 20 minutes from campus. The trails, at the site of the historic Battle of Perryville that occurred during the Civil War, include 12 miles of expansive, forest-covered paths. For native Kentuckians and those new to the state, this landmark is a record of Kentucky history with battle reenactments and 40 interpretive signs that retell the Battle of Perryville. These trails are unique because, beyond general upkeep of the paths, the site is unchanged from the landscape of the 19th century.
Each of these locations offers something unique and provides a taste of the diversity within Kentucky wildlife. These hikes are a mere fraction of the outdoor options available around Danville. Fall at Centre is beautiful, but take time to step out of the cozy bubble and explore the wilderness–there is so much to enjoy.
“Bring good maps, sufficient water, a few dirt aid items, and a cell phone…It’s easy to have a fun time but, just like if you were anywhere else, be careful of your surroundings and intentional of what you’re doing,” recommends Leahey.